Tips from the Thrifty Quilter
Want to know how to save money, save time, and help the environment? Just ask a quilter. Quilters are clever, innovative and environmentally conscious. They’re the ultimate recyclers. For centuries, they’ve been turning little throwaway fabric scraps into bed coverings that are both beautiful and practical. They’ve created showstopping applique designs with cereal-box templates and made spirit-lifting quilts out of grain sacks.
Today, we’re still looking for ways to spend our money-and our resources-wisely. So if you have tips you’d like to share, send them to the Thrifty Quilter at email@example.com.
This Week’s Tip ~
Quilting supplies don't necessarily have to come from a quilt shop. They can also be found at a hardware store, or in your resident handyman's corner of the garage or basement.
If you are "sandwiching" a quilt to be pin or thread basted, you can tape your backing to the floor using painter's or masking tape. The tape can also be used to mark your quilting lines on the top, as well.
When you are doing your machine quilting, use gardening gloves with gripper dots on the fingers and palms.
Fine sandpaper will keep your fabric from slipping when tracing applique or piecing templates, or when marking diagonal lines on your half-square triangles.
Wallpaper seam rollers can be used to "finger" press, especially when doing foundation piecing.
Choose from dowels in a variety of thicknesses whenit's time to hang your quilt.
Toolboxes and tackle boxes are a great way to store quilting tools and notions.
If you have a money or time-saving quilting tip, send it to the Thrifty Quilter at our new email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Helping our furry friends
Quilters are always thinking of ways they can help others.Some of those others are of the four-legged variety. Susan C. and Sue O. tell what they do for our furry friends.
"Scraps in an old pillowcase make great pet bedding for animal shelters. Reinforce the seams on the pillowcase; fill it with scraps; and when it is comfy-full, sew the end shut and drop it off at your local animal shelter. You'll be amazed at how many pillowcases you can fill in a year using those itty-bitty pieces of fabric." Susan C.
"I am the recipient of many trash bags of scraps from generous quilters around the MD/VA area. Upholsterers and other crafters supply even heavier case materials, some very luxurious—faux velvet, linen and suede. Over the past two years, I have made over 200 dog and cat beds for the rescue dogs of the Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation (Arlington, VA). We have many foster families for some of our animals who couldn't afford to supply each of their fosters with beds. In this way the animals have a bed with their scent that can go to their new home. Doing a Google search on Animal Rescue will bring the names of many worthy groups in your own area that would probably appreciate the beds.
"My two suggestions to extend the life of the bed: I use yarn ties, an old quilting technique, distributed across the bed. This keeps the stuffing from shifting during washing, and, to a certain extent, forming lumps. If not using a dryer, it is important to break up the wads of fabric scraps that will occur when washing before laying it out flat to dry. I also take old strips of trimmed batting and make 'sandwiches' between two larger pieces of batting. These also get the yarn-tie treatment, but shift less in washing.
"The fabric we recycle in these pet beds have another life, giving comfort to creatures who need a little TLC." Sue O.
Thanks to Sue and Susan and all of you who have sent along tips to share. If you have a money or time-saving quilting tip, send it to the Thrifty Quilter at our new email address: email@example.com.
If you're a quilter, scraps are a way of life; and it's not just fabric scraps that quilters have to manage. Every new project also generates batting scraps. If only little bits of batting are left over, you can use them to clean your cutting board and dust your sewing machine, and then throw them in the wastebasket. But usually the batting scraps are larger than dust cloths, and it would be a shame to toss them out, since the scraps have lots of uses.
Small batting pieces can be used for pillows, place mats, bags, eyeglass cases, coasters and pincushions. You can even stitch squares or rectangles together to create your own pillow forms. You can pull apart smaller batting pieces to fill those pillow forms.
Batting scraps needn't only be saved for small projects. They can have new life in quilts, too. Those pieces may be machine zigzagged or hand whipped-stitched together to create a quilt-size batt. If you overlap the edges slightly and rotary cut down the middle of the overlap, you'll have a nice straight edge for joining. Once your quilt is complete, no one will ever know that the batting was pieced. You can also join batting pieces easily without sewing when you use strips of 1-1/2"-wide fusible Batting Seam Tape (Item #8122). It's so soft that you won't know it's there.
So the next time you need to make a baby quilt, why spend money on a new roll of batting when you can create your own using the scraps on your shelf.
Scraps help kids
Every new quilt seems to generate scraps, even when the project is a scrap quilt! Often you buy or acquire just a few extra pieces of fabric for sashing, borders or just to have that perfect color in your quilt. All of a sudden, the project that was supposed to reduce your stash has actually added to it. So every now and then, it's good to take an inventory of your stash and clear out fabrics you'll probably never use. A wonderful way to recycle fabric and do a good deed at the same time is to pass your fabrics along to schools, day-cares, summer day camps, or children's groups, such as Girl Scouts and 4H.
Read how Maureen's and Kristin's recycling efforts are helping children.
"I have a container for all the scraps that I can't find a use for, and when it is full, it goes into a bag to be delivered to the local school for use in collages. I like to think the children will get a lot of fun out of my 'bits.'" Maureen
"I love to make pencil bags for my students, but money being a little scarce lately, I had to get creative. My husband had some old jeans he was going to throw away, because they could no longer be worn. I cut away all of the fabric that was usable for a rainy day. Bingo! I cut the fabric into 10" x 6" rectangles, embroidered the students' names on them and added zippers that I had bought on eBay several years ago for pennies a piece. I also had a yard or so of fabric that I had stashed from a bulletin board that I used for the other side of the pencil bag. Voila—24 pencil bags that didn't really cost me a dime." Kristin
Thanks to Maureen and Kristen and all of you who have sent along tips to share. If you have a money or time-saving quilting tip, send it to the Thrifty Quilter at our new email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Save Money and Recycle!
Julie wrote to us with all kinds of clever ways to save money and to recycle at the same time.
"Used 45mm rotary blades fit perfectly into a wide-mouth plastic medicine bottle. Don't throw blades away, though. [When doing] crafting projects [using] cardstock, cardboard, foam core, etc., old blades cut through them like butter.
"[If you find] great fabric, but you want 3+ yards to use for borders, share the fabric and the cost with a quilting friend. Cut the fabric lengthwise down the center. Win win for both of you.
"Hangers seem to crease fabric folded over them. I use old paper-towel tubes to make the roll over the hanger bar. Just slit the tube lengthwise; put over the bar; and use a few pieces of tape to close the slit up.
"For wonderful circle templates, I have an assortment of lids from yogurt, coffee, peanut butter jars, margarine tubs, cd's, etc. I make a line down the center, and a line across, like a plus (+) sign. This helps to line up where you want to place the lid. Draw around the lid, cut fabric or paper with scissors.
"Those stiff paper inserts that come with ads in magazines work very well for a temporary template! I have cut many into hexagons for English paper piecing.
"With the economy being what it is, practical hints mean even more money saved. And what do we do with saved money? Buy fabric, of course!" Julie
Thanks to Julie and all of you who have sent along tips to share. If you have a money or time-saving quilting tip, send it to the Thrifty Quilter at our new email address: email@example.com.
"Once upon a time, the first step in cutting out a quilt project was to trim off the selvage edges and toss those selvage strips away. Well, thrifty quilters have decided there are lots of good uses for those skinny scraps. Some just use them in the garden to tie up their tomato plants, but others have found a way to use them in quilt projects such as place mats and fun bags. Joy has another great idea.
"I read on an online quilting site that some ingenious quilters were saving the colorful and printed "selvedge" edges of their fabrics and stitching them into a variety of items. I tried it and made Christmas potholders to sell at our church bazaar. Potholders are small and easier to make than something larger. However, I did see a picture of an entire dress made from selvedge edges. The idea is that you cut off the colorful and printed selvedge with at least an extra inch of fabric (more if you want) so that part of the fabric is showing, as well.
I took my selvedge strips and placed the wrong side of a strip to a square of one-sided, lightweight fusible batting overlapping the strips but leaving enough visible so that each strip had some fabric showing. The fusible batting secured the fabric so that I could sew it more easily. I stitched the bottom edge of each strip to the batting. Then, added some heat-resistant batting such as insul-bright. That made 3 layers. Next I added a backing and stitched around the entire potholder, adding bias or straight grain binding depending on the potholder. Now, I have become a gatherer of selvedge edges...as nothing goes to waste in my quilter's den." Joy
Thanks to Joy and all of you who have sent along tips to share. If you have a money or time-saving quilting tip, send it to the Thrifty Quilter at our new email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Every Last Strip
"Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without" was an old adage that rang true during the 1930's depression. Leftover string beans and carrots went into the soup pot; outgrown dressesand trousers got made over for younger familymembers; and fabric scraps made their way into quilts that we've come to love today.
Quilters are still a frugal lot, and still do marvelous things with scraps. Diana tells what she does with the skinniest of strips.
"I have a sack hanging under my cutting table that I put the long strips from either cutting selvages off, or that just happen to remain from trimming. In the summer, especially, when I have plants that need [to be] tied up, or indoor plants needing extra support, those strips are very useful. You can color coordinate or have them contrast, but they are strong and softer to use on the plant stems. Right now, I have a strip helping hold some of my mums outside to stand tall and not fall over when it's raining and/or windy." Diana
Skinny strips are also great "ribbons" for wrapping presents or for making garlands for the Christmas tree. You can also add a little glue and wrap colorful strips around inexpensive plastic Christmas balls. Some folks even use the fabric strips for crocheted projects.
