This page originally appeared on ConfoundedByQuilting.com.
Navigating the deceptively quaint seas of quilting equipment is overwhelming. It was nearly impossible to do All The Research as an outright newb, because I didn’t know the right questions to ask. So I just jumped in and I’ll adjust on the fly as need be.
I encourage you to find and buy from your local quilting or fabric shop, if such a place exists. Helping local economies and keeping non-mega-stores in business is important. The links are to Amazon because they provide good information.
Here’s what I have thus far:
Singer 7470 Confidence – I was advised to get an entry-level electronic machine, and this is one. I know Singer is a good name in sewing with a long history. It’s got a pink front panel, which I loathe, not being a pink person. It has a metric bazillion automatic stitch patterns, none of which I know how to use at this point. It goes forward and backwards. The thread cutter is handy. It didn’t come with a 1/4″ foot, which is (apparently) important, but I should be able to buy one. It also comes in a quilting model, which probably costs more money. I got mine on sale for $199.00 at Joann Fabrics, and also got a bunch of $10 gift cards, too. Plus, I’m impulsive and impatient and it was in stock. A few months later, I have some thoughts. 1.) I dislike the electronic throttle control and automatic needle-up. I want the machine to stop exactly when I stop it, not to complete one further stitch. 2.) The feed dogs do not lower, at least not easily. There is a plastic cover-up plate for use with a darning foot. Meh. 3.) For quilting, a larger throat would be helpful. 4.) Overall, for a beginning, it’s a fine machine. I think I will quickly outgrow it, though, and look for something more substantial.
Olfa 45mm Rotary Cutter – I got this on advice of the quilting store woman. She says the medium-sized ones are better to start, but she recommended one like this with a handier safety – she just didn’t have it in stock. I like to support small, local shops when possible, so I got the one she did have in stock. Often, I forget to put the blade cover back on, and apparently, this will someday result in my requiring stitches. EDIT: Two weeks later, I bought the Olfa 45mm model with the safety grip. As it turns out, having a manually-activated safety is just too easy to leave off. I constantly found myself almost nicking or slicing myself after I’d set it down “just for a second,” or nearly removing a toe as I knocked it to the floor. I like Glock handguns for the same reason.
Olfa Gridded Cutting Mat – basically, just a safe surface upon which to cut, with grids to help align fabric properly.
Olfa Quilting Ruler – I was told this size was the best for starting out. I do not yet know why.
Grabbit Magnetic Pin Cushion – No more tomatoes or strawberries – this holds onto pins securely and even picks them up when you drop them.
Iron – while we don’t care about the brand, make sure it gets HOT. Seriously hot. If it can throw a lot of steam, too, that’s great; however, I find that a misting bottle works best, as it lasts longer than the water inside the iron does. I have a Rowenta, and I love it. It’s heavy and it has burning the living crap out of me on several occasions.
Ironing Board (sat new in its package for over a year before yesterday – I’m not someone who does a lot of ironing)
Sewing box or tote
Needle threaders (I use the small, metal ones with a thin metal thread loop, even though my machine comes equipped with one. I haven’t figured out how to use it yet.)
Fabric measuring tape
I’m using various cotton solids and prints. I prefer to pre-wash, because it gets the chemicals and shrinkage out of the way. However, pre-washing does make more up-front work; before one can plunge ahead into a project, there is the washing, drying, thread-clipping and pressing.
I started out with a standard Poly 1/8″ (low loft) bat because I had no idea what to look for or why. Once I start making quilts instead of placemats and potholders, I’ll switch to something natural – I like the bamboo-cotton option. Fairfield’s page lists many varieties and their strengths. LATER: Bamboo/cotton batting is about twice the price of organic cotton batting. Until I have more monies, I’m using the organic Poly-Fil cotton stuff.
Using cotton currently, because that seems to be the general wisdom. (Couple of months later, Gutterman seems to be my preference now.)
Stuff I Missed the First Time Around:
Quilter’s Basting Safety Pins, size 1 or 2.
Fabric Marking Devices
Rotating Cutting Mat – handy for working with small bits of fabric, especially when dealing with triangles (apparently.)
Bamboo Stiletto – helps you keep ahold of the tail ends of seams before they get under the pressure foot. Be careful with this thing – it’s Crazy Sharp.
Refill blades for the cutter – they dull within a month or two.
1/4″ piecing foot with guide
Quilter’s rules of various sizes – 2″, 4″, 5″, et cetera. They make squaring up blocks so much less unpleasant.
Work light for the sewing table – I have a large, Halogen extending arm light that clamps onto the side of the table. It is approximately 13 times brighter than the sun, and twice as hot. But it’s handy.
Entirely Optional Stuff:
Quilter’s gloves – I bought a cheap pair, no more than gardening gloves, really. They’re thin and have tiny rubber bimples all over the fingers. It does allow for easier fabric manipulation when trying to true up edges and so forth, but it also cuts down on sensory input.
Magnetic throat plate guide – Helps to keep fabric at the right distance from the needle (mostly.) Cheap at places like Joann’s.