Sewing on a Budget

by Merissa on January 17, 2013

in Featured, Frugal Living Tips

Sewing on a Budget

Sewing on a Budget

Let me begin this post by stating that I am NOT a seamstress. I know only one or two settings on my sewing machine and can make a moderately straight stitch by hand, but only if forced. Sewing is just not my thing. I'm more of an iron-on hem tape kind of gal. These people that can throw together aprons or kids' Halloween costumes like it's nothing simply astound me. But fear not! A lack of skill in this case is not a deal-breaker. You too, can create simple items and learn how to start sewing on a budget, which will aid in your sense of self-worth and frugality. (Cue late-night infomercial music.)

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One thing that was glaringly evident as I started down the path away from consumerism is just how dependent I was on it. There are so many simple things in our homes that we never even consider making ourselves. Take curtains, for instance. They are really just two straight panels of fabric with one end folded over for the curtain rod to slide through. Yet when it came to decorating my baby's nursery, I spent many fruitless hours scouring the internet for something I liked. Once the realization hit that I could ::gasp:: make them myself, it took less than one hour to visit the fabric store, pick out a pattern, hem the edges with the sewing machine (on the settings indicated in the manual for your everyday straight stitch, nothing fancy here), iron and hang it up. Talk about sewing on a budget. Not only did I now have exactly what I want, but I get the satisfaction of knowing that I made them with my own hands. Unique, one-of-a-kind curtains for my little girl, at a cheaper price than pre-made curtains would have been.

sewing-bag

But wait, there's more! When I needed extra storage space in my back hall, I used some fabric remnants I had lying around and made a couple bags. Strung up on simple hooks, they made the perfect spot to stuff rags, plastic bags, canning lids and more. Free, fun, and pretty! I didn't even measure anything- I just cut out some long rectangles (and long thin strips for the handles), folded them in half, and sewed up the edges.

wet-bag

Other money-saving projects include cloth wipes, a wet bag for cloth diapering, and covers for a cradle mattress or changing pad. These can cost between $14 and $25 each. For the cradle mattress, I used an old sheet and was able to get three covers from it, with fabric leftover for future projects. My changing pad now has two bright yellow covers made from fabric I found in a duffel bag under my bed (everyone has a random bag of stuff under their bed, right?) For the wet bags, I spent $7.99 for 1 yard of the special PUL fabric, from which I am able to make three bags (small, medium, and large). The cloth wipes? I got a dozen out of one flannel pillowcase. All I did was trace the size I wanted (my silicone pot holder made the perfect stencil), cut them out, and then make a quick zig-zag stitch around the edges to help prevent fraying. Again, nothing fancy- just some hasty measurements done with tailor's tape (making sure to leave an extra half inch or so for seam allowance on most projects), some ragged cuts made with the kitchen scissors, and a quick run through a sewing machine. Hand sewing would take a bit longer, but I find it to be soothing work, much like crochet or rolling meatballs.

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Sewing on a budget may not be your cup of tea (I prefer coffee myself), and the finished product may not be perfect. The seams may be crooked and the edges a bit frayed, but I firmly believe it is still better than store-bought. Pant hems, cloth napkins, table runners, pillow cases- the skill level is low and the possibilities are endless! With just a pinch of know-how, you can reduce your reliance on the skills of others, save money, and surround yourself with the fruits of your own labor. All this and more for one easy payment of creativity plus shopping and handling!

If you are looking for more ways to start saving money:

Learn where to get cheap fabric and find even more ways to save money!

Amanda is a homemaker who lives in Maine with her husband and new baby girl. She loves raising chickens, baking bread, and making just about anything she can from scratch.
Learn more about Amanda.

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{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kendra @ A Proverbs 31 Wife January 17, 2013 at 9:16 am

For our wedding, we actually bought long walmart curtains and sewed them together to make a table cloth. Two reasons for that. One the curtains were the right color, and two, we forgot about needing a tablecloth till that day before.
So when we moved to our new house, I took those curtains turned table-cloth and reverted them back to curtains, I had to cut them down by a lot. But they look and work great!

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2 Kristen Marquardt October 2, 2013 at 8:45 am

I have done the opposite and used a table cloth on sale for curtains, just using the hooks with clips on them to hold them up or sewing a pocket. Twin flat sheets work perfectly for curtains as well. If you don’t alter them and can reuse them later for their intended purpose!