Thanks to Diana and all of you who have sent along tips to share. If you have a money or time-saving quilting tip, send it to the Thrifty Quilter at our new email address: email@example.com.
The Tiniest Scraps
One of New Hampshire writer Donald Hall's books, recounting summers spent on a New England farm, is entitled String Too Short to Be Saved, a title that refers to old-time Yankee frugality. Many a frugal quilter—New Englander or otherwise—would be hard pressed to decide just how small a fabric scrap should be to be saved. Read what Penny and Brenda have to say about saving scraps.
"For years I would put the cuttings from my quilts that were too small for other uses in a plastic grocery sack that I would hang over a doorknob in my sewing room. [I've now] started using a small white plastic trash can with a pop-up lid. Not only does it make the room look neater, but it is very handy, as I can move it around to the area in the sewing room where I am cutting or sewing. When it becomes full, I empty it into a large clear storage bag that I keep in the closet. It is easy to access when I need those scraps for stuffing pillows, dolls, etc." Penny
"Because I do a lot of craft bazaars and doll-clothes sewing, I often use fairly small fabric scraps. From the remnants of those projects, I cut and save assorted shapes for later use as needed, and I also keep a collection box on my cutting table at all times. Extremely small leftovers are tossed into the container to be utilized as filling for Barbie pillows and other small stuffed items. When the container is full, I dump it onto my cutting mat and use a rotary cutter to whack it into a fine confetti, which is perfect as an alternative stuffing for many small craft projects. Using this method, NOTHING goes into the trash!" Brenda
Thanks to Penny and Brenda for sharing their tips. If you have a money or time-saving quilting tip, send it to the Thrifty Quilter at our new email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some non-quilters may think it strange to cut up fabric in little pieces just to sew it back together again. Of course to quilters and quilt lovers, it all makes perfect sense. Julie tells us how she not only makes quilts from pieces of fabric, she actually uses fabric strips of all widths to make more fabric.
"You can make fabric! Okay, not [by actually] weaving, but [by doing] string piecing. [Stitch] long strings [of fabric] side by side, press well, and you have a nice size of usable fabric. Great for a string quilt, but you can also cut any usable normal shape from that piece."
She tells us you can cut regular squares and rectangles from the string-pieced unit, as well as appliques such as leaves and animal shapes. So be sure to keep a box of all those strips left over from rotary cutting. You never know when you might need to create a new fabric.
Thanks to Julie and all of you who have sent along tips to share. If you have a money or time-saving quilting tip, send it to the Thrifty Quilter at our new email address: email@example.com.
It seems so wasteful to just throw out that sturdy shoebox when you buy a new pair of shoes. Well, according to Erin, there's no need to when that box can be put to good use in the sewing room.
"Here is a tip that I find helpful as a beginner quilter and as someone who has pieces cut out for about five or six different quilts at a time. I use old shoeboxes to store the pieces of fabric for each quilt, once I have cut out the squares or triangles or other shapes I am going to use. Then, whenever I want to work on a particular quilt top, I just have to pull out the box, and all the pieces (and the directions) are sitting there waiting to be used. It really helps to keep me organized, without me having to spend a great deal of money on storage equipment." Erin
Pizza boxes (unused, of course) are great for quilters, as well. They're the perfect size for stacking up completed blocks, and Judie likes to use them when she's working on a project.
Whenever I start a new small project, I keep all the pieces in a pizza box until they are cut, sewn and pieced. I cut a flannel square the size of the pizza box and then use it to lay out the block correctly before piecing it. This has saved me many minutes I might have [spent] ripping if I had not followed these steps. Judie
Thanks to Erin and Judie and all of you who have sent along tips to share. If you have a money or time-saving quilting tip, send it to the Thrifty Quilter at our new email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Backings - the Economical Way
It sure helps your quilting budget if you can take a cost-saving approach to quilt backings, since you use more backing fabric than any other fabric in your quilt.
If you want just one fabric for the back, watch for the sales. Shoppers at our annual summer sale buy yards and yards of our sale fabrics for backings. It's definitely an economical way to go. Some quilters like to call attention to the quilt backing by piecing an interesting pattern on the back. Some will mix leftover blocks from the quilt top with large-size pieces of fabrics. Often a few strips of other fabrics are enough to join fat quarters or scraps that you have in your stash, so you can get away with not even buying any backing fabric for a project. Chris, from Brisbane Australia, tells us what she does for her backings.
"I try, where practical, to use the fabric left over from the quilt top, and piece the backing with those pieces. [I use] the same fabric back and front, using the bigger pieces, of course, to eliminate as many seams as possible." Chris
Thanks to Chris and all of you who have sent along tips to share. If you have a money or time-saving quilting tip, send it to the Thrifty Quilter at our new email address: email@example.com.
Repurposing and Recycling
Packaging, containers, household items—so many things can be put to work to help out the clever, thrifty quilter. Read a few of the ideas here.
"I asked my doctor's office for the end of a roll of paper used on the exam tables. It is great for paper piecing. You do have to hand trace the pattern, but it is easy to store and tears away easily. Best of all, it was free." Beverly
"Whenever I have to go for x-rays, I ask the tech if they have any old unusable films… They make wonderful template material.
"I also use clear plastic hinged containers from the produce department of the supermarket for my strips. I roll up similar colors and place them into the container. It makes seeing the color selection easy and keeps them clean. They stack up well too!" Dottie
"When I receive a magazine in the mail, I carefully cut one end of plastic that wraps it and slide the magazine out. I put all the different pieces of fabric I plan to use in one quilt in the plastic bag. It's easily visible and keeps everything together until I'm ready to start sewing." Lynda
"I have found that the fat prescription pill bottles are just the right size for discarded rotary cutter blades. I also put used needles in them. They hold a lot of blades and needles. The lid keeps the sharp items from spilling. And when full can be easily disposed of in the garbage. No fear of cutting yourself or getting jabbed by a needle." Vicki
Thanks to Beverly, Dottie, Lynda, Vicki and all of you who have sent along tips to share. If you have a money or time-saving quilting tip, send it to the Thrifty Quilter at our new email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Piecing Head Start
- Just as whipping up a batch of cookies is so much faster when you have raw cookie dough sitting in the freezer, whipping up a quilt can be speedy, too, when you’ve already pieced some of the units together. Julie tells us what she does to get a head start on her quilts.
“Recently I realized what a great idea it might be to pre-make up HSTs (half-square triangles). The size I use the most is 2” finished size. Being a true scrap-loving quilter, any good mix of colors, prints, etc., will work… Out came my handy-dandy Thangles packet for 2” finished HSTs. Wow, they are so easy this way. And Thangles is the best way to make accurate HSTs.
Making up HSTs ahead of time can save a lot of time when you want to charge ahead with a new project. Say you really like blues and whites. This could be the color mix you start making in the size you will use most often. Larger scraps might just mean you could also make HSTs to go with your smaller ones. In my case, I like the 2” finished one, so I would go up to the 4” finished.
Good way to cull your scrap stash as well as giving you a jump start. Ever need [a] quick table runner, baby quilt, etc., for a gift or swap? See what I mean? This has saved me time already. Hope it works as well for you.” Julie
Thanks to Julie and all of you who have sent along tips to share.If you have a money- or time-saving quilting tip, send it to the Thrifty Quilter at our new email address: email@example.com.
Storing those scraps and notions
- Organizing your sewing or craft space needn’t be an expensive proposition. Linda and Jan have economical ways of storing fabric scraps and notions.
“I store my scraps in the holder for the plastic bags from our grocery store. Only now I have even used my scrap material to make some of those [holders] to keep my scraps in. I have three of them, one [each] for darks, mediums and lights. They do really work, so I don’t have to stash [scraps] in my regular fabric area… My [regular] fabrics are kept in a huge, tall, refinished cabinet. It’s a gorgeous cabinet that my husband refinished for me, but even that only holds so much. My scraps can be hung off the back of the door in my sewing room, right near the machine and cutting table, so when I am finished with the project, there’s the hanger, and in goes the scraps.” Linda
“I have found that the M&M’s® tubes work well for storing bobbins after the candy is gone. Also, use the empty Tic Tac® containers for storing used needles or other small items, i.e., snaps, beads, or even buttons.” Jan
Thanks to Linda, Jan and all of you who have sent along tips to share.If you have a money- or time-saving quilting tip, send it to the Thrifty Quilter at our new email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- We’ve heard from lots of quilters who save every little scrap for dog beds. You’ll hear from a few of those animal lovers here:
“When those itty bitty scraps get just too small to use, instead of throwing them away, many of us put them into a pillowcase to be used for a shelter dog or cat’s new bed. Scraps of batting are also a nice, soft addition.” Deanne
“Keep your scraps that aren’t big enough for anything else, and stuff them in a pillowcase or T-shirt to make a pillow for our four-legged friends at the SPCA.” Paulette
“I make bedding for a local animal shelter from old towels and sheets, etc. I save every little bit of fabric scraps and use that to stuff the bedding (adding stuffing when necessary).” Gerri
Thanks to Deanne, Paulette, Gerri and all of you who have sent along tips to share.If you have a money- or time-saving quilting tip, send it to the Thrifty Quilter at our new email address: email@example.com.
