Ask Jo: Shopping Locally

I’ve had comments from people suggesting that I should “shop locally” and support my local quilt shops.  I’m going to take a minute and address that….

I buy my fabric as it presents itself to me….

This came from the thrift store….


This came from a garage sale…..


I get some fabric from blog readers….

This came from an on line store.


I also buy 100% cotton shirts from thrift stores and use them as fabric.  Occasionally we make design a quilt from a fabric line and get the fabric from the fabric company.

Overall-most of my fabric comes from the thrift stores or is gifted to me.

I make lots of quilts….most I give away.  Some are charity and many are gifts for family and friends.  When I give a quilt for charity, I am already giving of my time.  I don’t feel it is necessary to buy fabric from a local store for them.  I can easily  buy a piece of fabric at one of my thrift stores for 50 cents and I can bind a quilt and occasionally I can even get a piece big enough to back a quilt.  If I were to purchase all of that fabric in town at a local fabric shop, I would not be able to do very much charity work at all.  It doesn’t make sense to me to buy fabric, in this case, at a local shop.

The thrift store where I buy most of my fabric from donates proceeds from their sales into our community.  Hmm…that sounds like a good use of my money and a help to the community.  Other thrift stores in my area provide jobs for people who have disabilities.  Hmm…that sounds like a program I’d like to support too.

Most of my other fabric is bought on-line.  Recently I’ve bought fabric from Homestead Hearth’s Blow Out sale, from Whittles Fabrics and from Quilted Twins.  All of the fabric I’ve purchased has been VERY discounted.  I love a deal.  I’m not someone who needs to touch the fabric so it all works out good for me.  I’ve even provided links so others who enjoy a good deal can get things from them as well.  All of these places are run by people who are trying to make a living.   They aren’t big corporate shops.  All of these are stores in towns that are providing jobs to people in their town.

The customer service that I’ve gotten from Whittles Fabrics is some of the VERY best I’ve ever had in my entire life….much better than I’ve gotten at some of my local quilt shops.  I love Whittles and I love Cathy.  She’s the best!!  I’ve been in contact with the gals at Quilted Twins chatting about blogging and the like.  They have AMAZING free patterns and I feel one way I can thank them for the free patterns is to buy some fabric from them.

As for my relationship with local shops….I don’t buy very much fabric from them.  I have done other things that have supported them.

1-I have done quilt shop tours on my blog.  Many of the shops get calls from some of you after you read what I wrote about the shops.  Readers call the shops wanting to buy something from them that they saw on the blog post I did.  I know, because readers have told me, that they have actually made road trips to some of these shops.

2-Kelli and I have a good relationship with the gals at Forest Mills Quilt Shop.  We have had quilts published in American Patchwork and Quilting and we have offered them the chance to sell kits to make the quilts.  They have made more money from the national sales of the quilt kits than we could ever buy from them.

3-We are hosting our SECOND quilt retreat at LouAnn’s in Oelwein.  That will bring in a money to LouAnn’s and into the Oelwein community to hotels, restaurants and other shops.  Here we aren’t just supporting the shop, we’re supporting the city too.

4-We offer free patterns on our blog and we publish patterns in national magazines (We don’t even make minimum wage for our work).  This promotes the use of more fabric and in turn the purchase of more fabric…thus others supporting their local quilt shops.

I think I’m doing okay on supporting my local shops even though I don’t actually purchase very much fabric there.

Let’s face it.  Quilting is an expensive hobby.  I don’t have the means the to buy fabric that is $11 a yard on a regular basis.  I do what I can with the resources I have and I don’t feel one bit bad about it…I will admit, it is a little frustrating that I am asked to justify my purchases though.

54 thoughts on “Ask Jo: Shopping Locally”

  1. I agree with you. I understand that local quilt shops want our support, but I feel that basically they’re caught between a rock and a hard place because of two things they can’t control:
    1. the price of fabric
    2. the price of labor

    It takes money to go into business and it takes more money to stay in business, so it’s definitely NOT for the faint-hearted or under financed.

    Basically quilting itself is an industry that has priced itself out of the business for a great many of us who saw all this coming down the road many years ago. We started stockpiling our stash from those very same local quilt stores so that we could keep quilting alive long after our own finances could no longer support our hobby. Some even invested in quilting machines and quilted for others–again to support their hobby.
    So yes, our stashes speak of quilt stores long gone, and of their former employees who are fondly remembered.

    But when it gets right down to it, a quilt store is first and foremost a business, and as such it should operate on it’s feet as one; not as a charity case that pleads for life support from it’s customers.

