New Patterns – Flexi Sewing Case and Flexi Sewing Kit

I’m so excited to introduce not one but two new patterns today!!!! The Flexi Sewing Case and Flexi Sewing Kit are designed with hand-sewing on the go in mind, making a great travel sewing kit to hold and organise all your sewing supplies for quilting on the go.

The Flexi Sewing Case and Kit patterns are designed for quilting and sewing on the go with a built-in design board and zippered pockets for organising.

They work brilliantly together, but can also be used individually.

Both patterns have been designed so that you can adapt them to the space you have wherever you may be sewing (car, tent, cafe?!) and with features like a thread dispense and design board so that you don’t lose any block pieces or a spool bouncing off under a table somewhere!!!

Flexi Sewing Case

I’ve talked before about my love of hand-sewing, and as the holidays’ approach, I find myself planning which sewing project to pack and prepare…..along with all the normal stuff that has to be taken!

One of the frustrating things I have always found with using pouches for hand-piecing, is how to lay out my block pieces for sewing whilst also being able to get to my sewing supplies!!!!

The Flexi-Sewing Case includes an integral design board, four divided zippered pockets (so, eight sections!) for organising block pieces, a slip pocket for thread, pencil and other sewing notions. Most importantly, it can be folded in lots of different ways to suit the space that you’re sewing in!

The Flexi Sewing Case and Kit patterns are designed for quilting and sewing on the go with a built-in design board and zippered pockets for organising.

Folded up, it acts as a pouch so you can easily reach inside each of the pockets to grab what you need.

The Flexi Sewing Case and Kit patterns are designed for quilting and sewing on the go with a built-in design board and zippered pockets for organising.

Unclipped, it folds out allowing you to lay out a block for sewing, flip through each of the pockets as needed and access sewing supplies in the slip pockets.

The Flexi Sewing Case and Kit patterns are designed for quilting and sewing on the go with a built-in design board and zippered pockets for organising.

Or, the design board can be left open and the flap folded over the pockets and clipped in place so that it’s like a book……ideal for sewing in the car (one of my favourite ways to pass long journeys!).

The Flexi Sewing Case pattern is very detailed and includes step-by-step instructions, with lots of pictures and tips including sewing with vinyl, zips and which sewing feet to use for the best results.

Finished Size of the Flexi Sewing Case;
  (Folded) 8” wide x 9.5” high x 1.5” deep
  (Unfolded) 24.5” wide x  19” high

The Flexi Sewing Kit

A mini sewing kit for keeping the essential sewing supplies – a pair of snips, spool of thread and some needles/pins – close to hand.

Flexi Sewing Kit for sewing on the go!

The main feature is the mesh section in the pocket. It allows for the thread to be fed through so that it can be pulled and snipped, without the spool unravelling and bouncing around — like a yarn bowl, for sewists!

The optional D-ring allows for the Kit to be clipped to the flaps of the Flexi Sewing Case to keep everything to hand, but could also be easily attached to any pouch.

The pattern guide includes a single or folded version of the Flexi Sewing Kit. Being a small project it’s perfect for swaps and using up precious scraps… so you could make one for every project!

Flexi Sewing Kit - single and double folded options

Finished Size
   Single   – 3.25” wide x 4.5” high
   Folded – 6.5”    wide x  4.5” high

The Flexi Sewing Kit is an ideal quick project for sewists of all levels. The Flexi Sewing Case will take a little more time but the pattern leads you through each stage step-by-step. It is achievable for all sewists who are comfortable using a sewing machine.

If you are unsure of which hardware and sewing supplies to get for each of these patterns, I have created a shopping list of all products I recommend;

I really hope you’ve enjoyed reading a bit more about my inspiration behind these patterns! And if you do make either of them, don’t forget to tag me so I can see!

S x

Today’s sky::: beautifully sunny!

If you would like monthly news and updates, please sign-up to my newsletter.
To check out my quilt and bag patterns, visit my Etsy shop.

For my favourite sewing equipment and tools, visit my Amazon store.

The Flexi Sewing Case and Kit patterns are designed for quilting and sewing on the go with a built-in design board and zippered pockets for organising.

