Cost of sewing your own clothes - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 29 Old 06-03-2009, 02:11 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi everyone, I had the idea to sew my own clothes, I am pretty good at sewing so I thought it might be a more economical way to do thing. Then I went to some fabric stores and fabric is SO expensive. Do you find it cheaper to make your own vs. buying or is buying cheaper but you still make your own? Oh and if you do make your own please tell me what the trick to good fabric prices is! Here is what I based my prices on at the poppy seed a local store that uses fair trade and hand made items only I bought a wrap skirt for $30.00 plus tax, I found a pattern to make a wrap skirt that needed 3 yards of fabric, and thread of course. The only fabric I could find was $8.00 a yard plus tax with probably $3.00 for thread and the time to make it (I have a 4 month old and a full time job) so that would be $27.00 plus tax and time. So in this case what would you do? Thanks in advance!
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#2 of 29 Old 06-03-2009, 02:44 AM
 
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i buy fabric mostly from co ops, they are cheaper but the catch is you have to wait for it, sometimes months, sometimes weeks and since they normally have a bunch of fabric on sale, you might end up with more than what you need

i am venturing into making clothes for me, i dont find it particularly cheap unless i alter something from the thrift store. but sewing to me is my creative outlet. i have a hard time finding something that will fit me properly without doing some alterations anyways..

i am a little more picky about buying fabric for my kids since they will outgrow it but for myself, i am a little more lax since i wont outgrow it . i am about to purchase 2 yards of fabric to make a top for me and i will be forking out $16/yard + shipping.
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#3 of 29 Old 06-03-2009, 02:52 AM
 
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It all depends. If I can't find what I want, I'll make it. Some things I make because I love doing it. But the days of sewing always being cheaper than buying is long gone. Comparing sewing to RTW depends on your level of skill and what stores you are shopping at. If you are comparing making it yourself to what you could buy in Walmart, Walmart will always be cheaper. But if you can make it better and cheaper than Nordstrums, that's another thing all together. And, remember, sewing it yourself means that you get exactly what you want, in the fabric you want, and it will fit. Using those things as the criteria for comparasion, you would need to compare yourself to a professional doing custom dressmaking. Besides, sewing Dylan's boxers and having him say that they fit better and are more comfortable to wear than store bought is worth every penny over the store price that it costs me in time and money.

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#4 of 29 Old 06-03-2009, 03:20 AM
 
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It depends on what it is and what fabric you want to use. For me its not the cost so much as it saves the aggravation of trying to find premade clothes.

Right now Im working on sewing some nursing dresses/shirts for me. Since I don't wear shirts without sleeves and the only nursing clothing over here are tank tops I would have to order the dresses/shirts online. So, when I did the calculations I figured I would be spending 25 or so for the shirt (short sleeve, more for long sleeve) and 60 for a dress then I would have to pay for shipping. It takes 3-4 yards of fabric to make a shirt (well less but Im not getting down the pattern and figuring it out) and 5-6 to make a dress (again, approx). I got some fabric precut on sale for 1000 yen (around 11-12 dollars depending on exchange rate) for 2 meters and 1500 yen for 4 meters. So, 22.00 (if I estimate the exchange rate again) for a shirt and 30 or so for a dress for fabric and another 5-6 for thread. So, it is cheaper for certain things for me to make but not for everything.

Similar story about my girls dresses. Im really picky about clothing for them. DD1 is tall but slender so most dresses are either to short or to big around (height wise she needs a size 5 to get a dress that goes past her knees however she fits into a size 12 months with room to spare around her shoulders and waist). If I buy something from a store I usually end up having to alter it to fit properly. The cheapest dress Ive been able to find out here is around 20.00. So, again, 2 yards of fabric at 1000 yen and I barely get by under what it would have cost. However, it saves me from having to buy something and then deconstruct it and reconstruct it to fit her.

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#5 of 29 Old 06-03-2009, 03:23 AM
 
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i've been making summer time play shorts for my 3 year old out of old t-shirts. they are light weight, easy to make and f-f-free.
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#6 of 29 Old 06-03-2009, 03:36 AM
 
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I make most of my clothes and my kids clothes. It saves me monet without a doubt, but I have never liked cheap clothes . I do it mainly because I enjoy it, though.

