Essential Tools Every Quilter Should Own

quilting essential tools to set up space

Quilting is an art form with deep roots – some of the earliest quilts were made in the fourteenth century. We’ve come a long way since the 1300s, though, and modern quilters have a wealth of materials and tools at their disposal. If you’re new to quilting, though, you may be asking yourself – which quilting tools and notions do I actually need?

Well, we’re here to help. This article is a comprehensive guide to everything you need to set yourself up for success as a quilter. Whether you’re a beginner or just looking to build up your notion stash, we’ve got you covered.

Basic Quilting Supplies Everyone Should Own

Of course, a sewing machine is the number one thing you need to start quilting. Finding the right sewing machine for you is more straightforward than it may seem – but once you’ve picked the right one, you need a few essential accessories, too.

Cutting Tools

Before you can start sewing things together, you need to cut them into the right shapes. Here are the cutting tools you’ll need to get started.

Rotary Cutters

Rotary cutters are game-changers when quilting. These tools glide through fabric with a razor-sharp circular blade, providing unparalleled precision. They’re available in various sizes, from small cutters ideal for detailed work to larger ones perfect for cutting through multiple layers of fabric.

Choose a cutter with an ergonomic handle to reduce hand fatigue. Replaceable blades guarantee consistently sharp cuts, allowing you to make well-constructed quilts of all shapes and sizes.


Scissors are a fundamental tool in any quilter’s arsenal. While they might seem mundane, the right pair of fabric scissors can elevate your quilting game. Fabric scissors are specially designed with sharp, fine blades to cut cleanly through the material without fraying its edges. Choose a pair that feels comfortable in your hand, with a size and weight that suits your cutting style.

High-quality fabric scissors are a worthy investment, providing durability and precision for years. Remember, reserving them exclusively for fabric will keep them sharp and efficient – make sure your kids know that your fabric scissors are not for arts and crafts! It’s also wise to learn how to sharpen scissors or find a craft shop to do it for you.

Cutting Mats

A high-quality cutting mat protects your work surface and facilitates precise cutting. These mats usually feature grid lines, angles, and measurements, guiding straight cuts and perfect angles. The self-healing material of these mats closes up after being cut, ensuring a smooth surface for each new project.

Some double-sided cutting mats offer different measurements and orientations, catering to a wide range of quilting needs. Peruse your local fabric or craft shop to see what they offer, or ask a trusted quilter friend what they use the most. The proper cutting mat is not just a protective tool; it aids accuracy and consistency in your quilting projects.

Measuring Tools

It’s true in carpentry and in quilting: measure twice, cut once. These tools will guarantee that everything you sew measures up.


Quilting rulers are far more versatile than the 12-inch rulers you used in elementary school. These come in various shapes, including square, rectangular, and triangular, each serving specific purposes in the quilting process. These rulers are typically transparent, allowing you to see the fabric beneath and ensure alignment. Some feature non-slip coatings for stability, ensuring accurate cutting and measuring. The durability and precision of these rulers make them indispensable for creating consistent, uniform pieces.

Measuring Tapes

The flexibility of measuring tapes makes them crucial for quilting. Unlike rigid rulers, a soft measuring tape can easily measure curved and irregular shapes, which is essential for custom quilt designs or adapting patterns. They are lightweight, portable, and can quickly be wrapped around fabric rolls or stored in a sewing kit. A good measuring tape should have easy-to-read, durable markings and be made of a material that won’t stretch over time.

Quilting Squares

Quilting squares, often made from clear acrylic, ensure accuracy in your quilt blocks. They come in various sizes and are used as templates for cutting fabric and keeping your patchwork uniform. Some quilting squares have grid lines and angles marked on them, aiding in aligning fabric grain and making precise cuts. Quilting squares can significantly speed up the cutting process and ensure that each piece of your quilt fits perfectly.

Marking Tools

Marking on your fabric is an essential way to ensure accuracy.

Fabric Markers

Fabric markers are necessary for any quilter. They are specially formulated to provide clear, temporary lines on the fabric that wash away easily. These markers come in various types: water-soluble, air-erasable, or heat-erasable, each serving different purposes depending on the project requirements. When choosing fabric markers, consider the fabric type and color and how long you need the marks to last. The right fabric marker can be a simple but powerful tool for precision in quilting projects.


