Where to get started...
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What do you really need to get you started?
Ohhh my... that's a really good question. The answer is - actually not that much. But I totally understand that at the beginning, the choice of cute notions and tools is totally overwhelming.
I strongly believe that you should always buy the best you can afford. That counts for fabric, thread and notions as well. But of course, I do understand that your budget is probably limited - so maybe start with some good essentials and then treat yourself every now and then later on.
I also strongly advise to stay away from super budget options. In the beginning I made the mistake to just quickly get what I needed (without doing my research) and bought everything in one go on the cheap. And needless to say - the cutting mat wasn't really self-healing after all, the rotary cutter probably quite dangerous to use and the ruler cracked the first time I used it.
And now I get questions - all the time - what materials I am using. Like what to get if you're just starting. Or what to use for hand quilting... So - here we go. A little overview on my fave sewing supplies and I really hope you find it helpful.
Ok. Let's get started, my friend. Shall we?
Ohh but before we dive right into it. Maybe you are a little like me, wanting to go shopping straight away. For you I've put together a list of all my fave materials on Amazon. Organised in categories so you can easily find your way around...
Bag and Pouch Making
For making bags and pouches you will need actually quite similar notions to what you'll need for quilting. But of course - there are a couple things that are my absolute go-to items like interfacing, zippers and vinyl! So let's get started.
I use my large rotary cutter all the time together with my small fabric scissors and I would argue that you don't need much more. But make sure you get a quality one here so you don't hurt your wrists as you'll probably be cutting lots of layers of fabric.
- rotary cutter with a 45mm blade
- small rotary cutter for higher precision
- small fabric scissors
- medium scissors
- and snips to cut thread
Ohhh... I have a bit of an obsession for cutting mats. It obviously has to be a good one (like actually self-healing) but I love them in all the sizes, foldable ones and the best one of them all - a rotating cutting mat. But at the beginning. Get yourself a large one so you can cut all your yardage without having to move around your fabric. Later on you can go fancy and get the rotating one (which I loooove!).
- large cutting mat
- medium sized cutting mat or foldable mat for on the run or retreats
- rotating cutting mat
For precise cutting I would always recommend a good ruler (one that doesn't slip). The large one is the one I use the most and is definitely a must-have for cutting larger pieces of fabric. Very similar to the large cutting mat. But I also recommend one square ruler for boxing out corners and maybe a 1/4" ruler.
- larger ruler
- medium sized ruler
- square ruler
- 1/4" ruler
- triangle ruler
- bloc-loc ruler for neat HST (maybe more for quilters)
- bloc-loc ruler for making flying geese (probably also more for quilters)
- creative grid ruler if you're cutting a lot (again, probably also more for quilters)
Ohh... definitely a fun thing to buy and I can't have enough of them. Most important and most used are probably my Hera marker (for creating creases instead of actual marks) and friction pens that fade when pressed. But of course - there are lots out there and many great options.
Pins, needles and glue
Pins, needles or glue - whatever you choose to keep your fabric in place. But there are a couple amazing ones like wonder clips and super sharp pins from Japan. Choose whatever you feel might work best for you here.
- wonder clips which are my absolute favourites
- small and super large wonder clips
- sharp pins that go through fabric like butter (these are so good)
- glass pins
- glue pens
- basting pins or wonder basting pins (these are for holding your quilt layers in place)
Ohhh... there is a whole world of interfacing out there. And I admit, it's not an easy one to navigate. But I've found over the years, that I am always using the same one. Which is SF101 by Pellon. It only gives a little stability without warping the fabric - like giving quilting cotton the texture of canvas. I also use quilt batting scraps whenever I need some quilty texture.
- woven interfacing - SF101 by Pellon (giving a little structure)
- quilt batting scraps
- fusible fleece if I don't want it to move around too much
I looove, love, love sewing with vinyl. It's strangely my fave material to use... but maybe that's because I love a good glitter pouch. Saying that, you got to use the right one. If the vinyl is too thick or hard it will be impossible to handle or simply crack. Too thin and it will tear. So make sure to get the right one. Ohhh... and if you're having issues handling/ turning your vinyl - make sure to heat it up a little with a hair dryer. It will do the trick!
- clear vinyl
- teflon foot to avoid the vinyl from sticking to your presser foot
- teflon needle plate (totally optional but a real treat)
- parchment/ baking paper as alternative to a teflon foot
I walk you through how to use parchment paper in the pattern if you don't have a teflon foot. It works great and is something you probably already have in the house. Saying that... It took me years to finally invest into a teflon foot and you know what - I should have done that years ago. It's such a treat to just sew and not having to deal with the vinyl being stuck. Just saying!
