Hello and welcome! If you are returning to our "Begin Quilting" discussion, then I sincerely thank you for your interest in this series. If you are new to my website, please feel free to jump in here, or you may wish to visit the first post in the series, "How To Decide on the Right Size Quilt to Make", and go from there.
I believe that every craft or hobby has its own specific set of tools and equipment that help make it successful and fun; quilt-making is no exception. My philosophy is that quilting is an art, and artists need their tools!
This is also a handy excuse I use to buy quilting supplies (even if I already have plenty). After all, it is so tempting to “need” those pretty pins with the pastel pearl tops or those cute little scissors with the flowers on the handle. But seriously, even though tools are a vital component to every successful craft or hobby, sometimes we can get swept away by thinking we have to have all the latest and greatest.
Our grandmothers and great-grandmothers had limited options for notions and tools compared to the plethora of selections we have today. But, even with limited options, they were more than able to make beautiful and durable quilts using the notions they had available. That being said, quilt making in those days still wasn't an easy or quick process. Quilters today are fortunate to have so many choices in tools, but a trip to the sewing store may have your head spinning (or your bank account in jeopardy).
Tools for measuring and cutting are essential to quilters, and when I first began quilting, I was confused about how to choose the proper equipment. Thankfully, with a little guidance from a friend, I was quickly on my way to finding the right notions and cutting beautiful quilt blocks! I believe that you can do the same, and I’m here to assure you that it still only takes a few wisely chosen, basic notions to make a beautiful heirloom quilt with accuracy and precision. As a little bonus, I've included a few tutorial links at the end of this post that might be helpful in getting you started with using a rotary cutter system. Keep in mind that quilting shops and stores like Jo-Ann offer classes for beginning quilters if you prefer to have hands-on instruction.
Quilting Tools for Measuring:
Quilting rulers come in several shapes depending on their purpose. I find it very helpful to have the following:
Quilting Tools for Cutting:
Rotary cutters are amazing tools for quickly cutting straight, smooth edges and have dramatically changed the way quilters cut fabric from years past. Rotary cutters come in various sizes and styles.
The basic sizes are:
A 28 mm is a good size for trimming curves or small blocks. It works great for small areas and cutting around small templates.
The 60 mm is larger and works nicely with heavy duty fabrics like denim.
Cutters also come with various shaped and sized handles and are equipped with safety features to keep your thumb from slipping onto the blade while in use. Since I have carpal-tunnel problems, I prefer the curved handle and find it to be most comfortable.
Note: rotary cutters are very sharp; they are basically a razor blade on a wheel! Always handle these with care and close/lock them when not using. I’ve learned this the hard way and have the scar to prove it. Another good tip is to always wear shoes when using a rotary cutter to keep from seriously cutting a foot if you happen to drop it.
Scissors in a few basic sizes are also necessary tools that you will want to have handy. I like to get good quality brands since I reach for my snips dozens of time during a day of sewing. Remember to only use your sewing scissors for fabric in order to guarantee a long life and good function.
Quilting Rotary Cutting Mats:
These are "self-healing" mats that are specially designed for use with rotary cutters. Most good quality mats can withstand quite a bit of cutting wear. I’ve had my current mat for about 6 years and it still works great. Mats will range in price depending on the size and brand. Typically, I use a mat that is 34" wide in order to have plenty of cutting space for an entire width of fabric folded in half from selvage to selvage. I also us an 18" mat for trimming squares and blocks.
Quilting Tutorials for You:
Good news! You can find quilting rulers, rotary cutters, and mats at your local sewing shop, craft stores like Jo-Ann and Hobby Lobby, on Etsy, and even at Wal-Mart. Many times craft stores will have pretty good sales on their quilting supplies and notions. It's a good idea to get on their mailing lists so you can receive sale ads and coupons. Online ordering is an option with most stores if there aren't any that are convenient to your location. I actually order most of my quilting supplies online because it saves time that I could be quilting... so many quilts... so little time!
I truly hope that today's post has been helpful and encouraging. Please feel free to leave a comment or question below. I would love to hear your quilting stories and adventures!