Sewing on a Budget

I am queen of the awkward silence! It’s been too long since I’ve posted but I’ve been sewing away and there are some posts lined up for the coming weeks.   Meanwhile, here’s my thoughts on Sewing on a Budget…

Many people get into sewing with the thought that it will help them save money on their clothing budget but quickly realise that the cost of fabric, notions, and tools can add up and all of a sudden you’re looking at a dress that cost you half of the national deficit to make.   There are so many beautiful fabrics out there that it’s easy to get sucked in and order all the pretty things and start cultivating your purse as a home to the local spiders, rather than where your money resides.   However, there are ways of successfully sewing on a budget and with a bit of leg work and savvy spending you can have a wardrobe full of beautiful handmade clothing and not have to organise a bank heist to fund it.   Here’s a few of my tips.

Sewing Patterns

The online sewing community has exploded over the last few years and there are so many free patterns and tutorials online that sometimes it feels as though you will never have to buy a pattern ever again.   In fact, it’s only in the last three months or so of my sewing career that I have succumbed to buying any patterns brand new.   Here’s a few of my favourite free tutorials from the interwebs.

Colette Sorbetto top

By Hand London Polly vest

Swoon patterns scarf neck cardigan

I’ve also managed to pick up pattern bargains in the local charity/thrift shops.   Here’s a few examples.

Equipment

If you are new to sewing and considering purchasing your first machine see if you can borrow a machine or try out a class before committing to purchasing your own. You may find that sewing just isn’t for you and it’s much cheaper to realise this before your fork out your hard earned pennies on the shiniest all singing all dancing machine.   If you do decide to take the leap and buy your own, start with a basic model.   All you really need to begin with is a straight stitch with adjustable length, a zig-zag stitch and a button hole option.   The machine I use is this basic model from Hobby craft which was an affordable price and had all the functions I needed at the time.   18 months on and beginning to tackle intermediate patterns, this machine still does everything I need it to do.

There are also often inexpensive alternatives to the multitude of gadgets you suddenly feel you must own to be a ‘real’ seamstress.   For example:

  • Use a kebab skewer or knitting needle instead of a point turner (I always have a bamboo skewer around somewhere)

–          Use a safety pin to turn tubes rather than a bodkin

Fabric sourcing

Many sewist’s happy place is their local fabric shop and they like nothing better than spending hours on end browsing the racks of beautiful bolts of cloth.   I can find this a bit overwhelming at times and I cannot see the wood for the trees.   Plus fabric in some of the higher end shops can cost an arm and a leg.   Now, I’m just learning fitting skills and I don’t think I can work out how to make something fit without all my required limbs.   Therefore, I recommend a bit more leg work in your fabric shopping and here’s my tips:

Charity/ Thrift shops- It seems to be that a lot of our local highstreets are being taken over by charity shops as more an more of our conventional retail moves online.   These stores can be a treasure trove and they often have lengths of fabric that are frequently underpriced.   There are also often vintage patterns in really good condition.   Here are some of the finds I have had.

I find that you have to think a bit more creatively with fabric bought this way as you often don’t have labels telling you fabric content and the colours/patterns may not be exactly what you are looking for.   For this reason, I normally grab any bargains I can find and consider sewing pattern second.   This can mean a risk that your fabric stash would grow exponentially without set plans for it, but this is just the way I like to work anyway (although Tobi may have other ideas and, as previously mentioned, has exiled my stash to the garage).   I would suggest trawling your local stores on a regular basis to keep an eye on new stock coming in.   If you find something that you wouldn’t be caught dead wearing it’s still worth considering buying it for use in toiles/muslins.

Freecycle- I’ve posted before about the finds I’ve had through freecycle.   I have found in my local area that fabric doesn’t come up regularly on freecycle, but it’s always worth asking if anyone’s got stuff hanging around that they don’t want anymore and that can be put to good use.

IMG_3147

Car boot/ garage sales- people seem to be becoming more savvy about the increasing popularity of sewing and other craft activities and I have found sellings increasingly bagging up sets of buttons etc. and asking for more for their items than previously.   However, you can still get complete bargains.   Here is my most recent find from my local car boot sale- Pattern Magic and Pattern magic 2 for £1 for both books!   These were brand new and unused too.

Unconventional sources/ refashioning-  most supermarkets now have extensive ranges of sheets and bedding and these can easily be used as yardage. I have made three dresses using sheets purchased in charity shops- the Dr. Who Emery Dress, The Chemery dress and an unblogged 50’s style prom dress.   Sheets are also great for toiles.   Again, look in charity shops, not just for yardage but also for any of the RTW clothes that catch your eye.   With a bit of imagination these can be changed into beautiful new outfits.   There are several blogs that are brilliant for refashioning ideas.   Check out Refasionista , New Dress a Day  and Charity Shop Chic.

Other- Gumtree, Facebook and Yahoo groups can also be a good source for fabric.   If you have a network of local sewing friends see if you can arrange a fabric and pattern swap party for your unwanted items.   Several online stores also provide money off vouchers if you subscribe to their mailing lists.   Shop the sales, remnant bins and remnant bundles online- you can sometimes grab a bargain.

Other hints and tips

  • Keep your scraps.   They’re great for contrasting pocket pieces, bodice lining or for piecing a whole dress together.
  • Play with your cutting layout to make the most of the fabric you’ve got. Fabric estimates on sewing patterns are often an overestimate.
  • Buy the highest quality fabric/notions you can afford and these wash better and will last longer so you get more wear for your money.
  • Set a budget- I try to not spend more than £20 a month on everything related to sewing.   This helps to stop the spending getting out of control and helps you to be more aware of where those costs are adding up.
  • Shop your stash before you buy anything new- there could be the perfect length of fabric just waiting and the bottom of your stash for you.

–          Be aware of your style and what suits you and stick to it.   Coletterie have had a recent wardrobe architect series to get you thinking about your style.   If you stick to what you know makes you look and feel good you will get more wear out of it and your garments are less likely to be worn once and then remain languishing at the bottom of your wardrobe.

 

I think that’s about it for my sewing on a budget tips. Do any of you have any hints and tips you’d like to share?

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5 thoughts on “Sewing on a Budget

  1. It’s definitely the biggest myth surrounding sewing! Great tips in there, thanks for sharing. I had some really bad experiences with my first machine (it was a hand-me-down Aldi/Lidl model from a cousin) which nearly put me off sewing so would recommend new sewers look around for bargains on good machines instead of opting for really basic models (maybe through free cycle or some local forums). So many people have amazing sewing machines they don’t use.
    Your thrifted patterns are gorgeous!! I’ve spotted some great bargains on pattern lots on EBay. The listings are often vague on sizes because it’s a mixed lot, but sellers are usually happy to send much more detail if you contact them for it.

    • Thanks, some more great points there. I’m queen of a bargain- picked up at least 30 1980’s sewing patterns from a mag the other day at a charity shop. They have them all to me for £1!! Even suggested paying me to take them away

  2. Very well-observed. I found I spent a lot on patterns and needed to think about what I already owned before I bought more. A lot of patterns I own are quite similar but for a few minor details. I could kick myself! Especially since I wanted to get away from consuming for the sake of just having things. The Sorbetto (or any kind of free sloper/block) is a great place for newer sewists to start and then adapt as confidence grows. Excellent advice in your post

  3. Pingback: Autumn Sewing Plans | Sewcial Warrior

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