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#7 of 29 Old 06-03-2009, 03:47 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I do really enjoy sewing but its so hard for me to find the time, I don't want to buy cheap clothes either I really like the idea of handmade fair trade items like I can buy at a store near my house (well 30 miles away but oh well). I hate the fact that walmart is all child labor clothes and that's why they are so cheap . I also don't have the option of a co-op sadly, we have 2 of them in town but one is imaginary (she would not sell me a book, would not even show me a book and DH would not pay her the money without proof that it really was a legit business, she just kept saying well the bananas go here pointing to a shelf they apparently were going to go on when she ordered them *sorry bout the rant she really angered me I drove over an hour and waited over an hour past our set up appointment for her to arrive*) and the other one never has catalogs, but they always take my phone number and never call so I figure they don't want my business. So I guess until my son is older I will just have to buy items.
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#8 of 29 Old 06-03-2009, 08:31 AM
 
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Originally Posted by MittensKittens View Post
I make most of my clothes and my kids clothes. It saves me monet without a doubt, but I have never liked cheap clothes . I do it mainly because I enjoy it, though.
I make a majority of my kids clothes too. I don't think it saves me money over say discount places like Walmart or Target or shopping at the thrift store, but it definitely saves me over more pricey options like Hanna Anderson or Gymboree. I just made dd a bunch of knit dresses ala Hanna and I think I paid $4 for the fabric and I got 2 dressess and some shorts from it. That's pretty cheap. I consider that my time is pretty expensive, but I enjoy sewing so I would do it even if it didn't save me a dime.

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#9 of 29 Old 06-03-2009, 10:32 AM
 
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If you compare my sewing to only free-trade items, then I save a little bit. It helps that I try to use all of the fabric I buy for other pieces or matching outfits for my kids. That way I can say that I got 2-3 items/outfits for the same cost. If I look at it that way, then I save even more. I can NOT compare anything I make to non-free trade items. My in-laws used to say that they could save me a TON of money by just buying all the clothes at Wal-mart. I have finally convinced them that free-trade is important at least to the items we wear. I haven't heard about needing to buy at WM for a year or two.

My problems is that I have a thing for expensive fabrics, but sewing is my therapy. I do know where to find sales (I am on the newsletter list of several sites), I never buy without a discount, I buy from some co-ops, and I reuse material from outgrown/unused items. I buy quality thread and needles when it is 50%, and I plan ahead for items I will need. Planning ahead so that you can buy items on sale is a bit part of saving money. Those little notions of interfacing and zippers and thread can REALLY add up.

It helps that I have been sewing for a LONG time. I am pretty fast and fairly accurate. It has taken a long time to get to this point though. My kids and I are all hard to fit so it DOES save a ton of frustration and trying on of items. It is nice to not have to deal with the kids in the dressing room while any of us are trying to figure out if an item fits.
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#10 of 29 Old 06-03-2009, 02:24 PM
 
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It really depends on how difficult it is for you to find clothing. For myself, I can't wear most off-the-rack clothes. Even if I go to the locally made store, I wind up waiting a week while they alter it to fit - and spend close to $100 just for a top or a pair of pants. They're beautiful quality, but I can easily make something for that cost (although it wouldn't be as nice). So for my nice clothes I shop there and know I'm going to drop some cash. But for my intermediate - casual clothes I go for lower quality so I don't stress over every spot.

It also depends on your ethical/moral objections... if you only buy organic clothing, fair trade, no sweat shop, etc... then it's harder and more expensive to find both the fabric and the clothes, but they're almost always higher quality. Can't really compare that to a Wal Mart "everybody's shaped the same" shirt at 2/$10 which falls apart after 3 months, though.

It also depends on availability/size. For the average sized person finding decently priced fair trade clothing isn't that difficult. For a plus sized person, it's very difficult and the selection is slim. The trade off is that it takes more fabric for me to make myself a shirt than it would take an "average" sized person, so it'll still cost me more to make something.

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#11 of 29 Old 06-03-2009, 08:49 PM
 
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Yes, I agree. It depends on what you make, what you use for fabric, and whether you paid full price or bought it either on clearance or by co-op, or repurposed another clothing item to make whatever it is you're making.

I have, in my life, only ever bought one dress off of the rack for formal wear. I have always been rather small in the waist (averaging a 4-6), and rather large in the bust (averaging a DD cup), which makes it difficult to find things that fit both the waist and the bust. PLUS my mother was a master seamstress and we simply could not stomach buying a poorly made dress/gown when we could make it for significantly less (often a half to a third of the cost). For instance, we found the wedding dress I wanted for my wedding in a bridal salon for $2800 (without the slip/head piece/veil, which would have all added another few hundred dollars). My mom made it for $128. My bridesmaids dresses were coutour...I would never have asked them to pay it, but the price tag was over $1200. We made them for $76 per dress, and every single one of them fit like a dream. For a cousin's wedding, I found a dress I loved at the store for $250, and made it for under a hundred.

