How to Quilt on a Budget

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Inside: How to Quilt on a Budget

It’s no secret, quilting can be expensive; but, it doesn’t have to break the bank. I have several thrifty tips that show you how to quilt on a budget.

How to Quilt on a Budget

I have this saying, “I used to sew to save money; now, I have to save money to sew.”

That saying doesn’t have to be true! I’m here to tell you that it’s possible to make beautiful quilts on a budget. All you need to know are a few thrifty tips.

How to Quilt on a Budget

Supplies Sources:

If you’re going to quilt, you’ll need fabric and few supplies. Don’t let the expense of purchasing supplies stop you. Rulers, cutting mats, and rotary cutters don’t have to cost a lot and some of them can be found for Free! The key is patience and a willingness to shop until you find the best price.

How to Quilt on a Budget.

Recycle, Repurpose, and Reuse:

  • How many times have you sent a bag of clothes to Goodwill or The Salvation Army? If your budget is super tight, you might want to take a second look at that pile of clothing and sort out any 100% cotton fabrics. Sort by color and look for patterns that might stand out in a quilt.
  • Visit a local thrift store. My Goodwill sells most garments for $3. If I buy a 2x-sized cotton dress it costs $3. If I buy an extra-large men’s shirt it costs $3. Look for 100% cotton garments in the largest size available. Don’t forget to check the linens section. Large sheets are excellent for quilt backing and (at my local Goodwill) cost $3-$5. And while you’re there, check for quilting supplies such as rulers and cutting mats.
  • Leave no scrap behind. Find a way to organize your scraps. I’ve heard people say they save anything larger than a postage stamp. That type of thinking will keep you quilting for a long time.
  • Check your own linen closest. Are there old sheets that need repurposing? Don’t toss them out or give them away. They are perfect for backing, binding, and piecing. Don’t forget to shop places like Walmart. You can get a twin size sheet for about $7 that will work great for a quilt back.

Additional Ways to Save:

  • Tell friends that you are looking for bargain fabrics and quilting supplies. When I was cleaning out my parent’s home, I wanted to give all of my Mom’s fabrics and notions to someone starting out. In the end, everything that didn’t get a new home, I gave to Goodwill.
  • Check Craigslist. I know a quilter who saw an ad for “a Sewing Room” on Craigslist. It included tables, fabric, and supplies. You never know what will pop up, but people who are handling an estate truly want someone to use their loved-one’s sewing treasures. Be patient, ask around, and jump when the opportunity arises.
  • Watch for sales and use those coupons. Download the Joann’s app on your phone and sign up for their mailing list. You will be able to use flyers AND online coupons at the same time. This makes buying things like batting in bulk a real bargain. Joann’s almost always has big sales around holiday weekends. Pencil them in so you can plan to buy big ticket items like a cutting mat or rotary cutter. I waited and got mine at 60% off with a store discount plus coupons.
  • Remember, it’s not always cheaper with a coupon. I occasionally find a better deal on Amazon. Before you head to the store, be sure to look online and compare prices.

Budget Quilting Classes:

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How to Quilt on a Budget.

Anytime you set out to learn a new craft you may need to take a class which can be expensive and time-consuming. Before signing up for a class, let people know that you want to learn to quilt. Maybe a friend can show you the basics.

Once you’ve moved beyond the basics, you’ll want to expand your skills. There are many ways to achieve this on a budget.

  • Join a Quilt Guild. Guilds are inexpensive and everyone there is interested in quilting. People share fabric, patterns, and skills. For the cost of annual membership, it’s a bargain. The best part will be the new friends you make. Most guilds cost somewhere between $25-$35 per year.
  • YouTube is also a good source for free instructions. That said, you do have to search around a bit and nothing is indexed. If you have more time than money, then this is a great way to learn new quilting techniques.
  • National Sewing Circle classes are an excellent sources for learning to quilt with many of the basics available for free. Study the available classes and then wait for the next sale.

Save on Fabric and Batting:

Thrifty Tips for Quilting on a Budget

The cost for things like fabric, batting, and thread can really add up. If you save up a little cash and shop wisely, you can keep your expenses low.

