13 hours ago
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?