Elizabeth Betts is the author of Beginner’s Guide to Quilting: 16 Projects to Learn to Quilt and she runs the Quilty Pleasures online shop and quilt studio in Brighton. (They look like they have lots of fun sewing in the studio!)

The Beginner’s Guide to Quilting is a great introduction to quilting and patchwork, full of lots of pretty, basic projects you’ll love.

Today Elizabeth joins us for Quilting Month to share how to successfully quilt on a budget! We’d love to hear your tips too in the comments below. How do you make the quilts you love with a budget that works for your family?

Be sure to take a look at Beginner’s Guide to Quilting for more from Elizabeth. She is also offering an online course at the end of the month through Creative University, Beginner’s Guide to Quilting. The course is appropriate for new quilters and teaches essentials with over two hours of video tutorials, PDF lesson downloads and a study guide with techniques and more. In addition to Elizabeth’s book you can find crafting and sewing book titles published by David & Charles (F+W Media) in the Stitch Craft Create sewing and book shop.

Thrifty Quilting

Hello, I am Elizabeth Betts from Brighton, UK, and Happy New Year to you! From my studio, Quilty Pleasures, I teach workshops, sell a small range of quilting supplies and design quilts. I get a lot of beginners coming to my classes, and one of the things that surprises many of them is how much it can actually cost to make a quilt (this is no surprise to us seasoned quilters!). So being January, the time of year when the pennies are tight, I thought I would share with you some of my tips for quilting on a budget…

1. Right here at number one, how about the original thrifty patchwork technique, using clothes and home textiles? I have been known to check if the fabric is 100% cotton before buying a skirt, as I knew I would eventually want to cut it up. I usually cut alongside the seams till the garment is all laid out flat, then cut out the patchwork pieces. If the fabric is thin cotton, or a mix of fibres, I always press some lightweight fusible interfacing on the back before piecing as it helps if the fabrics are the same weight and do not stretch. I usually keep this technique for quilts made from simple shapes such as squares or bricks. Don’t forget old sheets for the back too…

Hand Sewing
2. If you want to try quilt making, and don’t have access to a sewing machine or budget for a rotary cutting set, do not despair. Try some English Paper Piecing or American block piecing. While being slower than making a quilt on the sewing machine, both techniques are portable, and perfect to sit and sew on journeys, in front of the TV, in your lunch break… All you need to start is some fabric, a template, and a basic hand sewing kit.

Shop Wisely
3. Be a savvy shopper and keep an ear out for sales and discount codes. Charity/thrift shops are an excellent place to find old books, and quilt guild exhibitions often have a sale table that is a good place to find haberdashery. I have picked up gems such as large pinking sheers, acrylic rulers and patterns cheaply from these.

4. How about setting up a quilting swap with friends? Simply set a date and a place, then everyone who brings along something to swap gets a raffle ticket that can then be exchanged for another item. If you want to double it up with raising money for charity then set a small fee for each item to be swapped– under a dollar– and sell teas, coffee and cakes. Remember, one person’s unwanted item is another person’s treasure…

Don’t Forget Your Scraps
5. If you have a cupboard bulging full of fabric, make a scrap quilt. They are good for the wallet as well as for clearing out the fabric closet… A virtuous project!

Get Organised
6. This is particularly important if you are going into the tempting territory of a quilt shop/quilt show. Planning your projects means you know what you need to buy, so won’t be tempted by that big box of bargains you don’t need, or that block of the month you don’t have time to do! If you are buying fabric for a quilt in progress, make a card with small pieces of fabric already bought stapled to it. Then when you see a fabric you like you know whether it will go with it. I know some very disciplined people who work out their budget and withdraw cash before going a quilt show, then leave their cards at home.

Don’t Forget the Solids
7. I love prints, however some of the really lovely ones can be at the higher end of the fabric price range. Sales are all very well and good, but you want to use the latest fabric. This is where solids come in. Most fabric companies sell their solids at a much lower price than their prints, which means you can mix prints and solids to bring down the price of a project (and solids look great too!). Alternatively, just use solids; this works great if you like quilts with a modern feel.

Share Equipment
8. If you really want something a little pricey but cannot afford/justify the cost, such as a die cutter, buy it with friends or suggest your sewing group buys one to share.

Buy in Bulk
9. Many shops discount wadding (batting) if you buy a whole roll. If you have space to store it, then in the long run it works out a lot cheaper, plus you don’t have to keep buying it every time you finish a quilt top. The same goes for fabric; if you use a lot of a certain fabric, for example a particular solid, ask your local quilt shop if they would do a discount if you buy a whole bolt.

10. These can really add to the cost of a quilt. Extra wide backings are a lot cheaper than buying standard 44” wide fabric and joining it together. The choice of prints used to be quite limited, but I have noticed some really good prints coming out recently. You can also piece your backing from fabric left over from the quilt top (this also looks really good). Also, linking to Tip #6, take your swatch card shopping with you. Then, if you see a sale bolt that matches the project, buy it so it is there ready to use.

11. Classes are really enjoyable and a fantastic way of learning a new skill, but they can be expensive. If there is a group of you who want to do a class try contacting the tutor and arranging your own venue. The class can work out cheaper, and it can be a way to catch up with friends when you would be paying for a meal out anyway!

12. Finally, if you have just had to pay for a new boiler/car service/poorly pet and you really want to get on with some sewing have a look in the WIP pile. If you have been quilting for awhile there is likely to be something in there for you to work on (hand quilting is great for times like this) until your bank account looks healthier!

So those are my tips! If you have thrifty quilting tips do share them in the comments below for others to read.

Learn more about Elizabeth’s work at Quilty Pleasures and the Quilty Pleasure blog.