Equipment and Tools

Needed Equipment for Sewing and Quilting and how to properly store your tools.

quilting patternWhether you are just starting out or experienced in Quilting and Patchwork it is important to have the best equipment/tools available. I am going to provide a list of all equipment/tools that I have ever used in quilting when I started and how as I became more experienced (not saying that I am an expert) I acquired more equipment/tools from scissors, cutting mats pins, bobbins, sewing machines, rulers to name a few. I love finding new equipment/tools to use and find out how to use them. Caring for your equipment/tools is important and I will explain how to do this and much more.

Equipment/Tools for quilting/patchwork

Sewing Machines

sewing machines for quiltingWhether a learner or experienced quilter there is some tools/equipment that are essential for quilting. If doing quilting a  is sewing machine a must.  To start off with you just need a machine that does straight stitching and possibly a zigzag stitch. Ideal for learners but you will soon outgrow this machine and these sewing machines usually do not come with an automatic needle threader.  As you become more experienced then you can pick a more complex machine.  As there are many varieties on the market this is a choice for the quilter and if need advice head to the quilters shop for assistance or get on line as there is a lot if information to be found and on you tube listening to experienced quilters will help you make a choice. As you become more experienced and want to upgrade your machine there are a few things that you first need to decide.  What do you want your sewing machine to do?  Listed are a few things that are worth considering. Speed control with so you have control of the speed when doing difficult sewing eg turning corners. An automatic needle threader great if you have difficulty seeing the eye of the needle. Another tip is to spray the end of the cotton with hairspray to get it firm. You need to cut the end of the thread off before you commence to sew. An extending arm to hold fabric easier and a removable arm for small projects. A walking foot is a must for quilting as it guides the fabric through and dog feet must be able to lower for free motion quilting. To use an ordinary foot the material will slip and give uneven results and not have a smooth look.  A quarter inch foot is ideal for getting seam allowance straight and takes out the need for measuring seam allowances. There is a large selection of fancy computerized stitching in sewing machines now and there are sewing machines that have a combined sewing and embroidery with built in stitches programs. With most sewing machines on the market you can buy extra accessories that you need for most projects that you undertake eg extra bobbins, spare presser feet, extended thread stands for larger reels of threads. There is also embroidery attachments and 1/4" quilting sewing machine presser foot available for some sewing machines and you need to find out if it will fit yours. Extra lighting is essential and LED lights to come in stripes and easily fixed to your sewing machine. If you are wanting to be mobile with your sewing machine it is important that it is lightweight for you to carry and has a good strong handle. Some machines come with a hard cover and these are the best as are more durable.  Soft covers are good if you are not transporting your machine around.


over lockers for quilting and sewingNow there is also a great selection of overlockers and sergers available on the market.  You need to learn how to use the overlockers/sergers as some of them cut as they sew. Some come with three thread and others with four thread.  There are sergers on the market that will take 2-3-4 thread depending on the project that you are working on. The more industrial the serger, it will do more and it will not cut the fabric if you are doing a fold or taking up a hem.  This serger is a great machine for the home quilter and garment maker. There are sergers that will also do fancy stitching and so stretch stitch for stretchy fabric.  While both sergers and overlocks look the same, both have two needles the serger can do flat lock stitch and chain stitch while the overlocker has the cover stitch. You need to know what you will be using your serger/overlocker for before deciding on which one you purchase.  These sergers/overlockers and sewing machines can be expensive and you don't want to waste money on a purchase that is not suitable. Always make sure that you buy a sewing machine, serger/overlock that has a manual with it.

Longarm Sewing Machine

long arm quilting machinesLongarm Quilting is the procedure by which a longarm sewing machine is utilized to sew together a quilt top, stitch batting and sew backing into a complete Quilt. I have not used one myself but my aim is to start learning the techniques. The longarm sewing machine outline normally extends from 10 to 14 feet long (or, 3metres to 4.25 meters). An entire longarming framework commonly comprises of a mechanical length sewing machine head (19 - 30 inches,) a 10 to 14-foot outline, a table with a layer of plastic under which is set a pantograph, and a few rollers on which the texture layers and batting are joined.  These are very large machines and you need to have the room for them. Many quilters send their quilts away to be done by professionals who use these machines for a living.  Quilting using a longarm machine can take fundamentally less time than hand quilting or more customary machine sewing. This efficiency is a vast factor in the pick up in the notoriety of longarm quilting. You can buy smaller longarm quilting machines and once you learn how to use these they do become an integral part of your Quilting. You need to ask yourself how serious are you about your quilting as these machines are very expensive.  They do the same at the larger machines but will take a little longer to finish your project. You can buy quilting feet for your sewing machine and it is ideal for doing smaller projects eg bag. placemats, crib quilts, runners etc.Care needs to be taken in looking after your sewing machine and serger/overlocker.  Turn your sewing machine/serger/overlocker off from electricity when not in use.  Ensure that they are covered at all times to keep dust free. I get my machine serviced once a year done by professionals but keep it oiled and cleaned regularly and follow the manufacturers instructions. Ensure all your equipment/tools that you will be using on your longarm machine is in a good working condition.

