Frugal Tuesdays ~ Sewing

by Merissa on June 21, 2011

in Frugal Questions Tuesdays

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Welcome back to the Frugal Tuesday series! I started this last year as a way for me and the other readers to answer any questions that you might have that are frugal or at least semi- frugal-related. If you have a question to ask, just go HERE and fill out the form!

Do you sew to save money? ~ Marsha

My answer would be yes and no. There are things I sew because I can save money on that particular item, and then again there are things I can find cheaper at the store on clearance or at a rummage sale. I'll give you some examples.

I usually buy all my clothes from rummage sales and maybe the stray outfit here and there from a clearance rack. I rarely ever buy anything full price. There are some things I prefer to buy premade like shirts and jeans because I just am not that good a seamstress. :) However I like to wear sundresses in the summer and I have a hard time finding cheap sundresses that are a decent length. (I am not, by any means, a tall person and I still can't find dresses that hit my knees, is it just me or are they all made super short now?) So I like to sew myself simple sundresses to wear around the house.

Sewing can actually be an expensive venture. Sewing machines are expensive unless you find them used (check for them at a pawn shop or in your local classifieds!) and fabric can cost and arm and a leg. Right now, I've only been buying fabric that I find at thrift stores or rummage sales. Thrift stores are a great place to find fabric! I can usually get just about anything for $1 or less per yard. They are also a good place to find notions which can also be very expensive, and patterns. I was shocked a few months ago when I walked into Hancock Fabrics looking for a pattern and the cheapest one I could find was $7. I usually pay around $0.25 - $0.50 a pattern at the thrift store. Most of them are for older styles but it's not all that hard to change them up so they look great.

Thread is something I haven't been able to find at a rock bottom price, but it's not all that expensive to begin with. The biggest expenses are those that I mentioned above, the fabric, patterns and notions.

As far as household goods go, I haven't really sewn too many curtains or blankets for our home. I can usually find a great deal on clearance curtains. I have made a few no-sew items with clearance fleece that I've found for blankets and such. That's more of a hobby than anything though, not really a frugal activity. :)

What about you, do you sew? Do you think sewing can be more frugal?

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Missy June 21, 2011 at 2:52 pm

I agree if you buy your fabric and patterns from the thrift store then sewing can be very frugal. I made a dress from a .50 pair of curtains and a .25 pattern once! Fabric stores also run pattern sales for .99 or 5 for $5 so if you look for those you can save also. Usually though you can find clothing just as cheap as making it these days.

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2 Merissa June 21, 2011 at 3:20 pm

I saw that cute dress you made! I also got a book a couple months ago that’s really neat, it shows how to take those super cheap thrift store finds or rummage sale clothing finds and make really cute outfits from them with not too much sewing involved.

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3 Charity June 23, 2011 at 7:30 pm

I enjoy sewing however I agree with your post. My daughter wants me to buy her longer skirts (I am a HUGE believer in teaching children about modesty according to the Bible’s standards) and the clothes on girls and boys today are just ludicrious! However, longer skirts are hard to come by where I live and if I find them expensive, too. So, I found a pattern on ebay for 6.00 shipped and I know that this pattern sells at JoAnn Fabrics for almost 16.00! So, now I am on a mission to purchase inexpensive fabric. You are right – sewing nowadays isn’t what it used to be. I made curtains for my daughters room, sewed a variety of other items, and I find too that you can get a lot of items cheaper via sales. Recently I just bought 2 eddie bauer jeans (which I love because they fit me best and normally can’t afford) for only $19.98 for two pairs total. They were normally $39 and $59 a piece! I could never make any jeans cheaper than that between buying the pattern, buttons/snaps and thread. So look on ebay, too. I get a lot of stuff off there very cheap. Happy sewing!

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4 mary rohrer June 28, 2011 at 11:00 am

My daughter hooked me up with this web. I’m sure glad she did. I love it especsity the canning section. I do alot of canning and frezzing.

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5 Merissa June 28, 2011 at 11:01 am

I’m glad you found your way here! I will be doing a canning and preserving video series this fall also, something to look forward too!

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6 Becky September 17, 2011 at 7:25 pm

I use to sew a lot and as I have found my way to thrift stores and especially g*sales I am a happy camper … I still like to make projects now and then .. but remakes is where I would like to channel my sewing skills.. taking items like long dresses or skirts and making them into something I can wear.. tons of fabric can get me a skirt and top for summer or a sundress.. but the buy on the fabric has to be a good price… who doesn’t love homemade sundresses in the summer time.. (I am also new to this site and thrilled to find others like myself around…

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7 Christa Upton February 6, 2012 at 10:55 pm

One idea for fabric is to cut up old sheets (with holes, rips, cheap ones from Goodwill) and make things. I’ve made curtains & extra pillow cases, and I plan on trying to make a long skirt out of a light yellow linen sheet we found for free at a local free clothing place. :) It might turn out to be a skirt for around the house only, but that’s okay. Also took a knit dress I got for free (too short for me) and am working on a knit PJ top for our daughter.

