Frugal Quilting


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Quilting and Quilting Tools

Quilting Tools

There are a lot of quilting tools you can buy.  However, as a frugal quilter, you don't need all of them. Some tools are necessary, while others just give you another way of doing things or make a task easier.

Quilting is not a hobby that you can do sloppily. You must both cut and sew accurately. It can be difficult to see the size marks on a quilting ruler if you do not have enough light.

Obviously you need a sewing machine (most quilters actually have at least 2 of them), unless you are going to do all your stitching by hand. You can get by with 2 colors of thread, white and a putty or beige color for all but your lightest fabrics.

When I moved my sewing upstairs to a darker room for awhile, I had to install lighting. My sewing desk is under a skylight, but my cutting table is under a slanted ceiling. To solve the problem, we put in track lighting fixture that could be turned to just the right direction over the cutting board.

The follow is a list of the the other items you need, and some considerations for each item.

Rotary Cutters

quilting tools, rulers, rotary cutters

There are several different sizes of rotary cutters. The big ones are for cutting multiple layers at one time. I prefer never to cut through more than 3 layers at a time for accuracy purposes, so a medium size cutter works well for me.

The blades to get dull over time, so it is more frugal to stick with one size rotary cutter and buy a large size of replacement blades.

The very small rotary cutters are for cutting around small templates. I have one, but rarely use it.

I do prefer the ergonomic cutting tools, with the rounded handles. If you start having problems with your hands or wrist, there is also a long cutting ruler with an attached blade that will allow you to keep cutting as you only push the handle forward to cut the fabric. You can see that piece of equipment in the picture above.

Rotary Cutting Mats

Buy the largest mat you can afford or have room for on your table. It is quilting tools, scissors, marking pens, pins convenient to have more cutting surface, and your mat will last for years. Never use the lines on the mat for cutting. Always use at least 2 lines on your ruler to position your ruler on your fabric and make your cut

Rotary cutting mats are reversible. You can use the plain side also. However, most people use the side with the lines just to visually check measurements.

Never cut paper with your rotary cutter. It will ruin the blade. If you start doing paper piecing, you will need a rotary cutter dedicated to that project. Be sure and clearly mark that cutter so you don't mix them up.

a movable quilting cutting mat

You may also want to buy a small mat that you can turn when you make cuts, leaving the fabric in place. This is for safety reasons. You should always cut away from you and never sideways. Wearing a glove to protect your hand is also a good idea. You can also buy small rotary cutting boards that are mounted on a board that lets them turn.


A small pair of sharp scissors is essential for trimming. A large pair comes in handy also for times you don't want to use the rotary cutter.

Mark your scissors, and never use them for anything but fabric.

Seam Ripper

No matter how long you have been quilting, you will do a lot of removing of stitches, which is gracefully referred to as unstitching by quilters. Sometimes you will do sewing that you know you will be removing. Keep the seam ripper handy, as it will be one less level or aggravation when you make a mistake.

Rulers and Tape Measures

There are lots of rulers, with some of them dedicated to specific tasks. The basic rulers every quilter needs are a medium size (12x8) rectangular ruler, a large and small square ruler (for squaring up blocks), and a smaller triangle (usually called an "easy angle ruler" . The small triangle ruler will come in handy for trimming, making small cuts, and with cutting triangles.

Be sure that your larger rulers have the marks for 1/8 inch cuts, as well as long lines for the 45-inch angle. Tape measures are needed to double check measurements, measure for binding, and other quilting tasks.

Marking Tools

You can choose from pencils, chalks, and sharp felt tip pens. White or silver pencils work well on dark colors. Colored pencils work well on light fabrics. Chalk wheels are very visible and wipe off easily.

Be careful with black felt tip pens. If they are not permanent, the markings could bleed into your fabric when washed.

Work Surface

Most quilters work on a table of some kind. I use a folding craft table. They are not very stable, but economical and easy to move and adjust the size. When I have a big quilt to pin, I put two of them together, and then use binder clips to stretch my quilt top taunt across the top and pin it for machine quilting.

If you have a regular table you want to use, lift it up so you won't hurt your back. You can buy risers for the legs, or make them yourself depending on how your table is constructed.

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