Friday, March 6, 2015

But isn't quilting expensive?!

I’ve heard lots of people say that one thing that holds them back from trying quilting is that they can’t afford it.  They don’t have a sewing machine, they can’t afford to buy a large stash of fabric, supplies and notions are so pricey, instruction books and patterns cost too much, design walls are beyond their budget.  Well, let me assure you that, while you can definitely spend a small fortune on this hobby, it is not necessary, nor essential to drop large amounts of money to enjoy a creative quilting adventure.

1: Sewing machine
Sewing machines are amazing, it’s true.  But if you don’t have one, never fear!  I suggest you give English Paper Piecing (EPP) a try.  This is a technique that involves hand sewing, and yields fantastically precise and beautiful results.  And good news! It’s super easy to master. 

These are all the supplies you need to do EPP: needle and cardstock paper pieces, gluestick, needle, thread, fabric scissors, fabric.  That's a cheap startup!
2: Stash building
When you see people online posting pictures of their fabric stash, it very well might be that they have a large bank account to indulge regularly in huge fabric purchases.  But most often, it is the result of years of accumulation.  So find a collection you like, buy a fat quarter bundle, and set to work.  You can keep your scraps and fabrics you don’t end up using, and voila!  You have the start of your very own fabric stash. 
This is a fat quarter bundle of Sweet as Honey designer fabric.  It costs around $50, depending where you buy it, and you can sew a twin size quilt and still have left overs.  
3: Supplies and notions
It’s true.  If you want the best of the best, it will cost you a pretty penny.  And if you are deeply engrained in the hobby, by all means, indulge in a fabulous set of fabric scissors, or that huge cutting mat.  But for those of you just starting out, know that the mediocre pair of scissors will still cut fabric.  The on-sale seam ripper will still rip seams.  The walmart cutting mat and ruler will still measure correctly.  To start out, there is no shame in not buying the top of the line tools.  Upgrade later on if you find yourself truly wanting and needing the better set of tools.  Also, know that there are quite a few good DIY options for many of the “essential” supplies.  Just because you can buy laser cut hexagon pieces, and acrylic templates for EPP, doesn’t mean you have to.  It is so easy to print out the shapes you need on card stock and cut them out yourself.  And you can make your own templates for under a dollar! (I wrote a tutorial on my blog if you’re interested).

My $7 cutting mat, Walmart fabric scissors, cheapo seam ripper, self-printed cardstock paper pieces, and homemade fussy cut templates.  And I still manage to make nice things.
4: Instruction books and patterns
Um.  The internet.  You are already paying for it.  Use it wisely, and you can learn everything you need to know.  There are a huge abundance of patterns available for free.  And if you find a for-sale pattern that you absolutely must have, often you can purchase it as a pdf download for a lower price directly from the designer. 

Of course, sometimes you get the books for a gift, and those are good times!
5: Design walls
Okay, this is a nice little indulgence, but it is absolutely not necessary.  You can quite easily lay out a quilt on the floor or your bed.  Now, that being said, I am not going to lie.  The floor is full of pet hair, and the bed doesn’t give you a good head-on view to really get the feel of your design.  If you are lucky enough to have a bit of empty wall in your home, you can set up a design wall for under $10. Here's how:

  • Buy a picnic tablecloth.  The kind with a fuzzy back. 
  • Using pushpins, tack it to your empty wall with the smooth side touching the wall.
  • Now you have a design wall! 
The fuzzy back holds up fabrics so well, and you can get a hair-free, head on view of your quilt.  If you need a bigger design space, buy two and hang them side by side.  If you can get one with the checkerboard pattern on the front, you even have gridlines for lining up your blocks.  Easy peasy!
My design wall.  I could only find zig-zags.  Believe it or not, the picnic table cloth selection is a little lacking in the middle of winter in Canada.  
So please don’t let the perceived costs hold you back.  Just like in any field, you can absolutely find top-of-the-line equipment that costs top-of-the-line money.  But you can also find affordable options, and if you get creative, excellent DIY solutions.  

Post by Laura - Week #9:   Laura is an adventurous crafter who enjoys sewing, knitting, crochet, cooking, making cakes and blogging. Quilting is a relatively new string to her bow - but after quilting for little over a year she has completed three quilts and is working on a La Passacaglia quilt as a new project for 2015. Laura blogs and shares her crafty life at


  1. Another great way to get into quilting with minimal cost is to join a local group like Quilts for Kids. My local chapter has a monthly meeting where all you need to bring is yourself and a willingness to learn and make for others. We regularly hand over kits for quilt tops and for tote bags. The makers return the finished tops for another member of the group to quilt and then another for binding. All you have to contribute is time.

    1. That sounds like an amazing group! I haven't heard about them before, but that is an excellent way to try out quilting, learn something new, and help out kids! Thanks for sharing the information!

  2. Nicely written article that I hope people find who are interested in quilting. I would like to say that sewing machines don't have to be pricy. Really, not pricy at all! I went in shopping for one and I didn't want to spend a lot. I wasn't sure if I would like the hobby. And, honestly, I didn't want a bunch of bells and whistles with my machine. I wanted it to be simple and easy to use. I bought my Baby-loc Anna for less than $200! It does everything I need it to and it's great! I've had it for over a year now and haven't wanted to trade up at all!

    1. You are 100% right that you don't need a sewing machine worth a couple grand to still be able to make beautiful things. I don't have a super fancy machine either, but I love it, and it hasn't let me down yet! If you have a couple hundred, you can definitely find a machine that gets the job done! Thanks!

  3. Laura, What a well written article on getting into quilting! The idea using the table cloth is awesome!!
    Such a talented young lady !
    You inspire me!

    1. Thank you Laura, you're the best. Thanks for being my fan ;)

  4. Another design wall idea: a piece of white flannel with a casing sewn at one end and hung from a dowel rod

  5. My three antique Singers sew straighter than my ridiculously over-priced Bernina and not one of them cost me over $300 (including the sewing tables!).