Starting a new hobby of any kind usually involves some sort of kitting out—quilting is no exception.
But what do you truly need? With all the different rulers, rotary cutter sizes, cutting mat types, and different kinds of scissors, it's hard to know what you need when you're a complete beginner in the quilting world.
That's why I am creating this list. I didn't find great answers to these questions when I was searching. I would land on pages with thousands of ads and information that seemed tainted by free samples for "testing." So now, a year into my quilting journey and lots of finished projects under my belt, I can share with you the must-have items for quilting. I find Amazon is hard to compete with on quilting tools and sewing notions, in terms of pricing.
I'm going to assume you already have a sewing machine. If you're on the hunt for one check out this list of beginner-friendly machines!
Fabric Considerations for Quilting Beginners
As you're learning more about the steps involved in quilting and the process from start to finish, I find it's best to work with precut squares. There is a large margin for error in cutting yardage. Make sure you watch a video tutorial closely before trying it for the first time. For your first few projects, I highly recommend using charm packs and simple patchwork layouts.
Let's dive in to tools!
1. 18" x 24" Self Healing Cutting Mat
This tool is absolutely essential. You do a lot of cutting in quilting. You'll use your mat for every project you embark upon, and it will be impossible to complete a quilt from start to finish without one. Even if you're starting with precuts, you'll need a self-healing cutting mat to finish the quilting process and prepare for the binding step.
In my little quilting closet, I use this adorable double-sided cutting mat from Fiskars:
I haven't had any issues with either mat through continued use. The price point is not excessive, but you can find cheaper mats.
I also have a smaller Honey Heaven brand cutting mat that I got because it was the least expensive one, and I needed one to see if I even liked quilting. I wish I would have opted for the larger size, but I love that it's pink! I do pull it out frequently when I have squares to trim or just have less room on my workspace, so even if you decide to start smaller and less expensive, if you keep going, you'll find a use for a smaller mat.
I will say this is the one area that going with the cheapest option will not hurt you as much, so if you're on a budget, find the most inexpensive mat you can, and don't think about it again.
2. 6" x 24" Ruler
A 6"x 24" ruler is an important tool for quilting because it allows for precise measurements and cuts. The ruler's large surface area and clear markings make it easy to measure fabric, align the ruler to straight edges of fabric, and ensure straight cuts. This is essential for accurate piecing and joining.
Additionally, the ruler's size allows for ample space to work with large pieces of fabric and make larger cuts, which is especially useful when working on larger quilting projects.
This is the ruler I currently use:
This is another item I bought small the first time, regretted, and then had to rebuy the larger version. So go ahead and grab this size from the get-go.
These rulers can get quite expensive. Some have non-stick coating built in (the Omnigrid ruler featured above has this feature). I have personally not crossed the threshold of mega-expensive rulers. I find the Omnigrip ruler and adding these little grippers really work nicely for me, and they are a much more affordable expense than replacing what I already have—which works just fine. If this one ever breaks or gives out on me, I would definitely go for an OmniGrip, but I think, for a beginner, this Fiskars cutter is incredible!
3. Rotary Cutter
This is probably the most important tool I will mention. I have bought and tested several of them. What I have learned is that Olfa is the only rotary cutter worth a damn! In terms of cutting through four layers EVERY TIME and blade longevity, it can't be beat. You can find them on Amazon sometimes for SUPER LOW prices. Set it in your cart and then move it to your saved items and watch the price. It's well worth the additional expense. The pink version I currently have is no longer available (SAD because everything is better in pink), but there is a cute teal and gold version right now that I love. It is not much more than the competition, and I cannot stress enough that this is the only Rotary Cutter that exists to me.
Replacement blades are a bit more expensive than the competition's; however, the longevity of the blade easily makes up the difference in cost. There will be times I can't remember how long its been since I've changed the blade on my Olfa, and I use it daily. Once it starts to leave a thread or two, that's when I know its time to change—and that isn't the worst I've dealt with. It makes it through four layers of fabric every single time.
