Back to basics

Last time I talked about how I got into quilting. Now I want to get you quilting!

This is the start of my “quiltionary” blog series. I’ll introduce you to the tools you need if you want to make a patchwork quilt. I’ll guide you through what they do and the options available - all from the perspective of a beginner. I was one not that long ago. My first quilting project was made with the aid of a cereal box, a pencil and blunt scissors. It turned out fine but quiltionary will tell you what I wish I’d known then: what you actually need and why.

Basic tools for patchwork and quilting.JPG

So, let’s start with the basics. Before you buy anything specific, you need scissors, thread and some pins and needles. That might seem obvious but if you haven’t done much sewing before you might not have them around the house. Or you might like to invest in new ones just for you and your projects.


It’s ok to use general household scissors but, if you’re going to give sewing your best shot, get at least one decent, sharp pair and keep them just for sewing. My little “classic embroidery” scissors in the picture below are invaluable for snipping thread and trimming. A pair of dressmaking scissors is also useful but you don’t need them to get started. All my scissors are by Fiskars because I love anything Scandinavian but they really do the job.

Scissors, thread and pins.jpg


If there’s a sewing kit somewhere at home you’ll have some thread. It’s best to start with a white/off-white or neutral colour (I often use a light grey or taupe). A good neutral will work with almost all colours for patchwork. Quilting threads are different but we’ll come back to that later in the series.

I use cotton thread because I only use cotton fabrics. Polyester is stretchier and for patchwork and quilting we try to avoid stretch. This is very important for fabric but less so for thread. So if you’ve got a neutral polyester thread then use it for now. I tend to buy Gutermann thread and many modern quilters swear by Aurifil. Ultimately you can experiment and find the brand you love. For now, just get hold of a decent quality neutral. The really cheap stuff tends to shed a lot of lint (fluff) and breaks easily so it isn’t great for machine sewing if you plan to do that.

Pins and needles

Pins are essential for patchwork. Sharp little glass-headed pins are ideal. Nice long flat-headed ‘flower’ pins are great but a little more expensive. Make sure you have spare needles for your sewing machine if you have one and some general purpose needles for hand-stitching. We’ll come back to quilting needles later.

Lastly, get yourself a seam-ripper. We all make mistakes and a seam-ripper will make it much quicker to put right.

My first quilt: a handmade mini made into a cushion cover

My first quilt: a handmade mini made into a cushion cover


That’s it! If you need to buy the basics then shop around. I reckon you can get what you need for less than £20. Big shops like Hobbycraft and John Lewis will stock everything but so will good independents like and Amazon and Ebay are great on price but it can take longer to find what you want.

If you’re starting out, comment below with any questions and to let me know what you get!