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Quilting is expensive but does it have to be?

Quilting Is Expensive–But Does It Have To Be?

Do we make it more expensive than it needs to be?

This is all going to be my opinion and mine alone. 

Most quilters I talk to agree that quilting has become very expensive, the fabric is expensive, the sewing machines are expensive, all the tools and gadgets are expensive and then add on the quilting and yes it can be expensive but there are ways to make it less expensive. 

Let’s look at how our predecessors managed before all the latest and greatest we have now? How did they make beautiful quilts that we now honor as heirlooms and put in museums? They didn’t have the fabulous fabric lines that came out every season just for quilters as we have; they didn’t have the rotary cutters and cutting mats or the die-cutting machines that we rely on. Quilters used to cut quilts out with scissors and sewed them up either by hand or with a treadle or simple electric sewing machines, I have even seen hand crank sewing machines – try to sew with one of those and get a perfect scant 1/4” seam allowance. They used whatever fabric they had from making clothes or after the clothes had been outgrown or damaged. I have vintage quilts that have fabric from curtains and table cloths in them and feed sack and clothing fabric and they are all beautiful in their own way.

Quilters used to make do with what they had and created functional and beautiful keepsakes. Maybe modern quilters can learn from that.

Bonnie Hunter of QuiltVille is the scrappy queen of the internet and uses clothing and yardage in her quilts. If you haven’t visited Bonnie’s blog you should, she has books and patterns for sale and free patterns, and tutorials, she also hosts a free mystery quilt sew along every year and has live online quilt along called Quilt-Cam as often as her travel schedule allows and a long list of back videos to watch. I enjoy turning on her videos when I am sewing; It makes me feel like I am at a sewing retreat with friends.   

Bonnie quilted my first large quilt years ago and my son now owns that one. I haven’t ever met her in person though and I am not affiliated with her in any way I just think she has a lot to offer. 

This is one way you can save money while still enjoying your passion.

Times are changing for the quilting industry.

It does’t mean we can’t still continue to create amazing quilts and quilted items.

Here is a great blog post I found about it.

Fabric collecting and quilting - two different hobbies.

I stopped stocking up on fabric when I downsized in 2013 when I moved in with my daughter. It was a mutual agreement since we had limited space and I have kept up with only buying when I have a use for it even though I have more storage now. 

Fabric collecting is the most expensive of the two and that is why I choose to not be a fabric collector anymore.

Here are a few ways to save money and still be able to quilt.

Photo by Marcus Loke on Unsplash

Sewing machines and supplies.

Do you only buy them new and from the local quilt shop? If you can afford to then sure I am all for supporting your local small business, I own a small business and appreciate everyone who trusts me to quilt for them. But if you can’t afford to shop at the local store and can find what you need online or even at a different store, then I say go for it. Do what your budget can manage. 

How about the latest and greatest sewing machines that do everything but the dishes (if I could find one that did the dishes I would buy it) or do you buy an inexpensive one or maybe a vintage one? I own an entry-level Bernina that is at least 18 years old and still running strong; It has 30 different stitches and I use 3 of them (straight, zigzag, and occasionally, I will use the blanket stitch for applique).  It doesn’t have a needle threader, thread cutter or knee control, and I survive without them. I purchased a walking foot and loved it. When this machine dies as I am sure it will since it has an electronic motherboard, etc. I plan on buying an inexpensive machine or a vintage electric one. I would love to find my moms old Morse Zig Zag sewing machine, I loved that thing it would sew anything from lace to leather and would be perfect for quilting. 

I will admit, I have no desire to quilt on a treadle machine like the one in the picture but you can, Bonnie Hunter of QuiltVille uses one sometimes on her quilt cam sew-along.

Another option is to buy a refurbished sewing machine, most sewing machine stores sell trade-ins and they are perfectly good sewing machines they were just traded in for a newer and often with more features.

Photo by Manlake Gabriel on Unsplash

Brick and mortar quilt stores, online quilt stores, both or neither?

Brick and mortar quilt stores, online quilt stores, both or neither?
I find it sad and sometimes infuriating to see how much more expensive things are when promoted to quilters. I know; they differ slightly from comparable items marketed to other markets. I get it; they have more middlemen than a lot of other markets do and they also buy in smaller quantities so they don’t get the bulk discount a lot of big places would. And often creative and resourceful people will see an idea that someone came up with and start packaging them and marketing to quilters – at a much higher price than you can get elsewhere, good for them, they are entrepreneurs and marketing something that some people will want.

Let me give you two examples: Magnet for anchoring your quilt top when floating on the longarm (I know this doesn’t affect anyone but the longarm quilters but is a good example) you can get them at Harbor Freight for $4.99 and I saw them at the quilt show in Chicago this year in I believe it was the Gammill booth and they were selling for over $10. Another example: these handy tool holders – I found them in the makeup section at 5 Below for $5.00 but the same thing at quilt shops run anywhere from $9 to $15, yes they have different things printed on them but they don’t affect the use at all. I posted the makeup brush holder on two Facebook quilting groups and got a lot of flack because I wasn’t supporting the local quilt shops and I should be ashamed of myself. Nope, I will never be ashamed to be a smart shopper. This little thing isn’t necessary, but I wanted one, a friend gave me one and that was so sweet of her but I wanted one by the longarm and I have one on my desk for pens.

Let’s address if purchasing local or online. Online shopping has become a huge business now and many people shop only online and some do it occasionally, then there are some who refuse to shop online. It’s OK to shop online many of the online quilt shops are small business also and deserve to support also, some either started as brick and mortar stores and expanded or closed their store and went online. You can get great deals online because if they don’t have a brick and mortar store then they have less overhead than your local store does. 

So buy what you want wherever you can get the best deal, or go ahead and buy from the quilt store – whatever fits your budget. And don’t forget – none of the two things I mentioned are needed to quilt, they are just extras.

magnet tool bar from Harbor freight
magnet tool bar price Harbor Freight

Magnetic tool holder used to keep tension on a longarm quilting machine when you are floating the quilt top.

makeup organizer

The pink and black and pink and white ones that say URBAN butterfly were purchased at 5 Below for $5.00 each, the white and teal one is from a quilt shop and probably cost anywhere from $9 to $15.

Quilting is expensive but it doesn't have to be if you don't want it to.

I hope you found something helpful in this rambling blog post. The bottom line, in my opinion, do what brings you joy and is in your budget if that is buying the biggest and best and the most then I will be happy to live vicariously through you :). If you wish to limit how much you are purchasing – for whatever reason then I will be happy if you found a little bit of inspiration to do that.

And as I said at the beginning, this is all my opinion and some possible ideas. 

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