4. Basting Pins
Basting pins are another essential tool for quilting. They are larger and more sturdy than your usual safety pin. They are used to temporarily hold layers of fabric, batting, and backing together in a quilt sandwich before quilting. There are adhesive sprays, but I've found the absolute best result comes from pin basting. Anytime I rely on the adhesive alone, I get puckering.
Basting pins are also useful for holding fabric in place while marking design lines, or to hold fabric in place while cutting. Overall, basting pins are a crucial tool in quilting as they keep everything in place while working on the quilt, and they help you get accurate and professional results.
6. Straight Pins
Straight Pins are your lifeline for joining fabrics together and nesting seams. Many advanced quilters will advise you to use pins and then joke about how they don't use them.
Well, friends, you are a beginner—you need the pins. A lot of home sewing kits already have some straight pins. I love cute things, so I use a few different kinds with a more decorative feel.
I haven't noticed a major difference between name brands and the cheapest thing you can find on Amazon, if I am being honest—so go for cute!
You don't need to go crazy buying the fanciest $250+ automatic lifting quilting iron—though we can dream. I only mention this because you will need an iron. Pressing is vital to quilting.
I know most households have an iron on hand, and that one will be just fine so long as its in good working order and is nice and clean.
If you're in the market for a new iron, here are my recommendations based on a few budgets
Under $25 — Steamfast SF-717 Mini Steam Iron
I haven't had a chance to use this iron, but I see MANY quilters on social media using this little guy, and it seems to be quite effective and super budget-friendly.
Under $100 — Panasonic NI-WL600 Cordless Portable Iron
This is my primary iron. I absolutely love it. The cordless aspect is what solidified my decision to purchase this iron. I had a hard time finding reliable reviews, so I just risked it, and I'm so glad I did. It gets super HOT, and it's nice and heavy, so it gets a solid seam press every time. I love that it has an auto-shut off feature. If it doesn't get picked up in 5 minutes, it will shut off. A lot of people hate this; however, I'm pretty sure it has prevented my house from burning down a time or two.
8. Ironing Board or Wool Ironing Mat
This is another item that is standard in most homes. Any ironing board or surface will do, but you will need one. Pressing is an essential part of the quilting process.
I love these wool mats because they have some tack to them and they get a super flat and smooth result. I have the one pictured above and a smaller square size, which comes in handy when pressing seems while piecing.
9. Fabric Safe Markers and Pens
Pens and fabric-safe markers are another must-have item. When you make Half Square triangles, you will need to mark your fabric. When you're finishing the binding on your quilt, you often need to mark your fabric. You can keep notes about color combinations or row numbers data on the fabric. There are so many times when you're quilting that you'll need a fabric safe pen or marker. If you're going in to make your first project, and it's something simple with patchwork, you might be able to skip this one—but if you plan on continuing your quilting journey, you'll need these pens and/or markers in your kit.
Don't believe what you see on various social media platforms. Erasable Frixon pens ARE NOT safe for fabric. The ink disappears upon heating but reappears when the fabric gets cold. Can you imagine the disappointment you would feel to put many hours of work into a quilt only for all your lines and notes to reappear on the fabric when someone sits outside with it on a cold day? DO NOT MAKE THAT MISTAKE!
There are several types of fabric markers and pens on the market that are safe for use on fabrics and are 100% removable either by washing or disappearing on their own. I also like chalk pens but it's totally up to you.
This pen is my absolute favorite!
10. 4.5" Square Ruler
I would save this one for after you have a few quilts under your belt. This ruler will become essential as you start working with half square triangles, which is the next logical step on your quilting journey. 2 Charm Squares make 2x 4.5" squares. They always end up slightly larger than 4.5 inches and need to be trimmed slightly to size. This ruler will help you with that massively.
I hope this list helps. Truly, there isn't a lot of solid information out there from actual beginners. Please feel free to comment with any questions, or let me know if there is a must-have item I might have missed!
This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. I will make a commission if you purchase from these links, but there is absolutely no pressure.