This blog accepts forms of cash advertising, sponsorship, paid insertions or other forms of compensation. Please read my disclosures to know more.

Quilting Tools Every Quilter Should Have in Their Toolbox

Originally posted: 2/14/15
Last Update: 6/21/21

So you want to start quilting, huh?  That's awesome!  Let me be one of the first to welcome you to the quilting community.  Quilting can be slightly overwhelming but don't worry you've got this.  There are some basic quilting tools that you need to get started.  Quilting can be an expensive hobby but I have options for you no matter what your budget is for tools.  You only need eleven tools to get started and if you've done any sewing in the past you probably have many of these tools already in your sewing kit.  Let's go shop for quilting tools!!

Quilting is a very rewarding activity but there are a few tools you need to get started.

This post contains affiliate links.  Making purchases from these links costs you nothing and tosses a few pennies into the fabric budget.  Thank you for your support!

Before we get started there are a couple of things that you need that I'm not covering in this post.  They aren't really quilting tools but they are needed to make a quilt.  The first is the fabric.  The pattern that you pick for your project will cover how much fabric you need.  If you want to learn more about the fabric that is on the market I cover the difference here.  I highly recommend taking the few minutes it will take you to read about the difference in fabric so you get the quality of quilt fabric that you want and need for your project.

You will also need a sewing machine.  The Quilting Room with Mel uses vintage sewing machines.  Vintage sewing machines are a passion of ours, keeping them out of landfills and having them used but that doesn't mean that we have any issues with new machines.  If you'd like to purchase a new machine we recommend Sewing Machines Plus.  

You will also need some batting for your quilt if you plan on quilting the project yourself.  You certainly don't have to do that.  There is nothing wrong with having someone else quilt your quilt.  Eleanor Burns from Quilt In A Day has said several times that she quilts with her credit card.  

My general rule of thumb when buying quilting tools is to buy the best that you can afford.  There's a lot of great quilting tools out there at all price points.  You can always replace tools with more expensive items as your budget allows and as your skills grow.  You'll notice throughout the post that I have recently upgraded several of my tools to Quilter's Select brand of tools.  I am in no way compensated for the tools or my opinions of them.  I truly use these tools and have been making the switch after getting to play with them at my local quilt shop.

Quilting Notions Needed For Quilting

Notions are consumable items.  You’ll eventually have to replace them because you are going to use them up.  That doesn’t mean you should cheap out on them.  You need decent-quality notions.  Cheaply made notions can make for headaches and frustration.  When you are frustrated you are more likely to walk away from quilting.  Decent quality doesn't mean you have to spend a fortune either though.


There are many different types of sewing pins on the market.  My favorite are glass head pins.

There are three basic types of pins on the market, all-metal, metal with a plastic head, and metal with a glass head.  Skip all-metal ones.  They are great for garment construction but not for quilting.  Plastic head pins have been the standard in quilting for years.  They come with flat heads and with round heads.  They are cheap and easy to find.  My mom used them though for years. They are not my preferred pins though.  The reason is that the heads melt when you accidentally iron over them. Not that anyone would iron over a pin on purpose but it happens and then you have a mess.  I spend a little more and go with glass head pins.  I use 1 ⅞” pins.  A lot of glass head pins are shorter but I like the length of these.  I bought a box of 100 about three years ago.  I have tossed a few due to bending but I still have plenty to use.  Bending pins and melting the heads are the reasons you will have to replace the pins from time to time.  You will also need to purchase a pin cushion to hold your pins for you or make a pin cushion.


The thread is what holds the quilt together. Learn what kind of threads you can and should use in your quilting.

Thread can bring up a lot of debates.  Please take a moment to read this article from Superior threads, it does a wonderful job of explaining how thread and fabric work together.  From there make your own choice about the type of thread you are going to use.  My mom used Maxi-Lock thread.  It’s affordable and comes in a lot of colors.  You can see it in some of my demos on the blog.  I typically use the Aurifil thread line.  Aurifil is 100% cotton thread. You can purchase it at many quilt shops, Amazon carries some collections, and Sewing Machines Plus allows you to buy it by the spool.  I also use it when I’m doing my quilting on the quilt.  If you are making an heirloom spend the money on 100% cotton thread.