  2. Betty from Canada

    I have told you many times how jealous I am of the deals you get. Why should it make a difference where you get your fabric.We pay up to $32 per meter (39 inches) for some of our 100% cotton fabric.Keep doing what you are doing to heck with what some people think you should be doing.

  3. Well done for writing an excellent post. You explained your position very well but I am amazed that you received such impertinent comments from blog readers which made you feel you had to explain how and where you source your fabric! You do a lot for your local and wider communities in so many ways. Just carry on being you, ignore the idiots out there.

  4. Jo, you don’t have to justify anything! You do more for charities and your local community than most people!

  5. If it were not for you showing do many how to start a fun hobby without spending $$$ right away, there would be even fewer people out there studying fabric and buying at the local stores. I have bought car loads of fabric from quilter’s estate sales, garage sales, ebay (a lot of which is from quilters or their estates), etc. I fill in from local stores. I have made hundreds of charity quilts.

  6. How silly that you have to explain why you quilt with “bits and bobs,” thrifted fabric, and low-cost fabric. What is quilting anyway but a way to use those discards for beauty and purpose? What a luxury we have to purchase perfectly good fabric to cut into tiny pieces to sew back together into quilts we put on a shelf and never use or launder.

  7. so agree with all you said and the comments above mine also – I too have been told I should support my local quilt shops – even when I say my closest shop is 85 miles in any direction I have been told I should take a road trip and get out for the day and drive to the store to see what they have! I do not need to feel fabric – I have a medium size stash to use, I buy on line from sales, I rarely pay full price. Even if I had a quilt shop down the road from me with 20 miles I would probably continue to do what I am doing now. I do not have good re-sale stores in my area and have never found fabric – you are so lucky in those finds. I know the quilt shops need to stay in business but they are not mine and they are not close by – they do not give me gas money, they do not take me out to lunch for a day trip – If I drove 85 miles one way we are talking about a half day out at least – all those expenses are on top of what I would need to buy – I will continue to buy from my computer chair!

  8. I agree with you, Jo. I am sad to see an industry turn quilting into an expensive hobby for rich retired ladies. I have always done more with less and worked hard for everything, so quilting was appealing to me 60 years ago as a young girl learning to sew on her own. I used the kind of resources you do and I felt that I was part of a wonderful craft. Then the fabric industry took charge and there went my craft. I have watched this process in wool rug hooking, where a wonderful craft was taken over by the experts and ruined for the average working class person. I resent that process as much as local quilt shops resent me for using whatever resources I have to keep my craft going. I can’t pay $13 yard for their so called quilt lines. I can’t even buy from the thrift shops who charge $9 a shirt cuz they know quilters are looking for shirts. My craft is being taken away from me by greedy outsiders. My hope is to quilt until the stash runs out…….

  9. As you explained in a previous post, there is also a thrill in finding bags of fabric at a garage sale or thrift store. There is something to be said for the hunt, as well. My personal opinion is that customer service is a dying art in brick and mortar businesses across the board and if you’ve found places that take good care of you, support them all you want. I am also jealous of the thrift store finds you get, I will confess to hitting the sack sale and getting 6 shirts for $2 bucks in my neighboring town. The closest Goodwill is a 2.5 hour drive, so I only go there when we have appointments. Those shirt deals depend upon the color of the week, but are still reasonably priced at $3.25. And, I need to keep working on sewing up what I have already stashed.

  10. Really? With all you accomplish with your quilting someone needs to criticize? We all do the best we can with whatever means we have. Local shops are wonderful and very helpful. Online is a blessing for people who don’t have a shop close by and for some people who are not as mobile as they would like to be. Isn’t it wonderful that we have options. Our Historical society has a textile sale in the fall. People donate what they do not need/like and other people get fabric at reasonable prices. Recycling. Everyone wins. Just like your thrifting.

    We are quilters! We create, we share, we build each other up and learn from each other.

    As the saying goes,” If you don’t have anything nice to say, keep quiet!”

  11. How rude to question where you buy your fabric! It’s not as if your supporting the big chains with your purchases. Most of us like to get a deal and we certainly don’t pay more than we have to on anything! Your patterns encourage the rest of to quilt and support our local shops. Your shop tours is advertising and exposure those shops couldn’t buy!

    Keep doing what you do just the way you do it! I for one envy your thrift stores and wish I had ones as good!

  12. Another bonus of the thrift store shopping is adding life to older fabric instead of it going to a landfill. Sure, some shirts would get worn, but there are some that definitely fall under Bonnie’s rule: If it’s still ugly, cut it smaller.

    Some quilt stores are well run businesses, some are wishful thinking in the way some restaurants are opened by people who “like to entertain”.

