Quilting is about taking a good piece of fabric and cutting it up to make something amazing! Whether you make traditional quilts, modern quilts, art quilts or just starting to quilt, we’ve rounded up the best tools for quilting projects! And we’ve given you some of our tips and hints to help you with your next quilting project!
Best Quilting Tools
Getting started with quilting and wondering what are the tools you need, and more importantly, why you need them and how you'll use them? We've rounded up our favorite tools for quilting.
Clover Extra Fine Patchwork Pins are the best pins I’ve ever used! They don’t put permanent holes in your fabric and are fantastic for delicate fabrics. They do bend (because they are so fine) so you have to be careful with them, but I use this pin almost exclusively. Very sharp, they do not snag fine fabric. Great for pinning detailed piecework. The heat-resistant glass head pins can be ironed; plastic-headed pins can melt. 1-1/2 Inch long ~ 0.4mm ~ Extra-Fine Pin smoothly passes through cloth.They are more expensive than other pins, but worth every penny!
This post may contain links to Amazon or other partners. Your purchases via these links may benefit Create Whimsy. Read more about our affiliate linking policy.
It helps to use the right machine needles for piecing – and to use needles made with consistent good quality. For most piecing on quilting cottons, my go to needle is Schmetz Microtex Sharp 80/12. I have never had a bad Schmetz needle come out of the package. I install a fresh needle when I begin a new project. That way I know I have the right needle for the job (those teeny tiny markings on the needle shaft are hard to read), and I won’t have a dull or bent needle causing skipped stitches or sewing machine damage.
Thread hold the whole quilt together and is constantly passing through your machine, so this is no place to skimp on quality. I like to piece with a neutral thread that blends with most fabrics. Aurifil Cotton Mako 50wt in Dove is nearly invisible in most of my piecing. And, yes, I do buy multiple spools at a time. One is for my regular sewing machine, one is for my lighter travel/class machine and one is for filling bobbins so I don’t have to rethread the machine when I need to fill more bobbins. Because the thread has two plies instead of three, it takes up less space in the seam allowance – you wouldn’t think it would make that much difference, but my 1/4-inch seams are more accurate and the seams press flatter.
For hand sewing and quilting, use good needles, and remember to toss old ones when they get dull or bent. Hand needles get dull over time, just like sewing machine needles. I love the quality of the needles from Bohin. The big eye quilting needles are easier to thread and perfect for hand quilting; they glide through the fabric making it easy to make nice small and even stitches.
Maybe you can eyeball a perfect quarter-inch, but I need help! Dritz Quilter’s Tape comes on a 60 yard roll and gives me a perfect and repositionable quarter-inch without marking. It keeps my hand quilting lines consistent. I use just the length of tape I need at any given time and can move it and reuse it a few times before it loses its stickiness. I don’t like to leave it on my fabric for more than 24 hours or so as it can become difficult to remove if left in place too long, especially in a warm environment. A 60-yard roll lasts such a long time that I think it’s worth it to be careful.
The Creative Grids 6.5 inch X 12.5 Inch Quilting Ruler is easy to use with its straightforward design and versatile size. The markings are printed in black and white on a frosted background that is visible on both light and dark fabrics. Smooth edges mean smooth cutting, and embedded grippers on the bottom hold the ruler on your fabric without slipping. 30 degree, 45 degree and 60 degree angle lines are clearly marked.
The easy-to-read black and white markings are printed in 1-inch grids marked in 1/8-inch and 1/4-inch increments.
The ruler slides easily over the fabric until pressure is applied. Then, the exclusive gripper holds the fabric in place while cutting, eliminating slipping and miss-cuts! Much safer for your fabric and your fingers!
Figuring out what size to cut squares to make corner and side setting triangles can be a challenge. The Easy Diagonal Sets Ruler by quilting experts Fons & Porter makes cutting side setting triangles and corner setting triangles for diagonally set quilts a snap. Just follow the easy instructions (printed on the ruler so you can’t lose them). Use the clear markings to cut perfect setting triangles. The ruler works for blocks that finish from 3 to 12 inches square, the most commonly sized quilt blocks.
This 16″ diameter cutting mat and turntable combination on the Martelli Roundabout Set allows you to use the entire mat as a cutting surface. Cut right up to the extreme outside edge with no tipping or plastic pieces to get in the way. 30 stainless steel ball bearings mean smooth turning, great durability and no maintenance. Three-piece set combines the turntable base, the cutting mat and table-top ironing pad.
