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strategies to save money sewingStrategies to Save Money 

on Sewing

with Frugal Fran

Looking for some strategies to save money?  Sewing is one of my favorite ways to save!  In times past, sewing your clothing at home was the most frugal way to clothe your family.  In the 30's and 40's, animal feed was sold in adorable printed cotton sacks, which were then used to sew children’s clothing and to piece quilts.  But in modern times, clothing can be had for very low prices, and (good quality) sewing machines and fabric have become very pricey. Sewing all of your own clothing can actually cost you much more in time and money than buying it pre-made.  

So how can sewing be one of my favorite strategies to save money?  Why should the modern woman invest her time and money into learning the art of sewing?  Well, you really can save loads of money by learning to sew if you know some of these good strategies to save money and follow the basic principals of frugal living. 

Though sewing all of your clothing may no longer be your best sewing investment, it can be very cost effective if you keep it simple, and it's very rewarding to be able to design clothing for yourself and your children.  You can also save money sometimes by sewing special outfits, like halloween costumes and special occasion dresses.  

But my biggest savings have resulted from sewing for my home.  Projects like creating slip covers, curtains, pillows and tablecloths are some of the projects that have saved my family lots of money.   'Remodeling' a room or piece of furniture to look new without having to spending a lot of money is one of my best strategies to save money.

Making your own unique gifts is another one of my favorite strategies to save money.  
Be sure to check out Addie's free baby patternsfree baby sling patterns, nursing covers and more homemade baby gift ideas!  
New to sewing?  Read Sewing for Beginners for tips on learning to sew, and how to make your projects look professional.

Frugal Fran's Best Strategies To Save Money On

sewing machines
sewing tools
dress forms

Strategies to Save Money on 

Sewing Machines

The solution? Find good vintage sewing machines on Ebay.  These oldies but goodies predate the concept of planned obsolescence, and were actually made to last.   Thejumpsuitguy, owner of  Retro Sewing Machine’s on Ebay says “The only way to get a powerful all-metal sewing machine today short of buying a full-blown industrial machine is to...”
Check out thejumpsuitguy's current selection of revamped retro beauties here: http://stores.ebay.com/Retro-sewing-machines
They are clean, serviced, and come to you ready to sew for around $300!

Used or Vintage Sewing Machine Tips:

  • It's very important to know exactly how to thread your machine and make minor adjustments to the thread tension.  If you’re considering a vintage machine, I would highly recommend that you buy one with an owners manual, or selecting one that you can download a manual for. 
  • Keep the owners manual very handy as you learn to sew.  It answers many questions, and covers care and maintenance.  
  • I found it very helpful to make a line drawing ‘cheat sheet’ on a large index card that illustrates how the machine is threaded, at least until I got used to it.
  • Laminate your "cheat sheet", and included other shortcuts on the back to jog your memory.

A word about fancy attachments and stitch options:

In the 20 or so years that I’ve been sewing, I have rarely used more than these four basic accessories: 
  • straight stitch, 
  • zig zag stitch, 
  • a good zipper foot, 
  • and an automatic button hole feature  
Fancy stitches are nice, but certainly not essential, and you’ll most likely find that you don’t use them very often.   So avoid fancy equipment that you'll never use...another one of my strategies for saving money

A word about home monogramming & embroidery machines:

You can get a custom stitched monogram at most embroidery and promotional marketing stores, for under $10.  It makes more sense to me for a home seamstresses to out-source special projects that require embroidery. Especially when you add up the cost of an embroidery machine, accessories, thread, software and the time you invest in the learning curve of a home embroidery machine.   It just doesn’t make sense to invest in a nice home embroidery machine unless you are planning on sewing professionally.

Strategies to Save Money on Sewing Tools

Sewing tools, for my purposes, are items that you won’t use up. 
  • scissors
  • a seam ripper
  • measuring tape
  • pins and a pin cushion
  • bobbins
  • a cutting board, etc. 
I also like to have a large safety pin for pulling ribbon or elastic through casings,  and a knitting needle for turning ties and making corners point out nicely. 

Another item that I’ve enjoyed a lot, and that's on my list of strategies to save money, is a little tool that folds fabric as you iron it to create your own custom seam binding.

If you’re just starting out with sewing, then maybe you could request a sewing kit or gift certificate to your local fabric or craft store for an upcoming holiday or birthday.  If you have to bite the bullet and buy everything at once, try to find a good notions or tools sale at your local craft and sewing store.  If you know someone who used to sew but doesn’t any longer, you may be able to find a great package deal on the whole ‘kit and caboodle’, and maybe even a great teacher!  Also check local estate sales and yard sales for sewing supplies.
strategies to save moneyI have used both a magnetic pin cushion, and a fabric one, and both work well.  My kids do have a tendency to be drawn to the magnetic one though.  And if it drops, then the pins go flying.  It’s also harder to find a hand sewing needle on a magnetic pin cushion.  I would recommend using the magnetic cushion in the area where you cut the fabric, and a smaller stuffed pin cushion near your machine to hold a couple dozen pins and some hand sewing needles. 

I highly recommend splurging...on a 50% off sale, of course!...on a really good pair of lightweight, ergonomic sewing scissors (…and a gun safe to keep them in to prevent your son from cutting paper clips in half with them.  But I digress.)  I love my Gingher shears.  

Strategies to Save Money on 

Sewing Notions

I define sewing notions as the accessories that you’ll ‘use up’ while you sew.  This includes hand sewing and machine needles, elastic, thread, ribbon, buttons, zippers, etc. 

