So, the quilting world has sucked you in. You’ve got a few quilts under your belt and you’ve got a list of quilt patterns you’re just dying to start. But maybe something is holding you back. Are you nervous about getting into a more advanced project? Dreading trimming hundreds more half square triangles? Or are you looking for ways to make projects cheaper? From paper piecing to traditional piecing, here’s a list of advanced quilting tools that help any quilter take the next step in their quilting journey.
Cone thread holder
Cones of thread are those hand-sized pyramids that contain thousands of yards of cotton or polyester. Priced similar to a yard of specialty fabric, they are a bit of a sticker shock. But buying thread this way is much cheaper than those ditzy 250 – 500 yard spools you can find in stores. There’s only one problem: they won’t fit on your machine. Enter the cone thread holder.
In my opinion, the cone thread holder is the pinnacle of advanced quilting tools. It’s a little tower that stands behind your machine as a flag for all that says: yeah, I go through way too much thread. But really, the cone thread holder is there so you can buy the large cones of thread. These cones hold anywhere from 1000-5000 yards of thread and makes buying thread more economical. Let’s look at an example:
At JoAnn, you can find 350 yds of Coats and Clark machine quilting thread (which I have not tried, nor promote) for $5.49. With a 50% off coupon, you can buy the thread for $2.75 or $0.0079/yard
Aurifil is popular, high-quality quilting thread (which I have also not tried, nor promote). You can get a cone of 1422 yards on amazon for $11.24 or $0.0079/yard.
This shows that, yard-for-yard, it is the same price to buy one of the most popular and well-respected quilting threads on a cone as it is to buy standard ‘good’ quality thread from JoAnn. You can find even cheaper off-brand cones on Amazon, but I’ve had good and bad luck with them. One of my favorite purchases has been 60+ 1000 yd cones of polyester (my machine loves polyester) thread from New Brothread for like 45 bucks. Having the assortment of colors on hand as made me more adventurous in choosing thread colors for quilting.
Now that you know your quilting style and probably have a list of quilt patterns you’d like to make, now is the time to start splurging on your quilting rulers. Not only buying non-slip stickers and rulers, but all the rulers sizes you need. Long rulers, short rulers, rulers for trimming your half square triangles, diamond rulers, hex rulers–you know what you’re going to use now.
When I first started, all I had was a 8″ x 24″ ruler. I made it cover all my quilting needs. But I recently bought a 6.5″ x 12.5″ non-slip creative grid ruler, and it’s changed my trimming and small piece cutting game. I no longer have to wield this 2 foot sheet of plastic around to cut a 1.5″ x 1.5″ square.
Take a look at the kind of piecing you do and the projects you’re looking to do next. Then pick up a ruler or two that will help your pieces get more precise and your cutting faster. There is nothing to make you want to quilt more than feeling more productive in the craft room.
Alright, you should already have a cutting mat, but now is the time to think about what frustrates you about your current mat. Here are two great advanced quilting tools to consider:
Large Cutting Mats
Do you frequently cut large pieces? I know I do. It was so frustrating having to always fold my fabric in halves, quarters, eighths (!), to get it small enough to cut on my original 12″ x 24″ mat. Using a 50% off coupon from JoAnn, I splurged on a honker 24″ x 36″ mat that was less than 40 bucks, and I am beyond excited to get cutting!
Rotating Cutting Mat
A cutting mat that turns? How nice would that be for trimming blocks? If you make a lot of half square triangles or flying geese, this could save a lot of time. You no longer have to pick your block up and rotate it three times (times however many hundreds of blocks you have trim). The only downfall to these mats is they usually only come in smaller sizes. The largest I’ve seen is 18″ x 18″, but the size I usually see is 12″ x 12″ or 14″ x 14″.
Most standard sewing machines don’t come with a lot of quilting tools, namely the sewing feet that are made for quilting. While you can get by without them, they’ll up your quilting game from making it easier to sew the heavy quilt bulk through your sewing machine to helping you get better points. Luckily, for most machines, these can be found for cheap online.
A walking foot is a sewing foot that has a set of feed dogs that run along the top of the foot. This helps to evenly pull the weight of your quilt through the machine. They are fantastic for quilting in the ditch or straight line quilting. They can also be super helpful when you’re sewing the last large sections of your quilt top together and there is a lot of pull.
Also known as a free motion foot, the darning foot is a staple for free motion quilting. Whenever you’re ready to make that jump into free motion quilting, Leah Day has some great advice that I used on how to make a cheap darning foot perfect for free motion quilting. She also has some great beginner free motion quilting help and designs.
The game changer. If you don’t have a reliable place on your sewing foot that marks 1/4″, than a 1/4″ sewing foot is for you. There are a few different types. Some will have a bumper that physically stops you from sewing more than a 1/4″ seam. Others are trimmed off at 1/4″. This allows you to clearly line up the edge of the piece with the edge of the foot. The best part is, you can find any of them on amazon for less than 10 bucks. Mine even came paired with a 1/2″ foot.
A 1/2″ foot, or really any foot with more sewing guidelines is a great way to get into straight line quilting. Line this foot up with a line you’ve already quilted and zoom along with perfect spacing!
Small pressing mat
I used to use a towel as a pressing mat that I would lay out on the counter. I would ferry all of my pieces from my machine over to the mat and then back to my machine. It was a huge time suck. Then I invested in a wool pressing mat for $12 bucks off Amazon. I wasn’t blown away by the wool itself, but I loved having a small pressing mat right next to me machine.
These tools are the next logical step many quilters acquire on their journey into quilting, but there are tons of advanced quilting tool on the market that can make any task a little quicker, easier, or cheaper. Once you’re ready to level-up your quilting, analyze issues you have in your quilting process. There is likely a tool already design to help with it. Let me know what tools you find helpful down below!