Quilter's Schoolhouse

Refer to your personal "classroom" of tools, tips, and techniques for help with your quilting projects.
Tools and Starting

Before you begin any quilting project, collect the tools and materials you'll need in one easy-to-access place. Below is a list of general supplies, and our free diagrams. (Downloading requires Adobe Acrobat software.)



  • Acrylic ruler: For making perfectly straight cuts with a rotary cutter, choose a ruler of thick, clear plastic. Many sizes are available. A 6 x 24-inch ruler marked in 1/4-inch increments with 30 degree, 45 degree, and 60 degree angles is a good first purchase.
  • Rotary cutter and mat: These tools have revolutionized quilting because a rotary cutter's round blade cuts strips, squares, triangles, and diamonds more quickly, efficiently, and accurately than scissors. A rotary cutter should always be used with a mat designed specifically for it. In addition to protecting the table, the mat helps keep the fabric from shifting while you cut.
  • Scissors: You'll need one pair for fabric and another for paper and plastic.
  • Pencils and other marking tools: Marks made with special fabric markers are easier to remove after sewing and quilting.
  • Template plastic: This slightly frosted plastic comes in sheets.


  • Iron and ironing board: Pressing the seams ensures accurate piecing.
  • Sewing machine: Any machine with well-adjusted tension will produce pucker-free patchwork seams.
  • Thread: Use 100 percent cotton thread in your machine.


  • Fusible web: Instead of a traditional basting method, secure cutout shapes to the background of an applique block with this iron-on adhesive.
  • Needles: For hand applique, most quilters like fine quilting needles.

Hand Quilting

  • Frame or hoop: You'll get smaller, more even stitches if you stretch your quilt as you stitch. A frame supports the quilt's weight, ensures even tension, and frees both your hands for stitching. However, once set up, it cannot be disassembled until the quilting is complete. Hoops are more portable and less expensive. Quilting hoops are deeper than embroidery hoops to accommodate the thickness of
    quilt layers.
  • Needles: A "between" or quilting needle is short with a small eye. Common sizes are 8, 9, and 10; size 8 is best for beginners.
  • Thread: Quilting thread, including the preferred 100 percent cotton variety, is stronger than sewing thread.
  • Thimble: This finger cover relieves the pressure required to push a needle through several layers of fabric and batting.

Machine Quilting

  • Darning foot: You may find this sewing machine attachment, also called a hopper foot, in your machine's accessory kit. If not, have the model and brand of your machine available when you go to purchase one. It is used for free-motion stitching.
  • Safety pins: They hold the layers together during quilting.
  • Table or other large work surface that's level with your machine bed: Your quilt will need the support.
  • Thread: Use 100 percent cotton quilting thread, cotton-wrapped polyester quilting thread, or very fine nylon monofilament thread.
  • Walking foot: This sewing-machine accessory helps keep long, straight quilting lines smooth and pucker-free.

Select a First Project

Choosing a project is the first step in successful quilting. Here are some tips for picking a first project.

  • Find a friendly place: A store where the employees are knowledgeable about quilting is the best place to start. Chances are, the employees will relish initiating a new quilter.
  • Start small: A wall hanging or pillow takes less time to complete.
  • Take a class: Most quilting shops offer classes to learn good skills from the start.
  • Buy a kit: If selecting four or five fabrics from the hundreds of bolts in the store overwhelms you, a kit that includes all the fabrics may be the answer.
  • Be square: Pieced projects made up of squares, rectangles, and right triangles are among the easiest. Or look for an applique project with simple shapes or one that uses fusible web.
  • Love it: Encourage yourself to finish by choosing a design you're eager to finish and display or give as a gift.

Continued on page 2:  Fabrics and More