  • Buy batting by the yard when it’s on sale at chain stores like Joann’s. But, don’t limit yourself to these sales. You can purchase an entire roll of batting cheaper on Amazon than you can when it’s 50% off. And, shipping is free if you have an Amazon Prime membership. Bottom line – check around before purchasing. Coupon prices aren’t always the best deal.
  • Save those batting scraps; they can be zigzagged together to form a large piece of batting. I find it relaxing to create a large piece of batting out of a ton of bits and pieces. If you have an Edge Stitch Foot, it’s even easier.
  • While I personally love pre-cuts, the by-the-yard price for pre-cut fabrics is waaayyy more expensive than cutting fabric yourself. An average jelly roll costs around $40 and has about 2.5 yards of fabric. At a cost of $10 per yard of fabric, that adds up to $25 per yard. Yikes!
  • Make your own pre-cuts. While online sellers require you to purchase a minimum half yard of fabric, most local quilt shops are willing to cut smaller amounts. For instance, 1/8 yard will give you two strips that are 2.5″ wide. Let the quilt shop know that you are going to be making strips or squares. They will usually cut enough so you can get what you need.

Quilt it Yourself:

  • Lots of people like to “quilt by checkbook” but that can be expensive. An inexpensive walking foot and a straight stitch can create a beautiful quilt. If you can learn three or four quilt designs really well, you’ll never have to pay someone else to do your quilting.
  • You don’t need a fancy sewing machine to make beautiful quilts. There are a few budget-priced sewing machines that work fine for piecing and quilting.

Don’t Scrimp on These Things:

There are two things that I believe you shouldn’t scrimp on: Thread and Fabric. Instead, find ways in your budget to allow for purchasing these items and then use them up!

How to Quilt on a Budget.
  • Your quilt is only as strong as the thread holding it together. If you’re going to take the time to make a quilt, I believe you should spend a little more on thread. To offset the cost, I purchase large cones of 50 wt. Aurifil thread thread in two main colors. My favorite is a dove gray thread (#2600-Dove) that magically goes with almost everything. My second favorite is a white-ish thread in color #2021 (Natural White). I NEVER waste thread, instead I use all of my partial bobbins for piecing.
  • Invest in high quality quilting fabric. Fabrics from discount stores can bleed and fade after one wash. It would be a tragedy to have these cheaper fabrics bleed color all over your quilt. Instead, be wise with your fabric amounts and use every single scrap. Remember, those scraps cost about $10 a yard. They can always be used in another quilt.

As a hobby, quilting has a lot to offer, but the costs can add up if you’re not careful. Knowing where to save and when to spend means you can keep quilting for years. Share your favorite way to quilt on a budget.

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  1. Great post! There is a website called Thousands of Bolts and only One Nut that consistently has great quality fabric for $3.95 – $6.95 per yard. They have end of season or overruns first quality fabric. That is my go go spot for quilt backing fabrics. They often run sales for $3.95 shipping too.

    1. Thanks for sharing this site. One caution: lower cost fabrics may bleed. I would recommend washing it first to check for colorfastness.

  2. I have a couple of quilts uncompleted. The tops, batting and backing plus basting has been done but not the quilting. I have been sewing for 40 years but have a hard time moving all that fabric under a sewing machine, so I don’t. I’ve tried, had instructions, etc. Guess I am a candidate for hiring a professional quilter, think they are called long-arm machine operators. You are right, frightfully expensive.

    I have made quilts from scratch and quilted them myself using the lap method. However, in Philadelphia the summers are blistering hot and humid, so that leaves three whole months for a quilt to sit in a closet only to be forgotten. I found a quilt that was all ready to go and I just put it away for the summer and forgot about it for 10 years. My question is, is there any easy way to maneuver all that fabric under a sewing machine? What am I not seeing? I make my own clothes so I am familiar with sewing and machines. However, quilts delight me. The creative possibilities are astounding. I love color and once they are together, that’s it. Can’t use them. I know there’s tying, but I love the intricate quilt patterns I see in Nancy Zeiman’s catalogs. I don’t want to put any more money out on quilt paraphernalia and then fall flat. Any suggestions.

    1. Yes, longarmers can get expensive. I suggest you make some small quilt sandwiches and practice some simple stitches. Youtube has tons of videos on quilting. Find one that resonates and then practice until you get it right. Eventually, that large quilt won’t seem so difficult to quilt. For hand quilting, my mother used to have a free-standing quilt frame and she put a quilt on it and sit and quilt. It wasn’t fast, but she enjoyed the downtime.

    2. Hi Laura! If you want to quilt on a section that means the bulk of the quilt will be to your right, under the machine, roll that part up tightly then put a clamp on the roll to hold it. Nancy’s Notions has some – Soft Grip Quilt Clip Set. If you’re quilting on a section that means the bulk will be to your left or behind the machine – use another table, TV trays, whatever, to support the weight. I also always use quilting gloves. They make it so much easier to manage the quilt under the machine. Mine are made by Fons & Porter but Nancy’s Notions has some – Grabaroos Quilting Gloves.
      Good luck! I, too, have underdone quilts that need attention.