Tips from Julie!
Julie wrote in with lots of great thrifty-quilting tips. Enjoy reading a few of those tips.
"When I am on a roll making pieces, I can sew one after the other assembly-line style. I use a medium-size container (I use a plastic sweater box without the lid) on the floor to the right of my chair. After making strings of piecings, they are tossed into the container. Doesn’t matter how many I get done. I keep working on that quilt using that container. That way all of the pieces are in one place, all ready for trimming, cutting them apart, etc. [I] decided to do this, because I would make HST [half-square-triangles], Four Patches, etc., and later forget which quilt they went with after putting that project aside for a while.
"Tired of your stash of scraps, etc.? Have a fun swap-coffee with some of your quiltie friends. I have a good friend who likes fabrics much different than the prints I choose. We have a great time going through each other’s scrap pile. You might like a tiny amount of something but not a fat quarter, etc. This is a good time to flavor up with someone else’s choices. What you can fit in a gallon-size Ziploc® [bag] works to ‘measure’ the amounts.
"What if you want to try some of the other battings without buying enough for a quilt. Ask friends to save some pieces for you, and you do the same for them. Make sure they put the batting name on the bags they give you… Great for smaller projects to see if you would really like a whole bed’s worth." Julie
Thanks to Julie and all of you who have sent along tips to share.If you have a money- or time-saving quilting tip, send it to the Thrifty Quilter
at our new email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fabrics, tools, notions, patterns—there are lots of things to keep organized when you’re a quilter. Hear how some of your fellow quilters manage.
“I like to use interesting-looking old honey jars, jam jars, or even bouillon-cube jars for bobbins, brass quilting safety pins, buttons, needle threaders, etc., all tossed in a wicker basket or on a cute wooden sewing-decorated shelf on my sewing counter.” Annie
“Use foam makeup triangle pieces for holding needles and pins. If you drop the triangle, the pins and needles stay in place. Very handy.“ Penny
“I have always kept a record of the quilts I make, name of the recipient of the quilt, a photo of the process, and a photo of the completed project. I used to do this with a purchased photo album, but that took up valuable space and time. I find that the computer works much better. I now keep a computer file of the photos of my quilts I have made friends and relatives. This saves on cost of photo albums, time, and valuable shelf space. I save a photo of the finished quilt, a photo of the quilt label, a notation of any embroideries I may have used, and also the measurements I used in making the quilt.” Dianne
“I save all bags (heavy vinyl, usually with snaps or zippers) from sheets, pillowcases, tablecloths, linens, etc. I use them to put the fabrics, backing, thread and pattern into for my own ready-to-go quilt kits.” Shirley Rose
“I keep a tin above my cutting table for selvage edges. Throughout the year, I go to that tin and use the colorful selvage edges for everything. It is much stronger than string; more colorful for tomato plants and not bothered by the weather. It makes tying up packages fun, and it is using something that would have gone in the trash.” Mary
“I store my spools on a hanging spool rack, the kind with the dowels. I place the bobbin on the bottom then put the spool of thread on top of it. This keeps them paired together, and if I have bigger spools I slide a drinking straw over the dowel and cut the straw to length. This holds the bobbin and spool of thread quite nicely. When I have bobbins with leftover thread on them, and the spool has been used up, I slip the bobbins over a drinking straw and stack them up. I do the same for empty bobbins, too. Everything is in one place.” Jane
Thanks to Annie, Penny, Dianne, Shirley Rose, Mary, Jane and all of you who have sent along tips to share. If you have a money- or time-saving quilting tip, send it to the Thrifty Quilter
Let's talk panels – panel quilts, that is! Making quilts from panels is fast, easy and so affordable. After all, you are only working with one piece of fabric for the front and one piece for the back. To make panel quilts your own, you could add pieced or appliqued borders using fabrics from your stash. If you want to make a crib quilt that’s a bit wider than the panel size, just stitch an inner and a wider outer border to the panel, and you’ll have a quilt that’s just the right size for wrapping up a little bundle of love. Since panels don’t take up much space in your stash, you could snatch them up when you see that they’re on sale, so you’ll have them handy when a special occasion is right around the corner.
Panel quilts are also a great way for practicing your hand or your machine quilting, since there are no seams to get in the way. If you quilt right along the edges of the printed motifs, you’ll create an illusion of real piecing and applique.
So, not only will you save lots of time and money by using a printed panel, you also have the opportunity to turn a simple printed piece of fabric into a very special quilt.
Santa's Workshop - When it comes to Christmas gifts, nothing beats homemade. If you need some ideas, read about some projects that are both clever and thrifty.
“I make seasonal wall hangings that will also double as table-toppers for my dining room table. I always buy enough coordinating material to make napkins or place mats, too, for when I use the hanging as a tablecloth.” Sue G.
“I love changing my guest bedroom decorations for the different seasons, but new quilts and pillows for every season?—not feasible! I have purchased a very inexpensive quilt that is red on one side and tan on the other and decorate around it. I purchase sweaters and T-shirts from thrift stores and make some really cute pillows from them to decorate the bed. Depending on who is staying with us, I make a special pillow for them to take on the plane with them as a reminder of their trip.” Sue F.
“Living in very warm Arizona, we don’t usually need the regular quilts with the batting in between the top and the backing. Instead of three layers, I finish the pieced top, and back it with a piece of polar fleece. Polar fleece comes in many different colorsand themes. It feels nice and doesn’t ravel. I either quilt the two pieces or tie them together. Finally, because the polar fleece doesn’t ravel, I either leave it with a plain edge, or I bind it. I now have a thinner, quicker and cheaper quilt by virtue of not adding the batting.” Taylor
“I belong to a sewing group in one of Florida’s RV parks. We made clutch bags from neckties. It was interesting to see how the ties turned out. It is unbelievable the transformation that takes place between a tie and a purse.” Fay
“My money-saving tip is using a collection of T-shirts from my son’s life to make a T-shirt quilt for him. For the lattice between the pieces, I cut up a worn fleece blanket. The only thing I had to buy was the stabilizer for each of the blocks, and the backing piece.” Kathleen
Thanks to Sue G., Sue F., Taylor, Fay, Kathleen and all of you who have sent along tips to share. If you have a money- or time-saving quilting tip, send it to the Thrifty Quilter
Sewing-space ideas: Quilters are certainly a resourceful lot. They’re brilliant at recycling and repurposing. Here are just a few clever examples from our readers.
“Need a larger and/or slicker surface to use when you free-motion quilt? I have a collapsible table that butts up against my sewing machine table. To make it even slicker, I put a flannel-backed plastic tablecloth on it, held down by binder clips. Works really well!” Julie
“Last year I got a box of valentine candy in a heart tin. Inside was the molded insert for individual candies. I keep it on my sewing table and fill each little indentation with buttons, beads, etc.“ Joyce
“Small (unused) pizza boxes make great containers for large quilt squares to store them in.” Brenda
“During the holidays, M&M’s candy is sold in a long tube that is just the right size for bobbins. My daughter recycled them from the grandkids’ Christmas stockings! They work great.
“I have a red plastic box that is about 12” x 18” and is full of little drawers. I bought it at a lumberyard. It holds bobbins, blades, you name it, and you can hang it on the wall.” Pat
“I repurposed my old dishwasher racks into cone-thread and large-thread spool holders. My husband put large cup-holder screws on a wall in my sewing room, and both trays hang in easy reach when I need to grab one. The silverware tray became my small-tools and marking-pencils caddy. I put a piece of polar fleece in the bottom of each section to protect my table, so even pointed tools can be safely held and easily found.” Dorothy
“I like collecting antique glass milk and cream bottles, pints, quarts, gallons, etc. I use them to hold buttons, hooks, knitting needles, ribbon. Easy to see what I need and useful for my antiques.” Cam
“I save the clear plastic boxes that berries come in.They snap at each corner and will not come open. They are ideal to put pieces in them as you cut out a quilt or project. One glance and you know what is in it. I also cut scraps into squares and half squares, label the box, and they are ready when needed.” June
“We live in Wisconsin, and the entire family fishes. I use the plastic fishing-lure boxes, which you can get for two for $3, and fill them with my spools of thread. They fit perfectly and are adjustable to fit large or smaller spools. I also use very small, bright-colored children’s hair bands from the dollar store ($1 for 100) that fit around my bobbins to keep them secure and [from] unraveling.” Kim
Thanks to Julie, Joyce, Brenda, Pat, Dorothy, Cam, June, Kim and all of you who have sent along tips to share. If you have a money- or time-saving quilting tip, send it to the Thrifty Quilter
Holiday ideas - Of course it’s never too early in the year to start working on Christmas presents, but there’s something about Labor Day that really kicks off our sewing season in earnest. Maybe the following ideas are just what you need to get those sewing machines humming.
