Frugal Quilting

According to the documentary, “Stitched,” quilters spend more annually on our hobby than hunters and fishermen combined. It’s a big industry but that doesn’t mean you have to be rich to quilt. Here are some tips to getcha started if you’d like to sew and spend a bit less on it. 

1) Don’t Waste Anything! Batting scraps can be pieced together using a zig-zag stitch. Pieced backings are beautiful. Learn to use small pieces and find scrappy designs that you like. Pattern calls for 3 yards of one red? Substitute 12 red fat quarters. 

2) Shop Smart! Be on the lookout for sales and use coupons. Ask about guild discounts at local quilt shops. Great deals can be found at shows and during quilt runs. There are often discounts offered during classes and at retreats. Buy a machine with only the features you’ll actually use. Why pay extra for embroidery and free-motion quilting accessories if you won’t use them? A barebones machine may be the best deal if you mostly piece. Harbor Freight (a hardware store) sells “carpet cutter blades” that fit into a 45mm rotary cutter. They’re only 2 for $1.79….. waaaay cheaper than the ones for quilters. 

Don’t skimp on an iron or pins. Get a decent iron that actually gets and stays hot. Yes, this one I’ve learned from personal experience. Cheap pins snag the fabric and make holes. Skip the dollar store ones and have ’em slide through like they are supposed to. 

3) Ask for help. Yes, this is frugal, not mooching… if done with the right intentions. See, there comes a point when you won’t use certain types of materials anymore and will spring for the better stuff. If you’re not there yet, let your friends know. Many would much rather give it to you than drop it off at Goodwill. I have some things that I love to get as cast-offs like serger thread and small scraps… but I no longer will use polyester batting. Many of my quilting buddies have started “Megan Bags” to put their scraps in. They’re happy to see me use what would have been wasted. 

4) Pay it forward. It’s important to give. This is mostly an attitude thing. Thank-yous go a long way. I don’t have materials to pass on right now but I have other ways to give. Help someone choose fabrics for their quilt, compliment someone’s show-and-share project, befriend a new quilter, volunteer to help your guild, or  share some wisdom you’ve picked up along the way. 



Uh-oh, you’ve been swept up in a riptide. Here’s what to do: swim parallel to the shore. If you try to swim against the riptide straight back to shore you’ll tire yourself out and drown before making any progress at all. Think of the riptide like a treadmill stuck on sprint settings. When you decide, instead, not to fight it head-on is when your efforts matter. Riptides don’t go on forever. If you swim parallel to the shore you’ll swim out of the riptide and be able to get to shore a bit further down the beach. 


Good to know, huh? I’m learning to swim parallel in life. My instinct is to fight this overwhelming force called bipolar disorder or despair or self-worth head-on. That’s not working. I’m just exhausted and further from the shore than I’d be if I just gave in. I’m not advocating drowning here, just smarter swimming.

There are likely going to be a lot more riptides for me. If I can learn to be smart about it things will be less traumatic.

Sometimes all I can manage is to keep breathing.


Start-Up Sale

I’m working out a small business idea that I’ll share with you guys soon. Just figuring out some of the logistics with the help of some of my smartie-pants friends. Thing is, I’m realizing that it does require a tiny amount of start-up cash. 

“The idiots” would say this is a reason not to go into business at all. I’ve decided not to listen to them this time. So… I just spent the last few hours setting up my etsy shop! I’m selling off a few small items that I’ve made at discounted prices in the hopes that they’ll go quickly so I can get this new business going. Check it out! I will be adding a few more quilted items tomorrow after I figure out where I stashed ’em. 


Please take a look. If these items are not to your taste, but you know someone who might enjoy them, please pass the link along. Thank you!

Coping Skills

I have great compassion for people who don’t handle stress well. There’s a famous singer now who’s been in and out of rehab as a “cutter”. If you’re hurting inside, sometimes it comes out, too. And, frankly, these are people with very strong emotions who don’t have the coping skills to deal with them. 

The good news is: coping skills can be learned. Here are three of mine.
I had a very emotional day yesterday. Nothing really happened to make me upset, I’m just down. One of my newly learned coping skills that I have to keep reminding myself to practice is to ask for what I need. When I get circling, and “the idiots” are loud (see previous blog post), the very worst thing for me to do is be alone with my thoughts. So, I reached out to a friend, asking if she needed help with her pattern business. Not today, was the answer. No problem. I called another friend, who said I could come right over. We quilted a bit and ran some errands… but really what I appreciated was the company. 
Here’s another coping skill I know works for me. Planning the next fun thing before the first one is over. I had a long-distance relationship as a high school senior. My boyfriend and I found that it was much less painful for me to say goodbye after a weekend together when we knew when the next one was. Those idiots tell me that goodbyes are forever. See you in six weeks is better.
The last one I’ll talk about today is asking for what you need. I complained to my husband yesterday that he gets many more foot rubs than I do… and then caught myself. I realized that this isn’t because he won’t love on me. It’s because he asks. I would get more foot rubs if I asked for them, too. Our cat Milo gets the most pets by far out of our four kitties because he’s the one who comes up to us meow-ing. It takes some maturity to end the whining-game and simply ask for what you need. The cutest example I’ve seen recently is shown in this photograph.
As you may know, swim class is scary for most young children. Having sat in on sessions for several families, I can attest that there’s a lot of crying and fear going around. The photo above depicts Katya, swim class veteran, and her brother Alexander who’s new to it this year. His coping skill? Asking his sister for hugs. Lots of hugs. She delights in giving Alexander the support he’s asking for. We could all learn a thing or two from this pair. 

