Source: Google clip art

Are you new to quilting? What are must haves for a basic quilter’s tool box to get started piecing? If you have been reading my blog for anytime at all, you know I am all about keeping my life fairly simple. Several readers ask recently what I absolutely have to have in my basic quilter’s tool box to piece a quilt top.

There are so many gadgets in stores, quilting websites, and advertisements that claim to be “must haves” for the beginner quilter. It makes it hard to decide, and it is easy to get distracted. For those on a tight budget there is no money to waste on something not really needed.

Forty years ago, I started quilting with my sewing box from Home Ec class. All these years later, I am using many of the same tools because they still do the job. However, as I have gotten older and have a bit more money to sink into better tools, I have… if it is something I will actually use.

I am more about my tools being functional than pretty or the “newest and greatest”. There is nothing wrong with those things, but there is also nothing wrong with using simple things to get a project done. It is not a contest, decide what works for you.

As stated numerous times in various posts – get the best supplies you can afford now. You will be happier than just buying whatever is cheapest to save a few dollars. If you continue to quilt then upgrade as time, interest, and budget allow for better tools and gadgets.

Forget the fabric and thread for right now – this list is the “prequel” to that.

Clip art - glass jars containing straight pins, thread spools, scissors for quilting.
Source: google clip art

A super basic list for (in my mind at least) the basic quilter’s tool box:

Flat surface to put the sewing machine on for use

This can be a separate table, an old desk, or any other flat surface. You just need a flat space that will hold your machine safely and allow you enough room to use it.

In my life time of sewing, I have used the end area of a long table, an old sewing cabinet, a small kitchen table, and a plastic picnic table. Now an sturdy old wooden desk with drawers is home to my sewing machine and tools. Post on old blog about my desk (and other useful stuff) is here .

Something to use as an ironing board, and an iron.

I own an ironing board, but the reality is I rarely use it. Why? Because I like more room when ironing. See here . If you prefer to have an ironing board, then get one. They are readily available and not expensive.

However, in the past I have used a table top covered with several layers of towels. I have also (when much younger) spread an old wool blanket on the floor. Think outside the box here, if you do not have space or a budget for an ironing board, what can you use that is already on hand?

For me personally, I don’t spend a lot of money on irons. I am hard on them plus they get dropped routinely (no one ever said I was graceful). I do use a spray bottle for water instead of filling the iron. This one has lasted longer than the normal (for me) six to twelve months. What you need is what will be comfortable and usable for you.

An iron is a basic sewing tool.

A reliable sewing machine that is easy to use and maintain.

Find one that fits your budget with features you will use. Some people get a machine with all the bells and whistles, others go with what can be purchased at Wal-Mart or JoAnn’s.

I openly admit I own and use a Pfaff sewing machine. I use my sewing machine constantly. The machine needs to be a work horse. It needs to be easy to clean and maintain. Another requirement is simple to use. Before you say, those machines are way out of my budget, look at the less fancy ones. Mine has useful stitches, but mostly it is just a hard working machine. No computer to crash, it is functional without lots of extras I will not use.

I just looked at the shop in Indianapolis where I bought this one in 2011 and the new price for the current model of this one is $649 + tax. Ok, not cheap but not unreasonable either.

BASIC QUILTER'S TOOL BOX - my sewing machine.

Rotary cutting mat in a size that works for the area you must use it in.

These mats come in all sizes from a few inches to large enough to cover a table top. The original mat I bought was 12″ x 18″. When I had more space and money to upgrade, I got one 24″ x 36″. I still have the smaller mat and it is great for those times I am traveling and take fabric with me to cut. Get a mat that fits for your needs.


A rotary cutter and ruler that is a “general” all purpose.

Rotary cutters come in different sizes and with various types of handles. If you spend hours cutting what you want is one that fits your hand and is comfortable. I prefer the straight one above and a 45 mm blade. Be safe with your tool, they are sharp and a nasty cut (with possible stitches) will slow down your quilting project.

Rotary rulers come in different sizes and shapes for different projects. I encourage you to get a general size and shape for the first one. My favorite is still the 18″ x 3″ pictured above. When you shop, think in terms of one that will work for strips and squares, is easy to handle, has a safe area for your fingers to hold the ruler down, and is comfortable.