“When I was a child, we had always received pajamas for Christmas, and now as a mother and grandmother, I have carried on the tradition. Each year I make everyone pajamas. Last year I decided to go ‘green’ and used the leftover scraps to make matching pajama bags for gift bags, which they can now use for pajama bags, laundry bags or toiletry bags. I set them under the tree without tags, and they all had a great [time] trying to pick out which bag belonged to whom.” Doreen
“I like to use extra blocks for doll quilts. My granddaughters don’t care if they are 12” blocks or 6” blocks put together. Sometimes a mis-sewn block is easier to remake than rip out. The extra blocks go into a box, and in short order, I have enough to make four dolly blankets for the four small granddaughters. Fat quarters that you don’t like make great backs and turn out to be just the right size for most babies.” Pat
“If you are cleaning out closets and plan to throw away old neckties, don’t! They make beautiful patchwork pillows. I have one made out of old silk ties, and it is beautiful.” Lois
“Two of my granddaughters requested tee-shirt quilts this winter. They had saved many shirts from school, church and trips over the years, not being able to discard them. They were having trouble picking out just which shirts were the most important memories to them. We decided to make the quilts double sided. This makes for a less costly quilt. No backing to buy, and the backs and sleeves of the shirts made the sashing and borders. The only expense was for the fusible interfacing to stabilize the knit fabric and the batting.” Sue
“I love making Christmas stockings using the counted cross-stitch patterns that come in kits. But these kits do not provide a lining for the stocking. I purchase holiday- and Christmas-motif fabric and then sew a lining for the stocking that matches the pattern that I made in cross-stitch. The stocking then has a meaning to the person whose name is on the stocking.” Beverly
Thanks to Doreen, Pat, Lois, Sue, Beverly and all of you who have sent along tips to share. If you have a money- or time-saving quilting tip, send it to the Thrifty Quilter
Let's get organized! Quilters are a resourceful bunch. When it comes to organizing all their quilting fabrics and supplies, they figure out all sorts of innovative—and thrifty—solutions. Here are few that might come in handy for you.
“I have lots of medicine vials. I use them to store small items such as pins and beads. If they are the size I need, I put in matching thread spool and bobbin. For spools of thread I will be using for handwork, I cut a small notch for the thread to come out.” Virginia
“I found a plastic toy-car storage case in the toy-car department at Walmart® for less than $6. It has compartments just the right size for holding a spool of thread and at least two threaded bobbins. It is easy to carry, see the color of thread, holds different size spools, and has 36 compartments on both sides of the case.” Aleea
“I have taken a medium-size tote bag, hung by a hook on the door jam or a stud, then add empty paper-towel rolls or empty wrapping paper rolls, and use it to store various stabilizers and paper-back fusibles. It’s always handy. I can take out what I need and put the rest back in its place, or take the whole bag down to audition for what I need.” Jan
“I, like many needle crafters, have a stash of long, sharp doll and tatting needles, crochet hooks, and similar tools. Storing them in a toothbrush case is a safe and convenient way to protect them and yourself.” Alma
Thanks to Virginia, Aleea, Jan, Alma and all of you who have sent along tips to share. If you have a money- or time-saving quilting tip, send it to the Thrifty Quilter
Time to get that holiday head start! The holiday season is much less stressful (and easier on the wallet) when you do your shopping or sewing throughout the year. When December arrives, all you need do is wrap up your gifts. (Some organized souls even do that in advance.) There’s nothing nicer than a handmade gift; and what’s even nicer is when you can make those gifts without a deadline looming over your head. So think about making totes, purses, little craft items and even quilts during the year, so you can spend the holiday with family and friends and not be tied to your sewing machine. The following tips can be a help in your early holiday shopping and sewing.
“Rather than using purchased materials for bottoms of purses and tote bags, I use plastic canvas strips that I have left over from other plastic needlework projects. This makes a very sturdy bottom. You can double them if you like and just hand stitch them together and cover with matching leftover material.” Carol
“I always have trouble throwing away those little bits of fabric that are left over from this project or that. Save all those small bits of fabric to cover a tin can or a jar. Depending on what type of fabric and/or trims you have, you can make a quite pretty decorated recycled item.” Candace
“When attending yard sales, ask if the owner has any scrap fabrics you can purchase. This brings about conversations about unfinished projects, and sometimes (if luck is with you), you’ll be able to purchase an old quilt top in need of a quick soak and loving stitches.” Denise
“Whenever I make a quilt, I save the scraps, and then I make a crazy quilt with them. I make a square pattern and cut each piece to that size. That way I can just make them whenever I have leftovers, and then at a later date sew the squares together. It is fun to see what I end up with.” Cynthia
Thanks to Carol, Candace, Denise, Cynthia, and all of you who have sent along tips to share. If you have a money- or time-saving quilting tip, send it to the Thrifty Quilter
Summer Sale time! The Keepsake Quilting Summer Sale has become an annual event for many quilters who don't mind waiting in line for hours on the first morning of the sale, because they know that terrific bargains await under the big tent. Here are some other great sale tips from fellow quilters.
"I buy men's shirts from my local thrift store, especially when they have a sale. I make them into a scrappy star quilt, or I look for the ones that are like homespun for the backs of my rag quilts… I have found a local recycling store that makes rags. Sometimes they sell fabric and clothing by the pound, and you can choose the type of materials (wool, cotton, polyester, etc.)." Julie
"I love to buy kits on sale. Since I have accumulated several, I have started a three-ring binder with color pictures of the project, the size, and where it is located (i.e., Box 1 or file box under sewing table). This has helped me know what I have when I need a gift for an upcoming birthday or Christmas present." Alana
"If you are making a crazy quilt and want to keep to traditional silk and wool, go the Salvation Army thrift stores, Goodwill, etc. You can usually find silk dresses and blouses and men's suits and pants made of wool for very little money." Betty
"I make a lot of charity quilts for our quilting group and to send to missions. I found the cost of batting was getting rather expensive. I found a surplus store was selling 2-meter lengths of polar fleece fabric for $5.00 [Australian], so stocked up. The fleece sews nicely and doesn't pucker. With a scrap top, it makes a cosy quilt for baby or young child." Hazel
"My favorite way to save not only money but time on my quilting supplies is to shop the second-hand stores, and estate and yard sales. One day I walked down the fabric aisle of our local thrift store and found at least six—yes, SIX—pieced quilt tops! Then I thought to myself, I need fabric for the backs also. As I picked fabric pieces that would complement the fronts I had just picked out, I realized that the backs were there also! I just had to match them up. All these pieces cost me between $3 and $10 depending on the size. There were lap- to queen-size tops!" Janette
Thanks to Julie, Rhonda, Becky, and all of you who have sent along tips to share. If you have a money- or time-saving quilting tip, send it to the Thrifty Quilter
Charm quilts! Historically, charm quilts were one-patch quilts in which no two fabrics were alike. Quilters would trade or beg friends and family for fabric scraps from which patches were cut for their quilts. Nowadays you can easily find no-two-alike assortments of fabric to use for charm quilts ( Keepsake Quilting carries lots of wonderful collections ). You can also create your own charm collections for your one-of-a-kind charm quilts. Here are some tips for collecting and sorting your scraps.
"Like most quilters, I dislike throwing away scraps. Heck, I have paid for everysquare inch of that fabric. LOL. Here are some things I do with mine. I have a large basket next to my cutting area and machine; any scraps go into it immediately. [It] helps keep the area more tidy also. [I] sort through the scraps while watching TV news, and make piles [to] put into Ziploc® bags (gallon and larger)…." Julie
"I place [a] plastic shoe box beside my machine to place scrapsof material in it. When the shoe box gets full of scraps, I use them to start making squares for a scrap quilt. No more fumbling in a bag to sort out material. The material is already there." Rhonda
"I use empty pretzel jars to store my scraps. As I cut I have a clear plastic jug from the bulk foods store by my cutting table. I throw the scraps in the jar. I can see what is available for small projects, plus they are colorful and fun to use for scrap quilts. Just reach in and pull out a colorful array." Becky
Thanks to Julie, Rhonda, Becky, and all of you who have sent along tips to share. If you have a money- or time-saving quilting tip, send it to the Thrifty Quilter
When it's spring-cleaning time, make sure you don't overlook your sewing area. Our readers have written about some great ways they organize their areas and use up extra fabrics and scraps.
