Let us begin by gathering only the most essential of supplies in order to embark on our quilting journey. After all, before you invest hundreds or even thousands of dollars in supplies and tools for this craft, you will want to know that you actually enjoy quilting before you spend a lot of money.
First of all, you will need a sewing machine. If you do not already have one, acquiring one may seem like an intimidating task. Do not feel as if you must purchase a new, top-of-the-line sewing machine. Do not even feel as if you much purchase a new one. There are perfectly good used ones that are waiting for new owners.
A friend of ours recently bought a 60s-era sewing machine for $5 at a yard sale; it works absolutely wonderfully. Generally speaking, sewing machines that have all metal working parts and gears are among the more reliable machines. Also, these types of machines can be fixed, should something go wrong. (The cheaper machines are not always fixable.) If purchased new, these types of machines, on the low end, typically start at $200-$300. I will not even begin to discuss with you the various brands, models, etc. That is a blog topic all its own. I will, however, suggest a walking foot or even feed foot, for your machine. It will be next to impossible to sew through all layers, without misfeeding your fabric, without a walking foot. There are tutorials on the Internet for determining what type of shank you have (low, high, slanted), and what type of walking foot you will need. Depending on your machine, you may need to purchase a foot specifically for your brand of machine.
Second, you will need various smaller tools. Make sure you have a good pair of scissors, a rotary cutter, a rotary cutting mat, and a rotary cutting ruler. Some sewing or quilting stores sell these items (minus the scissors) as a package. These items, once you acquire them, should only be used for sewing and quilting. (Hide them from your family; they will think that they can use them for cutting paper, hair, food, foam, etc.) Miscellaneous tools that will also be needed are straight pins and a curved hand needle.
Now you will need to select some fabric and bonded batting. For your first project, we will keep this VERY easy. Select two-yes, just two-100% cotton fabrics that you like. For example, we chose an embroidered denim and a pre-quilted fabric in a coordinating color. You may even consider choosing a solid and a print that coordinate with your home decor. When you choose your fabric, make sure that you have coordinating thread and a coordinating embroidery floss as well. For this first quilt, you will only need 1.5 yards of each fabric. For the batting, you will also need only 1.5 yards, and it must be bonded. You can either buy it by-the-yard, or there is packaged batting that is 45 inches x 60 inches. This size will work if you do not have two pieces of fabric wider than 45 inches. If even one of your pieces of fabric is the standard 44/45 inches, this prepackaged batting will work for you. I'd recommend 100% polyester, or a polyester/cotton blend, in a low or medium loft. As you become more accomplished, you will develop a feel for what you prefer in batting.
Before you start, make sure you wash your fabric. You need to know before you begin to sew if your fabric will shrink or bleed. (Hint: If you cut the edges with pinking shears, your fabric will not fray in the wash. Don't worry about the selvage edge; it will not fray.) Remove the fabric from the dryer as soon as possible and iron it. Lay your fabric flat, one piece at a time, and square up your fabric. There are a number of tutorials online which will give you some assistance with this procedure. Admittedly, it is not of the utmost importance for this project that you square up your fabric, but it is a process which you will definitely be using as you become a more accomplished quilter.
Find a large, flat surface on which you can lay out your fabrics and batting, in preparation for pinning and sewing. If your fabrics are two different widths, then you will first work with the smaller piece. Cut off the selvages, and this will determine the size to which you need to cut your larger piece. Cut off one selvage of your larger piece, then lay it out with the smaller piece, matching all sides of the larger piece to the smaller piece except for the selvage edge. Cut this edge down so that both pieces now match. If your fabrics are the same size, you will still follow the same basic procedure.
Pick up your fabric pieces, and now lay your batting down. Lay your fabric pieces on top of the batting right sides together, and cut the batting down to match the fabric. You should now have three layers-two fabric layers and one batting layer. Carefully pin around the edges of the three layers to hold them together. Don't be afraid to use a lot of pins; too many pins are far better than too few. Leave a 12 inch gap between pins in the middle of one of the short sides.
Take your pinned layers to the sewing machine. Make sure you have attached the walking foot. Starting to the left, or below, the gap (when you put the fabric under the presser foot, the gap should be behind the foot, and the pinned part should be in front of the foot, nearest you), put the presser foot on the fabric and lower the pressing foot. The batting should be facing down, and the fabric side should be facing up; otherwise, the batting will get caught in the presser foot. Take a few stitches, backstitch a few stitches, and then sew around the perimeter of the layered fabrics. When you get to a corner, stop with the needle down in the fabric, lift the presser foot, turn the fabric 90 degrees, lower the presser foot, and continue to sew. You should remove the pins as you sew; do not sew over the pins.
When you reach the side where you began sewing, sew up to the gap, backstitch a few stitches, then stitch going forward a few stitches. Cut the thread and remove the piece from the sewing machine. Cut the four corners at a 45 degree angle; this will make it easier to turn. Do not cut through the stitch line. Now go ahead and turn the quilt inside out, making sure to poke the corners out as you smooth the quilt out. When you have done this, you can turn the edges of the fabric at the gap to the inside, and sew the opening closed. Sewing the gap by hand will make for a more invisible stitch line. If you must sew by machine, match the top thread to the top fabric and the bottom or bobbin thread to the bottom fabric, and sew as close to the edge as you can.
For this quilt, you will merely tie it down by hand. You will not worry about actually quilting it. Thread the curved needle with the coordinating embroidery floss. Every 6 inches or so (or follow the batting manufacturer's recommendations for spacing between stitching), insert the curved needle into the fabric and bring it back up within a quarter of an inch of the entry point. Do this until the entire quilt has been tied. This will keep the batting from migrating.