Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Quilting with cheap materials

I belong to an online quilting group on Facebook that now has over 10,000 members, including many who are relatively new to quilting.  Members share their ideas and tips.  However, there is one trend that has bothered me for a while - people recommending 'cheap' ideas for quilt fabric, wadding (batting) etc.

Today there were two fairly typical topics.  One raised the idea of buying sheets as a quilt backing.  This has been discussed many times before.  Many members swear that cheap sheets are perfectly OK as quilt backings.  The main attraction seems to be the price, then the width. 

I don't know the circumstances of each quilter, but when I started quilting, I didn't have a lot of money to splurge on quilting fabrics (I was unemployed), and much less idea of where to get 'proper' patchwork and quilting fabrics anyway.  The quilt in the photo at the top was the second quilt I made and combines Japanese craft cottons with batik bought in Singapore and Liberty Tana lawn. I backed it with black 100% cotton sheeting, bought by the metre from a good quality fabric shop in Chester in the early 1990s.  At the same time, I bought the same sheeting in pink and used it to back a duvet cover I made.  The pink sheeting pilled very badly, with little bobbles all over the back.  Luckily the quilt with the black backing has only been used as a wall hanging, but it was a lesson.  The wadding was a cheap 4oz polyester too!  Too thick to quilt through well, and I'm surprised it hasn't bearded through the black ikat fabric too badly.

I continued to try sheeting for backs, because it seemed to be the 'right width' for the back of quilts.  I was mainly hand quilting, and it wasn't nice to stitch through, so the weave was too tight. I have a few UFOs from that time, where I just wasn't enjoying the quilting at all.  After I joined our local craft group, I was given the advice that I wouldn't be able to achieve a really nice quilt with the materials I was using.  It was true!  Once I switched to using fabrics for my quilt tops and backs that was actually made for quilting, and used better quality wadding, quilting was so much easier and more pleasurable. I listened to what more experienced quilters told me, and learned from them - to my advantage.

The other topic today was about buying cheap polyester duvets and using the filling as quilt wadding.  I can only say that it sounds like a complete recipe for disaster.  If you have ever opened up a duvet, you'll know what the fibres are like inside and they don't behave like a quilt wadding.  Instead, they are all fairly loose fibres and will clump up easily.  They will also have a tendency to beard through the stitching lines in the quilting, and possible migrate through the patchwork seams as well.

What makes me sad is reading the number of responses to both these topics that seem to think these cheap materials are OK for quilting, when they are not. 

No one needs to make so many quilts that they have to resort to the cheapest of cheap supplies.  And if money is tight, why not make miniatures? Then you really won't have to buy much in the way of fabric or wadding!

It is worrying that people will try these cheap solutions, get into a mess and be discouraged from making more quilts.  Quite frankly, these discussions are becoming depressing.  More experienced quilters seem to be 'shouted down' by the cheap brigade.  This group has become very big and a lot of new quilters will be reading it.  It shouldn't be seen to be offering bad advice.

What do you think?


Emma Cooling said...

Totally agree with you Susan. I do not see the point in attempting to use what people are classing as ok fabrics when simply aren't,and spending all that time making and creating something only to be left with a pile of frustration! What is the point of having a group and not listening to the advice of those who 'know'. There is nothing wrong with asking questions but what is so frustrating is then not listening to what you are being told by those who are more experienced than others.

Featheronawire Sally Bramald said...

No point in being the lone voice of sanity. Let them learn the hard way.

LCP said...

Nicely said. I prefer to be a slow quilter & use quality materials. I may buy fabrics at thrift stores but I am selective & recognize quilt shop quality. Hand quilting through a sheet would not bring pleasure.

Susie Q said...

Keep commenting on the site that cheap does not often last in the LONG run.

you won't be popular but if said nicely it might make an impression especially on newbies.

If they want cheap get it at thrift stores or garage sales from quilters who are getting rid of stash. Or familes who are selling a loved ones sewing things.

For all the time that I put into sewing I want it to last and to look the best that it can.

Unknown said...

I agree completely. It's depressing reading all these advisories for people to use really cheap materials for quilting, especially and often mostly, newer quilters. The old adage, "Buy and use the most expensive supplies you can afford" still seems the best advice when planning and making quilts. Cheap fabrics stretch and distort when trying to match seams, especially HST's and more intricate blocks, and people who have never tried sewing with better quality products don't realise that some of their problems are simply the result of their cheap fabric choices. Same goes for quilt backings, waddings and threads. Once you try better quality options and experience the joy and satisfaction of a project actually coming together easily and smoothly with a successful result, you can never go back. As you said, Susan, you don't need to churn out quilts like a factory, spending a little more money over a little more time really pays off.

Susan Briscoe said...

There was another discussion started off about using sheets, and the person who started it even wrote - 'No negative comments please as I've heard all the arguments of using non-quilting fabric before.'


Sometimes I think that group is just turning into a self-congratulatory club of quilters who know very little and are happy to pass on their assumptions to everyone else. It's sad. It is also even more sad now it has a huge membership of over 10,000. There are people on there who just want to push a cheapskate mentality about quilting. Left up to them, proper quilt shops would be driven to closure, while they stuff their stashes with fat quarter bundles from Aldi and cheap sheets from Tesco.

There is even a newbie who seriously thinks she 'has' to make twenty four double/king size quilts as Christmas gifts for her family this year - that was the reason she gave for only being able to afford sheets as backing. I hope she has nothing else to do between now and Christmas, and can magically use newspaper as wadding as well...!