I’m feeling very overwhelmed by how much people are pulling for me… please forgive me if there are tear stains on this note. Oh yeah, it’s on a computer screen so those wipe off. 🙂 Here’s the story of my new sewing machine’s journey. For privacy’s sake, I’m gonna use numbers instead of names, but you’ll get the general idea.

I’m great at straight-line quilting because that’s the most my machine can handle. It’s a Kenmore, the one I learned on when I was 12 years old. It was my mom’s originally, and my aunt got it after she passed on when I wasn’t interested in sewing anymore. Once my passion for quilting reemerged, my aunt gifted the machine to me. It’s a workhorse and just fine… for straight-line quilting. Trouble is, I’m ready to do things like machine applique and free-motion quilting. Those require, at a minimum, the feed dogs to go down…. an option the Kenmore doesn’t offer. I sew with friends regularly, so they knew what I was looking for. 

Friend #1 took me to a vac’n sew shop to have my Kenmore looked at. Turns out it does need a good cleaning-out, but the feed dogs will never go down. It just isn’t built with that option at all. So even with it serviced, it wouldn’t do what I need to do. #1 lent me one of her machines to use. Unfortunately, I couldn’t figure out how to thread the bobbin, and we’ve been busy and haven’t crossed paths since then so I can learn. 

I helped get auction items ready for our quilt guild’s block auction. One of the other volunteers, friend #2, was testing an old machine donated to the guild. She fixed the tension and it was ready to go. She had remembered that I wanted to free-motion quilt, so she offered the machine to me. Woo! Trouble is, I was going to be out of town for the meeting. Friend #3 offered to bid for me and asked what my max amount was. I set the cap at $40 and left knowing I probably wouldn’t get the machine for that little. When I returned, I had an email from #3 saying it was mine! #3 had increased the bid by a single dollar every time there was a counter-bid. When confronted by the other bidder #3 said she was trying to get it for me. The other bidder (friend #4) gave up so I could have it. 

Impressed yet? There’s more. 

Friend #3 held onto the machine for me until I was back in town. We met at a friend’s house (#5) for a night of pattern stuffing and dinner. When she revealed she had the machine for me, friend #6 asked if it had been serviced recently. When I admitted it had been sitting in storage for a few years, she matter-of-factly said that she’d bring it to her guy. The technician, #7, did a lot of work to it. He cleaned up the gunk which used to be oil which had made things start to seize… fixed the stitches, and even welded a part back in to make everything work properly. After hearing the story of people pulling together to get this machine to me, he decided not to charge for the extra labor. Whoa. 

So I got my new-to-me machine last night. Mine, all mine. Well, sort of. I didn’t feel right opening the box and starting to play with it until I knew just how much I’m underwater for this thing. Borrowing money makes me feel very uncomfortable so with my thank you post to friend #6 (the one who brought it to be serviced) I asked how much I owe. The answer? Nothing. My friends #6 and #5 took care of it for me. 

Long story short, with the help of many, many, kindhearted people… I have a used machine that’s in great shape for $40. A sturdy metal Viking that will last a very long time and will do exactly the things I want to learn. Wow. Just, wow. I am so blessed. 


I’m tempted to call this a glad list. Even with its religious connotations, I think the word gratitude still fits better. (I’m not sure where I stand on the whole God thing, although I still respectfully capitalize that term as a proper noun. I’m okay in not knowing for now… as long as I’m honest about it I’m not pretending to believe something I don’t.) This post isn’t about that anyway. I happen to be having an exceptionally good day emotionally, so here it is: my grateful list. Even if I may not be grateful to someone/thing, I still am decidedly saying “thanks” for these happening.

  • Ceiling fans and nights that cool off.
  • Fathers, even when they (or you) move far away.
  • Photos of baby faces. Especially the adorable ones submitted to me recently in response to my samples request.
  • Encouragement to write (stories, poetry, this blog…)
  • My sister clicking “like” on every post I make on facebook. Aunt Claudia doing so as well.
  • Cats that do funny things like try to catch bugs that are on the other side of the glass door.
  • Pickles. Especially the tiny, crunchy, tangy ones. Mmmmm…
  • Eyeglasses. I was reminded by a commercial today just how different life would be if I didn’t have access to clear sight. I’d be limited tremendously in what I could do. I’m nearsighted, so I couldn’t drive… or recognize friends from across the room.
  • The game, Quiltopoly. Yup, it’s Monopoly for quilters. Even though I mostly play by myself it just makes me smile every time. What quilter wouldn’t understand that seam-ripping is the same as jail?!
  • Batik fabrics. Oh my are they just so beautiful! Bonus: no right or wrong side of fabric.
  • A minigroup I’m in that, among other things, asks “how are you?” and expects an honest answer. From everybody. And it’s okay if you’re not okay.
  • My clothes dryer. And washer. And me not having to spend all day not even at the laundromat, but scrubbing everything by hand. Technological advances.
  • Summer camps, and that my siblings and I got to experience them. Amazing things happen on camp time. It’s like nowhere else in the world.
  • Having the desire to make lists of things I’m grateful for. What a blessing! (Another religious word I’m going to use anyway.) Especially considering my darkness.