As I recently did a glossary for bag making tools, I thought it would be worth creating one for quilting tools too. As with the bag making tools, understand that you absolutely and utterly do not need to buy all of these things straight off, and your world will not end if you have to build up to these slowly instead of eating beans on toast for a year. Still, new toys are fun, so do what you need to do ;o) As with the bag making tools glossary I am going to assume that you have a sewing machine, thread and an iron with ironing board at your disposal.

This week we’ll look at tools involved in the preparation and piecing stages of quilting.


In the photo above we have the following:

A. 45mm Rotary Cutter – this is the most commonly sold size of rotary cutter. They come with a variety of grips, this is Olfa’s Deluxe Grip, where the trigger is squeezed to release the blade, and can be locked open (or closed) if required. These are used in conjunction with cutting mats along with quilting rulers or printed patterns, or even freehand for improv work.
B. 28mm Rotary Cutter – this is one of the smaller cutters and is useful for small, tight curves as it handles them better than the larger cutters.
C. Self Healing Cutting Mat – these are used with rotary cuters to ensure you are not carving chunks out of your table. This is actually much smaller than my usual cutting mat, but this size is the perfect travel size for retreats. My usual size is an A1 mat that I pick up at my local art shop during Fresher season (when they put them on sale for about £17 to attract the sutdents in). These are normally used with rotary cutters and I actually have a couple of little ones that I use with hole punches which I picked up back in my scrapbooking days when eyelets were in. You probably want to keep the hole punch one separate because those holes tend to be quite deep cuts and they’re not so good at self healing, meaning you end up with a bit of a bumpy cutting mat.
D. Rotating Self Healing Cutting Mat – this works in the same way as the non-rotating version, but is particularly useful for doing things such as trimming half square triangles as it saves you from having to contort yourself trying to trim around a ruler on a normal mat.
E. Quilting Rulers – these are used in conjunction with rotary cutters and cutting mats to cut a variety of shapes for quilting. You can get square, rectangular, triangular, wedge shaped, drunkard’s path, hexagon and no end of other shapes for specialist blocks. They are usually made of thick acrylic, and markings can be printed on or laser etched into the top surface.
F. Ruler Handle/Gripper – these can be used with larger rulers to get a better grip on the fabric to stop it moving when cutting. Although they come in a variety of styles, they are usually attached with suction.
G. Ruler Stick-On Grips – because quilting rulers are usually made of acrylic they can be quite slippy on fabric unless there is something on the bottom to provide some friction. I usually use Creative Grids rulers, which I love because they have built in non-slip patches, but sometimes I need a shape that they don’t make and that’s where I use stick-on grips. You can get a variety of options, including the rubberised dots and non-slip film seen here.
H. Fabric Shears – for those that prefer scissors over rotary cutters, fabric shears are the tool of choice. I actually use mine mainly to cut quilt batting, hence they’re not a very expensive kind.
I. Scissors – these are useful for trimming threads and also for cutting away bulk from the back of blocks, for example behind the centre of a dresden plate.
J. Snips – these are useful for trimming thread ends and for cutting threads at the end of a seam if you don’t have a built in thread cutter in your machine. They’re also useful for EPP when your’e travelling, especially on a plane as the blades fit within airline regulations (check your airline before flying to be sure)
K. Starch – this can be useful especially when cutting fabric on the bias. Bias cuts are prone to stretching, and the starch can help to prevent it from happening as easily as without it.


In the photo above we have the following:

L. Sizzix Machine – die cutting machines can be useful to cut shapes in bulk, or to cut ones that might be more time consuming using a rotary cutter, for example for a double wedding ring quilt or cutting drunkard’s path blocks. There are a number of machines on the market, including some electric ones that connect to your computer like a printer rather than using dies to cut, but check before you buy that the dies or cutting surface can handle fabric. I’ve used Sizzix since my scrapbooking days, and I love that they have both quilting and applique shaped dies.
M. Sizzix Cutting Mats – the standard mats that come with die cutting machines are relatively short, however you can also get extended ones that are used with the longer dies such as those used for cutting binding.
N. Cutting Dies – these are used with die cutting machines, in this case Sizzix, to do the actual cutting of the shape. The dies are fed through the machine with the fabric sandwiched between the die and a cutting mat. Sizzix actually make several ranges of dies, of which quilting is just one, however some of their other sets are useful for applique (I only pictured the quilting ones above).


In the photo above we have the following:

O. Template Plastic – if you need to create your own template, then this plastic is ideal as it’s thick enough to be used with a rotary cutter, but thin enough to cut out with a pair of scissors.
P. English Paper Piecing Papers – these can be bought precut, printed out from templates online and cut up, cut using a die cutting machine or even hand drawn and cut out. Whichever way you choose, you can then use the templates for English Paper Piecing.
Q. Pre-Printed Paper Foundations – these are used to allow you to confidently sew shapes that you might have problems with, or to sew certain shapes in bulk. These particular foundations are for half square triangles and can be used with strips of fabric to make multitudes of identical HSTs.
R. Foundation Paper – this can be used to print your own foundation paper piecing pattern onto. It it designed to be lighter and more easy to tear than normal printer paper.
S. Freezer Paper – this can be used for a form of foundation paper piecing or for creating applique patterns
T. 1/4″ Seam Marker – this teeny, tiny little wheel you see inside the packaging is used to add a 1/4″ seam allowance to patterns which come without one. Place your pattern piece on your fabric, and using a marking pen or pencil through the hole in the centre, roll it around the edge of the pattern and mark in your cutting line.


In the photo above we have the following:

U. Glass Headed Pins – these are by far my favourite kind of pin, I literally have boxes of them stashed away from whenever I’ve seen them in a sale, and I have a ranking system where they start at quilting and move down as they get older, blunter or bent. These particular ones are fine pins and because of their glass heads can be used to hold things in place when pressing.
V. Flower Headed Pins – these pins can be useful for marking particular things you need to keep note of, as you can mark or stick stickers on the heads to remind you, for example for row markers.
W. Glue Pen – this can be useful for adhering fabric to EPP shapes, attaching the first piece of fabric, or larger pieces in FPP or even to glue baste seams.
X. Hand Sewing Needles – these can be used for EPP or for burying thread ends after quilting.
Y. Thread Cone Stand – this is used to enable you to use cones of thread with your sewing machine. It can also be used with vintage machines which don’t cope as well with today’s cross-wound thread.
Z. Clearly Perfect Angles – this is my favourite tool for sewing half square triangles. I’ve reviewed it before here <insert link> if you want more information on how to use it.
AA. Tweezers – this may seem like an odd addition to your sewing arsenal, but they can be very useful when sewing curves, such as drunkard’s path blocks, as they can hold the end of the curve in place as you stitch it together.
AB. Seam Ripper – the tool that nobody loves, but everybody needs at some point. I prefer the Seam Fix rippers as they have a rubberised end which can pick up the wee bits of thread that get left on the fabric, and they’re a good size to fit in the hand.