Tutorial – Hidden Zippered Cushion Cover

Hellooo! Making cushion covers (or pillow covers, if you’d rather!) is one of my favourite things to do! They make a great gift and, if you’re a quilter, are a perfect way to use oversized or random blocks you have laying around!

Tutorial for an easy sew hidden zipper cushion cover in four steps

NOTE: this post may contain affiliate links and you can read my full disclosure privacy policy here. Thank you.

My favourite way to do this is by adding a hidden zip – sometimes called a lapped zip. It gives a really neat finish and allows you to finish the cushion in a number of different ways.

Today, I’m going to show you how to sew a hidden zippered cushion cover in just four easy steps.

Materials Needed

  • Pillow
  • Fabric for front (same measurement as the pillow)
  • Fabric for back (same width as pillow x (height + 4″))
  • 1 x zip a couple of inches bigger than your cushion

I’m using the Mini Charm Medallion Tutorial cushion cover, so I’ve got;

Tutorial for an easy sew hidden zipper cushion cover in four steps

Prepare Fabrics for Zippered Back

Decide on where you would like to position the zip on the back of the cushion – I like to go about a third of the way up, but you can go for whatever you prefer!

Cut the back piece of fabric into two pieces measuring;

  • Bottom Back: One (1) 16.5″ wide x 6″ tall
  • Top Back: One (1) 16.5″ wide x 14″ tall

To give a neat finish inside the cushion where the zip is placed, I like to serge the edges of the top hem of the bottom piece, and bottom hem of the top piece. Alternatively, you can use a zig-zag stitch if you don’t have an over-locker, or leave unfinished if the fabric doesn’t fray too badly.

Tutorial for an easy sew hidden zipper cushion cover in four steps

Take the Top Back, place Right Side Down and fold the bottom edge up by 1.5″. Press. Unfold.

Sew the Zip

Draw a line an inch or so in from one end on the outside edges of the zipper tape. This mark allows us to attach the zip so that it is level on both pieces of fabric.

Tutorial for an easy sew hidden zipper cushion cover in four steps

NOTE – if you’re using a continuous zipper tape like me, I’ve found using a safety pin stops me from accidentally pulling the zipper pull off!

Place the Top Back cushion fabric wrong side down on a flat surface. Take the zip and place it upside down on the fabric (with the right side of zip facing the right side of the fabric). Match the pencil marks with the side edge, and align the edge of the zip with the bottom edge of the fabric.

Tutorial for an easy sew hidden zipper cushion cover in four steps

Pin in place and, using a zipper foot, stitch approximately a 1/4″ in from the fabric/zip edge.

Tutorial for an easy sew hidden zipper cushion cover in four steps

Before you reach the zipper pull, stop stitching. Making sure that the needle is down, lift the presser foot and gently pull the zipper pull up/down out of the way so that you can continue stitching easily to the end of the seam.

TIP: if you are nervous about moving the zipper pull, an over-sized zipper helps with this! You can keep the zipper pull at one end of the tape, meaning it doesn’t get in the way of the sewing machine foot.

Take the Top Back fabric, placing the zipper right side up and fold the fabric back out of the way (no need to iron!). Take the Bottom Back fabric and place it right side down on the remaining side of the zip, matching the side edge with the pencil mark on the zip. Pin and stitch as before.

Tutorial for an easy sew hidden zipper cushion cover in four steps

By stitching the zip in from the same end on each side, it means that any fabric creep is going in the same direction!

Press the Bottom back fabric away from the zip. Making sure that the Top Back fabric is not in the way, top-stitch just inside the fabric edge using a zipper foot.

Tutorial for an easy sew hidden zipper cushion cover in four steps

Using the pressed line on the Top Back piece as a guide, bring the fabric down so that the fold covers the zip. Pin in place a few times along the length of the zip.

Tutorial for an easy sew hidden zipper cushion cover in four steps

Starting at one edge of the cushion, and using the overhanging zip as a guide, align the zipper foot with the teeth of the zip and top-stitch (you should find that the foot easily follows the line of the zip).

Tutorial for an easy sew hidden zipper cushion cover in four steps

Finish the Zipped Cushion Back

Although optional, I like to stitch the fold in position along the edges to stabilise the back of the cushion and to reduce any potential zip issues!