Well, as we were just talking about vinyl. Let's talk about the glitter you'll need for making your glitta pouch. Shall we? Ok... I think you should use all the glitters. As much as you can, my friend. You can use very fine glitter which is super pretty but might be stuck to the vinyl (which might make it hard to see through). Or, and even better, use the chunky ones. The bigger the glitter pieces are the better it will float freely through your pouch. Hope that makes sense. Oh and of course you can add all kind of little trinkets you find at home (hahaha I've once even seen a glitta pouch that had a little lego person inside).
- chunky glitter - there are so many amazing options out there
- shaped glitter
- thinner versions of glitter
- glow in the dark glitter
- little trinkets you might have at home already
I love plastic zippers and usually buy them in bulk straight from the US. One size to rule them all (as you can easily cut them to size). Metal zippers might be a little cuter but you really have to get them in the right size. Ohhh... and zippers charms. All of them, please!
- plastic zippers which I get in bulk
- metal zippers in various sizes
- zipper charms or maybe these charms
For the Wee Braw Bag you will need some sort of cord or string. I get mine via a friend in Japan but there are literally so many cute options out there.
- hoooked zpaghetti thread yarn (one spool will last you forever)
- homemade or pre-made bias tape
- parachute cord
- pretty tape would be super nice as well
Again... I get my "loop ends" directly from Japan but there are other, super cute options out there. See through toggles or beads or even shaped ones. Just make sure the hole is big enough to get two of your cords through them.
Like I mention above - basic supplies for quilting are very similar to the ones for bag and pouch making. So please have a look for cutting, cutting mats, rulers, making tools and pins, needles and glue above!
So what else would you need for making your very first quilt?
That's the layer in between your quilt top and your quilt backing. And very similar to interfacing - there is a whole world out there of batting. Cotton, wool, silk, bamboo and all the different weights. I've tried so many but I always go back to the one below. It's easy to handle, creates gorgeous and cuddly quilts and doesn't break the bank. Win win win!
Before you start quilting you have to make sure to keep your three layers - quilt top, batting and backing - in place. You can either go for pin basting or glue basting. I admit, it's maybe not the most fun part of quilting but a super essential step that you better not skip or do half hearted.
- basting pins or basting wonder pins (like lots of them)
- kwik klip (a nifty little tool helping you place all those pins)
- or glue spray
After you've basted your quilt top, batting and backing using your preferred method - it's time to quilt your sandwich. YAY! And now it's up to you to decide if you would like to go for machine or hand quilting. Both are great and just as easy!
- walking foot and guide (usually included with your machine)
- thread - I mostly use Aurifil 28wt but you can also use 50wt here (please find out more about which thread I am using and why below)
- mark your lines using a hera marker (instead of a fabric pen as those lines might not fully disappear)
Please, please, please don't be scared of quilting by hand. It's really not as tricky as you might think and the texture you gain is fabulous. Not every stitch has to be perfect and that's exactly what will make your quilt so special. If it's your first quilt - you might want to start with a small crib sized one to get into the groove but I am sure you'll be addicted soon. You're officially warned, my friend.
- sharp needles and the Japanese ones by Tulip are the best
- needle threader
- thimble that doesn't feel awkward while you're wearing it
There are so many patterns out there by amazing and super talented quilt designers. I recently made this one by Lou Orth - she sells individual patterns online but you can also get beautiful books full amazing quilts. Ohhh... and a friend of mine gifted me this book years ago saying it was the bible for quilters. And she was totally right! You'll find all the basics for cutting, measurements, binding and traditional shapes in there. It is a great reference book for all things quilty.
- Quilter's reference tool - my quilty bible
- Lou's pattern shop for individual patterns
- some of my fave quilting books here and here
Let's talk about thread because I know that thread can be a little confusing at first. It's not all about finding the perfect shade of pink. More about what kind of thread you're using.
As a rule of thumb.
Use Aurifil 50wt for construction (of bags and pouches) and piecing (of quilts) - for all seams that have to last but won't be seen later on. Aurifil 12wt for hand quilting and stitching by hand to make your project shine. And Aurifil 28wt for machine quilting and topstitching - all visible seams that you don't want to hide!
- Aurifil 50wt - for your machine (construction and piecing), hidden seams
- Aurifil 28wt - for your machine (machine quilting and topstitching), visible seams
- Aurifil 12wt - for stitching or quilting by hand
Of course you can use other thread as well. Whatever your machine likes best, really. I personally found that Aurifil is the best (by a mile) - it doesn't tangle or break and lint is absolutely minimal. Since I started using Aurifil, almost ten years ago now, I've never looked back. Totally converted!
