Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sewing for the frugal, via Indietutes

It has come to my attention lately that, as much as I like to pretend that sewing Ruby's clothes myself is a good way to save money, there are certain pitfalls that can make it seriously costly. You find yourself a sewing machine in the street and you think "Ooh, marvelous. Now it won't cost me a thing to make the small one's clothes. Just think of all the money I'll save!" But the fact is that it can be a bloody expensive 'hobby'.

Of course, there are many, many other reasons why I make clothes for Ruby. I think it helps to discourage the disposable attitude that is so easy to develop when you can buy ready-made clothes for a handful of pennies, that can (and has, to my shame) lead to just throwing away things that have developed a little hole or acquired an unshiftable stain. There are the obvious ethical issues involved in buying clothes with a price tag that implies seriously unfair trade in their affordable little pasts. There is doing it for the love of it, because I get to see my baby wearing something that has been made with thought and time and love. I have lots of reasons for making Ruby's clothes, which you can read about here, but that doesn't change the fact that unless you are very careful, you can end up costing yourself a lot of money, whilst at the same time sort of losing sight of why you are doing it in the first place.

And then I found this nugget of wondrousness, the most inspirational and motivational list of ways to keep sewing frugal and stick to the mission plan, and Vegbee over at Indietutes has very kindly allowed me to reproduce some of my favourite suggestions here. So these are my top ten picks from a very long list of truly great ideas, and once you are done reading these, I suggest you go over there and peruse the whole lot.

1. Organise your stash. Until you know exactly what you have, you will find that you keep repeating yourself. You can tell yourself otherwise as many times as you like, but there is such a thing as too many Liberty florals.

2. Keep track of discount days at local fabric stores and shop with a list (or, in Vegbee's wise words, a small child, because nothing will convince you to get what you need and get out like trying to control a 3-year-old in a fabric store).

3. When buying new, cheap fabric doesn't always mean a deal. Some cotton prints and flannels are always priced cheap because their quality is poor. You do not save money (or feel good) if your hand-made garments look faded and tear after just a few washes. If you are spending good money, make sure it is on quality material.

4. Search your local freecycle network and put the word out amongst your neighbours that you will take away the extras from other sewers' stashes. If you have just done #1 and you have some things going begging, you might be able to negotiate a trade-off. Most people looking to downsize their stash will be happy to give it to someone who will appreciate the fabric and use it well.

5. Thrift stores and yard sales are great resources, not only for fabrics. You can often pick up large grab bags of notions for a dollar or two, but steer clear of vintage thread – it dries out and snaps. If buying buttons make sure there are enough matching buttons to finish a garment.

6. Reconstructed garments are the ultimate in thrift and creativity, especially if you revamp your own wardrobe using what you've already got. I try to do as much of this as I can, and it's one great way that I can make things for myself as I am not quite brave enough yet to make adult clothes from scratch, but I can sure as hell restyle a badly fitting dress, or turn an old sweater into a skirt.

7. Check out sewing books at your local library. Most libraries will stock several older books full of general knowledge (which will cost a mint to buy new) as well as some of the new hip books on reconning that sell for 20 smackers or more in the bookstore. Also, and this is too obvious, the internet is an amazing source for free tutes and patterns. But you know this. As an aside, I have a set of books in the UK given to me by my best friend's mum, from which she learn everything she needed to know to make all my friend's clothes when she was little. They were a bit over my head when she first gave them to me, but now I cannot wait to get home and get stuck into them.

8. Keep your machine in good shape by cleaning and oiling frequently. Don't bother to use canned air to blow out the lint from your machine – a set of inexpensive make up brushes work just as well, can be used for years and are a fraction of the cost. Better maintenance means fewer service bills.

9. Don't get sucked in by all the 'essential' products sold as sewers' aids. Buy what is helpful and then make use of what you already have at home. For example, used dryer sheets are a great stabilizer for embellishments, appliqués can mostly be held in place with pins to avoid the need for bonding papers. Old sewing books (see #7) are full of great inexpensive techniques from an era that had never hear of liquid anti-fray agents.

10. Keep the original motivation and intention in mind. Remember that sewing skills were, once upon a time, used to save money and reduce waste. The darning of socks, patching of holes, mending of rips, and clever placing of appliqués can all save stained or worn clothes from the bin – and if you can't save them in their original incarnation, then try to work out how you else you can use them.

There are loads more ideas and suggestions over at Indietutes, so make sure you take yourself over there and have a look. I'd love to hear any other tips and tricks too, so leave a comment and share your wisdom. Thanks to Vegbee for such an inspiring post!

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