Move the zipper pull back from the edge of the cushion cover. Starting from the Top Back, smooth the fold down and pin in place, before stitching just inside the seam allowance eg. 1/8″. It helps to start above the fold and sew down towards the bottom of the cushion back as this stops any puckering.

Tutorial for an easy sew hidden zipper cushion cover in four steps

Trim any zipper tape that is overhanging the cushion back from each edge, once the fold is secured.

Tutorial for an easy sew hidden zipper cushion cover in four steps

Trim the cushion back to the correct height – if using a patterned fabric, this gives the chance to play with pattern placement!

Join the Cushion Front and Covered Zip Back

Remember, if you are using a directional print to make sure that the hidden zip flap is placed correctly

How to Finish a cushion with binding

Place the front and back fabrics Wrong Sides Together. Pin through both layers at each corner, before adding a couple of pins along each edge.

Tutorial for an easy sew hidden zipper cushion cover in four steps

Stitch all around the edge of the cushion cover, just inside the seam allowance that you will be using for the binding eg. 1/8″ if you will be using a 1/4″ binding.

Add binding to finish, as you would for a quilt, attaching binding to the front of the cushion and folding over to the back.

How to Finish a Standard Cushion (no edging)

To make a normal cushion – one without any fancy edging! – pull the zip towards the middle of the zipper tape, so that you will be able to turn it inside out when finished.

Tutorial for an easy sew hidden zipper cushion cover in four steps

Place the front and back cushions Right Sides together. Pin through both layers at each corner, before adding a couple of pins along each edge.

Sew all around the edge of the cushion – if you have a quilted panel, you will probably need to use a 1/4″ seam allowance. If you would like to finish the inside edges, you can go around each of the sides with a zig-zag/serger to stop any fraying. Turn inside out before placing a cushion pad inside.

I hope you’ve found this useful! Let me know if you have any questions.

S x

Today’s sky::: overcast, grey and rain. Meh!

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To check out my quilt and bag patterns, visit my Etsy shop.

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How to Plan a Quilt Colour Scheme

So, I started writing instructions for the Mini Charm Medallion tutorial, when it occurred to me: if you have been reading through the #QuiltingTheory series, and about to start your first project, you might be wondering where to start with fabrics and colours.

Today we’re going to look at how to identify the colours and style that you like, using a free app to ‘colour in’ a quilt plan and translating that into fabric.

How to plan a quilt colour scheme using a digital colouring app with tutorial for the Mini Charm Medallion by fabricandflowers

NOTE: this post may contain affiliate links and you can read my full disclosure privacy policy here. Thank you.

How to Choose Colours for a Quilt

I remember back when I started quilting, one of the things I was most fascinated/apprehensive about was putting colours together…..it seemed like a magical art (and sometimes, still does!)!

There is lots of information available on Colour Theory – and I am far from an expert.

Planning colour schemes for quilts by fabricandflowers

If you want to learn more about Colour Theory, I can highly recommend the Quilt Colour Workshop. It is a great book which talks you through the colour wheel, colour relationships and tonal relationships, as well as including some fabulous projects!

Having said all that, my top tip would be to go with what makes your heart sing! Try not to get too bogged down by the rules of what should and shouldn’t go together. Have a look on Pinterest/Instagram to see what quilts jump out at you and really look at them;

  • Do they have similar designs, use of colour, or fabric/colour combinations?

Once you’ve identified some common elements, try introducing some of these to your quilt. With each project, you will become more colour confident and soon will be throwing fabrics together with reckless abandonment!!!

For me, I love making projects that are high contrast (normally between background and ‘feature’ fabrics) using textured/tone on tone fabric and quite geometric designs.

Collage of quilt projects by fabricandflowers

To be honest, I didn’t really think I had a preference until I put together a collage of makes for a magazine – at which point I realised there were quite a few similarities!!! – so it’s quite a good exercise.

Choosing Fabrics and Colours

Pre-cuts/bundles are a great starting point if you are new to quilting as they provide a range of colours and patterns that play together nicely. To make a bigger project – such as the Mini Charm Medallion Tutorial – you can add coordinating background fabric.

How to plan a quilt colour scheme using a digital colouring app with tutorial for the Mini Charm Medallion by fabricandflowers

If you are using a candy charm pack, it’s a good idea to lay out all the squares to get an idea of what colours you have – quite often there will be duplicate prints within the pack.