One more thing you might like is a colour card. It's a bit of an investment but totally worth it. If you're working on a project, especially if it's a bigger project like a quilt, you might want to use the perfect shade of thread and a colour card is definitely super helpful here.
Ohhh... another mistake I made at the beginning. I went fabric shopping like crazy (but had no idea what I was buying). Anything I could find online and even supermarket stuff but it really wasn't great quality. At all. And after spending so much money on notions, thread and a fancy machine... please don't save on fabric.
There are so amazing companies out there producing wonderful fabric. Please get a little less but invest in good quality quilting cotton. Here a few that I like!
- solids: Ruby and Bee solids by Windham
- solids: Kona cotton by Robert Kaufman
- anything really by Heather Ross for Windham
- Annabel Wrigley also for Windham
- Ruby Star Society for Moda
- Liberty prints - especially neon Betsy
- Japanese prints - a little thinner but great quality as well
And again - I would highly recommend getting a colour card as well for your solids. It will help you tremendously when it comes to picking the right shade of solids for a project. And you can never have too many solids - always balance out your gorgeous prints by adding some solids into the mix! Trust me on that.
I am sewing on a Janome M7. She is huge and a gorgeous machine. Super strong for bag and pouch making and has all the space for handling the biggest quilts. I truly love her and wouldn't want to miss her anymore.
But I know that she's not the cheapest model out there and as a beginner - she might just not be for you (yet).
My daughter is also sewing on a Janome (a model very similar to this one). It's a great little workhorse and I am always amazed how powerful her machine is. A fantastic model for beginners and I can highly recommend her.
Before I upgraded to the Janome M7 - I was using the Janome 6700p. A wonderful machine! Pretty much in the middle between my daughter's beginner one and my current sewing machine. She's a real workhorse and the stitches are beautiful! Again, another machine that I can highly recommend. Maybe something to consider as soon as you're outgrowing your beginner model. Definitely worth your Christmas pennies!
There are a couple things around your sewing space that can really make a difference. Making you more organised and therefore more efficient. Or even better... that keep you entertained while you're sewing!
Ok, let's get started with your sewing space.
This sounds like an obvious one but I neglected lighting for years! I believed that the standard ikea lamp I had was enough... Huge mistake. I only recently updated because I realised it got so dark in the evenings - and what a difference it makes. Now I can see really everything, it's super bright without giving me a headache. Amazing.
Ohhh... this is most definitely one of my favourite topics. Netflix and Sew. I love, love, loooove watching Netflix while sewing, cutting, pressing,... all the time really. Maybe that's part of the whole relaxation theory - stating that quilting (and sewing) is better than Yoga.
So this is what I do. I mostly watch Netflix on my iPad (plus a little streaming of German telly as we live in the UK, Disney Plus and Apple TV). And yes. I could just make the iPad sit next to me... but I don't know about you. If I can't see the screen whilst I am sewing, I will most definitely miss bits and have to rewind. So the screen has to be just there.
- obviously an iPad
- iPad holder thingie - I know there are cheaper ones but this one doesn't wobble around as soon as I go fast on my sewing machine, I love it
- or a lazy arm (more for phones and smaller devices - and it does wobble a lot)
Again, very similar to basting, probably not the most exciting task but if you're setting it up all nicely - it's actually not too bad. Make sure your ironing board suits your height and you don't have to be in an uncomfortable position. Ohhh... and as it might not be the most exciting taks - make sure you have your entertainment set up nearby.
- height adjustable pressing board with a large surface (the larger the surface the less you have to move the fabric around obviously)
- Oliso smart iron (such a relief for your wrists) - for pressing yardage and quilt tops
- mini iron - for smaller projects, corners and ultimately for travelling
- water bottles
One more word about pressing. I never ever use the steam function on my irons. It's just not worth the headache. And it's not due to the iron but due to the water. Even though we live very remote in Scotland, having gorgeous clean water... I wouldn't fill it into the iron. There are all these tiny bits in the water (that we obviously can't see, ohhh this feels almost scientific now) and those bits are always clogging up the tiny holes in the iron. And with heat those lumps create burns and marks. So please, just don't use it. Instead go for a cheap spray bottle and apply some mist manually when needed. Works like a charm!
Get in touch
Again. You can also find pretty much all of the items above in my UK Amazon Shop or the equivalent US Amazon Shop. That might just be a little more convenient for you and I try to keep them updated as much as I can. Adding new and fun products to my wishlist all the time...
And that's a wrap, my friend. Everything to get you started. If you have any questions - please don't hesitate to get in touch. I am only an email away and here to help you.
Happy Sewing and all the Quilty Hugs
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