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8 Angie May 25, 2012 at 3:26 pm

I have a hard time finding modest clothes ( I AM tall), so I like to sew my own. I used to get frustrated thinking that it was so much more expensive to sew (even with sales on fabric & patterns), but now I realize that I was comparing apples to oranges: it is much cheaper to sew my own than to buy custom-made clothing or buy from the few specialty stores that MIGHT have something that I like that is also modest. That being said, I still once in a while find something in the maternity section (maternity tops are always longer but not always big in the belly) or in the men’s section. I just bought 4 men’s shirts on super clearance prices, and they may not be the most feminine styles, but I just can’t beat $26 for four tops when making my own. Another way I save money with sewing is to buy a pattern that is basic enough that I can make several of the same thing with different fabrics to expand my wardrobe.

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9 vicki clark October 24, 2012 at 2:17 pm

Another source for fabric is tablecloths. I sometimes find linen tablecloths after holidays that are marked down and you can do a lot with the fabric. Think outside the box and you will be surprised at what you can find.

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10 vicki clark October 24, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Also, Hobby Lobby has patterns for $.99 quite often. Just watch the sale flyers.

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11 Emily October 24, 2012 at 3:26 pm

YES! Sewing is worth it!! I’m a VERY plus size woman in my 40’s and let me tell you, I am NOT going to spend $30.00 for a blouse that fits me… Nor am I going to spent $7.00 for a shirt that falls apart or looks old after the first wash. I do buy my jeans commercially, but skirts, shirts, shorts/capris, jammies and more all are made here at home. I buy my fabric from thrift stores, or get it from friends (once they know you sew, you’ll get a lot), I have a really cute blouse that I made from 2 different fabrics. The body of the blouse was from some cotton curtains I bought at Goodwill, and the shoulder portion used to be a baby blanket. the blouse cost me 99 cents to make and even after 2 years still looks adorable!!! I get my buttons from Goodwill also. I go into their “as is” side, they sell clothing by the pound there ($2.49 I think? I wait until they have that on sale too) and I find shirts that have buttons I like. I then have buttons for my new creations AND fabric that can become quilts, or other creations.

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12 jane December 27, 2012 at 12:18 pm

Sewing is my hobby and I’ve now turned it into my little at home business(see link) as well.

Just a few sewing tips:
Always buy good thread, the cheap thread is not the best. I like Dual Duty thread.
Change your needle frequently instead of waiting until it breaks! A sharp needle helps alot!
Check in your area for fabric outlets, and make the most of their sales!
When trying a new pattern, use some old fabric to try it first.

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13 Smiles March 30, 2013 at 4:02 pm

I am so committed to repurposing..this week I found a GREAT extra large blazer (wool) at Goodwill. I took it apart with my scissors/seam ripper and benefitted with lots of fabric, as well as the liner that I plan to use to make gift bags. I am working on pin cushions as gifts for next Christmas from scraps of wool..they are adorable and fun to make. I am using wool I found at rummage sales and some given to me. The wool thread is from my mom and some of her auction sale finds. Next I plan to start making pot holders. I am so disappointed with the cost in fabric stores these days…feel it is over the top. I’m saving all fabric I can find. Happy Sewing.

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14 Nancy December 22, 2013 at 8:51 pm

Hi I just found this blog . Yes, sewing is definitely worth it!
First, you are making exactly what is needed/wanted to match their existing wardrobes. That eliminates extraneous clothing especially with kids. My kids (I had/have 8 kids – 5 daughters) wore what was special or important to them, having clothes in their drawers/closet that they were constantly look through usually would up in the laundry unworn- making more work for them and me.
Secondly, sewing costs have gone through the roof, but there are ways to minimize those costs. Sign up for both email and snail mail with Hancock and JoAnn’s – you get great coupons and the sale flyers. They put their patterns on sale regularly for $1.00 each (McCall’s, Simplicity, and Butterick) with a limit usually of 10. Also you get the sale flyers early and can plan your shopping, if $ is available. I also buy when it is on sale, light weight fusible interfacing in pre-packaged lengths of 10 yards for $1.00 per package. I use that to trace commercial patterns as well as lightweight interfacing when needed. I never cut commercial patterns as most are multi-sized and can be reused as the child grows or for multiple children. Keep all of one size of the pattern which you traced off in a labeled ziplock bag.
Fabric and Notions: I will go through all of the clothes that get dropped off here, looking for specific items. Is there enough material in the item to make something for a child- depending on the size- or a craft project- by cutting the item apart up the side seams and off the shoulders, or by separating the legs of pants. If so, I cut the pieces apart, fold them neatly and usually pin them together with a safety pin. I also cannibalize the items for all buttons (hook all like buttons together, it saves time later), zippers, premade collars and cuffs, elastic if it is in a casing. Even 100% cotton t-shirts backs (without a picture) can be used to make underwear.
I didn’t mean to be this long winded and I didn’t even get into ways you sew in longevity in the child items you do make or other places to find fabric. If you want other ideas, let me know.

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