For your first project you may even want to make a small quilt such as a wall quilt, table center, or pillow. One time when I was teaching basic quilting at a quilt shop a student wished to make a king size quilt for her first project rather than making the wall quilt or table center that was the planned first project. A very large project is not a good plan for the first quilt considering the large amount of time and expenditure for supplies. Start small and later you can make a bed size quilt after you are more experienced. All the basic techniques needed to machine piece, layer machine quilt a quilt can be taught on a small project. You will complete your project faster and with less material expense.
Students simply needed a few yards of fabric plus basic sewing supplies most of which they already own. Sometimes the quilt shop will furnish classroom supplies of rotary cutter, mats and rulers so beginning students didn't have to make a major investment in some of the bigger ticket items. Not only is your investment smaller but you can try different techniques and see if you really like quilting or another technique before you make a major investment into supplies.
Buy a basic quilting book with simple patterns or check a basic book out of the library. If you are taking a class buy the pattern specified or in some cases the pattern may be furnished.
Buy some Fat quarters -- a fat quarter is not a body part or a calorie laden coin -- it is simply a quarter of a yard of fabric that is cut 18" x 22" rather than 9" x 44". Same amount of fabric simply a little more usable size to work with -- especially if you are cutting a few larger pieces that maybe a 9" cut can't handle. Fat quarters come in color coordinated groupings so if you see a combination you like your colors are all chosen for you. If your pattern calls for larger pieces, buy accordingly. The staff at the quilt store will be happy to assist you in purchasing for your first project.
If you already sew, you will have basic sewing supplies such as scissors, seam ripper, pins and so forth. You may need template plastic or another product you don't have at home. Again check the supply list and buy accordingly. Most beginning quilt classes require a minimal amount of supplies.
So for your first project make a small quilt such as a table topper, wall quilt or baby quilt. If you keep your first project simple and small you are less likely to get discouraged. And if you don't like the particular method you have not made an expensive commitment.
Shop Hops -- Great Shopping And Great Fun
A shop hop is a group of quilt stores that get together and plan a date and agree to host shop hop during a particular week or extended weekend. If your local quilt store participates in a shop hop be sure to take advantage of this opportunity. A shop hop can be a good quilt outing and great fun.
Usually there is a fee to participate in the shop hop. The fee is ten to fifteen dollars and usually includes a sturdy tote bag, a pin, passport and other printed materials. Unless you are wearing a shop hop pin and carrying a tote you will not be eligible to receive the free items, enter drawings, or take advantage of sales specials at each shop. Some shop hops include snacks, bottled water, soft drinks, or fresh fruit at each stop. Again you will need to be a shop hop participant to receive these goodies.
Six to ten or as many as twenty or more quilt stores band together and plan a shop hop. The committee of shop owners prints a brochure with an itinerary and maps. A "passport" is printed so that it can be stamped at each location. When the passport is stamped at every store it can be turned in at the last shop and each participant is entered in a drawing for a grand prize. Be sure to fill out your name and address on the passport so you can be notified when you win the grand prize.
Each quilt shop will plan individual sales specials and a drawing for participants to enter. Take a small supply of address labels. You will simply have to peel and stick rather than writing out your name and contact information on the drawing forms.
A shop hop quilt is planned and individual quilt blocks for a sampler quilt are designed. Fabric is chosen and each store designs its own unique quilt block to coordinate with the other shops. Each shop will have a block kit available for purchase for a nominal fee. If you don't wish to purchase the block kits usually a printed copy of the pattern is available to shop hop participants at no charge.
Each shop will have designed a different setting for the sampler blocks -- including the blocks from all the stores. Be sure to look the finished quilt at each shop and if you like the setting at a particular store, request the setting directions at that store.
Keep notes on your shop hop store list. Note what was purchased at each store and price paid. Or retain your sales receipts and jot notes on them. Sometimes a few days later you may discover you'd like more of a particular fabric or an additional notion item. It would be a simple matter to phone and order more if you know the store name and location that each item was purchased at.
A shop hop is a chance to visit stores at a farther location than you would ordinarily travel. Simply traveling in a group in a private car or going on one of the shop hop sponsored buses is a great opportunity to visit stores that are farther than you might wish to venture alone.
Going On The Shop Hop In A Private Car
Gather a group of quilters and find someone willing to drive. When traveling in a car pool you will have camaraderie of other quilters and save on expenses. Quilters should agree on an amount to offset the driving expenses of the quilter who drives. Plan a day and mark your calendars for a great time traveling and shopping. Plan to stop for lunch at a nice restaurant or a convenient fast food option. Many quilters prefer to eat a quick lunch and have more dollars to spend on fabric and quilt supplies.
If you are traveling in a private car and not on a shop hop sponsored tour bus, try to plan your arrival at the shops to be at a different time than the tour bus. Ask at your local shop what days the tour buses will be running and plan to go on the shop hop on a different day.
Traveling On A Shop Hop Bus
Many stores offer a bus trip to all the different stores for a reasonable fee, certainly for less than you could drive your individual cars to all the locations.
If you are traveling on a bus remember that many passengers on the bus may want to get their passport stamped and pick up their free items as soon as they arrive. Many quilters will head for the restroom. You might want to go ahead and shop and then get your passport stamped and use the restroom just before the designated time to leave.
Some bus trip sponsors have a shop hop hostess on the bus and they will stamp your passports while traveling between shops. Also giveaway items may be picked up by the shop hop hostess and distributed later so bus passengers don't have to wait in line and can spend all their time shopping. After all shopping is the whole idea.
If you have never been on a shop hop take the opportunity to participate. A shop hop is a wonderful opportunity to check out some stores that might be farther than you would usually drive. You may find a store that you just love and well worth an occasional outing. A shop hop can be a great day of fun with friends. We all need a day of "retail" therapy. Have fun!