Planning a Quilt Colour Scheme

One of the tools I often use when planning a quilty project is Recolor – Coloring Book, available as a free download through the Apple iTunes store.

It allows you to upload your own images to colour in. It’s a great way of quickly trying out different colour combinations to see what works!

If you’ve not used it before, here is what you will need to do after downloading the app;

You can now open the Planner Sheet image and chose ‘continue colouring’.

Tutorial for how to use a free colouring app for planning a quilt colour scheme and layout by fabricandflowers

In the bottom left-hand corner of the screen, you will see some little coloured dots – if you click on this, you can select the style of colours to use. Images tend to automatically open with ‘gradient’ whereas I prefer ‘solids’.

How to plan a quilt colour scheme using a free digital colouring app with tutorial by fabricandflowers

Chose the colour that you would like to use from the bottom menu (you can swipe across the bottom to choose different colours) and a little white dot will appear in the colour that you have chosen. Now, place a finger on the section of the picture where you would like that colour to go. And play until your heart’s content!

Colour Scheme Plans in Action

Having looked through the candy charm pack of fabrics, using the planner sheet (sign up to my Newsletter for a free copy) and having had a play with different colour layouts, I had decided on a rainbow center and outside, and a neutral second border (as there were conveniently 14 neutral squares in my pack!).

However, what looks good on the screen, sometimes still needs a little fine tuning when it comes to fabric! My initial pull just wasn’t quite right…

How to plan a quilt colour scheme using a digital colouring app with tutorial for the Mini Charm Medallion by fabricandflowers

I was really happy with the light-dark (tonal) graduation that I had with the purple and blue. The orange and yellow didn’t work as well, for me: the orange was too dark and the yellow jarred against the green. So I tried a couple of other squares and was much happier with the final layout.

Join me for the next post when we will be starting the Mini Charm Medallion Cushion Tutorial – if you would like to take part, all you need is one candy charm pack (or 41 2.5″ squares) and one fat quarter for the background.

And if you would like to try out your colour schemes, please join my Newsletter and get sent a free copy of the Quilt Planner sheet.

S x

Today’s sky::: overcast and raining. Boo!

If you would like monthly news and updates, please sign-up to my newsletter.
To check out my quilt and bag patterns, visit my Etsy shop.

For my favourite sewing equipment and tools, visit my Amazon store.

How to plan a quilt colour scheme using a free digital colouring app for the Mini Charm Medallion by fabricandflowers

#QuiltingTheory – How a quilt is put together

So, if you’ve read through the #QuiltingTheory series so far, you hopefully now understand the quilting language, why seam allowance is important (and how to find it on your machine!), how to buy and use quilting fabrics and what tools you need. Hurrah! So, how do we put all this knowledge together to layer a quilt and make it into a quilted project?!

How to put a quilt together and trouble shooting common problems by fabricandflowers

This post takes you through everything from the layers that make up a quilt, all about wadding and trouble-shooting problems you might experience when you first start quilting.

NOTE: this post may contain affiliate links and you can read my full disclosure privacy policy here. Thank you.

The Layers of a Quilt

Quilts generally consist of three layers: a pieced top, an insulating fabric, and backing fabric.

A two-layer quilt can be made using something like fleece/minky to replace the insulation and backing fabrics. I’ve made a few quilts like this now and they are a fun alternative, and make great kids quilts because they are so tactile!

Wadding (or batting, depending on whether you are British or American!) is most often used as the insulating layer. There are lots of options available with different sizes, material content and weight, all of which effect the thicknesses, stretch and firmness of the finished project.

Loft refers to the thickness/heaviness of the wadding – the more loft you have, the puffier the quilt and the trickier it can be to stitch. A higher loft often makes a warmer quilt and can show off stitch definition!

Types of Wadding

Generally, it is recommended to use a wadding made from natural materials (or is a blended material with a high % of natural fibres) for warmth, comfort and longevity.

Each quilter will have their own preferred wadding. Some may use a few different ones depending on the project eg. a firmer wadding for wall hangings and thicker for a warm blanket.

