For years, we in the United States have enjoyed very low prices on cotton quilting fabrics–somewhere in the range of $8 to $10 per yard for local quilt shop quality fabrics. However other regions, including Canada and Europe, routinely pay much higher prices. A meter of fabric in Canada is closer to $20 than $10. I have Canadian friends who use every excuse to cross the border just to shop at a U.S. quilt shop. To them it’s like a half-price sale!
If you’ve gone shopping for fabric lately though, you have probably noticed that prices are going up. There are several reasons for this – all of them completely beyond your shop owner’s control.
- Natural disasters and extreme weather in regions where cotton is grown–including Texas, Pakistan, and China–have lead to a shortage of cotton worldwide. As with any commodity, the rules of supply and demand apply. As the supply goes down, the cost goes up.
- The U.S. dollar is weaker than it was. In countries where fabric is manufactured, our dollar is worth less and so it costs more to buy the finished product.
- There are fewer cotton mills that can produce quilting cotton in the quantity and quality that quilters demand.
- Duties on imported goods have increased.
- Shipping costs have increased.
What does this mean for you and your quilting? Well, you may want to dip into your stash more than you have in the past. You may want to be more frugal with your precious fabric, keeping smaller scraps than before. You may want to buy cheaper fabrics (including the dreaded polyester blends) for practice projects, tote bags and other accessories, and other non-heirloom quilt projects. Keep in mind though that polyester is made from petroleum and the price of oil is not going to come down. So that “cheap” poly cotton is not as cheap as it used to be.
For people in cotton-growing regions of the world, the rising price of cotton is good news. It means that cotton farmers will make more money providing this now-scarce commodity. As this chart shows, the price of cotton has tripled since the beginning of last year. Only a small fraction of that goes to the farmers, of course, but as this article discusses, they are happy for even a small increase in their very small income.
How will you deal with the rising price of cotton quilting fabric?