There are Only 5 Essential Tools for Quilters

There are Only 5 Essential Tools for Quilters

The info in this article applies whether you use Inklingo or not! (Inklingo is fabulous.)

Quilting has a reputation for being expensive.

However, in my opinion, there are only 5 essential tools for quilters, so the cost to get started is not unreasonable for most of us.

If you start with these 5 Essential Tools, you will save money and avoid cluttering up your space with stuff that “will not spark joy.”

5 Essential Quilt Tools

1. Freezer Paper for Quilters

This is indispensable. Freezer paper is my number one quilting tool.

It can be white or brown and has a plastic side and a paper side.

About freezer paper   (More info in the Top 10 Tutes)

Freezer paper is NOT wax paper, parchment paper, or butcher paper because those do not have a “poly” (plastic) coating.

The plastic side sticks to fabric temporarily when pressed with a HOT, DRY iron and peels off neatly, so it can be used over and over again. It does not leave residue on the fabric.

Freezer paper is inexpensive, reusable, and the most versatile tool available. It replaces many other inferior tools like plastic sheets, acrylic templates, paper pieces, etc. It is also used to stabilize the fabric to print on fabric with Inklingo but you need freezer paper even if you don’t use Inklingo. (Why ever not???)

You will never need acrylic templates or rulers with complicated instructions when you understand how freezer paper works.

Freezer paper makes it easier to start and faster to finish quilts that you are proud to give—but you will want to keep them all.

Why I don’t sell acrylic templates 
(Hint: Freezer paper does a better job and you deserve the best.)

Fussy Cutting with Freezer Paper Templates (This is one of many articles about how FP is better than acrylic templates for fussy cutting.)

rotary cutters for quilters

If you are hesitating to buy the next three essential tools for your very first quilt, you can postpone it.

You can cut with scissors if you have lines on the fabric, printed with your SuperTool (below). All quilters need the next 3 essential tools eventually.

2. Rotary Cutter and Replacement Blades

Quilters usually use a rolling cutter instead of scissors to cut fabric and freezer paper.

There are MANY variations but a rotary cutter is just a rolling blade with a plastic handle. It is a great way to cut fabric accurately—even several layers at a time, which is something you cannot do with scissors.

When you attend quilt classes, see if you can try out a few different shapes.

The Martelli Rotary Cutter ($36.00 US, March 2023) fits my hand perfectly. With my finger directly over the blade, I have good control and safety. (No affiliation)  There are different ones for right and left-handed quilters.

Start with a 45 mm cutter.

It doesn’t matter what brand you buy but it is very important to change the blade frequently.

If you do a lot of cutting, buy packages of 10 blades when they are on sale. A fresh blade is always a delight.

See Chapter 1 of The Inklingo Handbook (included in the free Inklingo shape collection) for Safety Info.

rotary cut curves

Video How to Rotary Cut Curves

monkey cutting mat

3. Rotary Cutting Mat

You cannot use a rotary cutter without a self-healing mat.

Invest in the best shelf-healing mat you can afford. Depending on the size, prices range from $20 US to $150 US. (March 2023)

A medium-size mat (18 x 24 inches, about $35 US) is the one I use most often. You may want to add little ones (portability) and bigger ones later.

It is nice to be able to leave your mat handy all the time—you never know—and it makes a nice desk blotter (above). The soft surface is pleasant for handwriting and the lines sometimes come in handy—although I don’t use the lines for measuring when I am cutting fabric.

monkey acrylic rulers

4. Acrylic Rulers

Acrylic rulers are not the same as acrylic templates. (You never need acrylic templates! See # 1 above.)

Acrylic rulers are used with a rotary cutter and self-healing mat.

Over the years I have used several different brands of rulers. They are all good. My new favorites are from Quilter’s Select. (No affiliation.)

Since I started using Quilter’s Select, the 3 sizes I use the most are:

  • 2.5 x 12 inches ($18 US)
  • 3 x 18 inches ($28 US)
  • 8.5 x 24 inches ($58 US)

Total investment is about $104 US (March 2023) but you can start with just one (3 x 18), if necessary.

We never need to cut freezer paper wider than 8.5 inches for Inklingo Custom Page Sizes, so the 8.5 x 24-inch Quilter’s Select ruler is ideal.

5. Finger Pincushion

This is just a fun accessory whether you are sewing by hand or by machine. Quilting should be fun and my finger pincushion puts me in the mood to sew.

Wearing a finger pincushion makes me feel like a real quilter. It even brightens up a day when there is no time to sew.

At the time I made the pincushion video (above), I was still hot-gluing the fabric ball to buttons and elastic. The elastic did not last very long, so now I buy “ring blanks” from a beading shop. They are amazingly cheap and lots of fun. (No affiliation.)