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3 Sandra Chasse January 17, 2013 at 10:21 am

Amanda, I love reading your posts. Even though I am older, I believe you are never to old to save money and or time. Not to mention its so scary to buy some of the products out there today! Natural has become a word not always associated with the real deal. Keep up the great work. PS. Have bread rising as I write. Have you ever tried to make bees wax candles? (they are really easy to make) I read a blog about burning them next to electronics and it replaces the ions these tend to take out. Have you heard about this? Just food for thought. Thanks, Sandy

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4 Amanda : Grace & Gusto January 21, 2013 at 12:48 pm

Thank you! I haven’t tried making my own candles yet, but it is definitely on my to-do list! That’s really interesting about the electronics, I didn’t know that. You learn something new everyday!

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5 Liz S January 17, 2013 at 5:02 pm

Yes!! I needed some throw pillows for my day bed and they are EXPENSIVE! So I went to downtown LA, bought some cheap pillows and fabric and made my own!

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6 Jackie January 17, 2013 at 5:04 pm

I so agree, Amanda. I find sewing to be very relaxing and a pleasurable pastime, even though I’m still learning. I’ve discovered there’s an amazing number of tutorials to be found online, too, on many aspects of the sewing process. It is so satisfying to make something yourself that you might otherwise have purchased.

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7 Amanda : Grace & Gusto January 21, 2013 at 12:50 pm

The internet is definitely a fantastic source of information. You can learn how to do almost anything by watching videos on Youtube. :)

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8 momof7 January 17, 2013 at 5:38 pm

I have always made our curtains. Find a cute sheet at the thrift store (usually from 50 cents to 2 dollars. The top of the sheet already has a pocket for sliding the curtain rod through. Just cut to the length you want and hem. For kids rooms I found Toy Story and Cars sheets and the kids loved them. You can use the left over material to make pillows or pillow cases for their beds. The best part is these curtains can just be tossed in the washer (no dry cleaning for me). I also buy sheets at auctions to use for quilt backings. My husband jokes that sheets are for me like duct tape is for McGyver.

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9 Amanda : Grace & Gusto January 21, 2013 at 12:53 pm

That is such an awesome idea!! Wow, thank you so much. My fitted sheets always seem to rip or wear quicker than the top sheet, which end up scrunched up at the back of my linen closet- now I have an excellent use for them!

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10 Financial Planner June 17, 2013 at 5:06 pm

Yes! My mother would always make curtains out of bed sheets. For some reason bed sheets are just far cheaper than curtains and they come in a far greater variety of patterns.

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11 Rose C February 28, 2013 at 4:07 pm

You can re-purpose clothing as well. Take old shirts and turn them into shopping bags or add a little fabric to turn them into a dress. You can sew your own feminine pads. I have also been reading about people using cloth instead of toilet paper (not sure I could go that far).

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12 Kathy July 28, 2013 at 1:12 pm

I know some basic hand stitches but I have no clue how to use a sewing machine. I have one that a friend handed down to me but I can’t get anyone to teach me to use it. I do love to knit though and have made many afghans, scarfs, dish/wash clothes, and bedroom shoes. It’s like yoga for your hands. I find it very relaxing.

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13 Judy October 19, 2013 at 11:15 am

There are wonderful sewing videos on youtube — all kinds. Perhaps you could find some for beginners there. :)

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14 Laura Schmidt October 1, 2013 at 11:27 pm

I also, love to sew and find it very relaxing. Pinterest has been my friend for finding quick easy projects. I am not much into making clothes but I love making things for my girls and my grandsons. I agree, sheets are a sewers best friend!

Kathy, check with your local fabric shop for a sewing class. My Joanns has a beginner’s class and they have you bring your own machine so they can teach you to use it. They have sales all the time on classes. I took a quilting class with them and it was well worth the money.

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15 Kim B. October 2, 2013 at 1:54 pm

I absolutely love sewing, I have made curtians, table cloths, table runners, blankets, clothes… The list is endless. I use and reuse items we find, purchase or have in the house. Currently 60% of the decor in our house is sewn by me!! That makes me happy. Soon it will be 100% :-)

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16 Merissa October 2, 2013 at 3:08 pm

That’s awesome!