Rotary cutters for quilting.

The yellow handled one is my original and it still sees a lot of use. The gray one is a commemorative model for 25 years of Olfa cutters. The handle is a bit thicker and feels different. I use both, but am looking at the ergonomic ones that are available now. My wrists and elbows are not as young as they once were.

Fabric scissors that you like and will use.

Even with the rotary cutter, you will need at least one pair of scissors. They will be used for cutting threads, small amounts of fabric (like for applique), and just general fabric cutting. Mark them as only for fabric, or store with your sewing supplies. Cutting paper, wire, and cardboard will make them too dull to cut fabric or thread easily.

Sewing scissors come in various sizes with different kinds of handles. Again, try them out if possible and get the pair that feels good in your hands. Make sure you get right handed or left handed scissors depending on your need.

Sewing Scissors in a Basic Quilter's Tool Box

Quilting pins and a container to safely hold them.

Quilting pins are a must for pinning blocks together at intersections. They are helpful for bindings, and pinning rows or blocks together. They are just a great tool with numerous uses. Sometimes I think mine act like extra fingers.

Along with a pin cushion or some form of container to hold the pins is necessary. Unless you find the game of “pick up pins” to be fun. I store my pins in a regular canning jar. When I am using them they get put in a magnetic cup that I bought for $2 at the Dollar Store in the automotive section.

BASIC QUILTER'S TOOL BOX - Quilting pins are a useful tool.

Seam ripper.

This basic quilting tool comes in various sizes and shapes. Find something that fits your hand. When sewing it is easy to make mistakes or not sew a straight seam. A seam ripper is tons easier to use to fix this then a pair of scissors.

Two different seam rippers - another necessary quilting tool.

A BASIC QUILTER’S TOOL BOX Needs a container to keep all the small items in.

This can be a clear plastic box with a lid, a cardboard shoe box, a fancy sewing box, or something else. The important thing is to have a container to keep all the small tools in.

I use my ugly orange Tupperware sewing box that originally held all my sewing tools for Home Ec class in school. It still does the job, and with a tight fitting lid can travel or be moved around without loosing items.

BASIC QUILTER'S TOOL BOX - sewing box for tools.

A good reference book or website that will walk you through the steps to making your first quilt top.

I still have these books for reference and ideas. Do some research and talk to other quilters to see what they use for instructions. There are some really good books. If you prefer videos, see what you can find on YouTube.

The important thing is to find an instructor or instructions that help you. I remember seeing an Eleanor Burns video and being so excited because she was fun and made the quilts look easy.

Finally for your basic Quilter’s Tool Box…

There is a learning curve to using the tools and getting comfortable with them. The most important thing is for you to like the tools and practice with them. This is especially true with the machine and the rotary cutter.

But it is something you can learn. Quilting is not rocket science. It is very do-able. Just remember to have fun with it. Find another quilter who can mentor you when you get stuck. The most important tool is you being willing to learn, and enjoying the process.

Happy Stitching.

Clip art of girl sewing.


58 thoughts on “BASIC QUILTER’S TOOL BOX

  1. I am building a sewing toolbox for 2 nieces. They are wanting to start sewing in the fall. Your list here was a huge help for this. Thank you.

  2. Good blog! There is so much great stuff here – I am having fun reading my way through the posts. By the third post, I subscribed. Can’t wait to see each post.

  3. Wonderful quilt blog. I found this blog last week and am reading slowly through all the posts starting with the first one. Wow, thank you for sharing your passion.

  4. Great post and so helpful as I build my own sewing tool box. I am a beginner quilter on a very tight budget. Your blog has been such an encouragement. Thank you.

    1. You are so welcome for the help and encouragement. You can make beautiful quilts on a budget.

  5. Hello, I found your blog quite by accident today, but this is an extremely well written post. Thank you so much. Subscribed.

  6. Valuable info here in this blog for all levels of quilters. Every time I visit this blog I find some new tip or design that is useful. Thank you.

    1. I hope the post was helpful too. It is entirely possible to have a good quilter’s tool box without breaking the bank. Happy quilting.