Needles and bobbins would also fall under notions.  I don't cover those because those are dependent upon the type of machine you use.  While the majority of machines take a 15x1 needle and a class 15 bobbin there are machines that take something different.  Please follow the manufacturer's guidelines for those.  If you have a vintage machine and don't know what you need to buy please reach out and we will do our best to get you pointed in the right direction.  I prefer Schmetz or Klasse needles.  Unless the manual specifies you must use X brand of needles the brand doesn't matter.  You want a quality needle though.  There are rumors out there that if you have a Singer machine you must use a Singer needle and that is not true at all.  I do purchase the majority of my bobbins from Sew Vac Direct.  They carry bobbins for old and new machines.  

Quilting Tools

Tools are something that doesn’t have to be replaced as often.  Over time things will wear out but it won’t be as often as the notions above.  So these are the things we invest just a little bit more money in because we don’t want them to wear out as quickly as some of the cheaper products. 


I use two sizes of scissors for my quilting. A small pair that I can clip threads and dog ears and a large pair for upcycling fabrics from shirts and jeans.

There are two kinds of scissors I keep in my sewing room.  I keep a pair of dress shears and a small pair of scissors.  The dress shears aren’t used a lot.  They are there to help break down shirts and jeans.  The small scissors are what I use the most.  Some people will use thread snips and I have no problem with the snips.  My mom used them and I have used them as well.  I switched to a 6-inch pair of scissors because they do more.  Not only can I clip my threads but I can also trim off dog ears as well. It is truly your preference what you want to keep beside your machine.


I don't send a lot of money on irons for my quilting. $50 or less is good enough for me.

Here’s something I don’t suggest spending a lot on.  Don’t go over about $50.  I have not seen anyone report that the irons that cost more than that last any longer than the cheaper ones.  I currently use a Hamilton Beach iron.  I’ve had great luck with them.  Though I do like the features on the Oliso irons and have used one before at quilt retreats.  You will also need an ironing board or ironing mat.  The ironing mat is my next upgrade.  I got to use one at my last retreat and I fell in love with it.   

Cutting Mat

A self-healing cutting mat is a must in every quilting studio.

This is the first tool we need for fabric cutting.  It’s also one of those quilting tools we are going to spend a bit of money on.  Cutting fabric with a rotary cutter makes your life so much easier than cutting your pieces with scissors.  A good cutting mat helps to save your blades on your rotary cutter.  I used an Olfa cutting mat that mom bought and I used it for years as well. It just got worn out.  It got used for probably 15 years before it needed to be replaced.  I replaced it with a Quilter's Select Mat.  I went with that mat solely because the gray color will work better with my videos.  Large mats that cover big tables must be purchased locally.  They cannot be rolled for shipping which means shipping costs a lot.  They are not self-healing mats like the other two that I linked.  That means that will have nicks and such in them from cutting.  The big mats are great for cutting large pieces of fabric down to usable sizes. 

Rotary Cutter

You need a rotary cutter to quickly and easily cut fabric.  These are three different 45 mm rotary cutters.

They come in three standard sizes, 28mm, 45mm, and 60mm.  The one you need to start with is the 45mm.  There are several manufacturers.  I have used several different rotary cutters over the years.  For years I used one that you could hold on to like scissors.   For videos though I typically used a stick style rotary cutter because it was easier for people to see what I was doing. I recently upgraded to a Quilter's Select rotary cutter.  The reason I switched is that the QS rotary cutter has a bit of weight to it.  That means I don't have to push down as hard to make cuts.  It has really helped with shoulder fatigue.  It’s a personal choice which style you think will fit you the best.  A little side note about blades.  You are going to have to replace them and don’t try to make a blade last after it has gotten dull.  You are doing damage to your mat.  Also, don’t go off-brand blades.  They will tear up a mat in a heartbeat.  You can get 5 Fiskars blades from Walmart for a good price, just buy those.  Your mat and your fabric will thank you.  The brand of your blades does not need to match the brand of the cutter that you use.  