Tailor’s chalk is a traditional but still incredibly relevant tool in quilting. It’s ideal for marking on various fabrics, especially darker ones where other markers might not be visible. You can use it to mark precise lines for cutting or sewing, and it comes in several forms – traditional chalk, chalk pencils, or chalk wheels. Each type offers different levels of precision and ease of use. The marks made by the tailor’s chalk are easily removed by brushing or washing, leaving your finished quilt clean and mark-free.

Tracing Paper

Tracing paper with a tracing wheel is a fantastic way to transfer patterns onto fabric, especially for intricate or complex designs. The paper is placed between the pattern and the fabric, and the wheel presses the pattern onto the fabric, leaving a series of tiny indentations or dots. This method allows for accurate replication of patterns and can be a lifesaver for quilts that require detailed, consistent designs. Tracing paper is particularly useful when working with delicate fabrics where other marking tools might not be suitable.

quilter working on intricate details

Sewing Essentials for Quilters

These tools are essential for sewing, whether you’re making costumes for your family or heirloom quilts for your granddaughter.

Threads and Needles

When you think “sewing,” the first thing you picture is probably needles and thread. Here are the specific kinds you’ll need to make beautiful quilts.


In quilting, the thread choice can significantly impact the quality and durability of the quilt. Cotton threads are famous for their natural look and compatibility with cotton fabrics, providing a classic finish. Polyester threads, known for their strength and colorfastness, are ideal for quilts that require more durability or will be frequently washed. It’s beneficial to have various threads in different weights and colors to match various quilting projects.

Different Needle Sizes

The right needle size is crucial for smooth sewing and fabric protection. Quilters should have an array of needle sizes at their disposal. Smaller needles are perfect for fine, delicate fabrics, while larger needles can handle heavier materials like denim or canvas. The choice of needle size also depends on the thread thickness, ensuring that the needle and thread work harmoniously for the best quilting experience. As a quilter, you will often sew through multiple layers of fabric and even batting, so ensure you have a robust needle collection that’s up for the task.

Sewing Machine Accessories

While a great sewing machine can take you far, you may need a few add-ons to make the projects you dream of.

Presser Feet

Presser feet are vital accessories for any sewing machine, but they are especially vital for quilters. A walking foot helps you to feed layers of fabric and batting evenly through the machine, which is essential for straight-line quilting. A free-motion quilting foot allows for greater control during intricate quilting designs. Having multiple presser feet expands the range of techniques and styles available to a quilter.


Bobbins are the unsung heroes of a sewing machine. It’s beneficial to have multiple bobbins pre-wound with different thread colors. This saves time during quilting projects, allowing for quick color changes without needing to unwind and rewind bobbins.

Machine Needles

Machine needles, like hand-sewing needles, come in various sizes and types. Regular point needles are used for woven fabrics, while ballpoint needles are designed for knits. Specialty needles, such as quilting or denim needles, are made to handle specific tasks, providing optimal results and reducing fabric damage.

Hand Sewing Supplies

Sometimes you’ll need to attach an applique by hand or manually finish the last few inches of a seam. Make sure you have these tools on hand.

Hand Sewing Needles

Hand-sewing needles are essential for attaching bindings or minor repairs, even in machine quilting. Owning a variety of needle sizes and types ensures that you have the right needle for any fabric and thread combination.


Thimbles protect fingers when hand sewing, especially when working through multiple layers of fabric and batting. They come in various materials like metal, leather, or silicone, each offering different levels of comfort and protection.

Seam Rippers

A seam ripper is an indispensable tool for correcting mistakes. It allows for the quick and safe removal of stitches without damaging the fabric. A good seam ripper should be sharp and comfortable to hold, making undoing stitches as painless as possible.

picking up samples for quilting

Quilting Fabric and Materials

Once you have the tools to cut, measure, and sew, you get to do the fun part: pick out fabric. But once you build up a hefty fabric collection, you’ll need to store it somehow.

Fabric Choices

The fabric you choose is the biggest deciding factor in how your finished item will look. Here’s a quick guide to popular quilting fabrics.