"I bought a couple of spoon racks at a garage sale. Instead of hanging them on the wall, they lay flat on a shelf, and I use them to store my rulers. The rulers fit nicely into the slots." Pat
"I keep my trimmings rolled up on paper-towel rolls. When the roll starts to get too large, I unroll them, sew [the trimmings] together and treat the whole thing like one big piece of fabric." Susie
"I use empty spools of ribbon (both the plastic type from curling ribbon and the cardboard ones) for storing binding strips and completed bias strips. I use a small piece of masking tape to secure the end to the spool, then wind the binding or bias strips around and secure with a pin. I then place them on a standing paper-towel rack, so I can easily see what I have available. It keeps the strips wrinkle-free and visible for when I need them!" Janet
"When putting my fabric away on my shelves, I fold them twice lengthwise first (11" wide) and then fold it 9" wide (1/4 yd.). I can easily tell how many yards I have on hand by counting the layers by fours (four times 9" equals one yard). "Sew Classy"
Lots of quilters have sent in tips similar to the following:
"Save all the clippings of fabric and thread from your sewing, and use these formerly 'unusable' scraps as stuffing for cat beds for the local animal shelters. Use bigger pieces of fabric that aren't the 100% cotton we use for good quilts as the cover for the bed. Sew around the three sides of a folded piece, leaving a small hand-size hole to turn, and then stuff as you discard." Luanne
"I make sleeping bags for the homeless out of old fabrics, bedspreads, sheets, blankets, wool, anything and everything. Bags are 7' x 7' and three layers. Once they are knotted, I sew the side seam and attach two neckties to the outside, so the recipient can carry it wherever he goes… this is a nationwide project. I also fill a Ziploc bag with toiletries, hats, gloves, hankies, and stuff inside each bag. A prayer is written inside the bag and label of what group donated it. Men deliver these to cities in need." Alice
"I use the meat trays that hamburger, etc., comes in to organize the loose items on my sewing table. Right now I have about three different quilts in progress. The larger ones hold enough room to put my paper-backed applique pieces in while the quilt is in progress, plus matching thread. These can be stacked on top of one another if need be. I also take home the empty boxes that expandable file folders come in. They are deep enough to hold the large spools of cone thread. When the lids are on the boxes, they stack neatly, and I can label the ends with the color of thread in that box. Teresa
Thanks to Pat, Susie, Janet, "Sew Classy," Luanne, Alice, Teresa, and all of you who have sent along tips to share. If you have a money- or time-saving quilting tip, send it to the Thrifty Quilter at email@example.com.
Bits and Pieces: Landscape quilts are the ultimate in scrap quilts. All you need are little bits of lots of different textural prints to “paint” a pictorial scene in fabric. You can make fabulous fabric compositions just using leftovers. You can create a hillside of green trees using a whole bevy of green print, marble, and solid fabrics. Even the sky can be a patchwork of color (in imitation of Mother Nature’s work). Only the borders need a little more yardage, and you can be creative there, as well.
When doing your landscape quilts, the following tips may come in handy.
“I make a printer copy of my pattern and put small pieces of fabric in place where I can see what the pattern will look like before I actually make it. [I] then keep [a] photo and paste-up sheet in a notebook with [the] name of whom I have made the quilt for.” Lynn
“Go to your local newspaper, and ask if they have any end rolls of paper for sale (usually $4.00). These are the rolls of newsprint paper that they use to print the newspaper, and they take them off the roller dispensers before they get completely empty.” Donna
“Very seldom do I buy stabilizers. I read an article years ago about stabilizing, and I pretty much stuck with it. I go to the dollar store and buy big packs of tissue wrapping paper.” Candy
“After I had spent hours removing a heavy-duty stabilizer from the back of machine-applique blocks, a friend said, ‘Have you ever tried paper towels?’ I did and they were great. The surface stayed smooth during stitching, and the towels tore off easily without disturbing the stitches.” Gloria
“In order to store patterns for applique that I have traced out onto bigger paper, I use an empty paper-towel cardboard tube to store the rolled up pattern. Roll it up and tuck it inside. Write the pattern name and author and any other details you want.” Robin
Thanks to Lynn, Donna, Candy, Gloria, Robin, and all of you who have sent along tips to share. If you have a money- or time-saving quilting tip, send it to the Thrifty Quilter
Let's get organized! Some quilters can’t work unless their sewing areas are as neat as a pin. Clutter just inhibits the creative process for them. And then there are others who only decide to get organized when they can’t find their sewing machines beneath the piles of fabric. If you need a little help getting organized, check out the following tips from our readers.
“I buy plastic storage boxes that have divided compartments in which fishermen put fishing lures. I found them wonderful for separating bobbins by color; buttons by color and sizes; quilting pins, chalk, etc. The list goes on forever, as they come in different sizes and are very economical in price.” Pam
“I store some of my spools of thread in plastic utensil trays. The compartments are just the right size for spools set sideways, and I can stack them. Because they are sorted by color, it’s easy to find just the spool I need.” Carole
“I never seem to have my pincushion in reach when I need it the most. So I have taken a 1/2" snippet of Velcro®. I attach one piece to the top of my sewing machine and the other to the bottom of my pincushion. I stick the pincushion to the top of my sewing machine, and it’s always within arm’s reach. If I need to pack my sewing machine away, all I have to do is pull it off. The Velcro® remains on the sewing machine and the bottom of my pincushion. Cheryl
“I had a shoe bag not being used, so I hung it near my sewing machine and converted it to multiple small tools and other items storage.” Marilyn
“I go to fabric stores and ask for the cardboard [center of the bolt] that they are throwing out. I then take them home; cut them in half; and wind my fabric onto them. I can then keep them on a shelf in my closet, arranged by color, and that makes it easy to pick out supplemental fabrics for quilts, etc. The fabric stores don’t charge for these, and it makes organizing your stash easy and fun!” Kyle
“I recycle egg cartons. I use them to sort buttons by color and size. This way I have everything ready for my quilting projects. They are great for charms, small sew-on objects and beads. Stacking them up is a breeze. This is also a great way to keep a child occupied and teach color and bigger-and-smaller concepts. I put everything in a drawer when I’m done, and things stay organized.” Andrew
Three different quilters had the same great idea for tissue boxes. Here’s what one gal wrote:
“When I am cutting out a quilt, rather than throw the small scraps onto the floor, I keep an empty tissue box on the table and put all of the small scraps into it. The ones with the plastic slit opening work well. If it tips over or is knocked to the floor, the scraps stay in the box, rather than spilling out.” Kaye
Thanks to Pam, Carole, Cheryl, Marilyn, Kyle, Andrew, Kaye, and all of you who have sent along tips to share. If you have a money- or time-saving quilting tip, send it to the Thrifty Quilter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Quick gift tips! With a scrap bag, your quilter’s fabric stash, a bit of sewing no-how and a little ingenuity, you can make inexpensive handmade holiday gifts that are sure to be treasured.
Here are some gift-making and gift-giving tips from our readers.
“I use pieces of my quilting fabric to make gift bags. For the Christmas ones, I purchase Christmas fabrics in January on sale. The bags take very little fabric, and they are reusable. They are less expensive than using expensive wrapping paper and easier on the environment. They take only a few minutes to make, and I think they are prettier than the wrapping-paper wrapped gifts.” Elaine
“I take [making doll clothes] to the next step and make matching outfits for the girls. The girls are mygranddaughters, and they love matching outfits. They have American Girl® dolls. The 18-inch doll clothes are fun to make because they are not too tiny. I try to do the patterns as close to match as possible, but as long as the fabric is the same, it’s okay. Many squeals when they open their gifts.” Nancy
“For years I have saved scraps of fabrics… I’ve lost count of how many potholders I’ve made over the years! Several layers of flannel or an ‘ugly’ fabric make excellent insides for the hot pads… Of course, I’ve made all sorts of doll clothes, from plain to fancy, and from the popular 11-1/2" to the 18" dolls. I save all trim scraps, too, for the doll clothes. At Christmas I make doll clothes for an ‘orphan’ doll to donate to a local charity for a child’s Christmas.” Joyce
I save my batting leftovers and cut them up into usable sizes for rag quilts. Rag quilts are favorites with children and a great way to use up leftovers of all kinds.” Jackie
Thanks to Elaine, Nancy, Joyce, Jackie, and all of you who have sent along tips to share. If you have a money- or time-saving quilting tip, send it to the Thrifty Quilter
Pumpkins & Patchwork - Aside from the cost of candy, Halloween can be the thriftiest holiday of all. Pumpkins, grown in your garden, or purchased at the local farm stand make great decorations, especially when hand carved into scary and funny faces by you and the family.
Halloween is also a great time to get creative with your sewing. It’s an opportunity to try your hand at making garments without the worry of precise seams and a perfect fit.
Here are some tips from our readers that might come in handy when sewing your haunted-holiday costumes.
“I am a costumer for a small theatre here at home. I frequent Goodwill and buy sheets, also I buy bed skirts—it’s fabric that gets a new life. Some bed skirts are just beautiful, and it is a very long piece of fabric.
“Also, a friend of the theatre owns a motel, a Super 8, and they have to periodically take sheets and pillowcases out of rotation, and he gives them to me. Well, they are white, but cotton, and dye really well for costuming… So find what you can and recycle. That is less to end up in a landfill.” Cheryl Thanks to Cheryl, Sylvia, Merja, and all of you who have sent along tips to share. If you have a money- or time-saving quilting tip, send it to the Thrifty Quilter
“I grew up sewing. so back in the 60’s I had two little girls. Since I loved sewing, [I] made all their dresses and even their coats. I sewed for every occasion—Halloween, Christmas, Easter, birthdays, cheerleading, school plays—you name it, I made their outfits!” Sylvia
“I use to go to flee markets and buy drapes, tablecloths and sheets. This way I have collected a wonderful stash, which I never [would have] had buying only new fabrics.” Merja
The cutting edge ~ The world of quiltmaking was revolutionized in the late 1970’s when the rotary cutter came upon the scene. A bevy of acrylic templates and cutting mats would follow, making quilting so much faster and more accurate. Many of us who were quilting during the late 70’s and early 80’s were introduced to the rotary cutter while making Trip Around the World and Log Cabin quilts. Now the sky’s the limit when it comes to the designs that can be cut and pieced with the help of a rotary cutter.