  7. Hello my friend! Great way to talk about a basic quilter’s tool box. As you no doubt know, so many starting quilters spend way too much on basic tools for quilting. Breaking the budget is not the way to start out on a “quilting journey”. I have shared this post with several beginner quilters in the local quilt guild because you cover all the necessary tools without inspiring buyer’s remorse later on.

    1. I feel it is important to stick to a budget (yes, even in quilting) and so many beginner quilters are being told to buy expensive tools that they may not like or need depending on what patterns or technique they are doing. It is always possible to “up-grade” tools as each quilter figures out what he/she needs or wants.

  8. I am regular visitor, and want to say how refreshing I find this blog. Simple info, and lovely results. I have made several quilts from your ideas here and I get all kinds of nice comments about them. Thank you for the help and inspiration.

    1. I am happy that you used ideas from this blog for your own quilts. Quilting is so much fun and it should not be frustrating or stressful. Happy quilting.

  9. WOW just what I was searching for. I am a beginner quilter and I was trying to figure out what tools I needed to get started. Thank you for an easy and common sense quilt tool box.

  10. My first visit to this quilt blog. All kinds of awesome material here, especially for me as I learn to quilt better. Love the suggestions for the tool box.

    1. So happy you visited this blog and hope you will return many times. Having your own quilting tool box is important. Happy quilting.

  11. Great post. Actually many of your posts are super great for those of us who are just getting started in quilting. Thank you for sharing your passion, expertise, and creativity.

    1. I am always glad to hear that my posts are helpful to other quilters, especially beginners. You can do this. Happy quilting.

  12. Your quilting and writing style is very unique. You show your passion for quilting without making it complicated or snobbish. I will bookmark this blog for many more visits.

    1. I truly hope to making quilting an activity that anyone can do. Quilting should be fun, not a stress. Please visit again or subscribe so you don’t miss any posts.

  13. I am genuinely delighted to have found this great quilting blog. The posts have lots and lots of fantastic information. Thanks so much.

  14. Hello, this is my first visit to this quilting weblog. So much amazing material here for quilters. I really like this post – super helpful. Keep up the great quilting and writing about it.

  15. Great ideas here for quilting. I have been doing your stove timer idea and it works great !! I am amazed at how much I get done in that extra 10 or 15 minutes a day by setting the timer. I am getting ready for work a few minutes faster too so I have that extra few minutes. Amazing idea from an amazing quilter.

  16. After going over a handful of the posts on your web site, I honestly like your technique of writing. Fun and relaxed. This is a no frills quilt blog with lots of information and tips. I book-marked it and will be checking back soon.

    1. I am always happy when readers find this quilt blog helpful. Please subscribe so you don’t miss any posts. Happy quilting.

  17. Hello there! Would you mind if I share your blog with my group?
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  19. You are so interesting and this blog is unique! I love that you are not pushing any particular brands in your posts for tools or fabric. I also love that you do so much with scraps and using what is on hand. It is so nice to discover somebody with genuine thoughts on quilting. Really.. thank you for starting this blog up and I hope you continue for years to come.

  20. Hello there, You’ve done an incredible job on this quilt blog. I’ll personally recommend it to my quilting friends because I think they could get some really great ideas here. Thank you.

  21. Hello! This post could not be written any better! What great quilt stuff and ideas there is here, especially for someone who is getting back into quilting after many years of not being able to. Thanks for sharing!

    1. It is great that you have returned to quilting after being away from it for a while. Quilting is fun and so satisfying when the see your progress and completed project. Happy quilting.

  22. Thanks for all the good info on this blog. I really liked this post. My daughter is learning to quilt and I showed her this blog. I think it can be a real help to her. Thanks so much.

  23. I seriously thank you for your content on quilts and tips for quilting.
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    1. Thank you for stopping by this blog. Hopefully you will find more useful quilting info here. Happy quilting.

  24. I am regular visitor to this wonderful quilt blog. There is just so much good stuff on here for quilters. And best of all, it is geared for simple and beautiful quilts and tons of great ideas. Thanks for sharing your passion.

    1. I love it when visitors tell me they find helpful things on this blog. It encourages me to keep working and sharing quilting.

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