Ideas for How to Quilt with Eco-friendly Methods and Materials

9 Jan 2013

Our foremothers knew how to make a quilt using only what they had, from scraps of fabric to natural dyes. But, quilt making the frugal and eco-friendly way was easier for them: they didn't have much of a choice. Pioneer women didn't have fabric stores, and even our own mothers didn't have the Internet offering fabrics, thread, and surface design supplies available at the click of a button.

how to make a quilt with kitchen resist fabrics

In this piece, Lisa Kerpoe shows how to
make a quilt from dyed fabrics using a rice
cereal resist. LIsa wrote a series of articles
on kitchen resists
for Quilting Arts in 2011.

That's not to say that contemporary art quilters don't save scraps and found objects to use in future quilt projects. We're geniuses at inventive quilt making!

But if you're looking to downsize your stash, help save the planet, or just be more creative about using what you have, here are some frugal and eco-friendly sewing, surface design, and quilting tips:

I just thought of another one: going digital. Digital magazines, books, and videos don't clutter your home, have little or no packaging, and save on shipping. Have you seen all our digital products in the Quilting Daily Shop? Be sure to check them out.


P.S. I'm sure you can think of some other eco-friendly and/or frugal quilting ideas that also save you money. Please share them with everyone, below.


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nanarobs wrote
on 10 Jan 2013 1:18 PM

I have another.... the smallest of scraps can be used for this project...get wash-away backing and arrange the scraps on it in random or purpose designs...sew them to attach to the backing using your choice of stitch...when you have the desired effect get a pattern [tops look good made this way] and cut it from your "fabric"...sew it up as usual and wash to remove the backing....you can have this as wholey as you dare in any colour combinations you choose...I gaurantee nobody else will have an original like yours. Love Robyn  

floozette wrote
on 10 Jan 2013 7:53 PM

Vivika, have you ever seen how indigo is converted into dye?  It may be natural but it is a very messy and unhygienic process, imho.  I think there must be cleaner natural dyes one can use.  I do applaud your sentiments though, we need to use less, make less waste and enjoy ourselves more.

floozette wrote
on 10 Jan 2013 7:53 PM

Vivika, have you ever seen how indigo is converted into dye?  It may be natural but it is a very messy and unhygienic process, imho.  I think there must be cleaner natural dyes one can use.  I do applaud your sentiments though, we need to use less, make less waste and enjoy ourselves more.

ckquilter wrote
on 11 Jan 2013 4:12 AM

i often invite friends over to learn sun printing during the summer.

and while i  always have a roll of paper towel handy - i use only a couple pieces each day for final clean up.

when a friend reaches for a paper towel to mop up paint - i direct her to one of my "clean up rags" instead.    it is just a small piece of my paint ready fabric.

they are used any time i am mopping up color - from brushes, mixing containers, or drops of paint. once they are wet, i hang them to dry. they can be reused many times - until they are filled with color.   i keep several handy - and use the one most appropriate to the color being mopped up.  

if i have a bit of paint left over at the end of the day - rather than throwing it away (i am paying for that color !!!), i will dilute it a little and use the lightened color to overcolor a clean up rag.

another option, i sometimes have a skinny piece left over on the end of my yardage that i cut my fabric from.   i will use the remaining bits of paint to color the 6 to 10 inch long by 42 inch wide strip.  then it makes perfect binding strips for the fabrics painted that day. (the paint colors often don't go real well with commercially printed fabrics. so my own painted strips work better.)

many of my clean up rags have found their way into a quilt, or even become their own little quilt. they make excellent wholecloth backgrounds for the heavily beaded and embellished little quilts i often make.

they are also great to take to classes, when you want something fun to work with, but don't want to cut up "good" fabric to learn on.

i reserve the paper towel for the last clean up of mixing containers - when they just remove the final bit of grunge.                   ckquilter

Mary Simon wrote
on 12 Jan 2013 1:39 PM

My quilting friends and I make beds from batting and fabric scraps for dogs and cats in shelters .  We use old twill or demin or uphostery chunks to make a large pillow, then we fill it with our scraps.  No pins or needles please!  Thread is bad for animals, if they break the pillow open - so none of that.  Dryer lint and cut-up socks and underwear are also good as stuffing.

We don't overfill the pillow, because dogs like a softer feel.  We can't make enough of these beds - the need is so great.  

Mary Dunn in Michigan

linlal wrote
on 12 Jan 2013 10:49 PM

Vivika, one of the reasons I don't order digital copies of magazines is that I don't know how long I'll be able to access them on my computer. I have things that I saved on previous computer systems that I can't access via my current system which is now 4 1/2 years old.  Since I've kept my old computers, I can still look at all the material on them but, as soon as they die, I will lose whatever I haven't either printed out or converted to a newer system.

This is also true for the digital photos I've taken of my work. Is this an issue for others as well or is it just me?

anne jewell wrote
on 18 Jan 2013 3:57 PM

i make small patchwork quilts out of old raincoats, canvas, and other material that might be too

heavy for bed quilts,  i then donate them to the animal shelter for the floors of the cages.--anne