Here are some rotary cutter and template tips from our readers.
“I have two rotary cutters. One always has a new blade and is only for fabric. The second, marked with a ribbon in the handle, has a used blade for cutting other things (paper, batting). The hobbyists in my family know they are only allowed to use the cutter with the ribbon in the handle. When it’s time to replace the fabric blade, I move the ribbon to that cutter. It becomes the hobbyist’s cutter. I put a new blade in the other cutter, and that becomes my new fabric cutter. Both cutters get updated blades for the price of one.” Cheryl
“Ever have just one child’s mitten hanging around? Just like those unmatched socks coming out of the dryer, I’ve found that a child’s thick mitten makes a wonderful rotary cutter holder.
When you’re finished with your rotary cutter, and have the blade safely retracted, all you do is slip the mitten over the top of it, and voila! Your rotary cutter is safe and sound, and you’ve recycled that mitten that no longer has a partner. I’ve used a mitten from when my daughter was around a year old (now 23) and couldn’t bear to part with the darling mitten. It is now a treasured keepsake among my quilting supplies.” Jolene
“I like to take my projects to my friend’s house, so we can visit while we quilt. I have found that a stiff-sided or molded-plastic pencil case is the perfect size to put my 45mm rotary cutter in. It travels safely (without damage to the blade), and I know it can’t accidentally work its way out of the case, so I don’t need to worry about it cutting into fabrics or being exposed for me to cut myself on when I reach into my bag. With all the back-to-school sales right now, it’s the perfect time to purchase one or two of these ‘pencil’ boxes.” Meredith
“I used Glad Press’n Seal® wrap applied to my large, square acrylic ruler to make a temporary placement guide for my applique blocks. After my project is complete, I can remove it to reuse my ruler.” Gayle
Thanks to Cheryl, Jolene, Meredith, Gayle and all of you who have sent along tips to share. If you have a money- or time-saving quilting tip, send it to the Thrifty Quilter
Collecting by color—When the thrifty grocery shopper needs to replenish her pantry, she heads to the grocery store with list in hand. There’s lots of temptation lurking in the grocery-store aisles, but if she sticks to just the items on her list, she’ll stick to her budget
If you want to stick to your fabric budget, try the same technique. When your fabric pantry needs yellows and greens restocked, then ignore the pinks, reds and purples (their time will come), and focus on just the colors you need.
Once you get your fabric purchases home, fold, sort and store them, so you’ll know exactly what you have in your “pantry.”
Peg tells us how she stores by color:
“I purchased a white shoe-storage cabinet that has 20 cubes in it. [My fabrics] are sorted by color, and at a quick glance, I can see all the colors I have in my stash, and they’re all easy to get at.” Peg
Christine shops by color when buying fabric for her tea cozies:
“I take swatches of material and safety-pin them to a piece of paper. I note on the paper what colors I’m looking for as the match. Many times more than one swatch will be pinned to the paper. Then I know what to look for when I go fabric shopping.” Christine
Thanks to Peg, Christine and all of you who have sent along tips to share. If you have a money- or time-saving quilting tip, send it to the Thrifty Quilter at email@example.com.
Stripes should be a part of everyone’s fabric stash. They can add loads of interest to a quilt design. They’ll provide a needed contrast in style to the curved shapes of flowers, leaves, and a myriad other print designs. All kinds of different effects can be achieved as sections of a stripe come together at 45°, 60° or 90° angles (or for that matter, any angle of your choosing). Jinny Beyer has become known for her fabulous border stripes, which are included in all of her fabric lines. Her quilts have shown us how we can turn a simple block into simply sensational just by using stripes.
If you’re cutting a pieced block out of stripes, trace elements of the design on template material to be sure you’re always cutting an exact repeat of the pattern. Dottie tells us about her free source of template material.
“Whenever I have to go for x-rays, I ask if they have any old unusable films… They make wonderful template material.”
When you’re stitching your stripes together and the patterns aren’t matching properly, you’ll have your seam ripper within reach if you do as Marleen does.
“Tape the cap from a ballpoint pen to the side of your sewing machine to use as a holster for your seam ripper. You always know where to find it.”
Once you’ve got that striped quilt (or any quilt) ready for quilting, why not use Myra’s tip to make it easy on your fingers while pin-basting.
“I have found using a grapefruit spoon with its little teeth great for pinning the layers of my quilts. You can use it to push the quilting pins through all the layers, and the little teeth hold the pins steady so you can close them.”
Thanks to Dottie, Marleen, Myra and all of you who have sent along tips to share. If you have a money- or time-saving quilting tip, send it to the Thrifty Quilter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Squares! Both hip and thrifty!
| Free Half-Square Triangle Quilt Pattern |
When it comes to easy piecing, squares are as easy as it gets.
Keepsake Quilting has carried some fabulous quilts based on the simple square shape. Squares are so versatile. Cut big squares, and sew block-to-block or add sashing strips; or cut medium and small squaresfor half-square triangles, Flying Geese, Four Patch and Nine Patch blocks. You’ll always have need of squares in all different sizes. So save them and sort them, and enjoy having a wealth of piecing possibilities right at hand. Some of our readers tell what they do with their squares.
“The last quilt I made had a lot of 3-1/2" squares and half-square triangles. I always cut some extra ‘just in case,’ so this time I discovered that I had enough to make a duplicate of the eight-sided-star square for a table mat and three pot holders. I just added some heat-proof batting and two layers of cotton batting. They are great! I make ‘fake’ binding, and they are finished in no time!” Sewin’ Sam
| Free Windowpane Quilt Pattern |
“I keep a small basket for my scraps. When it gets full, I cut them up into 2-1/2", 3-1/2", 5", and 7" squares. I store them in drawers of an old gym-locker fixture. These drawers have ventilation holes, so my fabric will stay fresh. When I want to make a quilt using any of these sizes, the pieces are already precut. This saves me a lot of time. It also makes it easier to whip a quilt together when an unexpected baby pops up.” Susie
“Before throwing out any leftover scraps, I measure them to see if I can get any 2" x 3" rectangles or 2" x 2" squares. These can easily be saved up and made into a scrappy Wild Goose Chase quilt.” Emma
Thanks to Sewin’ Sam, Susie, Emma and all of you who have sent along tips to share. If you have a money- or time-saving quilting tip, send it to the Thrifty Quilter
Strippy shortcuts! If you're a thrifty quilter, no strip of fabric is wasted. There currently are all sorts of patterns for quilts using 2-1/2" strips. Our readers have a few strip ideas of their own.
"I cut all small scraps up into 1-1/2" strips, then into 1-1/2", 2-1/2", 3-1/2", 4-1/2" and 5-1/2" pieces. I store them on an old tray. I make half-square Log Cabin blocks, and always have some pinned and ready to go when I’m piecing something else, to keep up the chain-sewing routine. I store all the completed blocks in an old drawer, and then make them into a bright, scrappy quilt. Then I use the quilt as backing for another quilt, usually a scrappy one, too. It is so much fun to watch the recipient realize that she has a reversible quilt!” Kathy
“I just grab 2-1/2" strips and sew them together… I get a Q crochet hook, and all I do is chain the material for garlands on my old-fashioned Christmas tree. Everyone seems to really enjoy my homemade garland.” Julie
“Recently I visited a county fair and was quite taken by a ‘toothbrush rug.’ It’s an old craft and uses up lots of scraps of fabric cut into strips 1" to 1-1/2" wide. There is no sewing involved, as strips of fabric are joined to each other through a slipknot. I have a lot of 1-1/2" strips of flannel left over from a Log Cabin quilt. These strips range from 6" to 44" long. They are working beautifully on my latest rug… In the future, I plan to cut my scraps into 1-1/2" strips, sew them together into a big ball, and use them in more rugs. I also have plans to overdye some of the really ugly fabric I have, then use that for more rugs. This technique also lends itself quite well to fabric items from the thrift stores. The end result is a wonderful, soft, heirloom rug to enjoy.” Mary
[Keepsake Quilting note: Do as Mary did, and check out the technique on the Internet.]
“I take small strips (1-1/2" to 2") of fabric, wrap it around a clothes hanger and knot it. Clothes will never fall off the hanger. It’s an awesome way to use up both fabric and batting that you’ve cut off after a quilt has been quilted.” Chris
Thanks to Kathy, Julie, Mary, Chris and all of you who have sent along tips to share. If you have a money- or time-saving quilting tip, send it to the Thrifty Quilter at email@example.com.
Bargain in a bag - Quilters love scraps. Over the years, no matter what the state of the economy, our Keepsake Quilting Scrap Bags have always been big sellers. Not only do we quilters love a bargain, we feel a certain pride in using every last bit of a piece of fabric. Enjoy the following tips from some fellow scrap-quilters.