Originally designed for quilters, this is a great tool for crafting and scrapbooking as well.
A rotary cutter makes it so much easier to cut accurate strips and blocks for your quilts. I prefer the Kai rotary cutter and blades. The blade has a great cover, so you don’t accidentally grab it and cut yourself, and their blades are very sharp.
If you are doing a lot of cutting, make sure to have back up blades so that it makes your job easier. A sharp blade makes an amazing difference!
Rotary cutting mats are essential in any quilter’s studio, but can be awkward to store or to pack for travel. Enter the Olfa Folded Cutting Mat. Its durable cutting surface absorbs cuts made by rotary cutters and art knives. It folds flat for easy portability. Then when extended for cutting, the fold line becomes almost invisible. The wavy fold line creates a smooth gapless surface when laid flat. And it will not skip threads when cutting directly over the fold! It measures 17 x 24 inches when unfolded for cutting. Where have you been all my life?
For small appliqué projects, a good pair of scissors makes all of the difference. These Karen Buckley scissors have a serrated blade that helps grab the fabric while you are cutting, making it easier for perfect cuts, especially when clipping curves and corners. Make sure your family doesn’t use these for paper! Keep them in a special place so that they stay nice and sharp for your sewing projects.
Need (or want) to mark your fabric? You’ll want to have some Frixion pens on hand. You can write or mark on your fabric, and with a little touch from your hot iron, the marks come right out! Always test before writing all over your fabric. (I’ve had a few marks that didn’t come all of the way out.) With the variety of colors available, you can almost always make easy-to-see marks on just about any fabric.
Appliqué is made easy when you use a fusible web. Misty Fuse doesn’t make your fabrics stiff, and makes it so easy to quickly press your appliqué onto your base fabric.
Misty Fuse is a very fine web that creates a lasting bond without adding bulk. You can either use a teflon sheet or parchment paper to protect both your iron and ironing board.
If you plan on doing much fusible appliqué, invest in a few teflon sheets. There are times you’ll want them top and bottom, to protect both your iron and ironing board. And, it is fun to layer pre-fused fabrics to make a design before the final pressing onto your background fabric. This 3-pack of Teflon sheets is a great value and investment for your fusible appliqué projects.
I hate being poked by pins, and pins leave permanent holes in some fabrics! Wonder Clips have lots of uses. My favorite time to use them is when I am hand stitching binding to the back of my quilt. They hold the binding in place nice and flat until it is stitched down, and I don’t have to keep bandages nearby!
They have a surprisingly firm grip, and built in seam allowance markings allow you to align materials ahead of time to easily create flawless seams. Clips are both faster and safer than pins, and a mix of colors and sizes allows you to choose the clip that works best with your project.
Every quilter needs a good light – whether at the machine, cutting precise strips or blocks, or doing a bit of hand work. I love this DayLight Duo Lamp. It has two moveable arms, so you can get the light exactly where you want it.
It simulates actual daylight so that your colors are true. The touch switch is easy to use, and it has four levels of brightness, so you can choose what setting works best for your task and your eyes.
One of the most important tools for quilting is a good iron. There are so many to choose from. I had tried many inexpensive ones, then visited a friend with a Rowenta Steam iron with canister and bought one. It’s expensive, and amazing. It has a huge tank of water, and I generally fill it as I turn it on for my quilting time, and never need to fill it, even with a full day of pressing. And it has great bursts of steam that really press all of the seams open. It’s great for blocking finished quilts!
I can’t live without the Ultimate 3-in-1 Color Tool by Joen Wolfrom! It has taught me so much about color theory and how colors work (or don’t work) together.
This new edition includes CMYK and RGB formulas, plus Hex numbers for web site design. Enjoy larger color swatches and expanded guidelines for use. 24 color cards plus an in-depth instructional guide make color planning easy. With its handy, take-along size, you can refer to it at home, in your studio, in class or while shopping. Based on the Ives Color Wheel, the standard in the art world.
