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In an ideal world, we'd all get our fabrics at the local quilting store. However, on a little planet I'd like to call earth, most local quilting stores are way beyond the average budget. For those of us who can't afford to spend the equivalent of a month's worth of groceries on enough fabric for a quilt, here are some tips for scoring fabric on the cheap:

Jo-Ann stores are located nationwide and they almost always have a sale on some of their quilting or decorating fabric. They also have an on-line store, but the fabric selection on-line leaves a lot to be desired. However, if you sign up for their newsletter online, you'll get a never-ending stream of 40% off coupons.

If your fabric tastes run a little more high-end, try Hancock's of Paducah. Not to be confused with Hancock Fabrics, Hancock's of Paducah is a quilter's Mecca with a physical store in Kentucky. However, their on-line store is pretty pilgrimage-worthy too. Best of all, they have a discount section with designer fabrics (Alexander Henry, Amy Butler, Marcus Brothers, Robert Kaufman, Free Spirit... all the quilt shop staples) as cheap as $3 a yard.

A few other online stores worth honorable mention include: E-quilter (they have great scrap bags), Fashionable Fabrics (their sale section is great) and Fields Fabrics, (they have an amazing selection of Robert Kaufman Kona Cotton - at $3.97 per yard).

E-Bay isn't always the bargain-hunter's dream it used to be. For starters, a significant number of sellers don't even run auctions anymore, so the odds of getting a steal at just the right time are lower. Second, the fabric available via "buy it now" often costs the same on e-bay as they do in physical stores. Nonetheless, if you're patient, there are bargains to be had. Older fabric collections tend to be cheaper plus there are sellers who specialize in mill ends and closeouts and can offer fabrics at a good price. Since it's hard to gauge fabric quality from a photo, I recommend only buying fabrics by manufacturers whose products you already know and like.

If you're really not picky at all, you can score fabric for next to nothing. Check out your local Craigslist listings. The "for sale" section includes offers of free items and I've seen listings for fabric on several occasions. Usually, it's a crafter who's moving or downsizing, someone who inherited a relative's stash, or businesses that for one reason or another, end up with fabric remnants. In any case, these listings can be a goldmine. Similarly, if you join your local FreeCycle community you're likely to come across people who need to unload fabric for one reason or another.

Thrift store shopping isn't for everyone, but if you're willing to wade through oodles of random stuff, you can find decent fabric for a great price. My favorite thrift store fabric find? - Corduroy curtains, ($4 for a set of three) which I made into pillows. Some crafters recommend using thrift store sheets for projects but sheets tend to have a higher thread count than most crafting fabric, which makes them difficult to sew. If you find some sheets you just have to use for crafting, be sure to get a super thin needle that can more easily penetrate the fabric.


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