In the simplest form, you need fabric, something to measure and cut it, and something to sew it back together. That’s it. Meet these requirements and you are good to go.
So here’s some thoughts on each section.
Any fabric can be turned into patchwork but it’s common to use cotton, polyester or a cotton-poly mix. Whatever you use, be consistent in each quilt for best results.
You can buy pre-cut fabric or off the bolt/roll.
Pre-cuts are fabric packs that have been cut in the factory for you into a standard sized shape. For example jelly rolls are strips 2 and 1/2 inch wide and 42 inch long, charm packs are squares 5 inch square, etc.
Or you can buy fabric either off the bolt by the yard or as fat quarters – both for you to cut up yourself.
A ‘fat quarter’ is a piece of fabric cut at roughly 22 inch by 18 inch. Check when you buy though, especially off the internet, as some pieces are miss-sold measured in cm not inches. (A proper fat quarter is approx 56 cm by 45 cm).
A roll or bolt of fabric is usually 42 inch wide and you buy it by the yard (36 inch) or metre. Different suppliers allow you to buy off the bolt in lengths / strips as small as 1/4 yard or 0.25m. Always ask.
Measure and cut
For this you can use a tape, straight edge rule or patchwork template. There is also measuring lines on any cutting mat. To cut the fabric you require either scissors or a rotary cutter, and small sharp pointed scissors for cutting thread. An optional extra is a stitch ripper for any miss-sewn seams (although I always use my small scissors).
You can easily purchase a standard dressmakers tape which can be stored rolled up.
A straight edge rule is a great investment as you can use it not only to measure with but also to cut against should you choose to cut using a rotary cutter. Mine is a yard rule (36 inches).
You can buy numerous designs of templates for patchwork which are marked out with different designs, measurements and angles. They come in a variety of shapes as well. Over time you may find that you gain quite a selection of these, but to begin with a square one is useful for measuring, acting as a square edge and for use as a cutting edge with a rotary cutter. My most used template is 12 inch square, which is useful for squaring-up most completed block sizes I sew.
A lot of patchwork and quilt sew-ists use a rotary blade to cut their fabric. It is a really useful tool when you are wanting to cut long straight lines or cut with a template for squaring-up blocks. They come with lots of different grips and styles. Mine is the simplest ( and cheapest) I found! If you are wary about using the blade to begin with, especially that you might cut finger or two on the hand holding the straight edge, then get yourself some special protective gloves.
Scissors are also invaluable.
I have a large pair for cutting some fabric and the threads once I have sewn a project. These are normal sewing / seamstress scissors. They come in many styles and weights so if you can, try holding or cutting with them before buying. If it applies, you can get left-handed scissors.
I also have a small pair which I use for unpicking miss-sewn seams and when I am hand-sewing the binding onto my quilt.
If you use a rotary blade, then you will need a surface to cut upon. There are lots of different cutting-boards available in a range of sizes and with different markings on them. It is worth getting the biggest that you can store and/or fit on your table during use, as this will make cutting long pieces of fabric and larger blocks easier.
I have two cutting mats. The smaller has useful ‘angle’ markings for when I want to cut fabrics at 30, 45 or 60 degree angles.
The larger is just awesome! Keep your cutting mats stored flat or well-supported if stored vertically as they can warp over time. Some mats are described as being ‘self healing’ which means that they don’t get long marks on them every time you cut.
Sewing back together
The most obvious purchase here is the ‘big one’. The sewing machine. This is a huge topic all of it’s own so my main point to buying one would be – think about what you will actually use it for (do you need to embroider in 78 different rose patterns) and chat to a real live stockist rather than going ‘on-line’.
And, beware of buying a hundred different sewing feet and ‘things’. Start out simple and invest in a ‘quilting foot’ or ‘walking foot’, etc, if you feel the need to at a later date.
Pins are a great aid for holding pieces of fabric together whilst you sew them. I use standard normal pins, but you can buy ‘quilter’s’ pins if you feel the need! Basting spray can be used to hold your patchwork plus filling together before quilting – I use pins though.
You can’t escape hand-sewing in quilt-making, even if you do use a sewing machine for most of the quilt / patchwork project. A thin needle with a large ‘eye’ for the thread is my chosen size.
You can write a whole book on this topic, but my chosen thread is standard / normal sewing thread as sold in any shop / online store. If you hand-quilt then you will need to invest in proper hand-quilting thread which is strengthened to cope with the sewing and quilting.
Some people will only use cotton thread with cotton fabric, and polyester thread with polyester fabric, etc. This becomes more of an issue the more skilled you get at your hobby. To start with, just get a thread that either matches the color of your fabric or is white/cream.
For a great finish.
To sew a great patchwork block, quilt, it is really useful to iron your fabric often… before you start sewing, after each seam, at the end. So, you need an iron and ironing board. Any type will do, as long as you don’t iron too hot!
Pen and paper to write down measurements/ notes, an endless supply of coffee and a good tune on the radio.