Comparing the different thicknesses (Loft) of polyester and cotton/poly wadding

Wadding is available in lots of different fibre contents,

  • Polyester: available in a wide range of weights and amongst the cheapest waddings that you can buy. They are non-allergenic and wash well but being a man-made fibre are highly flammable and non-breathable. It has a tendency to be ‘puffy’ which makes it difficult to handle, particularly when machine quilting. I used it for my first few quilts but much prefer working with natural fibres.
  • Natural Fibres: natural fibres have the benefit of being breathable. With washing and age, the fibres will experience some shrinkage which gives a quilt its’ used and crinkled look.
    • Cotton: good for washing and easy to care for.
    • Wool: a great insulator that can help to regulate body heat. However, it is a material that needs to be looked after carefully: too much agitation or washing at high temperatures could result in a lot of shrinkage/felting of the fibres.
    • Bamboo: very soft and with anti-bacterial properties. Just like wool, it’s breathable helping to keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
    • Silk: very soft, lightweight, silky wadding that is perfect for a very special quilt or clothes. It is very luxurious so not generally used for everyday projects!
  • Blends: there are many different material blends that are available. My personal favourite is a Hobbs 80/20 Cotton/Poly blend. It has a lovely weight, stitches through beautifully as well as showing stitch definition.
  • Recycled/Green: with the current environmental concerns, there are now waddings available made from recycled materials such as plastic bottles – you can read my experience here of using it.
  • There are also a couple of ‘speciality’ products available;
    • Black Wadding: ideal for projects where only dark fabrics have been used.
    • Fusible Wadding: one side is coated with a glue which is heat activated when ironed. Very useful when you don’t want to do lots of quilting and for bag/pouch making as it helps give added structure.

Each of these waddings will have a recommended minimum quilting/stitching distance detailed on the packaging. If buying online, this will normally be in the description – although as a rule of thumb it is normally around 8″.

If you are unsure of which wadding to try, it is worthwhile popping along to a local quilt shop if you have one. Alternatively, many companies offer wadding sample packs – if you are in the UK, you can find these at the Cotton Patch.

Buying Wadding

Wadding can be bought in pre-cut ‘quilt’ sizes (for example, baby quilt), by the metre or by the roll.

When starting out, I would recommend buying a piece of wadding big enough for your project, plus a little bit extra.

However, if you start doing a lot of quilting, it is worthwhile buying a roll. It is quite an investment, and storing it can be interesting (mine sits on top of a unit!) but it is lovely being able to just cut off whatever you need – although it is a little disappointing when it finally runs out!

Putting the Quilt Layers Together

Assembling the three layers of a quilt is often called basting or making a quilt sandwich. There are some people that really enjoy this process, but I confess that I am not one of them!

The biggest problems with layering a quilt can be having the floor space to do so. In my current house, I have a tiled floor where I can make enough space for most quilts, it’s only on the odd occasion that I need to move furniture. It’s also handy as I can use the edge of the tiles as a guide for laying out the fabrics and waddings!

In a previous house, this was not the case though. After a bit of trial and error, I found the best way to baste a quilt on a carpet was to;

  • Smooth the quilt backing right side down directly on to the carpet and secure with T-pins pushed in at an angle (just as if I was blocking some knitting!).
  • Repeat this with the remaining batting and quilt top (right side up) layers. I often use normal pins at this stage, as they are a little finer so less likely to damage the material.

The main methods for securing the quilt layers together are;

  • Pin Basting: Pinning through all three layers using specialised curved pins to secure them together before stitching. Pins should be placed approximately 5″ apart. On a big quilt this can be quite a lengthy process and painful on the knees and the fingers!
  • Spray Basting: an aerosol spray glue, normally on to the wadding and then smoothing the fabric down. The fabric can be rearranged if it’s not in the right position the first time. Problems with this method can be the smell (it’s best to do in a ventilated room), the layers not sticking together properly and the flooring being quite tacky at the end of the process (and not that easy to clean!). I’ve also read that it is not recommended for projects that are not going to be washed as there is a risk that the glue could discolour the fabrics over time if not removed.
  • Thread Basting: hand-stitching the quilt layers together. If you are planning on hand-quilting a big quilt, this is a good method for securing the layers together for a long period of time without damaging the quilt. I have tried this method a few times and quite enjoy it, but it can hurt your fingers!

