Wednesday, August 14, 2019

A Quilting Thread #3: Secondary Sources

About 1915

We can also look to published accounts about prices for quilting---secondary sources. 

In 1920 Emmett Leroy Shannon wrote a book on how to earn a little money on the side. Money for the Woman Who Wants It had a few paragraphs on quilting for pay. "The old rate...$1.00 per spool." He explained:
"The patron furnished everything, thread included, and the quilter had $1.00 for the work required to use up a single spool....Some will take three, five or even seven spools, according to their design."

Tying a quilt about 1910

In the early 1920s Shannon thought a fair rate might be $2 or $2.50 a spool, while the ads of the time indicate the going price was closer to $1.

About 1950

In her 1949 Standard Book of Quilt Making and Collecting Marguerite Ickis cited $1.25 a yard for a spool of 125 yards.

Searches for quilting thread prices haven't yielded much information.

This 1937 ad from a Marion, North Carolina department
store gives some prices.
"Quilting thread, 4 balls for 5c"

This may be a thread locally produced in a North Carolina mill and sold by the ball rather than the spool, perhaps that thick thread often seen in Southern quilts.

Maybe the 1970s

Linda Degh's Indiana Folklore: A Reader, published in 1980, included an interview with a Mrs. DeVault about the economics of quilting. She tells us the standard $1 a spool story in the past and then explains, "She would not quilt for less than six cents per yard."

A quilt [requiring] at least 800 yards of thread = $48. "It takes three weeks to do it."

About 1960

Let's hope professional quilters are recording their prices today.

And that's the end of this thread.


  1. Oh, to have a time machine and be able to sit in these circles surrounding the quilt in the frame and listen to the conversations!

  2. So interesting that thread was a means of measuring worth and time.

  3. An interesting part of history - amazing! Thank you for the mini series, Barbara

  4. I have been using Coats thread for both piecing and quilting most of my life and one spool lasts for more than one quilt. It would not be so inviting to be offered pay by the spool. Of course, I use each section right down to the very end, so not much is thrown out.

  5. Fascinating information, not only the prices, but also the photos. In the photo about 1980 prices, what is that quilt pattern shown? And I think that last one would make a great sewing room decor item.

  6. great photos and just interesting information. Thanks Barbara