Quilting Basics - The Rest of the Must-Haves


Welcome back, readers! This week we’re doing another installment of the Quilting Basics Series. You may recall that we’ve already covered a basic supply list, cutting implements, and presser feet. Buckle up, this is a long post - now it is time to cover the “rest” of the must-haves.

To keep it clean, we’ll lump the remaining items from our basic supply list into a few categories:

The Big Stuff

We’re talking about the ultimate basics here - a sewing machine and an iron/ironing board!

It goes without saying that making a quilt without a sewing machine is, well, impossible! If you’re truly just starting out, you may be overwhelmed with the choices (and the prices!) when you’re shopping for your machine. Actually, let’s be honest, you may be just as overwhelmed even if you’re a very experienced quilter!

In the end, unless you plan to do free-motion quilting, complicated clothes construction, etc., you can get by with a pretty basic machine that doesn’t bust the budget. If it sews straight lines and accommodates different presser feet, you’re all set for quilting!

As far as an iron/ironing board combo goes, you can get very fancy or keep it super basic. I don’t have a lot of space for a huge contraption, so I have a table-top ironing board and a basic iron. If you’re really strapped for space, you can even get a tiny iron! Or, if you have a whole bunch of space, you can do like Nancy the Quilting Goddess and get an extra large ironing board and a high-tech iron with all the bells and whistles.

In the end, if it gets hot and makes your seams flat, you’re probably going to be just fine!



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Construction Stuff

When it comes to construction, you’ll need basics like patterns, fabric, and batting. These are the types of things that you buy on a project-by-project basis. I have written about patterns and fabric before. Check out those posts here, here, and here.

Batting is another world of infinite choices. There’s cotton, wool, synthetic, and even batting made from recycled bottles! It can be thick, thin, and anywhere in between. The good thing here is: you can’t really go wrong, as long as you buy the right size for your project! Phew! No pressure!


    This category includes all of the little things that seem insignificant, but really impact how you work!

    Thread (white for piecing, others for quilting)

    This is another obvious must-have. I, personally, keep it cheap and basic when I’m piecing, because you go through a lot of thread that no one sees. But thread choices for quilting are a lot more fun, because the choice you make can become an artistic part of the finished product. I like to go wild and pick variegated thread, or colored thread that either matches or contrasts the quilt top/back, depending on my mood.

    Cutting mat

    You need at least one relatively large mat for cutting your pieces. I would recommend a minimum of 24 inches if your space allows, but bigger is better! You need it to accommodate a large piece of fabric. The nice thing is, these are flat, so even the large ones aren’t too hard to store.


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    Again, a minimum of one is a good start here. If you’re limiting yourself to only one, go large - like a 24 inch one to match your mat. It will give you the ability to work with those large cuts of fabric and, even if it is a bit unwieldy, it will work for small cuts too. If you can manage to start a ruler collection, get varying sizes! I have only 3 (one 24 inch, one 12 inch, and a 6 inch square). But Nancy the Quilting Goddess has more than I can even count!


    You’ll want a small collection of hand-sewing needles, as well as spare sewing machine needles. There is nothing worse than a needle breaking mid-project with no spare in sight!


    You need at least one which fits your machine. But if you can swing it, grab more! And pre-wind them! That way you won’t have to drop everything to re-wind your one, solitary bobbin while you’re on a roll.

    Straight pins

    These are great for piecing when you need to keep things lined up. I always use them for piecing together my corners and long runs. By now, you know that my free-spirit doesn’t always lend itself to perfection. But straight pins (literally) help keep me in line.

    Pin cushion

    There are all kinds of pin cushions out there - find one you love, keep those straight pins in one place! If those run away from you, you’ll never find them again, until… OUCH! you step on one.

    Safety pins

    These are absolutely essential for “sandwiching” a quilt if you plan to quilt it on your standard machine - both for free-motion and for basic quilting! Depending on the size of your project, you may need a boat load. So stock up!

    Seam ripper

    Readers, you’re going to make mistakes. Frequently. But fret not! If you have a seam ripper, you can easily un-sew and fix it - no one has to know! Your secret is safe with me!

      Next week, I’ll be writing about nice-to-haves, as well as reporting back on the supply recommendations that have been left by Quilter’s Mart Blog readers. So please, share your thoughts with me in the comments. Are there any other must-haves we haven’t yet covered? Nice-to-haves you want your fellow readers to know about? I can’t wait to see what you have to say!

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      • Carolyn Knees
      Comments 8
      • Susan Benchik
        Susan Benchik

        I have a bent tip tweezer that I find invaluable for picking out threads after I seam rip. Also helps in picking out miniscule threads that show up after quilting

      • Dawn Moss
        Dawn Moss

        The Purple Thing , cheap as chips and great to use, keeps fingers out of the way, also has many other uses, you find out as you go along.

      • Nancy Veal
        Nancy Veal

        I would suggest a medium grey thread instead of white. I think the grey blends better with all colors. Also in regards to a cutting surface; if possible get a table that can be adjusted for height. Bending over to cut can be hard on the back.

      • Cathy Childs
        Cathy Childs

        I like the idea of pre winding several bobbins before starting a quilt or a purse and than you can just switch the bobbin when it runs out saving a lot of time Thanks

      • Beverly Dewitt
        Beverly Dewitt

        I use a rotary cutter and have extra blades on hand ,I have been quilting about a year now ,so I’m still learning
        And just have a domestic machine .I still have trouble with shifting when trying,to quilt .so I gave up on the
        safety pins ,now I spray baste .it helped a lot .
        Love your site ,I need all the tips I can get .thanks

      • Diane

        My favorite seam ripper is called a “Surgical Seam Ripper”. It’s super sharp but I’ve never cut myself, and even though I was concerned about it cutting the fabric instead of thread, I haven’t yet. You can find it at most quilting stores or at kathruddy.com.

      • Joanne Cameron
        Joanne Cameron

        Thank you so much for the " keep it simple" blog!!! I find it frustrating that now quilting has got to the point that patterns require special rulers etc and the authors it that without these very expensive rulers and tools you will not be capable of making that quilt!
        “Back to basics” (Back in the day quilts were made without sewing machines too, hand sewing was the only way to go then. I only did that once lol and I DO appreciate my machine for putting things together lol)
        From the new reader (but old quilter) Thank you for the blog , I really enjoy the read and helpful tips👍

      • Janette Schiedler
        Janette Schiedler

        Was there a rotary cutter on the list?

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