Quilting on a Budget

Quilting on a budget text

Every time I get a new quilting 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.

Quilting classes

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.

Tips from quilting experts

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.

Quilting supplies

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, and fabric, 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 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.

Patterns and Fabrics

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

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 longarm 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.

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77 Responses to “Quilting on a Budget”

  1. Susan

    I have some comforters that are past their best, with
    tops and backing fabric no longer in great shape. One idea I had recently was to cut these up for batting and make new tops/bottoms from all my scrap bits and pieces. I think they’d make good bedding/blankets for the local animal shelter.

  2. MJ Thames

    This is great information. Our grandmothers used the less worn parts of old clothes to make quilts all the time. Many of these still survive today. I buy a lot of fabric, but sometimes I love the print on an unworn garment so much I cut it up to put in a project. Thanks for sharing that idea!

  3. Vicki

    Thank you so much for this article!! You shared ideas that I have never thought of before! I can’t thank you enough 🙏🏼

  4. Bonnie

    Very good info thanks… I have almost given up on quilting because of a very tight budget. But I feel greatly encouraged.

  5. DJ Truland

    Most guilds have fabric closets that members use to make donation or care quilts. Although you won’t be making a quilt for yourself, if you are new to quilting, opportunity is there to be able to practice and make something that will always be appreciated. Guild members will be available for help and weekly or monthly “sew” days are often scheduled. Many even have machines or other tools available to learn on.

  6. JENNIFER Standlee

    Don’t forget that quilting began as a way for people to take care of their families when NOBODY had any money. Our early relatives reused worn out and outgrown clothes to peice together quilts, rugs, and other items with little more than a needle and something to cut with. They even pulled threds from the fabric to sew the pieces together. We get caught up in feeling we need fancy machines and special fabrics to quilt. Quilting was born of necessity with the ingenuity our relatives had to employ and it is THOSE pieces that prompted most of us to begin our quilting journey.

  7. Ranju Sharma

    very useful article especially for a beginner on a very tight budget. Thank you

  8. Eileen Patterson

    I enjoyed reading the article. Lots of good advice here. A place to go for lessons and inexpensive fabric is a quilt guild. There are a few in my area with low yearly fees that offer great classes, incredible fabric, and friends. Worth checking out.

  9. Jackson

    I am a somewhat seasoned quilter & loved this article. We always want the best & greatest, but for me this article reminds me that those things are not a requirement. I might head to the thrift stores today with hopes of finding some XXL name brand men’s shirts & some flannel sheets. I loved the idea of using flannel instead of batting. I have neuropathy and it is difficult for me to sleep under quilts with batting due to the weight. Flannel may be the answer to my dilemma. Thanks again.

  10. Marie Royds

    This is a great article. I’ve been sewing forever but quilting has such comfort in making something from the heart. These tips have helped me too. I just joined a guild and their knowledge and sharing is so helpful.

  11. Kathy

    You can check out your local senior center, many times there are free quilting groups attending there and they will share their skills. They also have large tables to lay out quilts on when making the quilt sandwich.

  12. Kathy Fasenmyer

    Great helpful article. Used a sheet from Goodwill as backing for my last quilt project and loved the soft texture that was so easy to quilt and, of course, the joy of extreme cost savings. I also use men’s shirts for fabric, the stripes and mini plaids are perfect in scrappy quilts. Just finished a Hawaiian shirt quilt for my husband using old Hawaiian shirts that he no longer wore and thought he was donating to a good cause over the years, but they were going into my “quilt it some day” box. He was wonderfully surprised. Thanks for the great articles, I am new to NQC and enjoy poking around your site.

  13. Paula Cole

    Thank you for your thoughtful comments. As a seasoned sewer but a very ignorant quilter, I appreciate your hints. Wish I was in an area that I could have a quilting buddy!

    • Julie

      Hi Paula, I too would like a quilting buddy! I am in Indiana. Are you anywhere close?:)

  14. Carol

    If you don’t have a sewing machine, ask the group where you are taking the class. I know my group has 2 machines that can be used by class participants. You might find a machine if you watch your local Buy and Sell site or at an Estate sale. For quilting it can be very basic – only need to straight stitch.

  15. Wendy

    It’s too bad we’re in a lockdown. I really want to get out to the second hand stores to scour them for cotton. I usually make all my quilts that way. I just finished a baby quilt for the arrival of my grandson this March. Before that, the last time I quilted we didn’t have access to the internet LOL

  16. Martha

    This is a great video! I hand quilted/appliquéd 30 or more years ago. I recently took an on line quilting/sewing course but it was 99% machine work and my sewing machine is about 40 years old and doesn’t do much except forward and reverse. Your video was full of helpful ideas to get me started on a limited budget as I am retired. Thank you!

    • Janet

      Martha, I know that your post is several years old, but felt I needed to answer you. I have a machine that my husband bought used over 10 years ago. It embroiders and has all kinds of fancy stitches. Ten years later, I still use the straight forward almost exclusively. Not even the reverse. Please don’t think you need a fancy machine!

