questionswhat kind of tools do you recommend for a first…

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Find the groups in your area that are already doing this. There are plenty of them out there. Personally, I'm pretty old fashioned (this is well-documented), and like to do things the same way my mother, grandmothers, aunts, and so forth, all did. Nowadays you can buy squares pre-cut, in nice neat little packages. All the quilts I own have material in them that I recognize, from my old Granny's flour sack dresses (she was very thrifty, and in those days, flour came in nice cotton that you could then use to make clothing out of). They have squares from clothes I wore when I was little (and that my mother used), or from things that my daughter wore. I like this kind of quilt best.

[I can tell this is going to be a multipart comment.]

I have used the old quilting frames, and I miss those days. When your raw quilt was ready to be quilted, a group of women would all get together and quilt until it was finished. (Cf quilting bee)

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I have an older sister (different branch of the family, actually a half sister) who does it the more modern way, and even teaches classes on quilting (among other things). If you have the right kind of machine, it does all the work for you that used to take that group of women.

I'd take classes if I were you, or at least find others who are doing it. I think that it won't matter so much whether you are doing it my way, or my sister's, as that you have others to lean on, at least in the beginning, so that you can get a solid start, and not become discouraged.

Supplies will include good cotton batting (for the guts of the quilt), plenty of squares, a pre-planned design (that one is IMPORTANT), and plenty of white thread. I hope others will also chime in here.

Oh, you didn't say what kind of machine. Does it already quilt?

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Start small. You don't want to get overwhelmed and not finish your first project. My first quilts were crib-sized wall-hangings or baby quilts. With that size, I can either hand-quilt or use my regular sewing machine. Anything larger and I pay someone else to do the quilting. I also machine-piece everything.

As for supplies: a self-healing mat, a good rotary cutter, quilting pins, and some quilting rulers are a must. (Okay the cutting mat doesn't HAVE to be self-healing, but it will last a lot longer.) Most of my supplies came from Walmart and work well enough for what I need.

I made my first quilts using designs from the book "More Fat Quarter Quilts" by M'Liss Rae Hawley. http://www.bookfinder4u.com/IsbnSearch.aspx?isbn=1564773914&mode=direct It gives general directions and also contains instructions for 8 different projects. I've done 3 of the designs in it: Island Star, Strait of Georgia (but cut the size in half for baby quilts), and Triple Rail on Point.

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@shrdlu: My dad made me a quilting frame. He cut notches into 2 lengths of 2x4, screwed them onto sawhorses, and used my old stilts for the cross-pieces. I sewed 4 sleeves (not exactly but don't know what else to call them) out of old blue jeans and stapled one to each piece. Best of all, everything comes apart easily. The stilts and sawhorses can still be used for their original purposes.

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Can't recommend enough a decent set of adjustable quilting finger pads. They come in leather, plastic, etc. Also a magnetic needle holder, or a long magnetic wand. You'll appreciate it when your quilting pins get knocked helter skelter. Also,you might think about having a placein your house where you can leave your projects without having to pack them up and put them away on a daily basis. A nice long table and a smaller iron helps too.
Welcome to the dark side. We have fat quarters!

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@shrdlu: Is it awful if I don't know what a quilting frame is/does? I will have to research this.

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@shrdlu: I am planning to start VERY small, baby quilts or things like that. Can books/websites be as helpful as going to a class? I am so antisocial. I honestly don't know what kinds of features my machine has, I believe it has a "quilting foot" but other than that, I will have to pull out the manual.

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@msklzannie: Thanks for the advice on tools. Any recommendations on good brands or what size mat to start with? I wouldn't want to waste money on cheap tools, I just don't know which to pick. Do you think that "More Fat Quarter Quilts " would be better than say, this book by the same author: http://www.amazon.com/First-Quilt-MLiss-Step---Step/dp/1571204660/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1296858723&sr=8-1 ?

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@lavikinga: Thank you for the tips. I would never have thought of a magnetic wand but that sounds so helpful. I do have a work table, and I can't wait to get my hands on some fat quarters.

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@mitchie: Go buy that book right now, then come back. Amazon says that there's only one left in stock. You should be the one that gets it. No sense having to wait, right?

[Edit] Here is the canonical site for excellent frames (machine and hand quilting are both offered).

http://www.graceframe.com/

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Also, I am considering this book, because having a finished product in 90 minutes appeals to my need for instant gratification: http://www.amazon.com/90-Minute-Quilts-Projects-Make-Afternoon/dp/0896893251/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1296858788&sr=8-1. Or is it all lies?

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@shrdlu: You're persuasive. The book is now mine!

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@mitchie: Excellent. I don't think much of that second book. Just go with one for now.

[Edit] On the site I just referenced, here are the handframes.

http://www.graceframe.com/site/handframes

Here's a helpful discussion so that you can choose the one that's right for you. I'm of the belief that it's better to learn how to do it by hand, first (and you say you are starting small, anyway). These are the best.

http://www.graceframe.com/site/handframes/choosehand

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@mitchie: This is what I use.

http://www.graceframe.com/site/hoops
http://www.graceframe.com/site/hoops/srhoop

I actually use it for Petit Pointe, but it's meant for quilting small items. I do not recommend this purchase unless you just like to collect things (I do), since it will not be helpful with larger quilts, and is meant for small art projects, really.

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@mitchie: Ok, 90 minutes. You realize that only exists in a perfect world with sparkly unicorns, right?

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@mitchie: I think all her books have basic instructions for new quilters. The one you found has a lot of the traditional blocks in it. Either book should be ok.

My mat and rotary cutter are Fiskars brand. I believe my rulers are Omnigrid. (They're currently hiding from me.) My first mat (not Fiskars or self-healing) was 24x24. My current one is 24x36 (looks like the price has nearly doubled at Walmart since I bought mine).

It looks like Walmart has the best price at $21.99 on the 18x36 Fiskars self-healing cutting mat when you include shipping (free site-to-store). http://www.walmart.com/ip/Fiskars-Self-Healing-Rotary-Cutting-Mat/12335959

If you decide to go with the 24x36 mat, Overstock has it the cheapest at $32.99 plus $2.95 shipping. http://www.overstock.com/Crafts-Sewing/Self-healing-24x36-Rotary-Cutting-Mat/3127974/product.html

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@lavikinga: :( I figured it sounded too good to be true. shrdlu agrees with you as well.

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you have your main tool. The internet. The quilting world is so huge and there are so many different styles of quilting that it can be difficult to focus. Research the type of quilting that calls to you and then you can begin to gather the most basic of tools that are common to nearly all styles. As for the actual quilting, that's going to depend on you. Don't buy costly hand quilting frames if you're atracted to machine quilting. I love hand quilting and prefer $20.00 oval lap hoops.But that's me. I machine quilt kid's quilts. so research before spending a bunch of money. Although if you get hooked, believe me when I say money WILL be spent. So enjoy!!

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You could always save the trouble and just buy paper towels that are already quilted.

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I don't know about quilting, but in my experience, a hammer can usually fix a lot of things, and if a hammer can't do the job, a bigger hammer usually can.