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Quilting Basics: My Top 12 Quilting Supplies

Good news: you really don’t need that much stuff to learn to quilt! But there are a few things you definitely need. Let’s take a look at what I recommend!

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Must Have Quilting Supplies by HollyAnne Knight of String & Story

If you’re just starting to quilt or thinking about learning to quilt, then you’ve probably seen at least one picture of a gorgeous, giant, decked out sewing room and wondered, “Do I really need all of that??” While many quilters make collecting quilting supplies a hobby in and of itself, I’m hear to give you good news: You really don’t need that much stuff to learn to quilt. In fact, here are my must-haves in an tidy list:

1) Sewing Machine

Technically, this is optional. For centuries women made quilts entirely by hand, and hand piecing and quilting is actually making a comeback (Check out my friend Kristin’s Hand Piecing QAL if handwork is your thing!). I, however, deeply enjoy the speed and motor purr of using a machine. I work primarily on the Singer Quantum Stylist 9960, and I completely adore it. A cheaper machine would work, but this Singer is, in my opinion, the perfect intersection of affordability and straight up work horse power and dependability.

2) Cutting Mat

I recommend a 18x24 inch cutting mat or larger (my main mat is this 24x36 inch one from Arteza). I also have a couple of smaller mats from Olfa and Daylight that I use for trimming, etc, but just one mat will get you going for now

3) Rotary Cutter & Ruler

Olfa Splash with the Endurance Blade. Hands down. Always ALWAYS close your blade between cuts, and BE CAREFUL— that puppy is SHARP! Also, to safely make accurate cuts with a rotary cutter, you’ll need a special acrylic ruler like this one.

4) Glass Head Pins

These fine little pins are for holding pieces of fabric together while you stitch them. You’ll probably pin most while you learn, and as you get more comfortable you’ll likely only pin for specific things like matching seams or attaching a border

5) Sewing Machine Needles

Several probably came with your machine (if you got your machine second hand, make sure you have the proper bobbins, too), but here’s a couple easy tips: I like to piece with 80/12 universal needles, and I change my needle after each project or if something gets funky (read more about machine troubleshooting here)

6) Thread

As far as I’m concerned, the only thread you ever NEED is Aurifil 50wt. I piece, quilt, and bind with it. It is cotton heaven on a spool. Aurifil 2600 is my go-to, all purpose gray. Sure, you can use something else, but Aurifil is the best.

7) Quarter Inch Foot

I have a clear quarter inch foot without a guide. I believe the most important thing about your quarter inch seam is that it is consistent. Quilters loooove to obsess over a super freakishly accurate quarter inch seam. There are merits to this. However, don’t let that stress you out right now. Check your seam allowance often, practice being consistent, and your accuracy will increase over time

8) Embroidery Scissors & Fabric Scissors

For now, start with two basic scissors: little snips for threads, and fabric scissors for bigger stuff. A basic pair of Fiskars orange handled scissors will work like a charm, but get a new pair and use them for FABRIC ONLY. Cutting other things with your quilting scissors dulls them more quickly and gives you a sloppy cut.

9) Seam Ripper

Because you’re gonna need it. We all do. I like this little green guy best.

10) Lint Brush

Clean your bobbin race out after every couple of bobbins. And always, always brush lint OUT— never blow or push it IN (read about basic machine cleaning here)

11) Iron / Ironing Board

Yes, you can probably use the one you have, just please make sure it’s clean. We don’t want any scorches or scuffs on your work! If you do buy a new one, a cheap one is fine, and use a spray bottle rather than the reservoir to create steam. Also, in my experience, quilting is rough on irons because we leave them plugged in a lot.

12) Fabric / Batting

Here’s the deal (fabric snobs, I love you, but don’t read this part): It’s okay to get the cheap cotton of Ye Olde Big Box Craft Store while you’re learning. The affordability of it will make you braver, so get some coupons and go to town (Just make sure it’s 100% quilting cotton!). HOWEVER, it is not the same quality as some gorgeous Art Gallery, Michael Miller, Moda, Paintbrush Studio, Robert Kaufman, etc fabrics that you will find through local or online quilt shops. Designer quilting cottons are worth it. They are luxuriously yummy. You will fall in love with them. But if you want to start with something more accessible to get going, I’m all for it.

The same rule applies for batting: Get cotton, and if you want to start with Warm and Natural or Warm and White and a coupon at the Big Box Store, it’ll serve you well. Personally, I love Hobbs Batting. So yummy. Such quality. And lots of cool options! (Learn more about batting here)

Fat Quarter Shop Quilting Fabric, Kits, Notions and Patterns

Optional: A Daylight lamp

If you get bitten by the quilting bug, you will want to quilt more, and it’s likely you’ll be stitching at night. Should you find yourself in love with this but not loving the strain on your eyes, I recommend Daylight lamps, especially the Slimline. You can read all about my love for these lights here.


Are you brand new to quilting? This post is just a taste of my new course, Quilting Basics: Learn to Quilt with HollyAnne Knight of String & Story. You can pre-order the class now (which will be added to each week for the next six weeks) to gain lifetime access to videos and other resources that will take you step by step through your first quilt!