There was a time when just about every ‘house wife’ would sew clothes for herself and her family. My mother makes mention of many items she sewed in her diaries written in the fifties. I know my Mum didn’t enjoy sewing but at that time it was an economic necessity. There were no discount stores, or op shops to provide cheap clothing.
Today many women do not sew clothes or items such as curtains and cushion covers. However, some enjoy the creativity of making something themselves. Unfortunately, sewing often isn’t cheap and indeed making it yourself can cost more than buying ready made.
It can be satisfying to make something which is different from what everyone else is wearing or using in their home. If you like sewing but are on a budget here are twelve ways to keep the costs down.
1. Regularly check out remnant bins in fabric stores. You need to know what you are likely to use so you don’t waste money on material you will never use. It isn’t a bargain if you don’t use it.
2. Buy fabric when it is on special or discounted. Sign up to get on the mailing list for discount fabric stores such as Spotlight so you will be notified of sales and specials and get regular discounts. If you are in the market for a new sewing machine you will know when they are on sale and could make a substantial saving.
3. You may be able to get some cheap fabric online. I haven’t explored this option as I like to look at and feel fabric before purchasing. Also one has to factor in shipping costs when working out the total outlay.
4. Cheap new sheets, doona covers, curtains and tablecloths can provide you with material for various projects.
5. Look in op shops for new fabric that someone has donated after a de-cluttering session. It is often possible to buy a couple of metres of new fabric for $2 or $3. Rib trim is sometimes available at very reasonable prices. If you make your purchase when the op shop is holding a sale you will get an even better bargain.
New fabric pieces from op shops. Image:Marie Vonow
6. Occasionally new fabric is available at garage sales. You could try making an enquiry even if there isn’t any fabric on display. Sometimes sellers have other things they didn’t get around to putting out or they didn’t think would sell.
7. Ask family and friends for remnants of material. You could mention your interest via email or on Facebook.
8. Clothes made from patches of different patterns sewn together are fashionable at the moment. This is a good way to make use of small pieces of leftover.fabric. Another idea is to cut up clothes you no longer wear and join the pieces to make a new garment.
Pieces of fabric stitched together to make a new t-shirt. Image:Marie Vonow
You could buy cheap second hand items to do this and get a warm glow knowing you are being environmentally friendly. It is possible to make some great looking garments this way.
At the end of the season op shops sometimes have great bargains such as 3 items for $1, 50c a garment or $5 a bag. Occasionally you will come across items for 20c each. If you are using second hand clothes you can take advantage of fancy necklines and cute slogans. You can add buttons in a random arrangement and pieces of lace or ribbon as embellishments.
Sale time. Image:Marie Vonow
9. Patterns can be expensive. There are some patterns for various craft projects and simple clothes available free online.
If you plan to use a multi sized pattern you may be able to borrow one from a friend who sews.
If you are sewing t-shirts or other items from stretch material sometimes you can use patterns which are quite old but the style still works. I recently picked up two second hand patterns for 20c each at an op shop. The patterns are multi sized and I just need to trace off the correct size.
Old patterns can still be useful. Image:Marie Vonow
10. Stock up on thread in the colours you use when a store is having a sale and regularly check out any bargain tables/bins. Use the calculator on your mobile to work out if it is better value per metre to buy the larger reels of thread.
11. Buttons can be bought cheaply from op shops or cut them off badly worn clothing you are relegating to the rag bag.
12. Sewing classes are sometimes expensive. However, your nearest community house may run classes at an affordable price. Alternatively, ask a friend or family member to teach you what you need to learn in exchange for teaching them skills you have.
By keeping your eyes open for bargains and utilising some second hand fabrics and patterns it is possible to save money by sewing. You also have the satisfaction of doing something creative and making clothes and other items different from what others have. Your individuality and creativity can shine through.