  13. It’s amazing to me that anyone would feel they have to right to tell anyone who they should be supporting with their fabric purchases! You are supporting people no matter where you buy your fabric! Sometimes I need a piece of something specific and I turn to Etsy. While not local, I get exactly what I need, not only is the vendor being supported but it supports the postal/delivery people as well. Those jobs are important too! I love that you stick up for YOUR principles and don’t cave in to anyone else’s pressures! Good for you!

  14. I am always amazed to read blogs where the writer is criticized for something. You (all bloggers) write these and share your talent, time & energy out of the goodness of your hearts. Who are we/they to complain about what you do? My Mom always said that if I couldn’t say something nice, not to say anything at all. That’s how I feel about comments on someone else’s blog. What makes them think that they know any more/better than you or others? Keep doing what you do so well, but sorry you have to endure difficulty doing it!

  15. I buy locally from quilt shops, I buy online, I have been gifted from others who read your blog to help with my charity quilting, I buy at garage sales. Quilting can be expensive if you only buy from quilt shops. I feel I support the shops a lot. And yet there have been 3 local shops to you and I that have closed just this month. Hopefully the quilting industry sees what is happening soon. The cost per yard can’t continue to skyrocket and have us continue to buy at full price. You just continue to keep on what you’ve been doing. Kudos to you for all you do!!

  16. I love thrifting and any place that I can add fabric at a great price is a win for me. I love how much your quilting touches so many in your community and far away. No justifying needed.

  17. I don’t have any local quilt shops. There is one about an hour away, driving on the side of a mountain, that is really not very pleasant to shop at. They cater to their ‘regulars’ and they are very pricey. Another shop, again, driving thru the mountains is 45 miles. It’s friendlier but all fabric is high and they only carry one manufacturer. I can get some fabric at Joann’s but that’s it. I buy Aurafil and YLI online as well as a lot of my fabric. I really find it offensive that people voice their opinions about where we should shop and why. I also sew for charity and just batting/ backing is a small fortune. I am not a quilt snob- not everyone can afford the $11-15 price tag in those shops and spend half the day traveling to them.

  18. I’m sorry for the critics’ comments. Your community service is admirable and beyond most people, as I perceive it. When one is not MADE OF MONEY and wants to give, we buy what we can afford..

    It was kind of you to take the time to write this post and I’m sorry you felt you needed to do so.

    Critics keep to yourselves. Why always a spoiler? Go make a pile of charity quilts with your newly purchased full-price fabrics and then go buy some more!


  20. I agree that however you get your fabric is your business but as someone who has lost 2 local wonderful quilt shops ( and also several yarn shops) I do feel an obligation to help the stores that I value stay in business ( from a selfish point of view)! Support Ivan be in different areas as you described. As i have no voice for advertising, I try to buy from them as possible ( the shop is 45 minutes away from me). I also do buy from them on line when I have seen the fabric first but I have trouble with colors when shopping on line if I have not seen the fabric in person as they can be off and not good for coordinating with some other fabric. This store, The Fabric Shack in Waynesville Ohio, also serves as inspiration for me as my sewing mentor and true friend moved several states away and I have no friends that quilt and only my daughter in law that sees. This shop also discounts their fabric and has a wonderful selection of fabric as well as their sale area which is also on line. This is an expensive hobby now especially as long arm quilting is added into it. I think being resourceful and not snobby with fabric, recycling fabric are all wonderful tools to keep this craft alive for all. Some hospitals will give fabric kits out for people to turn into baby quilts for their long term infants in the NICUs

  21. I agree with all those ladies. I learned to quilt from my aunt and she showed me how each piece in her quilts were memories…an apron, a little dress etc. I prefer scrappy quilts and 2 of my favorites were made from shirts from Goodwill. My friend just spent $14 a yard for fabric for a quilt to donate. I am retired and can’t afford that. You are so generous with your time and talents. My great grandmother said “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything” also.

  22. I wonder how many quilts the person who questioned you has given to charity. I wonder how many free patterns she has given to her readers. I wonder how giving her heart is. I’m sure it would not even come close to what you do. There is going to be a Negative Nellie in all parts of life. Ignore them and keep on doing what you do because you do a lot of good for the world not because you are trying to impress anyone but because it’s who you are.
    What you do and you bargains encourage me to do more. Love your blog!

  23. You shouldn’t have to justify your purchases. It is your business where you get your fabrics. It is your life and money being spent and put to good use that in a round about why supports your community and local businesses

  24. You do not have to justify where you purchase your fabric to anyone. It is all personal choice. I love your quilts and your use of fabric from here there and everywhere.

