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.


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.


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?


Imitation Lady Skater

Hey guys. Sorry I haven’t posted for a little while, I’ve spent the last week feeling incredibly sorry for myself with the flu and suffering side effects from my regular medication that’s made me dizzy constantly. I’ve been wanting to sew but crawling round on the floor to cut fabric whilst feeling dizzy did not feel particularly appealing.

Anyway, I have done some sewing in the last week. I’ve mentioned before the moths that fly out of my wallet whenever it’s opened and my desperate need to make this an affordable hobby.   This is all my fault I hasten to add- Credit is bad, m’kay? As such I often find myself lusting over patterns that are doing the blog rounds as I just can’t afford to buy them.   What does this mean?   Do I cry myself to sleep thinking of all the beautiful things I could be making?   Nope, I have to level up my pattern drafting skills.

This is where the Lady Skater by Kischycoo comes in.   I love this dress and it’s the very essence of what I like to wear around the house at the weekend- quick to throw on, comfy and flattering with a defined waist and fairly full skirt.   There have been some beautiful dresses created around the web such as the ones here, here and here.   After resisting a recreation when the pattern was first launched last year I caved in when it was released in the first Perfect Pattern Parcel, which as usual I wanted but couldn’t afford.

So here it my homage to the Lady Skater:



I based my dress on the free Plantain t-shirt pattern by Deer and Doe but took in the sides at the waist to match my measurements, taking out the flare in the original pattern.   Then I got me to drafting a circle skirt.   I originally wanted a full circle skirt but I didn’t have enough fabric so opted for a half circle- I think it’s probably more authentic to the original pattern too.   I used By Hand London’s circle skirt app to help me quickly calculate what radius I needed to draft my circle.   I made a muslin in a cotton jersey that’s just not my colour but I didn’t have enough for a full skirt so did a bit of freehand drafting, a la Chinelo from the Sewing Bee, to draft a peplum instead.  Once I knew that fitted I cracked on with my real fabric.


This is one of the rare pieces of fabric in my stash that I’ve actually bought from a fabric shop, not been handed down or purchased in a charity shop.   It came from Fabricland in Basingstoke and as soon as I saw it I knew I had to have it and it was going to be an imitation Lady Skater.   I’m a bit partial to a skull print.   It’s a bit less stable than the original pattern calls for and, in hindsight, I should have taken that into account when drafting the pattern as it’s a bit on the loose side.   It’s a mixed fibre t-shirt weight jersey and is really soft and sooooooo drapey- it kept wanting to drag itself off the sewing table onto the floor while it was whizzing through my overlocker.

I’ve spied on a few posts about this dress that that shoulder and waist seams are stabilised with clear elastic to prevent them from drooping overtime, so I decided to do this on my dress, although I just opted for some 1/4″ white elastic from my stash.   I think this is where the instability of my jersey let me down as the seam is a bit wavy- probably should have used the differential feed on my overlocker.

Anyway, I’m super chuffed with this make and have worn it repeatedly in the week or so I’ve had it and it’s already been through the wash a load of times.   I hope Amanda over at Kischycoo isn’t too offended that I didn’t buy her pattern- I would have loved to, and I urge all of you to run over there now and buy it immediately.



Sewing on a budget


Sewing can be an expensive hobby, especially if you’re like me and want all the gadgets and gizmos that make a task easier. However, I’m awful with money and so always flat broke. This means I have a very limited budget and have to be creative about where my fabric and notions come from. My favourite place for a bargain is the charity shops. A few weeks ago I came home with at least 10 metres of fabric which only set me back £17. The majority of the fabric, barring the polka dots (one of the few fabric purchases I’ve made myself from an actual fabric shop- fabricland), in the above picture is from charity shops or the stash I inherited from my grandmother-in-law when she have up sewing.


Let’s talk about the outfit then. Ther skirt is a corduroy version of the Colette Meringue inspired by Lucky Lucille’s Meringue. I wanted to add a waistband rather than use facings and had a look at Colette’s tutorial to add a waistband to the meringue but I like a high waistband for the vintage look. From looking at Lucky Lucille’s picture it looked like she just cut a straight waistband so I went for this tack. All the way through sewing it a little voice in my head was saying “your should have drafted a curved waistband” and, although what I’ve done looks alright, I was probably right about that as the straight waistband is a bit loose where it doesn’t follow the curve- oh well I like it anyway.

The top is a modification of Gerties Portrait Blouse. I drafted my very first flat collar for this and for the life of me, I can’t work out why it didn’t reach all the way round to meet in front- I drafted it to do that. Rather that ripping it out and redrafting I decided I quite liked the look (despite applying it slightly wonkily!). My hubby thought the bow would look better in Navy but I didn’t have any navy fabric in my stash so what I did was, rather than stitch the bow on, I made a buttonhole just below the centre point of the neckline so I could tie on the bow and can replace it easily at a later date when I have some Navy fabric.


I’ve already wittered on about the zip insertion on this skirt, so I won’t bore you with that again. The sewing up, other than the zip, was fairly starightforward and I flipped the hem facing to the outside for the colour block effect. The raw edge is covered with Navy grosgrain ribbon. I did intend the colour combo the other way round for this skirt but the royal blue cord I had was slightly too narrow to be able to cut both front and back skirt panels so I swapped. The only other change I made was top stitching the scallops as the cord is a bit thick and needed it for a crisper edge.

I love this skirt- it’s really comfy to sit around at work all day and it looks smart on. I love bright colours, especially blues and greens and so this is right up my street. My first make from my Colette Sewing handbook and I’m looking forward to trying out some of the other patterns too.