The rulers help you make straight accurate cuts.

You need three rulers to start.  A 6x24 for cutting down yardage, a 6x12 for classes and smaller work, and a square up ruler.  Six by twenty-four rulers are everywhere and I have several.  I have a Dritz, that is now OmniGrid, one that I bought for Home Ec. class in high school.  I prefer a ruler with thin lines like the Havel's or Quilter's Select.  The 6x12 rulers are just shorter versions of the 6x24 and like the 6x24 rulers, I have several.  I love my old school OmniGrid one but they have changed the style over the years.  The yellow that they put on the rulers bothers my eyes but I know a lot of people love that yellow because it helps them see better.  My small square up ruler is sadly no longer made.  There is a newer version of it on the market but I haven't used it.  The large square up ruler that I love has a copyright on it of 1983 and it isn't made anymore either.  If you are only going to buy one square up ruler it needs to be a 12x12.  That will cover just about anything that you do to start quilting.  The Quilt In a Day square up ruler is similar to my old one.  I just bought a Quilter's Select 12x12 and 6x6.

The reason I am switching my rulers out is that the Quilter's Select rulers have a coating on the back of them that keeps them from slipping.  They really grip the fabric well and that makes cutting so much easier.  I know that they don't fit in everyone's budget though.  You do need something to help the rulers from slipping around though.  A slip can ruin a piece of fabric quickly.  I have a quick, easy, and cheap way to help cut back on the rulers slipping for you.

Tips For Saving Money Purchasing Quilting Tools

I do my best to save as much money on tools and accessories as possible because I want to save that money for buying high-quality fabric.  So I want to pass along my tricks for pinching pennies on quilting tools.
  • Shop garage sales, estate sales, and second-hand stores.  Every day quilters are having to give up quilting due to age and health or because they are upgrading their tools.  It's sad but those quilters want their tools to be used by the next generation.  They may not be the exact brands that I listed but that's OK.  You can always buy a new one later on.
  • Shop big box stores and online.  I preach a lot about shopping local especially for your fabrics but tools can often be found cheaper online or in the big box stores.  Big box stores offer coupons that you can use to get notions cheaper and sometimes even tools.  Online is a big money saver for those of us in rural areas.  I'm always mindful of how far I have to go to get something and how much that adds to the cost.  Being able to order and have it shipped to my door saves gas money and that means more fabric.  There are also areas where there aren't locally owned quilt shops and with the internet, you can still shop those stores.
  • Ask for the items as gifts.  Every birthday, Christmas, and anniversary I ask for a new quilting tool.  I'm very specific about what I want so they don't get the wrong thing but that allows me to expand my tool collection without breaking my budget.  

Quilting Tools Summary

If you are new to quilting be sure to head over to my new quilter pages.  They are full of information to help you get off on the right foot in quilting.  The quilting tools listed here are just the start of the journey you'll want to know more about cutting fabric and making the basic quilt blocks.  If you are looking for an interactive experience check out our free Facebook group.

Don't miss out on getting the project guide for free, just click on the image below.  It will help you stay organized during your projects.  You'll also be subscribed to my new quilters email list to help guide you with tips, tricks, project ideas, and more.

Now that you have all of your quilting tools be sure to check out my quilt projects and my small quilted projects so you can get started today!

Find out what tools you must have to get started making quilts today.

Would you like to comment?

  1. Rulers are pretty "straight" forward. :) Good list.

  2. Great informative post. I wish I had it when I first started quilting. I am still a quilting newbie, but it's good to know that I started out with the right tools! :)