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Does sewing really save you money?

post #1 of 37
Thread Starter 

Hi,  I'm on the fence about learning to sew. I'm considering it primarily as a way to cut down on costs now that I will be staying at home. I'm curious to know if you feel that sewing really saves you money. It seems like fabric--even basic fabrics--can be really expensive. Thanks!

post #2 of 37

It only does because I reuse fabrics- like old t shirts and ripped sheets are turned into diapers and inserts. Scraps are being made into a blanket. An old sweatshirt is made into baby pants. I don't make my own clothes because I doubt that would save me money with the availability of clearance racks.

post #3 of 37

It all depends on what you're making and what you're making it out of!


I think sewing is a great skill to have--you can then repair and alter things you find at thrift that aren't quite right for your family. But, you can easily get sucked into buying a lot of expensive extras and fabrics and trims and such.

post #4 of 37

I'm not one to discourage someone from sewing, but I don't think so.  If you shop end of season sales, or buy from inexpensive retailers, it's next to impossible to make something for less than you'd pay for ready-made.  Certainly not when you factor in your time.  


I am a pretty thrifty shopper, and it's a challenge to purchase only what you need for a project, when you need it, and get a great deal.  You can shop fabric sales or purchase through coops, but then you have a pretty significant investment in a stash so that you'll have that reasonably priced fabric on hand when you need it.  


But I am a fiber snob, and I buy mostly designer cottons and nice knits, and pay about $8 / yd once you factor in shipping.  You can get fabric a lot cheaper of course, but if I'm putting the time into hand making something, I want to love it, and I haven't gotten great results from the less expensive Joann fabrics I've used.

post #5 of 37

I'm another vote for it depends on what you are sewing and what you are sewing with. Overall I would say it has saved me money because of all the things I have ended up sewing. I don't sew clothes (well a few easy peasy things), but I sew things like toys and diapers and wipes. Some of the toys and games I've made had saved me a bundle compared to what I would have paid for the same thing. I reuse fabric, old sheets, tshirts, fabric I'm given. And I definitely buy some too. I only buy on sale.I never buy patterns which can be expensive.  And the mending I've been able to do has been worth it in and of itself.

I absolutely think sewing is a great tool and it's also a lot of fun. I'm really glad I learned how and I always encourage others that think they might be interested.


Good luck!

post #6 of 37

Yes and no.  Sewing is something I do for recreation and the process is pleasurable for me.  So in that regard, DP and I always say, "Well, did you get $20 of entertainment out of that?" and the answer is yes... then yes.  I recently tried to sew a pair of trousers.  $2 for the pattern (on sale), $7 for 2yds of the denim (on sale), $3 for the zipper.... and they were a flop.  But I got $12 of learning and entertainment out of it.  And then I went and bought a pair of jeans trousers from goodwill for $6, lol because I did need a pair of pants.


I sew my own baby carriers - I've sewn wraps, slings, MTs, podegi, buckle carriers, etc, some as gifts and some for myself.  That has allowed me to try a greater range of carriers.  And I used mostly clearance and bargain fabric to do so, so very cheap.


I also sew a lot of DD's clothes.  They take so little fabric that they are pretty cheap to do, but I don't do it to save money - I could easily outfit her from handmedowns and thrift store clothes.  I do sometimes refashion my clothes for her.


My big $$ saver:

I sew diapers and wool for DD, and household cloth and napkins, curtains, laundry bags, my own mending, minor alterations, clothes refashioning, purses, doll clothes, soft toys, all kinds of bags.  This definitely has saved me money.  I don't buy anything that needs major alterations, but I did just put darts in the waistband of my jeans to make them fit better and that was awesome.


I'm currently learning to sew high fashion garments because I really like fashion.  This is more expensive than exclusively buying thrift, but even buying relatively nice fabric ($15-$20/yd) it's far cheaper than a new dress from Lord & Taylor. 


I think the best way to be economical when sewing is to stay focused.  Don't buy tons of fabric for projects you might do someday.  I think a small stash of inexpensive fabric to be used as muslins when garment sewing is good to have, but otherwise, it's good to plan the projects, buy just what you need, and do them.  I am currently on a buying fabric freeze and sewing through my stash.  After that, I plan to have a very small container of fabric for "mystery projects" or for DD to pick out of for me to make garments for her but otherwise only on a buy-as-needed basis.