  • I have often found a great selection of buttons, trims and zippers in yard sales, thrift stores, and especially estate sales.  Sometimes, it pays to ask.  Many times, the sewing 'junk' gets set aside with the trash at an estate sale.  
  • My local craft store offers sales on notions frequently, and also run percent off coupons that can be applied to sewing notions.   Hobby Lobby is one of my favorite local sources for sewing notions.
A note about thread:  I highly recommend buying good quality thread.  Your completed project represents a lot of time and effort on your part.   Your project is only going to be as enduring as the thread that it’s stitched together with.  I am partial to Coats and Clark Dual Duty thread, which is a poly cotton blend.  It’s widely available and comes in tons of colors.  I do however, recommend finding a good deal on overlock thread if you have a serger.  One local sewing store only offers overlock thread at $5.95 per cone, while my local big box store has the same thread for only $1.98 each!  And when you’re buying 4 cones of thread, that adds up to real savings...more useful strategies to save money!  If your local sewing big box store doesn't have a sewing section, look in the phone book for an embroidery supply store, that sells to local merchants.  They should have similar deals on standard overlock thread.  

Strategies to Save Money on 

Sewing Patterns

If you enjoy sewing clothing, then you’ll probably need patterns. 

The Thrift Store
is your 'best buy' on vintage patterns, and will often have lots to choose from.  I have found heirloom patterns, vintage patterns, retro patterns, Halloween costume patterns, baby patterns, doll clothes patterns, and lots more at the Thrift Store.  And I have paid about .25 each for them! 

Frugal Pattern Tips:
  • For patterns that I plan on using in multiple sizes, I cut them out on the largest size, and when cutting out the smaller size, I just cut underneath the pattern, following the smaller size lines. 

  • I love the vintage patterns, especially for my girl’s dresses.  The patterns from the 40’s and 50’s often have some very ingenious tricks for making clothing fit for extended periods of time.  These tricks include making ¾ sleeves on little girls dresses and coats (so they are all-season, and never appear too short), and very deep hems that can be extended as those legs grow.  Extended wearing time is another one of my favorite strategies to save money!  

Great sales are not hard to come by on new patterns.  One of our local craft stores will have a .99 cents sale fairly often on different lines or brands of patterns.  Planning ahead is one of my favorite and often overlooked strategies to save money.  Plan about a month ahead so you’ll have time to wait on a pattern sale.

Free online tutorials are great for simpler projects.  Some even illustrate how you can use existing clothing as a pattern to repurpose fabric from unused clothing.  

Save Money on Sewing by 

Making Your Own Dress Form

If you become serious about making your own clothing, then a dress form makes your life much easier.  The adjustable dress forms are quite pricey.   But you can create an exact body double, which will result in clothing that is perfectly fitted to your body proportions. 

All you need to create your own dress form a sense of adventure, and a bunch of duct tape or papier-mâché, and these instructions.  If you've ever made a pregnancy belly cast, it's a similar process.  And you can always use your belly cast over your regular form for creating custom maternity clothing!  Making your own dress form will save you lots of time when it comes to tailoring your own clothing and getting the perfect fit...it's another one of my adventurous strategies to save money!

Strategies to Save Money on Fabrics

It's way too easy to burn money on fabric unless you practice frugal shopping practices.  Here are my best strategies to save money on fabric:

Thrift stores or yard sales are great places to find very inexpensive fabric.  Large quantities of fabric can be recycled from large tablecloths, and flat sheets…even fabric shower curtains and long curtains (just be sure to check for fading). 

Tips for thrift store fabrics: If your thrift fabrics are pre-washed, you can skip that step initially and get right to sewing.  I just love that instant gratification bonus! 
The wide hem at the top of a flat sheet works great as an already sewn hem for a dress, skirt, or pillow case.

Ebay also offers some great deals on fabrics (my slipcover upholstery fabric was only $30 for the whole bolt!).  Do be sure that you are really aware of the specifics of the fabric if you buy online including: weight, quality, length and width, shipping cost and yardage.  Ask questions to keep from being burned  or disappointed.  Don't be afraid to buy in bulk if it's a great deal  and you really love the fabric.  You can always resell the leftovers and recoupe your cash!

Big Box stores sell flat sheets for under $5 each in an array of basic colors.  

Discount Stores (like Kohls, T.J. Maxx, Big Lots, etc.) often carry gorgeous designer flat sheets at deeply discounted prices.  If they have sold out of the fitted matching sheets, the flats will sometimes be put on clearance, so you can get an even better deal.

Strategies to Save Money by 

Sewing With Sheets

Using standard bed sheets is one of my favorite strategies to save money.  Flat bed sheets come in a huge range of solid colors and patterns.  Look for easy care, and good fabric quality.   

Here are some standard flat sheet sizes, and you can see what a bargain this is when you figure out how many yards of fabric you get!  One yard of fabric from the fabric store is 36" of fabric, and the most common width of fabric is 44".

Twin  66"x96"
X-Long Twin 66"x102"
Double/Full 81"x96"
Queen 90"x102"
Standard King 108"x102;
California King 102"x110"

One of my favorite projects is a large round tablecloth that I made out of a gorgeous full sized Ralph Lauren floral sheet that I thrifted for only $3 (they retailed for over $69).  And I still have a lot of fabric left over for other projects.

This concludes my best strategies for saving money on sewing.  I hope you've found some very useful tips and tricks!  Be sure to check out the free baby patterns, and homemade baby gift ideas on my site, and bookmark us so that you can find us again easily.

Kind Regards,
Frugal Fran