Before you can start making simple quilt patterns you should know about the tools of the trade. Having the right tools on hand will make quilting even more fun.
Rotary cutters have round blades that enable you to cut straight-edge shapes more quickly and accurately than scissors can. They come with various blade sizes. (A good size for a first blade is 45 mm.) Experiment with handle styles to see which you prefer as they come in various shapes and sizes.
For making perfectly straight cuts, choose a thick, clear acrylic ruler. A good size to start with is a 6×24″ rectangular ruler marked in 1/4″ increments.
Always use a rotary cutter with a cutting mat specifically designed for it. In addition to protecting your work surface, the mat helps keep the fabric from shifting while you cut. Start with a 17×23″ mat marked with a 1″ grid, hash marks at 1/8″ increments, and 45 and 60 degree angles.
The best fabric for simple quilt patterns is 100% cotton because it minimizes seam distortion, presses crisply, and is easy to quilt. Good simple quilt patterns specify quantities for 44/45″ wide fabric unless otherwise noted. You’ll need to allow for a little extra yardage to accommodate minor cutting errors and slight shrinkage.
There are conflicting opinions about the need to prewash fabric. The choice is yours, but if you have any doubts about colorfastness (whether or not the color will bleed or wash out), test the fabric before adding it to your quilt.
For piecing and most simple quilt patterns, match the thread fiber to the fabric. Since most quilters use 100% cotton fabric, 100% cotton thread is ideal. If you find your thread breaking, try a new spool; old thread can become brittle and lose elasticity.
The preferred needle type for woven cotton fabrics is called a “sharp.” Sizes 75/11 and 80/12 are good choices for piecing, quiltmaking, and binding most simple quilt patterns. Use a smaller needle (70/10) if you’re piecing tightly woven batiks and a larger needle (90/14) for flannels. Dull needles can cause skipping or uneven stitches, so it’s a good idea to insert a fresh needle at the start of every project.
Any machine with a straight stitch and well-adjusted tension (not too tight or too loose) will work for piecing simple quilt patterns. A machine that also can zigzag or blanket stitch makes machine applique possible. If your machine has bad stitch quality, before making any other adjustment, lift the machine’s presser foot and rethread the machine.
Once you have these tools of the trade you’ll be ready to start making simple quilt patterns to enjoy and share!