Machine Accessories

Bobbins-Sewing Machine Needles-Quilting Pins-Sewing Machine Oil

quilting accessoriesIt is important that you use only the bobbin that is marketed for your sewing machine as not all bobbins are suitable for every make and model. You can buy receptacles to store your bobbins. Bobbins come in plastic and metal materials.  Any nicks or marks on your bobbin case can affect your sewing and will need a new bobbin case. Make sure that you are using the right cotton for the needle size that you are using eg if you use a smaller needle on tough fabric like leather it will bend your needle and put holes in your bobbin case.  Ensure that you keep the bobbin case oiled you only need a small drop.  Keep it clean of lint as it to can affect your sewing. I fill up many bobbins of the same color as the project I am making as it makes it easier and quicker. You need to ensure that all your equipment/tools are in good working order in your sewing machine

Needles come in many sizes and ranging from 60 metric to 120 metric or 8 to 20 imperial sizes.  You can get guides to tell you what size needle you require for the fabric you are using.  It is important to change needles regularly as they become blunt with constant use. Always remember to when threading your machine have your presser foot in the up position. 

Quilting pins are longer than ordinary sewing pins and it is suggested that you use these. They come in a plastic head or glass heads, it depends on your preference. You will also need to get a pin cushion or magnet tray to keep pins.  Magnets are great to have on hand for picking pins up from the floor. I have two pin cushions so I can keep one by my machine and one at the sewing table. You can also get clips to hold your fabric in place and these are great for holding thick layers together. These are becoming more popular and I love them as I don't prick my fingers on pins. Safety pins are great for holding the top layer of your quilt to the bottom layer as the pins will not get lost in the layers.

Some sewing machine manufacturers have their own brand of sewing machine oil that they recommend that you use. There are many other brands of oil and you have to make sure that they are suitable for your sewing machine. Always use a soft brush or soft cloth and run your machine over fabric to ensure that you have no oil leaking on your projects.  I have got into the habit of cleaning my machine on a regular basis as I use my machine just about daily. 

Rotary Cutting mats

Rotary cutting mats are marked with grids for easy cutting and measuring. You can get some that are reversible, which I love. You need to make sure no one puts anything eg coffee mugs on it as it will mark.  Some mats are reversible and basically self-caring and many cut marks disappear on their own. This means that any nick or blade marks are not permanent and disappear on their own. They come in many sizes and if traveling with them they come in a portable size. You need to make sure that the other equipment/tools that you are using on your board need to be clean and sharp. Your cutting mat needs to be kept flat and out of sunlight. Rotate them from time to time.You can clean them regularly with soft soap and a soft brush to remove lint. Always remember never do any ironing on your board.

Rotary Cutters-Rulers-Scissors

rotary cutting boards for quiltingRotary cutters come in many sizes and can cut through many layers. Rotary cutters can take a bit to get used to and I did have a few accident with fabric but now I am ok with them. Choose a cutter that is comfortable in your hand to use.  Having a protective shield on them is also good value. There are some rotary cutters that you can replace the blade on. Can take time to get used to using rotary cutters, but once achieved you use them for just about all cutting.   Rotary Cutters can be sharpened or you can purchase more blades.  Rotary cutters can be a little tricky to use at first but are amazing once you have used them a few times. Make sure the blades are kept clean, rub with a Microsoft cloth. Clear acrylic rulers with grips on the back side to hold in place when cutting fabric.  Comes in many sizes.  A 6"x24" ruler.  A 12" Square ruler, 6"Square ruler is great for cutting smaller things. Half square triangle for templates. Straight rulers for measuring. Tape measure. You need to ensure these equipment/tools are Kept clean and make sure that there are no broken edges that will affect you cutting straight lines. You can also buy templates of different designs eg teddy bears. hearts, flowers, to name a few. I have bought a lot of different size rulers to have on hand.

You need to have a sharp pair of scissors and ensure that they are only used for cutting fabric.  Cutting paper and other products can blunt them. Ensure your scissors cut right up to the point. Pinking shears cut in a zigzag edge and are great for cutting as the edges do not fray.  A smaller pair embroidery scissors or snips are ideal for cutting threads and trimming fabrics. They come with blades of all sizes and I would suggest you get a range of different sizes to have them for use on any fabric.  Ensure you keep the blades of your scissors and rotary wheel clean. Rub with a clean cloth that doesn't leave lint on them. Buy a quality pair of pinking shears. Pick the correct texture for cutting. Try your pinking shears out on various layers of textured fabrics.  Hold the pinking shears straight to cut.  A seam cutter or known as a quick unpick is essential as we all make mistakes and it is quick for unpicking. 


irons for quiltingIrons needs to have a point at the tip to make ironing seams and getting into folds easy. Needs to have steam and be able to turn off the steam and a non-stick sole plate. Must have multiple heat settings on it. On your ironing surface ensure that is clean and has a resistance padding on it. Look after your iron by always having it standing up.  Clean the water reservoir out regularly. You can use white vinegar for this and wipe the sole plate after each use.

Marking pens

marking pens for quilting and sewingFabric marking pens these come in many forms and now are self-disappearing. You can get marking pens that are self-vanishing, and pens that the marks will disappear with a damp cloth. Use a zip lock bag for storage and lay them down to recharge. Most pens and chalks are water soluble. Any of this equipment/tools will mark all fabric

Paper and Pencil for writing down information that you require

One of my best pieces of equipment is a plastic see through project bag that I can keep all my project pieces in one place. If you don't have one any bag will do