Budget Quilting, Part One: The Tools

This post is actually what made me want to start a blog. I've been mulling over this topic of "budget" quilting for a while now, and it's something that I haven't seen talked about on the numerous blogs I follow.

First, an overview of my quilting so far - I started in January of this year, during a time when my husband was unemployed, we had numerous bills, and we were tentatively planning a move out of the city. In other words, a terrible, terrible time to take up an expensive hobby that seems to require a lot of tools. It is now May, my husband has gainful employment, we made the move, but we still have next to no extra money. I feel like this whole process has helped me to become very resourceful, and has made an enormous impact on the quilts that I am making and plan on making - my whole quilt style, essentially. I realized as I was writing this post it was becoming unwieldy, so I feel like this will end up being a three parter, just a heads up!

The first block that I made was a scrappy trip-along block. The only tool I bought was a 9"x3" quilting ruler, and I found a fabric store local to Arizona that has giant piles of cotton fabric scraps for $4/yard. I had a pair of great fabric scissors from when I attended college for fashion design, so I just used those, drew some lines, cut them out, sewed it...yikes.

I'm sure you can see the problems for yourself...

So, I realized I needed a couple more materials. I saved up for a rotary cutter, which helped, but not having a square ruler was killing me. Plus, I couldn't afford a mat, so I had to find alternatives at home...usually just the table underneath the fabric (it's not a great table, don't worry! No furniture was harmed!). Early last month, I was finally able to get a 12.5" square ruler and a 24"x18" self-healing rotary cutter mat (both at about half price, otherwise there's no way I could've afforded them), and I am on it now. My seams have a chance at aligning! I can cut in a straight line with no fear! Magic!

Armed with these tools, I feel I can accomplish quilting. I know that I don't need anything else. There's a couple of things that I feel I could benefit from, such as a smaller square ruler for my hst's, or a longer rectangle ruler, or a triangle ruler maybe. But I recognize that those are luxuries and not necessities. In essence: if you are a beginning quilter with not much to spend on hobbies, invest in a large, square ruler, a rotary cutter and a self-healing cutting mat, and possibly a rectangle ruler (I would say at least 24" long, if you really want bang for your buck). The rectangle ruler is sort of a luxury too though, quite honestly, I use my square ruler for everything. The larger rulers and cutting mats are incredibly expensive, but since you can use them no matter the size of your quilt block, you don't need to get a dozen smaller rulers in varying sizes. Just get them on sale! Joann's 50% sales or coupons are the way to go.

Fabric-wise, I rely on my local SAS Fabrics. That place is amazing. But more on that next post!

Do you have any thoughts about this matter of "budget" quilting? Any experiences or wisdom to add? I'd love to hear it! Being a new quilter myself, I could use as much guidance as possible ♥


  1. I feel you on the expense, but then I think back and our grandmother's didn't have loads of money to blow on a "hobby" either, they used bits of fabric or flour sacks and still managed to make beautiful things.

    I love scrap quilts, and save almost everything since I feel like throwing the bits away is like tossing out money. I don't have lots of fancy rulers, notions either, but my only recommendation for saving money is to save for the good stuff if you do buy anything. No sense having something that's not quality that you will have to replace/fix because you use it all the time. Might cost more up front but it will save in replacement costs (I bought a cheap rotary cutter. It sucks).

    1. That's what I love the most about quilting - the roots are so humble and so expressive. I used to hate the look of scrappy quilts, until I realized that the look isn't really the most important part of the quilt, it's the meaning behind it. The journey of taking what you have and assembling it into artistry is very applicable to my everyday life, and I like thinking that I'm carrying on a thrifty tradition :) Plus, I think it's a little easier now-a-days to get caught up in wanting more "things" for your hobby - being new to the scene, it can be overwhelming a little. At least it seemed that way to me! It took me a while to reconcile want vs. need when I wasn't very educated in quilting.

      Investing in good quality is very important, it's true. I didn't buy a cutting mat until I could get like, a huge self-healing one, which took forever but was completely worth it! What rotary cutter do you have? I have a fiskars, it probably was one of the cheaper ones, and I can't decide if it's any good or not (which probably means it isn't very good, huh?). It works though!

    2. Hi I just wanted to add about rotary cutters. They are really a personal preference. I have several different "makes" and I usually use just the one I love the most. In my opinion there are several on the market with lower prices that are very good. A self healing mat is a MUST for quilting, which I see you purchased, as I did from JoAnn's with my 50% off coupon. If you ever frequent thrift stores or Goodwill , every now and then you will find one that has not even been used for a steal, but don't wait for that, if you find one stash it for later when the first one wears out, as they do WEAR OUT, with much use. I say spend your money of the best you can afford, fabric, tools etc. You will be happy with the end result. Also you can find many free patterns on the web. I particularily like Quiltville Quips and Snips blog since she has so many good free patterns. Enjoy the journey.