  17. Phyllis Sabourin

    Ok now I understand. I am about to start a new quilt and the pattern says you can quilt as you go . How is that possible.

  18. Marilou Jacob

    One of my favorite money savers is to use a much washed sheet for the backing. It is big enough and has a soft hand.
    Also, I advise my students to begin their quilting journey with a wall quilt, baby quilt or perhaps a table runner. Small, doable projects.

  19. Jane

    I have found the best deal for batting is ordering from Walmart.com by the bolt. They have many varieties, great prices and ship to your door for free. Perfect when you live in the country and far from a quilt shop.

  20. Rhonda

    Loved all the great suggestions. I have made lots of clothing in the past, but just started quilting. Always need those “budget” ideas!

  21. swimmin.dragon

    My machine is currently being serviced.
    BUT.. I am still sewing as I have a machine from my local library!

  22. Denise Talbott

    I buy plaid flannel shirts from a local thrift stores for 25 cent apiece. The larger sizes have a lot of fabric and men’s shirt plaids are often prettier than yardage. I call these my utility quilts and really love them. Denim jeans makes great backings for picnic quilts.

  23. Sue Etherington

    Very useful article. It’s good to be reminded of things we know and learn more. I dressmaker and quilt. I always keep old bedding to reuse. Many of my practise dress makes have been on an old sheet, then once I’ve got the pattern right, the fabric becomes part of my scrap bin! I have also used fleece as the backing for a quilt which saves batting costs too, its particularly nice for children’s quilts. I also use crayons and draw out and colour my own quilt patterns rather than buy a pattern. Jean’s are never allowed to go to the charity shop, they make great robust quilts. Thanks for the tips

  24. Teri

    Don’t let not having a sewing machine stop you. I started my quilt sewing journey with a yardstick, a pencil, and a good pair of scissors. A dime store in town for fabric and a couple patterns from the newspaper for guidance, and I was hooked. Patience and passion go hand in hand.


    The quilting on a budget gave me some kind of ideas I hadn’t thought of plus a few of my own. I live in a building complex so I’m going to have the property manager put an email out to find other quilters since there is constant movement I will see if they have clothes they want to get rid of plus I might find another sewer and we can sew together. Awesome information thank you so much more tips would be great. I save everything I cut off like the edges of the fabric with the name of the design and of the designer I sew those strips together. I also save pocket fronts from shirts. I also check the recycling room for containers I can use to hold my projects in. So many ideas now. Thank you thank you. Lynn

  26. Susan

    I am severely deaf and wear one hearing aid and a Cochlear implant. I have no problem hearing the videos even without Cochlear on.. Are you sure its not your computer or the video sound?

  27. Glenna

    Two items not mentioned – (1) always put a label on your quilts showing when you made it, etc. (2) I have found at Goodwill that you can purchase a quilted padding normally used on a bed and use it for small projects. Goodwill usually has a 5 0% off day and you can get those for $1-2. I have made tote bags that required padding and I can get 3 purses from one bed cover. Lots of things you can convert to good use in your sewing room. Another option, use old blue jeans for projects. Thanks for article, very informative and helpful.

  28. 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. )

  29. 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.

  30. Natalie Kearney

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

  31. 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 .

    • 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.


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  32. 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.

  33. 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!!

  34. 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!

  35. Gloria Wilhelm

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

  36. 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!

    • Karen

      As to the pellets, if you line your pieced top with a clean sheet or muslin and then layer your quilt-backing , batting, lining and pieced top. Place the pellets between the batting and lining, it will be very difficult to feel or pick out the pellets….just a thought…works for my quilts for autism.

  37. 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.

  38. 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.

  39. 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.

  40. 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.

  41. Sandy

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

  42. 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!

    • Linda Knelsen

      I found my machine at a repair shop for cheap. I love it & because of repairs it came with a year warranty. I paid 125 dollars Can. for it 5 yrs ago.. still going strong. Remember to ask about warranty on repairs done & I’ve found going back to the same repairman allows for a deal here & there . They even took the time to teach me & let me sew on it before leaving the store for free. Loyal customers pay off. Great video. I have long ago bought an on sale quilt for batting as well using the top of it on the under side so the pattern does not interfere with my work on the quilt top I just sewed. I’ve also used flannel sheet for the backing. I just joined last week. I’m looking forward to learning the new quilting of today. I hope you’ll talk about thread soon and batting…I find batting confusing. Thank you for your time!

  43. Mary Aubuchon

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

  44. Mary Aubuchon

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

  45. 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.

  46. 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

  47. 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.

  48. 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.

  49. 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

    • 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.

    • Sue

      I had this problem too until I realize that there was another volume control on the front of my monitor. My grandkids had used it to turn down the volume.

  50. 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.
    Debbee Carlson

  51. 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.

    • 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.)

      • Customer Service

        Hi Gail,
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