For an excellent tutorial on pin and spray basting, Suzy Quilts has a great post, which covers all the steps that I follow too!

For a Thread Basting tutorial, see the Quilting Hub for lots of detail.

Different Quilting Techniques

Once a quilt has been layered and basted, there is now the fun job of stitching the layers together. This subject is worthy of it’s own blog post, and is something that I am constantly trying to improve. Broadly though, this falls in to three categories

  • Machine: using a sewing machine to stitch patterns – this can be straight lines, echo and Free Motion Quilting.
  • Hand Stitching: using a thicker cotton or perle thread to add hand stitches, straight line or decorative.
  • Tied/knotted: a traditional way of finishing quilts. This is a great way of securing the layers together quickly as well as adding great texture. This is normally achieved with a double surgeons knot;

Trouble Shooting Common Problems when you Start Quilting

At some point on your journey, something will probably go wrong during the quilting stage.

I’ve had a few disasters in my time, the worst one was when I spent a whole day quilting a top only to then have to spend the next two days unpicking it!!! There were tears of frustration, I can tell you!

So, to try and help you from going through this, here are the mistakes I made when I first started quilting;

  • Not cutting the wadding and backing fabric big enough: always cut the wadding BIGGER than the quilt top c. 4″ in each direction (so that there is a 2″ overhang) and the quilt back BIGGER than the wadding by c. 4″ in each direction. This allows for the inevitable shifting that will happen whilst quilting.
  • Basting: the layers were smoothed out at different tensions meaning that they each bounce back differently when you remove the quilt from the floor (or wherever you basted it!). This can result in wrinkling between the layers, making it difficult to achieve a smooth finish. This is something that improves with practice and can also vary depending on which wadding is being used.
  • Fabric shifting: one of the most frustrating things is when the stitching is looking good on the top layer, and then you turn the quilt over only to realise that the back has lots of puckers in it. However, there are a few things you can do to try and minimise this;
    • Use a walking foot: a walking foot is a special attachment for the sewing machine which helps to feed the top and bottom layers through at the same time! The walking foot grips the fabric at the top at the same time as the feed dogs (the ‘teeth’ under the foot) grip the bottom of the quilt, helping to hold the layers together as the quilt is fed through.
    • Always start from the same side of the quilt eg. top and sew in the same direction. This means that if there is any fabric shifting, it is all going in the same direction, reducing the likelihood of puckering.
    • Start from the middle of the quilt and work to the outside edges. This means that if there is any fabric shifting it is all moving to the outside of the quilt, rather than bunching up towards the centre.
  • Wadding showing/bearding: wadding can start coming through where the needle has pierced the fabric.
    • Ensure that the wadding is suitable for your project. Inspect the wadding to see if there is a front or back and make sure that it is placed the right way in the quilt.
    • Ideally, use a new needle at start quilting a new project, especially for machine quilting. As the needle blunts, the likelihood of it dragging wadding fibres through the fabric increases.

And most importantly, don’t forget to have fun and experiment!

Experimenting with applique and free motion quilting on small projects like mug rugs

Phew! Another long post! I think that’s covered all the main things you need to know about layering up and making a quilt?! Don’t forget to check out the rest of the posts in this introduction to quilting series;

Come back next week when we will make a start on a Mini Medallion Cushion and try some of the skills that have been covered in the previous weeks,

S x

Today’s sky::: beautiful blue skies. Spring is definitely in the air!

If you would like monthly news and updates, please sign-up to my newsletter.
To check out my quilt and bag patterns, visit my Etsy shop.

For my favourite sewing equipment and tools, visit my Amazon store.

#QuiltingTheory – Essential Tools

When you start quilting – or any new hobby really – the number of tools that are available can be a bit overwhelming, and you can be left wondering what do you really need to get started? The list of what you would like to get is guaranteed to grow as you continue on your quilting journey!!!!

#QuiltingTheory what are the essential tools a new quilter needs

NOTE: this post may contain affiliate links and you can read my full disclosure privacy policy here. Thank you.

If you’ve had a play and decided that Yes! Quilting is for you. What tools should be on your ‘must buy’ list?! Here are my top recommendations options from quilting tools and equipment that are available!

Introducing friends to Quilting!