  25. No justification needed. I buy wherever I get the best deal–I don’t remember the last time I paid full price. BTW–thanks for the recent link to the FQ blowout sale–I got some pretty stuff, including neutral batiks which, at least for me, are hard to find.

  26. Not only does Jo make the charity quilts and use her batting and backings, but many times she also quilts them on her longarm machine. That, in and of itself, is a huge donation. I have had a longarm for 19 years, and they are not an inexpensive purchase. I would not want to purchase one in this day and age as the price has more than tripled since I purchased mine. God bless you, Jo, and thanks for all you do for others.

  27. You go girl! You and your entire family do a lot for your community, so don’t ever let others make you feel guilty. I support my local shops when I can, but sometimes they just don’t have what I need, so I shop online. I also find great fabric at thrift stores, etc.

    I am one of your readers who read a review of a shop, saw a great “boy” quilt in the background, went to their site and ordered the available kit. It’s a great kit and I plan to order from them again, as they had great customer service and kit arrived within a few days of my order.

    Thanks for all you do to share your quilting journey and your life with us.

  28. I ordered fabric from the Quilted Twins yesterday….it was shipped yesterday……the same day that I placed my order.

    I have never had shipping be done that quickly…and I am amazed.

    Tracking says I should have the fabric Monday….three days after placing it.

    That is pretty good in my book.

  29. Hi Jo, I too make quilts to donate to charity, children in foster care. I am disabled and on a limited income and find quilting a way I can volunteer and help kids, even indirectly, while I am unable to do more. I have used the same sources you do for fabric for years, for the same stated reasons. Your philosophy is one reason I am so happy with your blog and website, you are no fabric snob! Not all of us have the luxury of buying full price fabric and shouldn’t be shamed for being thrifty. Thanks for your thoughts.

  30. I feel better after reading this post and the comments. I buy mostly from thrift shops and online, and sometimes from a chain when there’s a big sale. But many of the blog posts I read talk of expensive fabric lines to the point where I thought everyone but me was paying $15 a yard, which I could never justify doing. I haven’t been to the quilt shops for more than a look-in. They’re gorgeous, but out of reach. I’m glad to know I’m not alone in the way I do things.

  31. Diane Dombroski

    How great you are because you give so much of your self!! This sis a very expensive hobby and cheap is great!! You go girl

  32. There is room in the quilting world for everyone. Some of us “rescue” fabric we find at thrift stores, garage, and estate sales. Some re-purpose clothing and linens, just as our grandmothers did (and they used feed, seed, and flour sacks as well). Still others order online, where they find a wide range of prices and nearly limitless choices. And, yes there are those that shop at local fabric shops. (Even if not all the time, at least for sales, a special fabric fallen in love with, fat quarters, patterns, supplies for a class taken through the store) What’s important is keeping the art of quilting alive, fun, and affordable for anyone who wants to create something special. Keep stitching!

  33. I know that quilt stores need to sell things to stay in business, but some of us have to use what we can afford in able to quilt and still buy groceries! And I agree with all of those who said if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything!

  34. And an additional thought…some of the fabrics you get a thrift stores, etc can’t be purchased anymore at a quilt shop because it is discontinued!

  35. Very well put Jo, I will never allow anyone to dictate to me where, when and how I spend my money…ever.

  36. You do NOT have to justify how and where you decide to spend your money. Would those people who criticized you for not buying your fabric at your local quilt shops tell you that if they were face to face with you? No they wouldn’t. Also, I would bet that those same people buy a lot of their quilting fabric at sales prices online. People hiding behind a computer screen need to stop and think before they hit enter when posting on someone’s blog, facebook, twitter, etc. The prices in the quilting/sewing industry are outrageous. I buy my quilting/sewing fabric and supplies wherever I can find the best bargain and the majority of it I buy online because that is where I can really stretch my dollar. I may not be supporting my local quilt shops, but I sometimes support a quilt shop in another state by buying items at a great sale price. The quilting fabric companies bring out new fabric collections so often that last season’s fabric goes on sale within a short period of time.

    Jo, you have a big heart and I really wish you were my neighbor. Keep doing what you do and don’t let “those people” get to you. If it was me, I would tell those people to shut the —- up. LOL

  37. I agree that you do not need to justify where you get the fabrics for your quilts. It’s a free country and you can shop wherever you please. I don’t have a blog so maybe I’m speaking out of turn but I don’t feel you have to justify anything to us. If a reader doesn’t like what you say, then that reader doesn’t have to follow your blog. Thanks for all you do!