Turn your speakers on for the video for the William Tell Overture. You can see a bit of rotary cutting and get nostalgic for the 1950s and The Lone Ranger.

Inklingo Circles are great for this!

Print on fabric

Your Quilting “SuperTool”

You probably already own the best quilting tool available today—your Inkjet printer!

If you start with Inklingo, you can wait to get a rotary cutter, mat, and rulers because you have a line to cut on and can cut with scissors.

I know you will want to be able to rotary cut but it is not the price of admission if you don’t want to spend $100 for rulers, $35 for a mat, and $35 for a cutter until you are sure there is more quilting in your future.

Your first Inklingo PDF should be the Diamond Triangle Square shape collection, for several reasons, not just because it is FREE.

There is a Sneak Peek Video for the free shape collection to show you why you should order and download it now.

quilting thread

Other Supplies

You will notice that my list of 5 essential tools does not include “supplies” like fabric, needles, and thread.

My list of 5 essential tools assumes that no one starts quilting without ever having sewn anything at all, so somewhere in your house, you have scissors, pins, a seam ripper, a pencil and some kind of ruler, an iron and ironing board, and probably a basic sewing machine.

To start machine piecing, you only need a machine that does a straight stitch. Nowadays it is pretty safe to assume that most households have a washer and dryer, a computer (PC or Mac), and an Inkjet printer too.

scissors for quilters

Expensive Hobbies Related to Quilting

1. Pretty Things

Just like “boys with their toys,” many quilters love collecting more things.

Some quilters collect pretty scissors. You don’t need 20 but some quilters (no names) have that many. Others collect every  color of thread in a special case, needle cases, or pincushions. There are lots of pretty bits and bobs and other gadgets.

If you can afford it, have some fun, but these should not be considered to be part of “the price of admission!”

2. Fabric Collecting

Don’t be fooled. This is a separate hobby!

Accumulating a “stash” can be very, very, very expensive and this is probably why some people think quilting is expensive.

Almost all quilters spend more money on a “fabric stash” than is required. 

A stash takes up a lot of room and fabric designs are like clothes—they go out of style.

Some of the fabric in my stash seemed wonderful at first but now I don’t think I will ever use it. Older and wiser now.

If you want to keep a limit on your quilting expenses, just buy what you need for each quilt as you go along. (Monkey says, Good luck with that. Quilt fabric can be irresistible.)

It has been more than 25 years since I made my first quilt. There are a few things I wish I had learned on Day One and I’m sharing them with you because I want it to be easier for more people to be creative with fabric and make beautiful quilts for family and friends (if you can part with them).

Do you use all 5 of these essentials? I love to see your comments!

There is more to come, so I hope you will subscribe too.

In the meantime:

  1. Order and download the free shape collection.
  2. Print some shapes on fabric.
  3. Shop for more shapes!

6 thoughts on “There are Only 5 Essential Tools for Quilters”

  1. I too lament that “quilting is expensive.” Too often I hear those words from a prospective new quilter who admires a quilt and mentally walks away from ever learning the most satisfying of pastimes.
    For me, that response lights my fire and my life time of “collecting” offers the opportunity to “pay it forward.” Oh the excitement when a “ newbie” is encouraged to “pick one you really like” from my stash. It’s usually a floral design
    which makes the next step easy. A casual addition of an accent color and I don’t need to do anything more. My “newbie” is hooked and then her own selections just stoke the fire. Building that first quilt is a thrill we’ve all experienced. Learning to budget for our next project became a bit easier with our new found motivation. I can’t supply the world but I can introduce a beginner to my resources. I know where to look for “sales.” Estate and yard sales provide a treasure trove of Fabrics. Many are out of print treasures.
    Every quilt shop has a “sale room.” They may not have the latest line in there, but stash building items abound.
    Yes, It can be an expensive hobby, but it can be manageable. And, Oh the fun!

  2. Comment from Teenage retail worker – “Quilting is a really expensive hobby isn’t it”; made me so sad. My reply was – my first quilt was from a pattern from a $10 Q magazine, pencil, templates made from cereal box. It was a red n white, scrappy winding ways, hand pieced and is my cherished fav to this day. I hate potential quilters think $ is prohibitive because the reason our Foremothers made Q was for economical reasons, then warmth, then beauty.

    Yes; I could open a shop with the tools and fabric I have bought since that first Q. I bless my life has this glorious, relaxing, giving (to others), friends, colour, warmth… in it.

    • I agree with you, Raewyn. Quilting does not deserve its reputation for being expensive. We need to reassure everyone that it is possible to make fabulous quilts on a budget. Like anything, there are lots of nice-to-haves and fun extras but a first quilt doesn’t need to cost a fortune. Aren’t we lucky to be quilters!!

  3. Totally agree! Although I admit to being a ‘collector’. Love using your inklingo templates. It has revolutionised my quilting and EPP projects.


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