Here’s the tool that nobody wants to talk about, but when you need one, it’s best to swallow your pride and make, um, alterations. I have used a number of seam rippers over the years, and the Clover Seam Ripper 482 is by far my favorite. I have some arthritis in my hands, and this solid, rounded handle fits my palm with a relaxed hold – not a death grip. And when I make a mistake, I usually go big, so comfort is important to me. It may be in my hand for a long time! I admit to having more than one so I can keep a ripper with each sewing machine. I prefer it over the seam rippers that came with my machines. And I keep one in my hand sewing kit. It’s sharp, so it lets me get under and between threads without damaging my fabric.
How-To and Inspiring Quilt Books
Some of our favorite quilting books to learn new techniques or be inspired.
Got fabric? Your collection of fat quarters is ready to shine with The Big Book of Fat Quarter Quilts! Stitch your way through this carefully curated collection of fat-quarter quilts, ranging from wall hangings to large bed-sized projects. Whether you want to whip up a quick-and-easy gift or you’re in the mood for more of a challenge, you’ll find dozens of dazzling patterns in a range of styles including traditional, scrappy, modern, and more, all by today’s top quilt designers.
Do you have “a few” (ahem!) scraps in your sewing studio? Turn your scrappy mess into quilting success with Scrap Quilt Secrets: 6 Design Techniques for Knockout Results by Dianne Knott! Diane will introduce you to the easy-to-use S.C.R.A.P.S. system (style, contrast, repetition, accent color, palette, and selvages) that will help you sew extraordinary quilts from every last bit of the fabric in your stash – even the tiniest scraps. There are blank coloring pages to help you visualize your quilts. You can apply Diane’s concepts to tackle any scrap quilt you want to make. These 6 must-know scrap secrets will forever change the way you look at scrap quilting!
First-time quilters, raise your hands! Here is Quilting for Beginners: A Start-up Guide to Creating Your First Quilt by Anna Audley to guide you through your first quilt, start to finish!
It is often said that quilting is both a skill and an art. While selection of patterns, designs, colors and fabrics to put together a piece exercise the artist in you, following the multi-step quilting process is a skill. And like any skill, you can learn how to do it. Anna explores the different facets of quilting and throws light on each step of making your first quilt. Then there’s no stopping you!
There are so many creative options in quilting – traditional, modern, pictorial, abstract, and more. How do you know which avenue will be most fulfilling for you? Creative Quilt Challenges: Take the Challenge to Discover Your Style & Improve Your Design Skills by Pat Pease and Wendy Hill will lead you on a creative journey to design the kinds of quilts you’ve always wanted to make!
Proving that two minds are better than one, these experienced quilters take on 7 quilt challenges, including designing a new twist on an old block and quilting with unconventional materials. Sew alongside them as you learn new tools, tricks, and techniques.
Quiltmaker magazine is one of the best places to find blocks that range from innovative to traditional, whimsical to sophisticated, classic to unique! Now, these blocks are together in Quiltmaker’s 1,000 Blocks.
This comprehensive guide covers every block-making approach including appliqué, foundation-piecing, mixed techniques and piecing. It also features settings and yardages for turning your blocks into beautiful quilts, quilt-making techniques for easy reference and a bonus CD of PDF templates.
The editors of Quiltmaker magazine have compiled an extensive block collection of tested patterns that is sure to be a quilter’s best friend!
T-Shirt quilts are increasing in popularity as our collections of tees expand. A popular gift to send a high school graduate off to college wrapped in memories, they can be a challenge to make because of the stretchy nature of knit fabrics. Not limited to graduations, T-Shirt quilts make a great memory – of a trip, a timeline of achievements, memories of sports and other activities, etc. Terrific T-Shirt Quilts will guide you through the process – from selecting which shirts to use to how to prepare them to possible layouts to piecing and quilting.
You can mix and match motifs of different sizes and shapes for fun and easy designs. Make a quilt full of memories of any size from lap to bed sized. The tips and tricks you need for working with recycled clothing are right here.
How do quilters achieve precise piecing and super sharp points? For many the answer is foundation paper piecing! Learn to Paper Piece: A Visual Guide to Piecing with Precision by Nancy Mahoney takes the mystery out of the process. You’ll be amazed when you discover how easy it is to master this empowering technique.
Achieve the precision you’re after as you learn the secrets of pattern and paper selection, how to choose the right scrap size and how to keep your piecing accurate. How-to photos and illustrations, combined with easy to understand directions, ensure speedy, successful block construction!
Browse through all of the quilting projects and inspiration on Create Whimsy.