Sewing on a budget

2 Oct

I’ve just been reading the Wearing History blog. Her post about sewing on a budget got me thinking: how do I myself sew on a budget?

Here is my own list!

  • Only buy fabric I have fallen in love with. Honestly, life is too short to sew ugly fabric! (And you’d be amazed, or maybe not, how ugly fabrics can creep into the stash *meep*)
  • Only buy fabric in colours that suit me –  if it doesn’t look good on me, it doesn’t matter how much effort I put into it, or money or anything else, I just won’t wear it. This point took me a LONG time to work out, and nowadays, if I absolutely have to have a fabric that doesn’t suit me, I make it up into pillowcases, or cushion covers, or cloths to cover my dresser top so my cat can go sliding on it and drag it and everything else off my dresser.
  • Know how much fabric I need for each variety of garment – eg basic top or blouse – 130cm x 115; Fancy top or blouse – 150cmx115. Long shorts – 150cm. Short shorts – 110cm etc. Thus when I find a fabric suitable for a garment style I can buy an appropriate amount. Similarly, knowing what kind of fabric works for each style of garment helps too.
  • When I’ve totally lost inspiration with a fabric in my stash, rethink. Can I dye it? Can I make it into a bag or hat? or a christmas present for someone? Anything but what I had in mind originally?
  • Look in op-shops for fabric, (a burn test to help identify the fibre composition); patterns; trims; notions; fasteners.
  • Make my own trims – a ruffle I’ve made myself from scraps of fabric and cording is cheaper and often more interesting than ruffles you can buy. Plus since I discovered rolled hems or narrow hems on the overlocker a whole new world of trimming has opened up!
  • Buy notions for a garment when I’m making it, not when I buy the fabric (which is what I was taught to do when I first started learning to sew), otherwise I’ll inevitably end up with random unused zips because I was suddenly hit with inspiration that buttons would work so much better. Or vice versa.  Or other variations of that theme.
  • Try to avoid buying full-price patterns as sooner or later there will always be a pattern sale.
  • Try very very very hard not to buy repeat pattern styles. For eg, do I really need 5 different versions of a peasant blouse do I? Ok, maybe I do. Surely ONE pattern, with options for elastic or drawstring under the bust, long sleeves, short sleeves, and those little fluted ones is enough? No it isn’t. I really DO need five different patterns! Same with princess-line dresses or darted trousers or or or…
  • Mix-and-match design details from different patterns so I can get the look I’m after without having to buy another new pattern. This also has the benefit of having a collection on TNT patterns that I know well, and can sew up easily, allowing me to concentrate on style differences, rather than the bones of the pattern.
  • Copy RTW clothes I really like. It isn’t hard, and the results can be fantastic.
  • Sew to a wardrobe plan, so I have plenty of clothes to wear on an everyday level, and don’t end up going off and buying rtw clothes I need, but secretly don’t like because it’s ill-fitting or the fabric doesn’t feel nice etc.
  • Sewing to a wardrobe/lifestyle plan also means I only sew things that match each other and my accessories. No orphans oh ok, not many, anyway.  It is so disheartening to sew something very beautiful, that took a lot of time, effort and money, only to never wear it. Like, say, an opera cloak, even though I don’t go to operas. (Sadly. Not many operas come to Darwin 😦 And when they do, I don’t exactly need a nice warm cloak, do I?! <— Imogheena the closet opera lover…) Can you tell I would love to have an opera cloak and the reason to wear it?
  • Use my sewing and fitting skills on op-shop or RTW clothes I buy to improve fit and longevity of seams etc. This can make all the difference between a garment becoming a beloved wardrobe staple, or being passed on (or back) to the op-shop.
  • Put expansion and contraction room in clothes. This is a very personal one – my weight goes up and down over the month, and due to how much dancing or dog-walking Ive done lately. Judicial use of ties, elastic etc, means I am comfortable in my clothes wherever my body is at. Less likely to TOAD (Throw out in absolute disgust) an item of clothing when I’m premenstrual!
  • Use my sewing and crafting skills to make presents for family and friends for birthday or christmas. For a long time I didn’t do this, afraid that they’d all go “Oh, that’s lovely Imogheena!” then throw it in the back of the cupboard. But either my confidence in choosing presents is increasing, or I’m just getting better at  believing people really are appreciating what I make for them 🙂
  • Similarly, encourage family and friends to give me gifts related to sewing, rather than something like salt and pepper shakers I’ll never use! (Although the cute little green frog salt and pepper shakers my friend Rose gave me make great garden ornament :-D)

Last but not least, seeing how although I’m good at writing the above rules, I’m not so good at sticking to them, I’ve found the absolute best method is to just not go near a fabric or craft shop, or fabric or craft or sewing sites online. Abstinence. I can manage it for a week or two at a time. Honest!

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