I also sometimes barter my sewing skills for other services.  Occasionally I talk to old people who want me to do their mending, but I don't need more things to do!  And I don't consider myself an expert sewer... more like an advanced beginner or intermediate.  But I do turn out stuff that looks pretty good some of the time!

post #7 of 37

i purchased a sewing machine recently and lots of remnant holiday-ish or silky/formal cloth and am making reusable cloth giftbags out of them (sick of the wrapping paper mess after christmas gift frenzy).  this has been the perfect project for me to learn how to sew.  i did everything without a pattern, so that allowed me to focus on learning through trial and error.  i also made little drawstring bags for my DD's 5th birthday party next weekend.  we'll fill with some miscellaneous items, but she loved the idea.  again, good learning projects.  i've also made two envelope pillowcases for the pillows on our couches (no room to store seasonal pillows, but pillowcases are easy to do!).


I do plan on making mostly house decorations from the fabric.  i doubt i will ever make clothes from scratch.  but, it will save me money over purchasing the items that i want.  for example, a christmas pillow is about $20...i can make an evelope pillowcase for $2 worth of material.  is it worth my time?  well, i value my time much more than $20/hour and it certainly will take me longer to make it than 1 hour...but i enjoy the process, and there is definitely a sense of accomplishment....so it was time worth spent :)

post #8 of 37

On clothes I save on small children's sizes, sometimes...but I really save when one of the children are at an "in-between" size stage, and nothing ready made to buy will fit.  My DS is 2, and no brand of jeans will stay up on his little hips!  Sewing comes in handy, I can pinch the sides of his jeans in with two quick seams.  Also my baby is cloth diapered, and it is nice to use patterns that are cut to fit over cloth diapers, like kwik sew patterns, since store bought clothes are so trim.  I definitely save on nursing shirts for myself, they are insanely expensive to buy in stores.  So sometimes you save, a lot of times you don't, but I think trade skills are invaluable to anyone!  Learn to sew!

post #9 of 37

Knowing how to sew saves money on things like alterations, making basic curtains, comforter covers, quilts etc. For example I can make lined silk swags for my windows and pay a fraction of the cost it would be to buy the same thing in the same fabric.


I find I lose money anytime I try to make any clothing except for very basic items and even so (sew, LOL) they are never as nice as what I can buy in a store for considerably less. 

post #10 of 37

It can save money - depending on what you are sewing and with what types of material.

It also means that I can have things in my home that are more ethically made which is important to me.  And it means I can reuse things like worn sheets or towels, or recut DHs tshirts to make tanks or shorts for the kids or add a applique patch to stained tshirts or ripped jeans.

post #11 of 37

I agree with everyone else that it really depends on what you are making and how you are making it. I find that it does save money on some things though. I don't really make our clothes because I can get them so cheap. Most of the things I make at home (at least currently) are things I want/need for us to be more natural family living because they can be expensive. Things like the wrap n mats, reusable snack & sandwich bags, cloth diapers, mama pads, baby slings and carriers, etc are expensive and I can make them a lot cheaper at home. I also can make some things out of old clothes and such of ours and that always saves money. I find that to be really good with DD's old stuff because she doesn't want to let it go so I repurpose it. Making their halloween costumes is almost always cheaper at home too. I just like making homemade stuff though so it's a hobby and a ton of fun for me.

post #12 of 37

I'm with cyclamen.  I sew for fun.  Instead of joining a gym, or taking a class, or going drinking with the girls, I like to sew.  Plus, what I sew is useful for us, even though it doesn't necessarily save us money.  Sewing does stop me from coveting a girls skirt that I see on the internet for $80 when I would make it for less (not that I'd ever have the money to spend $80 on a kids skirt).  Right now I'm making quilts for the girls' beds.  SO much more expensive than going to the store and buying one (and I'm using designer fabric that was on clearance for $2.50/yd, so these are about as "cheap" as quilts come) but I know for a fact that these quilts will last much much much longer than store-bought ones, so I'm sure I'll save money in the long run.


Also, like crazyms, I make things that I can't otherwise afford.  So, it's either make it or do without.  Instead of paying $10 for one reusable snack bag, I can buy $10 worth of supplies and make 10+ of my own.  I also made most of my babycarriers (*sniff* when my kids were young enough to be worn!).


In short, I don't think it saves us money per se, but it helps us get more for our money.

post #13 of 37

Hmmm . . . I'm with the "it depends" camp, but I have a few other factors I use.


First, if I can purchase it cheaply and easily, I don't sew it.  I know how much time it takes to make clothing, and for most stuff, it simply is not worth it.


But, if it is something I can't buy easily (for example - cool boys' dress clothes!! or matching cotton pjs for my guys), I will sew it.