    3. A trick I use is to roll the excess on a splendid pool noodle (one on each side). It grips the fabric and makes things much easier to machine stitched without battling the bulk.

  3. I also shop garage sales – I get cotton florals/prints, shirtings/plaids, denim, flannel for .50-$1 per item and sometimes .25 for children’s clothing items. I get old blankets and use them as batting in quilts I donate to the VA. At garage sales, I ask if they have any sewing scraps – most people don’t think to set out sewing scraps.
    Also – look for swaps on forums – you can post that you have lots of floral to share and are looking for animal prints, for ex.
    And let seasoned quilters or knitters (like me) know you’re just starting out. Many of us are happy to destash for a newbie.

      1. Thank-you, Leslie! I am going to buy some cones of the thread you recommended. I am power-quilting this summer!

  4. Fantastic post… shared to my Facebook… Thank you for taking the time… although I live in the UK and new to sewing I loved the post so helpful

  5. Thank you Leslie!☺
    I love the tip about going through clothes before donating. Great idea! Will be doing that tomorrow! Have a wonderful day! Mary

  6. Loads of great tips here. I grew up sewing to save money, too. And as you say, now I save money to sew. I have found that sewing small batting scraps together work just as well in a quilted project, too. These remade battings can be used for placemats, table runners and such.

    I always heard that sheets should not be used for backing. But in my experinces with sheets on beds, I still use sheets from 1980 that show no wear and would be great for backings. Especially if we want to use the quilts at a picnic or the beach, etc.

    Thank you for the article.

  7. I make all my quilts in a frugal way – this is how quilting (or patchwork) was invented!! use old fabrics to make new bed covers. I just made a cushion cover (will make the cushion too) for my daughter who loves cats: a large cat block on each side (they are different), and all purples and pinks – the color of her bedroom. I often use older blanket for the batting and-or backing. My son’s wall quilt is made of men’s shirts and the backing is my husband’s baby blanket (it was fraying so this was a good way to save it forever.

  8. I’m pinning this post to my Pinterest page! Thanks for all of the tips. I’m new to quilting, but have done many sewing projects so I’m well aware that the cost of fabric and supplies can escalate quickly. My first quilt cost less than $30. I have a Crate & Barrel outlet near me. I scavenged through the remnants bin of their Marimekko fabrics and was able to find enough coordinating remnants to piece together a 5’x7′ throw. They sell their remnants for $.99/lb. Typically, this fabric sells for $50 or more per yard. I bought $2 worth of remnants and had plenty of squares left over.

  9. Why not tie the quilt if you cannot quilt the sandwich? I learned to quilt from a former home ec teacher on a budget. We learned to make cardboard templates and save every scrap of fabric and thread. The smallest were used for pin cushions. I save the thread used for basting on old metal bobbins to reuse. I started with a simple wooden ruler with a metal edge. I was able to make pillows and tote bags for friends and relatives before becoming overwhelmed with graduate school.

  10. Do not forget estate sales. If there is a sewing machine listed in the ad, there will likely be pattern, fabric, etc. Last estate sale I scored an omnigrid 9.5 inch square, a small cutting mat that fits right next to my machine as well as large bias tape maker, and the buttonhole wedge and wood block all for under 8 dollars.

  11. Thank you for this! I got interested in quilting recently, looked at books and instructions online, but got discouraged by the long lists of supplies each teacher says you must have before starting. You’ve given me some great ideas, particularly for using old sheets as backing and getting fabrics from old Goodwill clothes. Thanks for helping me start a new hobby and be at least a LITTLE frugal! 🙂

    1. Or buy a yard or two of your favorite designer fabric and buy the rest in a solid color Kona cotton. It usually sells for about $7 a yard and you can’t buy better fabric anywhere..

    1. No one has mentioned gift cards. When looking to make those thrifty coupon purchases at Joann’s. Ask for HIs for birthday and Christmas to splurge on quilting supplies.

  12. Here on vacation in Florida from the U.K. I must have sewing with me so I bring English paper piecing with me, using up scraps that I cut before I left home,, funny though, I need more fabric so Joann’s on Black Friday for fat quarters, scissors and notions and Walmart for batting are really good value..
    I Also make the raggedy quilts using old shirts and batting scraps cut into 6” squares, stitched on the diagonal, then stitched in rows, instructions on YouTube.

  13. I’ve seen the most beautiful quilts made with a needle , thread and a pair of scissors. Beware, you can’t hand quilt through a sheet.it might also tax an inexpensive plastic machine. I buy old metal sewing machines for $25 . They seldom break and a lot can can take the brutal job of quilting large quilts made of sheets.

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