Over the years I have encouraged a few friends to try out quilting by giving them a little care package of;

  • Fabric scraps
  • Hexagon EPP Paper Pieces
  • A couple of wonder clips
#QuiltingTheory what are the essential tools a new quilter needs

Most people have scissors and thread at home, and to start with I think it’s more important to play and see if you like patchwork and quilting before getting caught up in what is the correct thread, fabric and scissors to have and use.

It’s a great starting point as the fabric doesn’t need to be perfectly cut to wrap around the paper pieces, the clips help with basting the shapes and keeping everything together and as a quilter, I have all of these things to hand (quite often from magazine freebies!). If you would like to get some paper pieces to make your own care-package or try out quilting, it’s worth checking out Sew & Quilt as Jessie offers lots of different paper shapes and specialises in hand-sewing.

Alternatively, if you wanted to have a play at piecing fabric on a sewing machine, precuts are the perfect introduction as they are already cut to size and ready to sew (learn more about pre-cuts here). Depending on what is used, a pack will be the right size for a cushion or small cot quilt.

Needles & Pins

There are many types of needles and pins available. Because everyone has their own way of holding and using needles, what is ‘best’ is very much down to personal preference, which can take a bit of trial and error.

#QuiltingTheory what are the essential tools a new quilter needs
  • Needles: I switch between needles, often depending on what is to hand! I mostly sew with short, fine needles as I feel it gives me more control over what I’m sewing. My go-tos are a Size 10 (applique) or Size 12 (quilting between) gold eye needles but if I’m working with something like Liberty, I will often use a black-gold needle as it seems to be smoother with the fine Tana Lawn. I have also heard great things about Tulip Needles but have yet to try them out – they are on my list!
  • Pins: I prefer fine dressmaker pins as they don’t leave big pin marks in the fabric. The one downside is that they can become invisible if they drop on the floor as they have no decorative head on them, so you may prefer purpose made quilting pins. The other pins that I use a lot are applique pins which are fine and short so that they don’t get in the way when stitching.
  • Needle Threader: this needle threaded helps to alleviate my frustrations of working with a fine needle and thread, which I’m finding more useful with each passing year! It is also more robust than any other needle threader I have tried and easy to use.

Thread

For quilting, it is best to use cotton thread with cotton fabric as it prevents excessive wear and tear, helping your finished project to last a long time. There are lots of brands available – personally, I love Aurifil Thread as it is available in soooo many different colours and I’ve never had any problems using it! However, some people seem to struggle with their sewing machine not liking it and prefer to use Gutterman, so it can be a case of trial and error.

Colour wise, if you are just starting out and want to buy just one spool, I recommend a pale grey (for Aurifil, this would be colour code 2600) as it doesn’t stand out too much against a bright/dark fabric.

#QuiltingTheory what are the essential tools a new quilter needs

Cotton thread is available in different thicknesses – a 50wt is a great starting point as it can be used for hand and machine sewing.

As the numbers get lower eg. 40wt, the thread gets thicker making it good for more quilting definition or embellishing your project. As the number gets higher eg, 80wt, the thread gets fine and is often preferred by those who hand-piece/do a lot of English Paper Piecing as the stitching becomes almost invisible!

If you are doing a lot of hand-sewing, it can really help to use a thread-conditioner to coat the thread as it helps strengthens the thread and prevent it from tangling whilst sewing.

Cutting Mats

Self-healing cutting mats are fantastic for cutting fabric on: the mat ‘heals’ after you have cut on it. They prevent the rotary cutter from blunting too quickly, have measurements on which helps with cutting projects out quicker and also help with protecting work surfaces.

#QuiltingTheory what are the essential tools a new quilter needs

Over time, it is likely that you will end up with a few cutting mats for different needs – I now have four and they all get used regularly! My recommendations are;

  1. 24″ x 18″ cutting mat: if you have one cutting mat, this is a great starting point and was all I had for the first couple of years of quilting. It is just big enough for a Fat Quarter of fabric which makes it ideal for lots of different projects.
  2. 12″ Rotating cutting mat: if you are making blocks that need trimming eg. Half Square Triangles, or trimming a lot of blocks to size, a rotating mat is very beneficial. You can trim two sides, rotate the mat 180* – without needing to lift the block, which helps with accurate cutting – and then trim the other side. Easy Peasy!
  3. Larger Cutting Mat: at 36″ x 24″ this is useful for cutting lots of strips without having to rearrange the fabric all the time, and ideal for other projects such as bags and dressmaking
  4. Desktop Cutting Mat: although I love my 24″ x 18″ cutting mat, I can’t use it very easily in my sewing room (I have to clear a space on the kitchen table!) so for smaller projects/individual blocks I have a cutting mat which fits perfectly on my worktop. This will all very much depend on your sewing room/space set-up.

