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What Should I Consider When Buying a Quilt?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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A quilt can be a lasting piece of family heritage, or simply another layer on the bed for a cold night. There are several things to take under consideration when buying a quilt, including its intended use and the person the it is intended for. There are numerous sources for quilts, including craft fairs, department stores, and specialty shops, and once you have decided what kind you want, you can visit the source most likely to provide it for you. Craft fairs will tend to feature hand-made quilts created by artists, while a department store will stock basic machine-made ones that are functional, although often not as attractive.

The basic form of a quilt is two layers of fabric stitched together with an insulating layer of cotton, straw, feathers, or some other heat retaining material between them. The entire quilt is covered in an intricate stitching pattern to prevent the filling from clumping, and the pattern is usually decorative. Most quilts are pieced, meaning that the top layer of fabric is made from many smaller pieces of fabric, stitched together to form a pattern. Originally, they were made from scraps of fabric, but most modern examples are specially designed with particular fabrics to create an image or overall pattern.

The first thing to consider when buying a quilt is its function. Some are designed purely for decorative use, and should be displayed on a wall from quilt rods. Other lightweight varieties are meant to be used as throws and coverlets, while thicker quilts can form an important layer of insulation on the bed. If you intend to actively use the quilt, you should get one that is washable, and you may also want to consider the potential for allergies. Many people are allergic to feathers and straw, and would not appreciate a gift that caused an allergic reaction; quilts with cotton or polyester batting are a better choice, and will be easier to care for. Decorative quilts, on the other hand, can be made with any filling or fabric, and are sometimes quite stunning.

You should also choose between a hand- or machine-made quilt. Hand-made ones will cost more, because the crafts person will have individually cut out the pieces of fabric and stitched them together. Some quilters use sewing machines to make their quilts, but the overall pattern will still be unique, and represent a substantial investment of time. A hand-made quilt is the sort of gift which might be passed down for generations. Machine-made quilts usually have a generic pattern, and are constructed entirely by machine in a factory. These are practical for keeping people warm, but are unlikely to be treasured long into the future.

Think about the overall color and pattern as well. Quilts come in a wide range of styles, from very simple modern designs to explosions of color that can transform a room. Choose a pattern with care, thinking about where the quilt will be used and the aesthetic of the person you are purchasing it for. You may also want to do some research into quilt blocks, the basic squares which are used to construct most quilts. A number of traditional designs such as the Tree of Life, Robbing Peter to Pay Paul, Log Cabin, Kansas Star, Pinwheel, and many others can make up the core of the design; if you find one which appeals to you, try to find a quilt which integrates it.

HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a HomeQuestionsAnswered researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By Pharoah — On Aug 25, 2012

@betterment - That makes sense. My mom actually just recently spent a couple hundred dollars on a hand sewn star quilt. She hung it up as a decoration in the living room, and it looks great. The colors go with the rest of the room, and you can tell the sewing on the quilt is very intricate. The stitches are so tiny!

But I couldn't imagine using a quilt like that for sleeping. If something happened to it, I would never forgive myself for spending that much money on it!

By betterment — On Aug 25, 2012

I think it's really important to consider what you want to do with the quilt before you buy it, as the article said. For example, if I wanted a quilt for a young child, I probably wouldn't spend hundreds of dollars on an heirloom Amish quilt that was hand sewn by a craftsperson.

On the other hand, if I wanted a quilt for decoration, I might consider spending a lot of money on one. It really depends.

By JaneAir — On Aug 24, 2012

@Azuza - Not everyone has the skills or time to make use of quilt patterns and make their own quilt. I actually took a quilting class quite awhile ago, and I was horrible at it. I'm just not cut out for sewing! So any quilt I get will have to be bought from either a store, or someone who knows how to sew.

By Azuza — On Aug 24, 2012

@wavy58 - I completely agree with you. Handmade quilts (especially those made by a family member) are wonderful. And they hold a lot more meaning than some quilt that was made in a factory!

When I was younger, my mom made me a log cabin quilt for my bed. It was warm and comfy, and I felt so special that my mom had taken the time to sew a quilt for me!

I know not everyone has the sewing skills to do this, but if you can, you totally should.

By kylee07drg — On Aug 23, 2012

My sister has a thin baby quilt that she uses as padding in the crib. She bought it at a department store, and it has a cute pattern of baby animals on it.

She lays it down wherever she plans to lay the baby. I've seen her put it on the couch, on the recliner, and even on the floor during play time.

It keeps the rough carpet from touching the baby's sensitive skin, and it keeps drool from getting onto the furniture. I think it's important to choose patterns that kids will like when picking out baby quilts. This makes them more apt to stay on the quilt.

By orangey03 — On Aug 23, 2012

@DylanB – I have some quilt bedding that I use on top of my blankets and sheets to add an extra layer of warmth. However, I keep the top of the quilt a few inches down from the rest of the bedding, so that it doesn't touch my face.

I have it there to lock in my body heat. I always look for the thickest quilts available, even though they cost more. Thick quilts last longer, and they are so much warmer than the thinner ones.

By DylanB — On Aug 22, 2012

It's important to me that the quilt fabric be soft and comfy. I tend to tuck my quilts under my chin and snuggle up with them while I sleep, so having rough fabric would be really irritating.

The toughest quilts are sometimes made of less than comfortable material. This is because they are made to go on top of the bed, and some people don't snuggle up with their covers like I do, so the material won't necessary be touching their skin.

By wavy58 — On Aug 21, 2012

There really is nothing better than a handmade quilt. My grandmother made one using pieces of fabric that she had used to make my mother's dresses, so this one had special meaning to her. When she covered up with it, she said she felt like she was wearing all her dresses at once!

So, if you have any fabric that holds special meaning, it's great to find a quiltmaker who will be willing to craft one out of this fabric for you. I don't know how expensive this could get, but if you already had the fabric, you would at least save the cost of that material.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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