Quilting on a Budget

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:

Free Quilt Patterns

Fons & Porter

United Notions

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!

Get in touch! Leave a comment or email editor@nationalquilterscircle.com.

Discussion
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32 Responses to “Quilting on a Budget”
  1. Alice B

    Re: A sewing machine. This can be a non-starter for some people, maybe because they can’t afford one, don’t know how to choose one, or are just plain intimidated by the idea of using one. If you want to explore quiltmaking without a machine, look into English Paper Piecing. Most people are familiar with this technique being done with small hexagons (Grandmother’s Flower Garden), but other shapes can also be used. It’s done entirely by hand, it’s very easy to learn, and it requires only the most basic sewing notions (needle and thread, scissors). You can cut your own papers, but the pre-cut papers are inexpensive and readily available. So, you don’t even need a sewing machine.

    If you don’t want to go that route, and you can’t afford a machine, be aware that some libraries and vocational centers have machines to lend or to be used on-site. But usually you can find a used machine at a yard sale or on Craigslist. A machine from the 60s or 70s will do fine.

    Reply
    • Cassie

      I was going to suggest looking for machines at yard sales or resale shops. I Haven’t bought a new machine since the 1970s, but have owned probably 12 or 13 all from yard sales. If you wear them out or break something expensive just discard and get another. ( I sew for a missions group and usually make about 200 dresses a year, plus my quilting so I use machines up regularly.)

      Reply
  2. Debbee

    Hi – I enjoyed this article. I’m a seasoned sewer, started out seamstress turned crafter now quilter and still some clothing. It was great to see an article showing quilting doesn’t have to cost an arm and leg!!! I have one daughter that sews, a second one I’m trying to get involved and a nine year old granddaughter that just got her first machine for Christmas. She started her first quilt at my house in October. So exciting. Thanks again for an encouraging article. I just joined NQS last week and am looking forward to seeing what you have to offer.
    Sincerely,
    Debbee Carlson

    Reply
  3. Connie

    I hesitate to sign up with you because all the video previews I have watched, have such a low volume audio that its hard to hear all the instructions. I have volume on the video and also on my computer turned to maximum. I’m not hard of hearing

    Reply
    • National Quilters Circle

      Hi Connie. I’m sorry you are having problems with the volume. Besides the volume on your computer have you also turned up the volume button on the video itself in the bottom right hand corner? If you are still having problems please give our customer service team a call at 1-855-706-3538.

      Reply
  4. Pam

    Love the article. My grandmother would turnover in her grave at the cost of making a quilt. Hers were made from scraps from sewing projects and out grown clothes. “Batting” at times were old shabby blankets given a new life as filler. And just as beautiful as the ones made with the “perfect” materials.

    Reply
  5. Brit

    I got a sewing machine a year ago and have built up my set of quilting tools since then. Instead of buying tools you supposedly needed, I learned to identify the “pain points” and added tools that addressed them. This way I do not end up with stuff that looks like they would be good to have, but never used.

    Reply
  6. sharon

    your arrival was great I do handwriting but was glad to be reminded about using flannel for batting so far that is all I spend money on no one I know is allowed to throw out old sheets or jeans

    Reply
  7. Judy

    Great article, even though I have been quilting for several years, it always helps to be reminded where to get less expensive materials from, remind your readers to check bazaars and such as they may have someone who donated fabric after the death of a loved one who quilted.

    Reply
  8. Mary Aubuchon

    Loved this information. Teaching beginner kids, & was very helpful on how to keep the cost down

    Reply
  9. Mary Aubuchon

    Loved this article as I teach beginners, & it gave me information on how to keep the costs down

    Reply
  10. Dee

    Great article! Don’t forget to check those thrift shops for sewing machines as well. Many a wonderful machine can be found there! Irons, too!

    Reply
  11. Sandy

    I use well washed sheets for quilt backing, ask friends if they’re downsizing or try charity shops.

    Reply
  12. Ann B

    My retired neighbor keeps an eye out for garage sales and estate sales that advertise fabric and sewing. We’ve been able to pick up tubs of fabric and notions for a few dollars (however you may have to take the whole box). I’m also blessed that our church has a sewing ministry with a fabulous sewing room. I sewed my first quilt because of those ladies’ encouragement and advice. They are very open to teach eager learners of all ages and it’s great to try different equipment and learn new techniques all while having fun and contributing to a good cause.

    Reply
  13. Nancy

    Very nice article. You have some great ideas for sourcing fabrics. I’ve always pieced my quilt backs—I think it makes them more interesting.

    Reply
  14. Jeanie

    I wish I had known some of this before I began trying to quilt. Got a new sewing machine and thought I had it all. What a surprise———now two years later I have a lot of needs but now my wants list got longer. I like this Quilting on a budget. The actual quilting is what is expensive here.

    Reply
  15. Debra Woodward

    I love the article about quilting on a budget. I did some of the items mentioned when I first started. Wish I had the complete list back then.

    Reply
  16. Agnes Maiuro

    Enjoyed reading your article about quilting on a budget. I’m in the planning stage of a quilt for a nephew with autism and have been researching how to weight the quilt for him. The pellets suggested are not practical for him (he picks at his blankets), and buying another piece of fabric to weight the blanket will add to the cost. I decided to shop the thrift stores and look for a flannel sheet or even a linen sheet I could cut to size and sandwich in with the batting, or even forego the batting and get two flannel sheets instead. Cost effective, not as warm as batting (a necessity), and providing more weight. Thanks for stimulating my brain!

    Reply
  17. Gloria Wilhelm

    Great ideas. I love discarded plaid shirts. Also make a family quilt with discarded clothing from family members. Makes a great memory.

    Reply
  18. Lora Duvall

    Our local cooperative extension office has machines you can come and use, I used my kids old sweatshirt hoods to cut up for batting, and I frequent thrift shops too. I bought my machine reconditioned which cUT the price in half online, but I have picked up a couple at church rummage sales too. There’s always a way!

    Reply
  19. Toni Susoeff

    You’re 100% right about Guilds!! Our Guild has minimal $15 year dues and we learn so much!!! The more experienced quilters are always happy to answer the questions of beginners, we even have free of charge workshops. Definitely check on any Guilds that may be in your area!!

    Reply
  20. Jen

    Love these reminders! I go to estate sales and purchase mattress pads or protectors and use as batting in my comfy quilts. I trim off the elastic part and just use the top. They stay together beautifully.

    Reply
  21. DeAnna

    I have a question to ask I have a blanket that I got at a garage sale the only thing is it needs the edge done what do I use for that .

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello DeAnna,

      I would recommend adding a simple binding to the edge. This can be one you make or you can buy pre made binding.

      Cheers,

      Ashley
      National Quilters Circle Video Membership

      We’d love to have you be a part of our community. We are convinced you will enjoy the benefits of becoming a member and having access to the best instructional how to videos and professional tips. We would like to offer you a special promotion for your first year membership.
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  22. Natalie Kearney

    Don’t forget shopping at Goodwill for flannel or cotton sheets for backing. They have great sales!

    Reply
  23. Roxanne Musselman

    When I do a rag quilt I try to find flat sheets on sale or in really good condition at the local thrift store.

    Reply
  24. Dianna Allard

    This was very interesting and informative. I enjoyed the tips and look forward to reading new articles. Another tip for quilting on a budget is to use bedsheets for backing and shop any church and senior center sales in your area. I also go to my local Salvation Army Thrift store where according to the color of tag, I can buy great pieces of clothing for $.50 a piece, to repurpose. ( I buy the largest pieces I can find to cut up for sewing and/or quilting. )

    Reply