  38. hi jo, i once saw a magnet that said “i didn’t say it was your fault, i just said i was going to blame you for it!”. wouldn’t things be so much beter if everyone just did what they were doing and let everyone else do the same, without comment!!! thanks for all the sharing you do and thanks for sticting up for yourself when necessary.

  39. Laurie Scheck

    You go Jo, Great article. I have gotten my fabric from a neighbor, thrift stores, JoAnns and Walmart. My cousin was in Alaska last year and picked up some fabric for me which I hope to use one day in my quilts.

  40. I think you covered that subject thoroughly….we do what we can, so enough said. Keep doing your thing….it works!

  41. Without discount stores, and thrift shops, and car boot sales, and weekend markets, we in Australia would have a hard time getting fabric, even at the equivalent to Wal-Mart or Jo-Anns, we are paying $A15 to $A22.00 a metre and at LQS fabrics are anything from $15.00 for broadcloths to $A32.00 for top line Quilt Fabrics with Fine Liberty like lawns anything up to to $40.00 a meter. Truly though, I agree with most of the comments, if you cannot say something nice, say nothing at all. No ones business where we obtain our fabrics. Finding it much harder to get 100% cotton mens shirts these day, is that the case in the US and Canada too, everthing seems to have some poly in it. Cheerio from Western Australia.

  42. Sandra Davidson

    Jo I admire everything that you do for everybody else. You do not have to justify where you buy your fabric. I use to buy a lot of my fabric in the U.S. On lone and trips to Mi. But now with up to thirty cents on every dollar and outrageous postal costs I am not doing much of that. Our thrift stores in Canada don’t seem to carry much fabrics.
    Anyway off topic Jo don’t pay any attention to those people who do nothing but criticize .

  43. I’ve been thinking about this and I hesitate to respond for fear of backlash from your readers but I guess it would have been nice to see those statement(s) in the context of how they were received. If they were nasty or condescending well then a response is due. Suggesting something and having a differing opinion is ok and not critisizing/insulting as long as it’s done nicely. I just feel that our society has become so oversensitive and easily offended. Not necessarily here but I’ve seen this on blogs many times. One blog I followed, past tense, (not yours) the person writing it can’t deal with anyone who has a differing opinion from hers (presented nicely and not in a mean fashion). She just goes off on them and tries to justify her rage and get her readers to agree with her. I know a blog is a very personal writing space and I guess it’s just expected that people may not agree with you or have another opinion. It’s ok as long as it’s done in a respectful manner. Just some thoughts. I’m guessing those people weren’t trying to offend you or criticize you. Maybe they know people who have local shops and always try to emphasis them to help their friends or family. You just never know where their perspective comes from.

    I’m a long time follower, I have sent you fabric for your charity quilts. I may not agree with everything on your blog from time to time but that’s ok and that’s life. I like more modern fabrics and less quilting which differs from yours but I like to see other styles as well. It doesn’t make me not want to read it. How boring would life be if we were all the same with the same likes and opinions.

    Well just wanted to offer another take on the subject. Hopefully I wont be attacked by your readers. If I am, so be it, I’m not easily riled up and know that my comments weren’t mean spirited, just another viewpoint ;c)

    1. I agree with all you said…we do need lots of opinions and perspectives to make an interesting world we live in. Writing a blog can be hard at times…but harder than that for me, being human is hard too.

  44. I’m in agreement with all the other comments. I know personally that others always have
    an opinion on how or where someone else spends their money. They don’t count. It’s each
    persons own decision how and where to use their resources. I was lucky enough to find a dining room table on the curb with a free sign on it. I didn’t feel a moment of guilt or remorse for the furniture store. Just doing what I can and hoping that others get some good from the things I no longer can use.Fabric or whatever it is. I’m open for any opportunity. Glad you are too.

  45. Jo, neither you – nor any of us who quilt – need to justify where we get or buy our fabric, tools or notions to continue quilting!! I worked in a quilt shop years ago, that closed due to lack of traffic and (lack of innovation by the owner). Fabric prices THEN were up to $7-8 yd, and we thought that was terrible back then! If it weren’t for a good stash and supplemented by friends who’ve stopped quilting since, I couldn’t afford to make quilts today. A friend and I recently bought a slew of goodies at an estate sale, new lines of fabric, books, patterns and tools that had hardly been touched. We kept some of it and donated the rest to our charity guild group. Quilting has always been the epitome of textile recycling … wouldn’t our grandmothers and ancestors be amazed to see the choices we have today, and dismayed to see the criticism of that recycling???

  46. PS forgot to say, THANK YOU for the inspiration and the free patterns you’re so kind to share with us !!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top