Every time I get a new quilt student I see their eyes glaze over in shock when we talk about how expensive quilts can be to make. I’ve developed a new shock therapy that snaps them right out of that dazed look: I teach them some money saving skills that encourage and challenge them to make beautiful (but expensive-looking) quilts when quilting on a budget!
In this article I’ll go over some of the most expensive aspects of quilting and offer tips on how to save money in each of those areas.
Classes can be expensive but are often necessary especially if you are a beginner. Consider how difficult it can be to start a craft with little or no information! Classes provide the information, support, and guidance that you need when starting a new project. Luckily, there are alternative ways to get that help if you think outside the box a bit.
First, do your homework. Look for quilting books at your local library or do an online search for patterns that you can download for free. An online community, website, or blog that offers tutorials and support (like National Quilters Circle!) can be a great way to get inspiration and answers to your quilting questions.Also, check out these informative, and FREE! quilting videos here at National Quilting Circle!
Next, check to see if there are any local quilting guilds or sewing circles that you could join. Depending on the size of the club there may be small dues required, but they are often far less than formal quilting classes when trying to learn quilting on a budget. You will find invaluable support and camaraderie among the other quilters in the group who will be able to share their own expertise with you.
Along a similar line, try to find yourself a quilting buddy. Someone you can learn from, share ideas with, ask questions, and – hopefully – borrow from as needed. If you’re a beginner, a trusted friend will be able to show you the core basics of quilting, like properly pressing and matching seams.
Before you can begin quilting you need to consider the tools you will need: a sewing machine, cutting mat, rotary cutter with extra blades, rulers, needles, thread, fabric of course… just to name a few. But don’t let this discourage you! If you have quilting friends the chances are better than not that they will be happy to share with you as you get started.
You can also frequent thrift stores for supplies or use coupons and discount codes. Many chain stores have 40% off coupons to be used on sewing notions and/or fabric. (Hint: did you know most chains like JoAnn’s will accept competitor coupons?) My students generally do their sewing at my studio using my tools, so this could be another possibility. I don’t mean taking a class from me – the airfare alone would increase your quilt price! – but rather finding an instructor who would have the tools needed.
So now that we’ve figured out some quilting techniques from friends and resources and borrowed our supplies, now it’s time for patterns and fabric. Whether you’re a beginner or a more experienced quilter, here are some ideas for keeping your pattern and fabric budget in check.
1. Go shopping in your closet. Instead of taking those unwanted clothes to your nearest Goodwill or Salvation Army, throw them in the fabric pile! (As long as they are 100% cotton.) What is old clothing but pieces of fabric anyway? Look for patterns or colors that you think will look nice in a quilt.
2. Ask a friend. Lean on your quilting friends again and see if they have any scraps or leftover pieces they wouldn’t mind parting with. One idea would be to organize a scrap-swap party: everyone brings along their scrap basket and you can spend an afternoon trading scraps.
3. Check the linen cabinet. Do you have any textiles hanging around the house? Old pillow coverings you’re not using anymore? Don’t be afraid to use them as these are great for getting a start when quilting on a budget.
4. Head to the thrift shop. You may find tools and fabric here, but you’ll also find good clothing, bedding, or other linens whose fabric may be perfect for your next quilt.
5. Check online. When it comes to patterns, tons of websites offer free downloadable ones. Your favorite fabric line may carry some too – try checking out their website. A lot of sites will have libraries and archives full of free goodies, whereas other ones will offer a free pattern of the day or week. Here are some good ones:
6. Shop the clearance rack. When all else fails, head to the quilt store and check out their clearance racks. If you have a coupon, even better! Though check to be sure you can use a coupon on already-discounted items.
7. Solids over patterns. Did you know solids are often marked at a lower price than patterned fabric? When buying new fabric try to incorporate some solid colors into your design, especially for a larger project. Remember to bring small swatches of fabric with you as this is the best way to match your fabrics.
8. Avoid batting. And while you are at the store, you may want to check out the batting to see if anything’s on sale. If you don’t feel you can afford batting, you can always use flannel between the top and bottom. This is not typically the preferred method and will not be as warm, but you can sometimes find a basic flannel at a low price. Rag quilts are often made with flannel instead of batting as it makes the fringe fuller.
9. Piece your backing. If you are quilting on a budget, don’t buy backing fabric. Instead try piecing your leftover strips and squares together to make your backing. Remember, your backing needs to be 8 inches wider and 8 inches longer than your quilt top if you wish to have it quilted by a longarm quilter.
We all know sewing machines can be expensive. Not everyone has one, no matter how much they would like one. If you feel up to it, you could always hunt around for a good quality used machine. It may need to be serviced or repaired a bit but that shouldn’t be too expensive. If you are unable to locate a machine, don’t be afraid to sew by hand. And regardless if you have a machine or not, it is not necessary to hire a long arm quilter when you are done piecing your masterpiece. There are many ways to finish your quilt: you can tie it with yard or pearl cotton, you can machine sew straight lines, or hand quilt straight lines.
Most importantly, don’t get discouraged by a tight budget. When learning quilting on a budget, any quilt you make will be beautiful and beloved because it was made by you, no matter how much money you put into it. Quilting can be an expensive craft and art form, and a couple money-saving tricks here and there can really add up over time!
Watch those pennies, and happy quilting!
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