“I cut my scraps into 1" or 2" squares, then set them next to my machine. I start and end with a pair of them. My machine does not eat my project. One day I will have a free quilt!” Maryann
“I cut my scrap fabrics (and those of family and friends) into the largest size squares (5-1/2", 4", 2" and 1-1/2"). With them precut, not only does it keep my sewing room neater, but I always have some squares ready for a quick ‘nickel’ quilt. I’ve taken all of my smallest squares and will soon finish a king-sized Postage Stamp quilt! All from scraps!” Mary
“I save all scraps of fabrics that are at least 2-1/2" to 3" for crazy-quilting projects. It’s really fun to pull out a scrap and use the sew-and-flip method on a lightweight 6-1/2" square backing, and each block is different! This method gives me a ‘free’ quilt or a new jacket or tote bag or place mats. You can make anything you want and give as gifts, and remember—no two are alike! Just use your imagination, and have fun. After all, they’re ‘free’ projects!” Joyce
“Because I do a lot of craft-bazaar and doll-clothes sewing, I often use fairly small fabric scraps. From theremnants of those projects, I cut and save assorted shapes for later use as needed, and I also keep a ‘collection box’ on my cutting table at all times. Extremely small leftovers are tossed into the container to be utilized as filling for Barbie® pillows and other small stuffed items. When the container is full, I dump it onto my cutting mat and use a rotary cutter to whack it into a fine confetti, which is perfect as an alternative stuffing for many small craft projects. Using this method, NOTHING goes into the trash!” Brenda
Thanks to Maryann, Mary, Joyce, Brenda, and all of you who have sent along tips to share. If you have a money- or time-saving quilting tip, send it to the Thrifty Quilter
Supporting the troops – Quilters have a long and strong tradition of donation and charity quilts. In the years leading up to the Civil War, women formed their own anti-slavery societies, holding fairs, much like today’s church fairs, as fund-raisers. Refreshments, craft items and quilts, often inked or embroidered with anti-slavery sentiments, were sold. During the war, women of the North and South sent quilts to the soldiers on the battlefields and in hospitals.
|#1861 Civil War BOM Kit|
The tradition of supporting our troops through quilting, sewing and knitting continues today. Our sister company Patternworks is currently collecting hand-knit helmet liners for the troops in the Middle East. Keepsake Quilting will soon be getting involved in the same Citizen S.A.M. program. (Be watching our spring newsletter for information.) To learn more about the Citizen S.A.M. program, visit them on the Web at www.citizensam.org. There are other fine organizations that support the military, as well as local veterans’ homes and hospitals that would surely welcome handmade quilts from the heart.
Virginia tells us how she helps both the troops currently serving overseas, as well as the veterans.
"I go to the Salvation Army and buy for my projects.… I buy jeans and make lap quilts for veterans’ hospitals, and [buy] wool skirts, pants, etc., for larger quilts. They can be used with no batting in between and with a hodgepodge of men’s flannel shirts sewed together for the linings. Lots of fun, and the veterans love them. I had a male veteran say to me that the wool pieced blanket with the flannel lining was ‘just like Mom used to make.’
“I do a lot of string quilting.… I use no wider than 2-1/2-inch strips. Since I make quilts for the wounded, I find that if I cut the backing to the size I want the whole throw—as well as cutting the same size of fusible batting, and fuse them together—when I sew my strips and have covered the whole rectangle (except for the binding), I have a whole lap quilt.”
Thanks to Virginia and all of you who have sent along tips to share. If you have a money- or time-saving quilting tip, send it to the
Thrifty Quilter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 1930’s was the era of “making do or doing without.“ Some of us remember those days or have heard our parents or grandparents talk about how they managed to make do with the resources they had on hand. Maybe 75 years from now our children and grandchildren will be hearing stories of how we managed through today’s tough economic times. Listen to how some of our quilters “make do.”
“I have always been one to find uses for things others throw away. I was raised by parents that didn’t have anything extra. I am so thankful for the values they gave me. I wash the sheet of plastic from bacon, then I make quilting templates from it by tracing my design on it. To keep them organized, I punch a hole through them and put the templates on a ring on my bulletin board in the sewing room.” Shirley
Diane and Mary also sent in the bacon-packaging tip.
“Not only do I buy sheets, usually king or at least queen at thrift stores, I buy a lot of my fabric there. One store I love to shop at has a whole section of fabric pieces, lace, trims, etc. And I can’t tell you how many times I have found just the right color I had been shopping for, for months, at a Goodwill or Salvation Army store. Of course I was a farm girl who grew up dressed in feed sacks and my cousins’ hand-me-downs.” Agnes
“Whenever I buy a shirt or sweater, they usually come with extra buttons. I rarely use them. But I do keep them by emptying the packages into a large pickle jar that I keep on a shelf in my sewing room.” Sue
“I, like most quilters, can’t throw anything away—it might have a use someday. When my rotary cutting mats started to get old, I stored them in my sewing-room closet—I might need these! Our guild was making tote bags recently, and the bottoms were too floppy.… I remembered the cutting mats I had saved. We used the grid lines for cutting, cut the corners smooth, covered with a fabric sleeve (or not), and we had several inexpensive bag bottoms.” Fran
Thanks to Shirley, Diane, Mary, Agnes, Sue, Fran and all of you who have sent along tips to share. If you have a money- or time-saving quilting tip, send it to the
Starting something new can be so exhilarating; it‘s no wonder that many of us quilters have bins and drawers filled with unfinished projects. We’re so eager to get on to the next great quilt that we often neglect to finish the current project. Those UFO’s (unfinished objects) can be a real bonus when money is tight. With just a little additional work, UFO’s can be turned into FO’s.
If it’s just a matter of binding, backing and batting standing in the way to a completed project, our readers have some tips for you.
“I immediately sew [my leftover binding scraps] onto my previous leftovers and roll the whole thing onto an empty paper-towel tube. That way when I’m ready to bind a scrap quilt, all I have to do is pull out my tube full of binding and go to work. It is very random, but I think that contributes to the charm.” Joan
Kim and Audrey also sent in the same scrappy binding tip
“Since the backing for the quilts is so much material and brings the cost up for the quilt, I shop the thrift stores for flat sheets. Usually I can get a queen for $1 to $2. I have found some interesting fabrics.” April
Thanks to Joan, Kim, Audrey, April, Anita, Merja, Mack and and and all of you who have sent along tips to share. If you have a money-saving quilting tip, send it to the Thrifty Quilter at email@example.com.
“I was making a quilt for one of my daughter’s college friends. I didn’t have enough of one of the fabrics in the quilt to make the binding, so I ended up cutting several pieces, in the same number of inches in length, and then sewing them into a long binding piece and applying it to the quilt as if it was one fabric. It looks adorable.” Anita
“I often use old dull blankets (wool, cotton or fleece) as a batting of a quilt. The old blanket gets a new fabulous look instead of being thrown away.” Merja
“Is your quilt wider than 40" but not so wide you want to use two fabric widths for backing? Do you have leftover fabric from the top? Piece a strip for the back, and put it between two strips of backing. Voila!—economical back art! This really works well for those happy lappy/nappy quilts that are 40" to 55" wide.“ Mack
Making it all work! We could learn a thing or two from the quilters of the tiny town of Gee’s Bend, Alabama, who, for over a century, used whatever fabrics they had on hand to make quilts that are now considered to be unique works of art. While most of us quilters adhere to the quilt-weight-cotton “rule” for our quilts, the women of Gee’s Bend stitched cotton blends, knits, seersucker, twill and corduroy into their quilts. And what remarkable, improvisational quilts they created. Learn more about their work and their lives in the book, The Quilts of Gee’s Bend (Item #1676).
Here are some cost-saving fabric tips from our readers who also use a variety of fabrics in their quilting.
“I was in a Goodwill store recently in Millersburg, Ohio, and found blazers for $5 each. I bought several, ripped them apart, felted them, and am using them in my applique. The colors and textures were great. Most are cut into small pieces to be used, and several of these had no seam down the center back, so I have some fairly large pieces, for pennies for each piece. A real “find” for me. Judy G.
“Check with your drapery dealers for out-of-date sample books. Some of the samples make excellent pieces for quilting. I’ve made two Log Cabin quilts from the cotton samples. Free, and only your time and thread needed to make quilts for yourself or the needy.” Hilda
“I have been making quilts out of recycled jeans since the early 1970’s. I learned the hard way that tie-dyed denim does not hold up 30 years later. Those are the only spots that wore out!” Judy W.
Thanks to Judy G., Hilda and Judy W. and and all of you who have sent along tips to share. If you have a money-saving quilting tip, send it to the Thrifty Quilter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Family Ties... Neckties can be a beautiful—and economical—source of cotton, wool and silk fabric for quilters. Old neckties can also provide a nostalgic link to the past. Listen to how four quilters give new life and new meaning to recycled neckties.
“When my dad retired, we found his stash of neckties. Some were very interesting, with old scenes of places we’d been on vacations plus lots of pretty patterns, colors and fabrics. I made a pillow for myself and my three siblings out of them using the bowtie pattern. I used sandpaper to hold the silky fabrics as they were cut. It was a nice tribute to Dad, and now that he’s gone, we all have a remembrance with this fancy neckwear.” Cathy
“I make some wonderful things with old ties (mostly silk, but some wool, too). I use them for applique and crazy quilting and on clothing. I am always really happy when people mention how it does not look like tie material. That was my plan all along. With a little backing to stabilize the materials, since they are cut on a bias, I applique either by hand or, even better, by machine with fancy thread, embellish with a few beads, and I am very happy.