Also, if it is something I am spending way too much time looking for (such as curtains), I will gladly either sew them or buy some from Target and modify them.   For this one you need to factor in the cost of driving to different stores, time spend searching and returning, versus going to the fabric store and doing custom!


I love modifying store bought things!!


That being said, I can get very bored in the regular fabric stores (*sometimes* I love what I find at Jo-ann's, but often it is not exactly worth my sewing time) and will drive to cool ones to loll in fabric and dream big dreams.  That fabric therapy saves a lot on therapists!!

post #14 of 37

Well, it can do, especially once you get really good. My mother made my wedding dress, which saved us HEAPS of money... but that's a pretty extreme example (and it was rather stressful for both of us!). I keep looking at expensive clothes that sell for $300 and thinking "There must be about $20 worth of fabric and notions in this" - so if I could learn to sew that well, then yep, I'd save a lot. Not there yet, though. :p


I'm not the epitome of the thrifty seamstress, but I've had a few strokes of luck. I've gotten a few pieces of fabric off Freecycle - I didn't ask, they were offered. If you asked, you might potentially get a ton (although a lot of it might not be usable or to your taste). We have one GREAT op shop in town that sells second-hand fabric; most of the op shops have a basket full of upholstery samples, but this one has huge bins full of decent-sized lengths of cottons, knits, all sorts. I've gotten some really good deals, including one enormous length of hideous mustard-coloured cotton which I use to make mock-ups. It's so awful I don't feel bad about cutting into it, and it was only a few dollars.


I also reuse clothes occasionally. I'm about to ask DH's male friends to give me any old, worn-out shirts they have, so I can make them into shirts for a baby boy. I used a bought linen dress to make a nice linen shopping bag, once... stuff like that. I was given a large-sized pair of silky PJs that I'm planning to redo into a summer nightie for DD. I also bought two nasty cushion covers from an op shop once because they were liberally studded with wooden buttons, which are hard to find and expensive! I've used them on all sorts of projects.


The thing with home sewing, like home gardening, is you have to compare apples to apples. If you do your own organic gardening, it might be cheaper (and certainly less of a hassle) to get produce from the supermarket. But if you compare it to locally-grown, organic produce, it starts to look a lot cheaper (and then there are other benefits, like choosing heirloom or non-Monsanto seeds and so on). Same with sewing. It'll be hard to sew clothes that are cheaper than onesies chucked into a Walmart bin for 50 cents each on Black Friday. But if you compare it to handmade/boutiquey clothes in only natural fabrics, or Fair Trade fabrics, or whatever it is you do, it might start to look a lot cheaper. I sew partly for ethical reasons - I'm sure my new baby will be given plenty of sweatshop-made junky clothes from China (from lovely, well-meaning people!), but I want to avoid that as much as possible. So that definitely factors into the "cost" for me - it's HARD to find baby clothes here that I'm confident aren't made in sweatshops. And they're expensive!

post #15 of 37


This subject seems to come up every 6 mos or so if you care to dig through the archives.

Like everyone else, it depends. I have an extensive stash, so if it can be made from stash fabric, its generally cheaper than buying. Fabric has served as retail therapy for me over the years. Now i typically only buy remnant pieces unless i have something specific planned.

My size and shape mean that a pair of pants that fits is no less than $35, jeans are $45. Choices are limited. Dress pants are closer to $100. So sewing for myself can be cheaper even if i have to buy fabric just because i can actually get something that fits. My wedding dress was $100 worth of fabric and an $8 pattern to get exactly what i wanted.

My DS is liable to be a giant, at 16 mos, hes in 2T pants and 3T pjs for his legs, but i have to stick with overalls/one piece, because despite CDs, he's so skinny the clothes fall off him. I expect i'll be making a lot of pants for him/altering a lot of clothes for him over the years.

Its also a barterable trade, if you check out the swaps section, craft swaps come up regularly. I traded some stuffed animals for wooden animals, play silks and felt food.

Or check out etsy. Lots of people selling sewn stuff.

Its a great skill to have, even if you do nothing more complex than hemming pants for your kid. Take a basic sewing course at the community center or many fabric stores offer them. I've never heard anyone say the regretted learning a skill like sewing.
post #16 of 37

I'll add to what everyone else said.  It depends.


I have a hard time saving money making new clothes for me.  Fabric is expensive, and I'm big, so I need a lot of fabric for a skirt or dress.  I can get clothes for a couple of bucks at the thrift store and be fine.