Cutting Tools

As quilting is mainly about chopping fabric up into smaller pieces, before sewing it back together again, there is obviously a need for cutting tools in your sewing room! If you are doing a lot of quilting, it is worth investing in a rotary cutter (to be used with acrylic rulers) as they help to speed up the cutting process. A secondary benefit is that it helps to reduce fraying of the fabric as handling is minimised.

#QuiltingTheory what are the essential tools a new quilter needs
  1. Seam Ripper: one of the most essential tools for a quilter, mine often gets way more use than I would like! If you are doing lots of sewing, it is worth spending a little bit of money on a seam ripper as they tend to be more robust and sharper (they can blunt over time) – I’ve been really happy with this one. It has a lovely feel to it and, once a seam has been undone, the silicon end is rubbed over the stitch line to help pull out any stray threads and remove/reduce the needle puncture marks. It’s magic! They are also a great tool for holding bits of fabric together under the sewing machine!!!
  2. 45mm Rotary Cutter: rotary cutters are available in a few different sizes, but this is one I’ve found to be the most useful and versatile. The safety mechanism tends to work in a slightly different way across each of the brands and the blades can be replaced as they get blunted with use. A smaller 28mm rotary cutter can be useful if you are making smaller blocks/cutting curves.
  3. Embroidery Scissors / Snips: useful for trimming threads, keeping close by when doing hand-sewing and snipping/trimming fabric.
  4. Dressmaking Scissors: a good pair of scissors for cutting fabric are essential, and to maintain their sharpness should only ever be used for fabric. There are lots of different scissors brands available – these ones have got holes in the blade so that they are not too heavy which means I never get sore hands when doing lots of cutting!

Acrylic Rulers

Acrylic rulers, when used with a rotary cutter and self-healing mat are really helpful for cutting fabric pieces quickly and accurately. You will probably find that you start off with one ruler and end up with a multitude! To start off with though, I would recommend;

#QuiltingTheory what are the essential tools a new quilter needs
  1. 6.5″ x 24″ acrylic ruler: this is an ideal first purchase as it is long enough to cut a whole Width of Fabric that is folded in half (perfect for cutting binding strips!) and when paired with a cutting mat can be used to cut large pieces of fabric easily. And as a friendly warning, if you have small children, make sure the ruler is always stored somewhere safe where they can’t jump on it and break it…….!!!
  2. A 6.5″ square or 12.5″ square ruler: a great next purchase, these are really beneficial for trimming blocks to size, and I probably use them both equally. These rulers are also great when it comes to bag/pouch making for cutting slightly bigger pieces accurately and quickly.
  3. 6″ x 1″ ruler: a handy size for keeping close by, useful for measuring seam allowance/piecing accuracy, adding a seam allowance and drawing guidelines.

Marking Tools

  • Pen or Pencil: visit this post to read more detail about all the different options that are available!
  • Hera Marker: I didn’t learn about these until I’d been quilting for a little while, but they are so useful! You can draw along the edge of a ruler with the sharp end – much like a pen – and it flattens the fibres creating an indentation line which can be used as a guide for sewing along. This is brilliant when you don’t want to use a pen of any sort on the fabric, for example when marking quilting lines. A quick blast with a steam iron will help to plump the cotton fibres back up and the line disappears.
Essential Tools for a quilter: flowers meadow cushion with quilting lines drawn with a Hera Marker by fabricandflowers

The only other things that I can think of which gets way more use than you would probably think is a wooden chopstick! Although not strictly for quilting, they are fantastic for turning out pouches/straps without piercing/damaging the fabric.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post – if you have any questions or think that I’ve missed any essential tools off then please do drop me a line.

If you would like to look at the other posts in the #QuiltingTheory series to learn more about quilting, you can see them here;

See you soon,

Sx

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