“I buy the ties at our local, or any second-hand, store. Sometimes I get a whole bag for a couple of dollars. It is almost like a treasure hunt. If I find some that have been worn or are discolored, I just cut out that piece… I even ask my friends to donate to my stash.” Rosie
“My older daughter took all of her dad’s ties after he died and was going to make a keepsake for herself, her brother and sister. She had the ties opened up and pressed, and then she passed away also. So this year, I am going to take the ties and make a Dresden Plate wall hanging for the brother and sister, and in the center, a photo on fabric of each one of them with their dad.” Cathy
“When we were cleaning out my mother’s home in 1983 following her death, we came across our dad’s ties (many ties!). He died in 1958, and she had kept them all those years! Of my seven brothers and sisters, I was the only one who wanted the ties. I kept them in a box, moved them twice when we moved, and then in 2005, decided it was time to do something with them. So I got them out of the box, washed them in the washing machine (I washed the oldest ones by hand), ironed them and thought out what I was going to do. I ended up having enough 12" Log Cabin blocks to give one to each of my seven brothers and sisters (and one for me, too), 17 nieces and nephews, and two for my grandchildren—27 blocks in all! For my brothers and sisters, seeing the small strips of the ties brought back many happy memories of helping Dad choose which tie to wear. They had fun talking about the ties and remembering him. These were presented at our annual family reunion, with the suggestion that they be framed to enjoy and protect.” Sharon
Thanks to Cathy, Rosie, Cathy, Sharon and all of you who have sent along tips to share. If you have a money-saving quilting tip, send it to the Thrifty Quilter at email@example.com.
Trimming the tree!
This Christmas, why not trim your Christmas tree the thrifty way by using scraps, recycled materials and items you have around the house.
Some of the old ways are still the best for decorating your tree. You just can’t go wrong with gingerbread men and popcorn chains. And your scrap bag is a great resource. Instead of paper garlands, you can make fabric garlands from your strips. Decorating doesn’t get any easier than tying a pretty fabric bow on a branch. You can get fancier and stitch up miniature foundation-pieced blocks hung with a ribbon. All of the fabrics can come directly from your scrap bag.
Look to your stash for wrapping materials too. Wrap your gifts in fabrics; tie them with fabric bows; and add a fabric tag. It’s the ultimate in recycling, and the wrapping becomes a gift in itself.
Ana has some great ideas for scraps, which you can use for gift giving.
“I make eyeglass cases, cases to hold my pens in my purse so I don’t have to hunt for one at the bottom where they all seem to live, and potholders that fit onto hot handles. I make these out of quilting fabric pieces left over from a larger project. This fabric works great, because it is already quilted and needs no stuffing or backing.”
While you’re decorating for the holidays, we thought you’d enjoy the following tip:
If you are making wreaths or using pine boughs, a quick and easy way to take pine pitch off your hands is peanut butter. Just a small dab takes off stubborn pitch without using harsh chemicals.
Thanks to Ana and all of you who have sent along tips to share. If you have a money-saving quilting tip, send it to the Thrifty Quilter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tips from Mrs. Claus! Christmas is right around
the corner and Mrs. Claus is busy stitching away in her sewing room at the North Pole. She has lots of scraps left over from pajamas and aprons, which she is
sewing into doll quilts, fabric books and play mats. Mrs. Claus’s helpers have
some thrifty tips for making gifts for the kids.
"For several years I have backed many of my quilts with
fleece. You don’t have to quilt too much (the fleece is stable), and it is much
cozier! I’ve used it for fancy pieced quilts, fun crazy-patch for grandkids to
take to college, and it’s wonderful for a baby or juvenile quilt. And it washes
fine!" Laura Lee
"This year I am making doll clothes for all the little
girls I give presents to from my quilt stash—dresses, night gowns, play
clothes, etc. When I was growing up, we made many of the gifts we gave to each
other and other people. I feel happy starting to do that again. I like to keep
busy, and it makes me feel good to be spending my time doing things to please
other people." Mary
Thanks to Laura Lee and Mary and all of you who have sent along tips to share. If you have a money-saving quilting tip, send it to the Thrifty Quilter at email@example.com.
Hand-made from the heart. Store-bought gifts just can’t compare to homemade gifts from the heart. By making your gifts yourself, you not only save money, you can touch hearts in such beautiful ways. Some of our Keepsake Quilting friends tell about their handmade gifts.
“I had this old quilt that belonged to my mom that was tattered in places. It just happened to be 16" blocks, so I soaked it to get out the stains, cut up the best squares and made pillows and gave [them] to my sisters, daughter and nieces for Christmas. They all loved having a piece of their mother’s and grandmother’s history. It didn’t even matter to them that it was a little tattered. I used unbleached domestic on the back, so the cost of the domestic and the 16" pillow forms was my only expense. What a hit.” Annette
“When my mother died, I could not bear to part with her dresses and blouses. I kept them in storage boxes for years. Then I decided to make four quilts out of them for my four children, I made blocks with hearts and named each quilt ‘Nana’s Heart for (each child’s name).’ My children cherish them as they did their nana.” Roberta
“I make a sack for each quilt I give as a gift. Just fold the quilts, and measure around to find the size of the sack. Use leftovers; make a sack to fit around the quilt; gather each end; run a tie through each end. You save space, especially for kids who take the quilt away to college.” Joann
“When it’s time to gift my longtime quilting friends, I make sure to buy either a fat quarter that they would love, or buy an appropriate amount off of a bolt of fabric (1/2 yard, for example) to wrap their presents. For Christmas, I try to get Christmas prints or those fabulous colors. For birthdays, I search for their favorite items: flowers, birds, beaches, leaves, etc. This never fails to make a great impression and leaves nothing but fabric to recycle, so it’s environmentally friendly! Besides, what quilter do you know that wouldn’t love having more fabric!” Angie
Thanks to Annette, Roberta, Joann, Angie and all of you who have sent along tips to share. If you have a money- or time-saving quilting tip, send it to the
Old ways are new again. Years ago, when money was tight and resources were few, quilters still found ways to make their quilts. Many of the tips that we’ve received are reminiscent of the thrifty ways of the past. Here are some examples.
“The backings on my mother’s quilts were just as much fun as the tops, and they can save us money. She would piece backs in various-size squares and rectangles using fabric left from making our clothes and from cut-up clothing that no longer fit. As kids we would look for pieces that were our clothes.” Kris
“I am one of the lucky ones whose great-grandmother and grandmother always had a quilt in the frame. They always had a stash of cotton fabric. But before they were squares, Dresden Plate or Double Wedding Ring pieces, they were men’s shirts, ladies’ dresses, and corners of sheets that the centers were worn thin from use. They cut up everything usable. I do that also, but my source of these items is our local thrift stores. Once each month, they have 50%-off day. I purchase sheets for a dollar and pillowcases for 25 cents—and the same for men’s shirts, women’s dresses and blouses. Some items are like new. Even if it's not a print I would use as an allover pattern, it’s great for scrap projects. I’ve learned to check the curtain and household areas as well. Have had some great finds cheap!” Sherry
I use my local thrift stores frequently to buy used blankets for batting; flannel or cotton sheets for backings; and odd yardage of fabrics. I use these for my ‘utility-type’ quilts. My crafting budget is slim to none, but I still like to create! I use my good quality fabrics and batting and backings (like the wonderful ones Keepsake Quilting carries!) for my good quilts, the ones I hope will go on to become family heirlooms. Once, at a tiny little thrift store, I found an entire quilt top (unknown quilter, unknown fabric content) for just $3.99! I used an old blanket that I paid $2.99 for and an old flannel sheet that was $3.99 for the batting and backing. My son now has a great quilt he can use every day for ten dollars and a little bit of my time! I would call that a bargain anytime.” Wendy
Thanks to Kris, Sherry, Wendy and all of you who have sent along tips to share. If you have a money- or time-saving quilting tip, send it to the
Thrifty Quilter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Building a good foundation - Sometimes, when doing machine applique or when piecing irregular-shaped or bias-edged pieces together, it helps to stitch on a foundation that acts as a stabilizer. Quilters can be mighty resourceful—and economical—in their choice of foundations. Here are a few examples:
“In addition to quilting, I also sew a lot of cotton apparel, so I end up with a lot of oddball shapes… I also save used dryer sheets. When I’m in a “brain-dead” mode (usually after finishing a large or difficult project), I grab the bag and randomly (no peeking) pull out pieces, and sew them onto the dryer sheets. When I get enough, I sew them into quilt tops. No need to remove sheets, and it uses up those scraps.” Dawn
“I save and use the paper wrappers from certain brands of toilet paper. I iron them, and cut. Depending on brand, usually two 8" squares are free for me to use as foundations for strip-piecing.” Carole
“I do a lot of machine applique, and have found stabilizers to be costly. I have found an ideal, inexpensive, easy-to-tear-away alternative—coffee filters! They offer just the stability needed and are easy to tear away when the work is finished.” Diane
“I save used dryer sheets and use them on the back of blocks of applique that I finish with satin stitch. They make a great stabilizer, and I just press them with the iron to make them smooth.” Jerda
Thanks to Dawn, Carole, Diane, Jerda and all of you who have sent along tips
to share. If you have a money-saving quilting tip, send it to the
Thrifty Quilter at email@example.com.
To see our previous tips, you can visit the Thrifty Quilter Archive.