Cotton Prints

Cotton prints are a staple in quilting, offering a vast array of patterns and colors to spark creativity. These fabrics are favored for their durability, ease of handling, and compatibility with a wide range of designs. Cotton prints can add depth and character to your project, whether creating a traditional patchwork quilt or a modern art piece.

Solids and Blenders

Solid fabrics and blenders (fabrics with subtle textures or prints that read as solid from a distance) are crucial for balancing the visual complexity of a quilt. They help highlight the quilt’s design and can be used effectively to frame or separate different print fabrics. Solids and blenders come in a broad spectrum of colors, allowing for precise color matching and gradient effects in quilting projects.

Batting Types

The choice of batting (the layer between the quilt top and backing) significantly affects the quilt’s warmth, weight, and drape. Options range from natural fibers like cotton and wool to synthetics like polyester. Each type has its qualities; for example, cotton batting is preferred for its softness and natural look, while polyester provides more loft and is less likely to shrink. The batting choice should align with the quilt’s intended use and care requirements.

Fabric Storage and Care

If you’ve been sewing for a while, you know how quickly bolts of fabric accumulate. Here are our favorite storage solutions.

Storage Solutions

Proper storage of quilting fabrics is essential to maintain their quality. Options include clear plastic bins, fabric organizers, or fabric shelving systems. Fabrics should be stored away from direct sunlight to prevent fading and in a dry environment to prevent mold or mildew. Organizing fabrics by color, type, or project can save time and inspire future quilting projects.

Pre-washing Fabrics

Pre-washing quilting fabrics is a debated topic, but it can be beneficial, especially for colors that might bleed. It also pre-shrinks fabrics, ensuring the quilt maintains shape after subsequent washes. Use mild detergents and wash similar colors together to prevent unwanted color transfers.

Ironing and Pressing Tools

Ironing and pressing are critical in quilting for achieving crisp seams and a flat, professional-looking finish. A good steam iron and a sturdy ironing board are quintessential. Specialty tools like pressing cloths, seam rollers, or finger presses can also help protect delicate fabrics and achieve precise seam lines.

setting up quilting space

Ergonomic Quilting Furniture by Arrow Sewing

You may end up quilting for hours at a time for several days in a row – it’s crucial for your health that your furniture helps support your posture while you work. Ergonomic sewing furniture is necessary for quilters, as poor posture while sewing can lead to neck pain, backaches, and overall discomfort. Take care of yourself by investing in high-quality ergonomic sewing furniture.

Quilting Tables and Cabinets

The right quilting table or cabinet is pivotal for any well-organized workspace. These pieces of furniture provide the necessary large, flat surfaces crucial for spreading out and arranging fabrics and patterns. Advanced models often include additional features like fold-out leaves for extra space, built-in measurements, and cutting mats for precision work. Their sturdy construction ensures they can support the weight and size of quilts, making the quilting process more manageable and enjoyable.

When picking the right sewing cabinet for you, consider the size and shape of your workspace. Compact models benefit smaller spaces, while larger ones offer more surface area for complex projects. Many quilting tables and cabinets also come with integrated storage options, helping to keep the workspace organized.

You may find that an L-shaped sewing table fits perfectly into your sewing room or that you’re better suited to a modular setup that can be pulled apart and rearranged. At Arrow Sewing, we have a wide variety of sewing tables made for every kind of crafter.

Chairs and Comfort for Quilters

The right chair is your best defense against back pain. Quilting often involves prolonged periods of sitting, which can lead to discomfort and health issues like neck strain and reduced circulation. Ergonomic chairs address these concerns by offering tailored support to the body’s natural posture.

There are a few features to seek out in a sewing chair. Good lumbar support maintains the spine’s natural curve and reduces back muscle stress. Adjustable height ensures quilters can work at their sewing machine or table without hunching, maintaining a healthy posture.

A tilt mechanism allows for adjustment to different postures, helping to avoid stiffness. The ideal seat depth and width facilitate proper leg circulation and comfort. At the same time, adjustable armrests support the shoulders and reduce neck and upper back strain, which is essential when handling fabrics for extended periods.

Finally, don’t forget to choose a chair that looks good and serves multiple functions – like storage. At Arrow Sewing, our ergonomic sewing chairs double as a storage space, allowing you to keep your posture sound and clutter to a minimum. We also offer bright, vibrant prints that will liven up your sewing studio.

