"...for we put the thought of all that we love into all that we make" ~ J.R.R. Tolkien

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Stretching The Fabric Budget

I was reading Crazy Mom Quilts post about fabric, and all the comments (more that 225 of them!) and I wanted to share the ways I buy my fabric.

I have to admit it- I only use top-quality fabrics in my quilts. I know that our foremothers made quilts out of whatever they had, and they were gorgeous. And that's great! If scrap quilting is what makes you happy, then go for it.

I love the high quality and lovely feel of quilt-shop quality fabrics. I have had heartbreaking results with fabrics from places like Joann's and Wal-Mart. The quilts on my bed tell the story- one of them, made with all fabric from Joann's, has fabric shredding, the binding is falling apart, and it's faded terribly. The other, made around the same time, is all quilt-shop quality fabrics. It's in beautiful condition. It looks like I just made it, even though it's 5 years old!

I am fortunate enough to be able to afford the quality fabrics. But even though Hubby and I have a more than adequate income, we are still careful with our money- we do want to be able to retire someday! Every purchase, every shopping trip is considered before it's made, to make sure we are not being foolish with our money.

Here are some ways I stretch my fabric budget:

1. Check out clearance sections in quilt shops for backings. Most of my quilts are backed with top-quality fabric that I got for $4/yard.

2. Shop online. I'm sorry to say it, because I'm usually all about supporting the local businesses, but I can usually find fabric online for 1$-3$ less per yard than in the quilt shop. Etsy is a fantastic resource for fabrics. Some of my other favorites are quilthome.com, fabric.com, and besewhappy.com. These websites offer free shipping over a certain dollar amount, and coupons off your whole order or a specific fabric collection are frequent (especially at QuiltHome!).

3. Buy small pieces! I used to buy yards and yards and yards. However, I have found that I can do just as much with fat quarters! This is especially true when you combine them with a solid, and solid fabrics, even the good quality ones like Kona or Moda, are usually cheaper.

Charm squares and layer cakes can also be stretched pretty far! I have made several quilts out of 4 charm packs and some yardage, and they are among my favorites! And the total cost of fabric, batting and everything ends up less than $100.

4. Trade! That fat quarter of whatever in your stash that you don't really want anymore? I bet there's someone who wants it. There are several fabric trading groups on Flickr, and they are a great way to get fabrics you want using fabrics you already have!

5. If it's possible for you, work in a quilt shop!! I worked in two, and it was so much fun helping people pick out fabrics, cutting and playing with fabric- and getting an employee discount :)

6. Think about it first!! I have a "2 week" rule that I apply to most new fabric collections- there have been exceptions, like the "Deer Valley" line from Joel Dewberry. I ordered that the day it came out! But for most fabric lines, I look at it, ooh and aah over it, and then sit for 2 weeks. I think about what I might make with it, and look at the prints, and consider it. Usually, by the end of 2 weeks, I really don't want yards and yards of each print anymore. I'll pick out the ones I really, really like, buy fat quarters of them, and stash them.

7. I buy all my notions, rulers, rotary cutter blades, pins, and most of my batting at Joann's when it's 50% off. Don't buy notions in a quilt shop. Joann's has the same stuff, and you can get it at a MUCH better price. That gives you more money for fabric!!

There are lots of ways to be frugal, and still quilt with the best! You just have to be creative about it.


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