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17 Lisa October 2, 2013 at 6:06 pm

I have used sheets that fit the theme of my room to make curtains and table top covers. We lived in base housing and moved on average every 2.5-3 years so no way did I want to spend the money on new curtains each move…

I have been contemplating making my own cloth napkins so I can save money by not having to buy them…

another idea I have done, take old towels or if you have young ones, receiving blankets work great… cut them down to make swiffer rags. After cleaning floors, just toss in washer and use again… :)

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18 Mel Free October 3, 2013 at 8:42 am

The Swifter idea is sooo great!..Thanks so much! I am so going to make some! :)

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19 Melissa Smith January 21, 2014 at 9:08 pm

I always get my patterns when they are $1 at Hancock’s or JoAnn’s. Remnant pile has been 50% off lately as well. I’m always making birthday and Christmas gifts. :-)

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20 patricialynn January 21, 2014 at 9:24 pm

I taught myself how to sew, and have used that skill to both give myself a fun and productive hobby, but to save my family bundles of money. I’ve repaired torn jeans with fabric cut from shirts that the boys have outgrown. I’ve made mittens from old sweaters. I’ve turned quilts into lovely window panels (bonus: the thickness of the quilt not only looks awesome, but has already saved us over $20 on last month’s heating bill – and I’m thinking it will save on cooling as well). I’m planning to learn how to make my own shirts next…since I’m a large and large-busted woman, finding proper fitting tops is a serious hassle.

I wish I could post pictures here. I’ve got pics on my facebook page, and I’ve friended you so you can see them, but no one else will be able to. :-(

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21 Pam January 22, 2014 at 4:34 am

I learned to sew in school in the 70′s – I think it was part of Home Ec. I made my Prom dress which turned out great! I have taught my grandaughters to sew a little (curtains and a purse). I think we need to keep teaching those life skills in school! I made some of my son’s clothes when they were toddlers, curtains, pillows, etc. I stopped for many years but picked right up again later. It’s one of those skills you never forget and gives you great satisfaction!

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22 Beka April 15, 2014 at 8:24 pm

I agree that these skills should be passed on! I took a home ec class in the early 90s, and all we learned for sewing was how to sew a button on a scrap piece of fabric. And there were no rules. As long as you got the button on, it didn’t matter how it looked and you passed. I always had a very serious desire to learn to sew though, and it was the first thing I picked up when I moved away from home :D I WILL be passing this skill on to my daughter!

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23 Dawn February 10, 2014 at 10:14 am

When I was pregnant with my son I bought a lovely duvet cover for his cot but couldn’t find matching curtains. So I bought another duvet cover, unpicked it and used easy hem webbing tape the hem all the way around both sides, added hemming tape and hung them straight up. I was lucky in that the nursery window was small. I’ve since done it many times with single and double sized duvet covers. I love this site, thank you for all the great tips.

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24 Cindy April 22, 2014 at 2:42 pm

So glad I found this post through Kathe’s today! WOW! I am all about a budget period! I do enjoy sewing but take it by spells and a seamtress I AM NOT either. But I might could even do some of these simple projects! Thanks again. Hugs and blessings, Cindy

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25 Rach D April 22, 2014 at 10:41 pm

I have to hide this post from hubby…he’d love for me to sew more!! You have some great points :) I have two left thumbs & couldn’t sew to save my life, but perhaps if I had a machine I could give it another try :)
thanks for sharing at “Share Your Stuff Tuesdays”!

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26 Jen @ Being Confident of This April 23, 2014 at 6:21 pm

I just received my first sewing machine for Christmas and have already made some cute things for birthdays out of felt. Felt is soooo easy to work with – no need for hemming, etc. I’m hoping to try my hand at pillow-case style dresses for our daughter this summer, too! :) I’m stopping by from Wholehearted Home link-up.

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27 Amy @ItsAMindfulLife April 24, 2014 at 4:12 pm

Hi! My Mom always did a lot of sewing while I was growing up. I have a sewing machine. I have just been intimidated in trying to learn how to use it! I need to give it a try! Thanks for sharing this post on #SmallVictoriesSunday!

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28 Raia April 25, 2014 at 12:42 pm

Great post! Sewing really does save so much money! My mother and I made my wedding dress – it cost $80 altogether, as opposed to hundreds (or thousands) at David’s Bridal. Plus, I got to make it exactly how I wanted it. ;) Thanks for sharing this at Savoring Saturdays! I hope you’ll come back this weekend – party starts tonight @7!

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29 Krista Low April 25, 2014 at 2:39 pm

I love sewing too. Not only can you make better things than you find in a store you can tailor it to look exactly how you want it to and it is so satisfying to make something yourself and see it loved and used in your home. I totally agree with you :)

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30 Judith @WholeHeartedHome April 29, 2014 at 10:05 pm

I have sewn many curtains, pillows for the sofa, and all sorts of things to save money. At first I didn’t know how to sew too well but I got better the more I sewed.

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31 Jane May 16, 2014 at 6:03 pm

Don’t forget to check on etsy and ebay for discounted fabric!

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