But otoh, I can re-use scraps and make gorgeous high-quality gifts for people, especially baby gifts (in the form of cradle quilts).  I save money on that--costs me some time, but not a lot of money.  I can do my own curtains, half the kid's blankets are made by me, I can mend things instead of having to replace them, etc.

post #17 of 37
Thread Starter 

Thanks everyone. Seems like self-control will be the key. I'm infamous for taking up crafts or sports, getting all the stuff, then never really getting into it. Good intentions, but I overestimate my time and motivation. Since I can "permanently borrow" my mom's sewing machine I think I'll try it out. . .if for no reason than to hem my own pants. I used to wear heels just so that I didn't have to pay/find someone to hem them. Now in the country with a baby strapped to me, I don't think that's going to work.  lol.gif  There are other things like wipes, that I just can't see spending so much $$ on. I also like the idea of being able to mend children's things. If my daughter turns out to be anything like me there will be a lot of stained and ripped up clothes in my future.

post #18 of 37

You live in the country? Then yeah, you probably have heaps of mending-opportunity potential once your baby becomes mobile. :) Even just being able to add patches to reinforce the knees of trousers, or to cover a rip caused by falling down, is a handy skill. And hemming pants is really easy.


I know what you mean about collecting craft supplies! My fabric stash is embarrassingly large. I do have plans for most of it (along with a few where-the-heck-did-that-come-from pieces!), but thanks to laziness/forgetfulness/busyness with other things, they languish... I don't feel so bad about the thrift store pieces, but I have some nice designer flannels and quilting cottons in dusky rose, cream and green, bought at great expense from a quilting fair, that I've been meaning to make two quilts for DD's bed out of for... a long time. I think I've gotten as far as cutting out some cotton strips, but that's it. And then there's an awesome pile of sheers and laces I got to make a fairy-inspired summer dress, and then realised I only know how to sew cottons and sheers are scary. Plus there's a bunch of clothes for me I can't currently make, because I'm pregnant... including a corset, a 50s-style dress, a few abortive attempts at designing myself a coat, and so on... and a very small piece of lovely dragonfly flannel that would have been enough to make a shirt for DD when she was a baby, but now she's nearly three...


And I just found out I'm having a boy, so bought a whole bunch more fabric! And I still have "nothing" to make a baby shower present for SIL out of... and I want some fabric to make a pocket/beg thing to hang off the back of the front seat in the car, so DD can reach books and toys and a drink from her carseat... and none of my current fabrics are suitable! (Well, they might be, but I'd have to give up other long-formulated plans...)


So, um, don't be like me. Fortunately I'm on a creative kick at the moment, so I'm actually using up some of my wool and fabrics. But I can't guarantee I'll use up more than I recently bought. :p

post #19 of 37

Just wanted to add, that to MAKE sewing thrify. . . ask around.  If you attend a church ask if anyone has a stash of unused fabric.  I know a lot of older ladies who used to sew a bunch and now can't because of arthritis, etc.  Most these women are happy to give the fabric away.  Someone already mentioned freecycle, but if you are driving all over the map to collect bits and pieces it might not be worth it.  I usually suggest a central location like a library for me to meet people for swaps.  I don't like unknown people coming to my house and I assume some others feel the same.


With donated fabric, if you don't like something, it can still be used.  Backings for wall hanging, flannel lining inside pants for warmth, functional pieces that really don't matter what they look like, and of course, to figure out things before using the "good" stuff.  Also, I saw something on PBS where the lady took tea and dyed random odd fabrics with it and ended up with coordinating fabrics for a project.  It turned all the obnoxious ones into something cool.  


Also, if you homeschool, there are lots of teaching opportunities in a basket of fabric.



post #20 of 37

Just got a copy of Amanda Soule's book The Creative Family from the library and there's directions in it for turning an old men's knit shirt into a pair of infant/toddler pants.  Similar directions are probably somewhere on the web.  Turning worn-out adult clothes into infant or childrens' clothes is a sure-fire way of saving money.  You can also generally find stained infant onsies for really cheap, or often free, and sew an applique over the stain.


ETA:  One of my favorite things right now is turning old tablecloths into things.  If the table cloth is stained or otherwise ruined, I cut it up to make drawstring bags for the girls' toys.  If I can find one on sale, or at the thrift store that is unstained, I make simple curtains out of them.  Same goes for thrifted cloth shower curtains.  This often comes out MUCH cheaper than buying home dec yardage at a fabric store.  Oh, and I cut up any scraps to make cloth napkins.  The opportunities are endless!

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