Thursday, 20 February 2014

Money Saving Tips for the Frugal Stitcher (part 1 of 7)

Hi guys, sorry but no new projects for you this week. There's one finished thingy that needs to wait two weeks (two weeks!) before I can show you. Other than that, I have a lot of partially worked-on projects dotted around. I've not been in a stitching mood recently but more cutting, drafting and sorting. In the meantime, I've been thinking about how to save money for a trip to Stockholm at Easter...

So what are your plans for 2014? Perhaps you'd like to get your finances in order, perhaps you'd like to recover from the Christmas spending splurge or perhaps you'd like to start saving for that special stitchers' gadget. 

As a sewers we hear stories all the time how it can save us money, how you can make a dress from a $2 bedsheet or how you can stop buying RTW entirely. Great, but that's only part of the story. If you're a cash-strapped sewist, there are a few things you need to consider to keep the costs of this great pursuit under control.

First up: working out your costs and priorities

1. Decide where and when to make an investment
 This is the big stuff. You need a sewing machine, you need tools. But what is actually appropriate for your current situation? What will you need immediately or in the near future? What can wait? You don't need that lovely Bernina immediately, you don't need a K&L dummy immediately. You may never need them. But that's okay.

After months of debate and saving, I just invested in this ironing board. Previously I was using a towel on a plank on a table. The working height, durability and long product guarantee should make this a very easy tool to work with for a very long time. That much I can justify.


2. Know what you make
Let's think generally. Do you still plan to buy clothing, or can you realistically make it all yourself? Do you make full, exquisite evening gowns and cocktail dresses, do you make casual everyday items, do you focus on tailoring? Do you shop at thrift stores/charity shops, online or in person? Do you want natural fibres for everything, or do are you happy  to use synthetics and blends?

Each of these habits means the costs of sewing will be different for you. You don't need to thrift shop any more than you need shop at Joel & Son. Similarly, the value of your finished products will be different depending on what sort of use they will get.

3. What kind of stitcher are you? 
Do you sew for yourself or for others? Do you sew out of necessity or as pure leisure? Do you sew to clothe your family in all circumstances or just a few? Do you want this to become professional or to remain a hobby? Is sewing your only hobby, your main interest or one of many? Do your other interests complement sewing or are they totally unrelated?

I think these questions are very important. You might sew because you like fashion, vintage things, historical costuming, cosplay or other textile art. You might sew because you just like the process of making things. You might sew in conjunction with sailing, astronomy or baking. You might sew because you need to repair things. You might sew because you just want to sew. 

Whatever your answers, you need to decide if you can combine costs and benefits. This is particularly important for your investment spending: justifying an expensive ironing board is very different from justifying a dress form or a pattern cutting course.

4. Be practical. Decide what you can afford.
Let's face it, when you learn to sew there's a moment when you realise "OMG, I can make anything I want!". It's an amazing moment, but you need to know: you can make anything, but you can't make everything.

To sew something you don't often just buy fabric and end up with the finished project. You have thread, notions, patterns, utilities, you may have failed projects, you may have Craftsy courses. You have a stash.

None of us can escape the stash and it's an incredibly useful resource but if you're in a penny-pinching situation, you shouldn't be buying to solely feed your stash. There will be some tips soon on stash management, but at the moment with all the fabric sales going on you need to be careful. Can you actually use the fabric you're buying? Will you actually use it soon?

So know that we know what we want to make, what we will actually make and how we will make it, we can look at the next steps. Like any budget, managing your sewing costs is an exercise in personal priorities and it's unlikely your plan will look like anyone else's. 

People debate a lot whether you do save money by sewing, but it's definitely possible. You can save money on the clothing or homewares or gifts you would otherwise be buying. But you also need to look at how to manage the costs of actually sewing too. That's when the real figures start adding up.

I've got oodles of this stuff lined up, but need to get some resources  and examples together for you all. Stay tuned for a few more practical pointers (and some finished projects) soon!



  1. Yes, indeed those 'notions' can end up costing as much as the fabric at times... And, yes, you end up with a stash of 'notions' as much as a stash of fabric! Cost per item, poppers ( press studs if you must) add up quickly, and people for whom you sew are surprised if you add in those notions! Experience talking here....

    Ps any chance you could take the verification thingy off... I am not a robot, but I am not keen to prove it ...

    1. I know what you mean! My projects don'take much thread but I ended up just spending £20 on spools once. Crazy.

      I'll have a gander at the verification thing, it annoys me too. Don't worry, know you're not a robot!

    2. I know what you mean! My projects don'take much thread but I ended up just spending £20 on spools once. Crazy.

      I'll have a gander at the verification thing, it annoys me too. Don't worry, know you're not a robot!