Friday, 6 June 2014

Money Saving Tips for the Frugal Stitcher (3/7) - Patterns and Construction


Guys, I am alive! Sans internet and sewing facilities outside of work, but alive. No projects to show you for now, though the #NYlon2014 dress still hasn't been blogged yet so you've got something to look forward to. But it's a bit rude to leave you hanging for so long, let's go back to something I've been mulling over a lot this year...

Back to the money saving tips we go...

There's a lot in this series dedicated to fabric, and saving money in those terms. We all know that there's a lot more to it than that and soon the gadgets, patterns and resources will catch up with us and bite us financially too. 

Look beyond sewing: what else can you find that does the same thing?
Okay, this is a bit of an odd title but when you're penny-pinching, it pays to think outside the box a little for tools etc. Think, brown paper, think design student French curve, think hooks. What do you have access to already that will help with sewing projects?

How I store sewing patterns
Swedish tracing paper, actual tracing paper, doctors' loo roll...could probably all do the same job too...

Vintage patterns? - why buy them?
Buying sewing patterns is a bit of a tough cookie to deal with. You're not buying a piece of paper that maps out your perfect project. You're buying the learning experience, you're buying the branding, you're buying history, you're buying (in the case of garments) one specific ideal shape of person. I'm not telling you this is a pure cost consideration because otherwise we'd all be buying everything on Big 4 $0.99 sales and not forking out £20 on indie patterns, or even more on vintage!

If you want the pattern, you want the pattern itself. Plus possibly the finished object, but you must want the actual pattern. What does this mean? Well, it means if you buy a Laurel or a Renfrew or an Anna, you need to know you want a Laurel or a Renfrew or an Anna. It means that if you spot a gorgeous vintage pattern for $100 but you only want a garment that looks like the cover, then you will need to take a step back.
Do you need that specific pattern? Can you alter something that you have already? Can you draft it? Can you find a similar, cheaper pattern? Can you justify the finished object? 

Bit of a silly one. Find something that looks like a French curve, steal shirt clips, learn to eyeball (and when it's a bad idea to do so), make a press cloth, find something else other than a point turner or a loop turner.

Don't buy one of these. At least don't do it if you're not at a street market in Thailand.

Resources - information, teaching, learning, help...
A lot of the sewists out there in the blogosphere seem to be self-taught, or at the very least haven't had much of a formal education in the matter. But don't worry! There are books and classes and webcasts and e-books and magazines and so much more! How can we not learn everything there is?

The secret to perfect jeans is only $20 away, come on, it's so easy! 

But there's a whole host of free resources out there you can rely on too:
Other blogs and tutorials
Silhouette Patterns webcasts
Library books (and stealing books from fellow sewists)
Leaflets and manufacturer websites (Janome, etc)
Sewalongs (major value-added for any indie pattern)
Asking someone else

Don't forget figuring it out yourself either. You probably can.

I love the whole thing of figuring it out on my own and solving the problem, which means I will almost never buy a teaching webcast, I rarely buy patterns outside of a Burda issue, I'm a gadget get the picture.

I don't want to bash these paid-for resources, they're incredibly useful for the people who use them. But if you know that you do want (need?) the Craftsy classes, or the Japanese tunic pattern book, the vintage piece of dressmaking history, just keep track of what you're buying. Of course, I'd like to convert people to the 'figure it out' mentality, it's incredibly rewarding, but if that's not your bag then that's cool too. You can do what you want when you sew! That's the point!

So there. Do you like figuring it out? And what sort of value do you see in the paid-for resources? Am I just being silly, and is it all about supporting the smaller independent sewing businesses grow?



  1. I have to use a mixture of things- the figure it out is good, but sometimes the 'follow a pattern' actually does teach you something new, you can then use elsewhere.. and if you are time constrained, sometimes someone else having thought it out in advance is an awfully big help...
    And, you can often mix and match patterns... sleeves from here, body from there, I need a wider skirt, let me add some HUGE gores or godets... ( think Russian style angels who have to dance on stage...)

    I say, get what help you can, where you can, when you need it, but use your own brain too!

    1. You say "time constrained", I'd definitely say "concentration limited"

      Odd that a lot of resources out there don't teach the high-volume stuff that you need to think out when you do costumes though. How did you figure that out??

    2. Perhaps you work out what you have to, when it becomes sufficiently important..

  2. Lots of things to think about. I'm very thrifty and feel it is important for me not to keep consuming. A lot of people that want to move away from fast fashion can just as easily transfer that consumption to purchasing sewing related things. I tend to buy patterns that have classic designs - that I'll re-use in years to come, replacing well worn items. Wouldn't it be great if there was a pattern library where you could borrow patterns?

    1. time we started one! How could that run? I like the idea!

    2. Very true! It's a very difficult balance to achieve but I share your concern completely.

      A pattern library is a great idea, but I wonder how it would work? You would need very sturdy copies of all the patterns...encourage people to trace them?

    3. I borrowed the Heather Ross 'Weekend Sewing' book a few times from my local library. The pattern sheets are on paper & full size, sandwiched within the book. I traced the patterns. It is possible, but it's also vulnerable. Maybe with vintage patterns it would need to be a reproduction that gets loaned, as once it's lost, it's gone forever.

    4. We used to put patterns onto corrugated card from exploded boxes for Mums to copy at Dancing... but the mums would rather pay someone ( quite a lot) to make the thing for them, rather than copy out a pattern...