Storage Solutions for Quilters

As a quilter, you’re likely to amass a collection of small, fiddly objects that need to be organized, including threads, bobbins, pins, and other notions. Proper storage not only helps in keeping quilting tools and materials accessible but also contributes to a clutter-free environment, enhancing productivity and creativity.

When selecting storage furniture, consider the size and layout of your quilting area. Compact storage units are ideal for limited spaces, efficiently organizing essentials without overwhelming the room. Larger units, on the other hand, offer expansive storage capabilities, suitable for extensive quilting supplies.

Also, consider what you need the storage space for. If you have an extensive collection of threads, invest in a dedicated thread organizer; if you collect fabric scraps, dedicate a cabinet or bin to those scraps alone. The storage solutions you need should be personalized to the kind of quilting you do most.

Arrow Sewing offers a range of storage options tailored to the needs of quilters. From modular units that can be customized to fit any space to multi-functional cabinets that provide ample storage while doubling as an additional workspace, we have a solution for every quilter. Whether you prefer a minimalist look or a more vibrant setup, Arrow Sewing’s storage solutions blend functionality with style, keeping your quilting space organized and visually appealing.

Organizing your sewing space as a first time sewer

Advanced Quilting Tools

Finally, if you’ve been quilting for a long time and want to start mastering the craft, here are some tools that will help. These tips and tools will help you design your quilts, quickly work complex patterns, and make the most of your fabric.

Specialized Pressing Equipment

Fabric can get bent and creased, making it difficult to measure correctly. A good steamer or pressing tool can help ensure your fabric is crisp and tight.

Irons and Pressing Mats

For advanced quilters, high-quality irons and specialized pressing mats become essential tools. These irons often have variable temperature settings and steam options to handle different fabric types. Pressing mats, often wool or silicone, provide an ideal surface for pressing quilt blocks, allowing for even heat distribution and preventing fabric distortion.

Sleeve Boards

A sleeve board is a smaller, narrower ironing board, ideal for pressing open small seams and getting into tight spaces. Traditionally used to iron sleeves, as the name suggests, they’re also a valuable tool for quilts. This tool is particularly useful for pressing seams in quilt blocks, ensuring crisp and professional finishes.

Quilting Machines and Frames

If you’re making lots of quilts, or looking to create a professional workspace, these machines may help.

Longarm Quilting Machines

Longarm quilting machines represent a significant step up from traditional sewing machines. They offer a larger throat space, allowing for easy handling of large quilts. Many longarm machines also feature advanced stitching capabilities and computerized pattern options, enabling intricate designs and consistent stitching quality.

Quilting Frames

Quilting frames hold the layers of a quilt taut, facilitating easier and more efficient quilting, especially for large projects. When used with a longarm quilting machine, these frames allow for smooth and precise quilting across the entire surface of the quilt.

Design Software

After you’ve made your own quilts, you may want to design your own. These programs make quilt design easy and fun.

Quilting Design Programs

Quilting design software allows quilters to digitally create and visualize their quilt designs before cutting or stitching any fabric. These programs can offer features like color and fabric pattern simulation, block design tools, and layout options, making them invaluable for planning complex quilts.

Pattern Planning Tools

Advanced quilting often involves intricate patterns that can be challenging to visualize and plan. Pattern planning tools, often part of quilting design software, help map out quilt designs, calculate fabric needs, and even simulate the quilt’s final look. These tools can save time and resources by streamlining the design process.

Quilting is a craft that combines creativity with precision, and having the right tools is essential to achieve both. From basic cutting tools like rotary cutters and scissors to advanced equipment such as longarm quilting machines and design software, each tool specifically enhances the quilting experience. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned quilter, investing in these essential tools and ergonomic furniture will make the quilting process more enjoyable and help produce beautiful, high-quality quilts.

For those looking to enhance their quilting workspace, Arrow Sewing offers a wide range of ergonomic furniture designed specifically for quilters. Explore our catalog to find storage solutions that combine functionality, comfort, and style, ideally suited to meet your quilting needs. Browse our selection to get one step closer to your dream sewing room.