My daughter is another example. Like an above poster's child, my daughter is very tall and slender for her age. I just made her four "hannah" style play dresses that fit her perfectly...at a size 2/3 for the width of the dress and a seven for the length. I bought most of the fabric on clearance a couple of falls ago, and have been sitting on it for the right project. The last dress I actually made out of organic bamboo (oh my it's so soft!), which I got on sale. I believe I paid less than nine dollars per dress, and then made two pair of crop pants to go under them, for about four dollars a piece. The normal "hannah" price is $38 for the dress and something like $19 for the crop pants. Even Lands End charges $24 for their version of the dress--and neither company has a dress that would not drown my daughter in the width of the dress.

I just made my son six pair of jammy shorts for a grand total of four dollars and ninety cents. Two pair were from mens XL t-shirts that we picked up at the clothes swap last week (a pizza joint shirt and a mission shirt, neither one looks like it was ever worn, and PLENTY of fabric for a pair of knit shorts!), and four from remnants that we picked up the day before yesterday--awesome ones, too! One is a PERFECT fabric for a five year old, with dinosaurs and dinosaur skeletons all over a navy back ground. The others are a solid grey jersey and a brown waffle knit.

At the end of the swap last week, I was packing up the "plus size ladies" tables, and came across three seer sucker and cotton woven snap up house coats, made of darling fabric. I took them home and have made two pair of crop pants for dd, and will make a skort of the third tomorrow. FREE! AND with the leftover fabric from one of the housecoats, I am actually going to edge some pillow cases to match a quilt that we just received for her as a gift, but that didn't have sheets/pillowcases to match. This fabric coordinates with the quilt as if it was MADE to go with it. Nothing like repurposing a housecoat!

I don't bother making myself jeans, but will make yoga pants (I can never find them long enough, as I have a 34" inseam) with clearance knit,and will make shorts, especially to work out and knock around the house in...and I always save money on them.

Saving money, I think, though, depends on your building a stash of good fabric that you have looked carefullly for and purchased on clearance or in bulk, or repurposed, and on building a pattern stash and great sewing books on clearance and deep sales. I do always carry my 40% off coupon with me to JoAnns, and always check out the holiday sales if I have any extra cash...and we always check out the remnants bin when we're there, as well, for anything we might find useful.

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#12 of 29 Old 06-04-2009, 01:52 PM
 
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Saving money, I think, though, depends on your building a stash of good fabric that you have looked carefullly for and purchased on clearance or in bulk, or repurposed, and on building a pattern stash and great sewing books on clearance and deep sales.
Yes, definitely!

I'm really cheap when it comes to buying clothes so sewing often costs me more. However, I get a LOT of satisfaction out of making my own dresses - they fit so well and I feel SO good in them. A friend gets the same satisfaction out of making pants for her hard to fit body. So I think it depends on any special fit needs you have as well as what your RTW options are.

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#13 of 29 Old 06-04-2009, 02:26 PM
 
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You don't have to buy new fabric to sew clothing.

I haven't bought brand new off the bolt fabric for about 2 years and I've sewn more clothes than ever! Look at the thread about thrift store finds a few threads down to see why this is possible.

Re-purposing is also a cheap way to get the clothes you want. Visit wardrobe refashion to see how much you can do this way.
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#14 of 29 Old 06-04-2009, 08:03 PM - Thread Starter
 
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With all the weight I still have I can't find any pants to fit me, so that is a good point about getting clothes that actually fit you. Thank you all for your responses I am going to start looking for some alternate sources for fabric.
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#15 of 29 Old 06-05-2009, 02:29 PM
 
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My MIL made her daughter a bunch of business type suits, that was a huge savings even with the cost of the type of fabric being very expensive, one thing MIL has told me is that to never buy fabric full price, figure out your patterns and how much material you will need, write that down to keep with you so that when you are fabric shopping if you find a fabric on sale then you know how much to get. Same with buttons or trims, never buy full price, wait for sales, keep fabric samples with you and what you will need for buttons or zippers and then color match when those items are on sale.

I'm making a pillowcase dress (I'm not actually starting with a pillowcase but just a yard of fabric) for a gift for a little girl I know, cost of materials probably is less than $8, hard to tell because I have the elastic and ribbon already (I did buy the fabric at full price specifically for this project but it is extra cute)... I know it's a very simple thing to make so not much time sewing it, maybe an hour or 2 with looking up the pattern online and my sewing skill level... if I was to pay myself $10 an hour... a $25-30 dress in the end. I could buy a nice little sundress for that amount I'm sure or could go to the thrift store and find something for way less money... but really all I'm actually spending is less than $8 and I'm having fun making it and I think mom to the girl will like that it is homemade rather than commercial (little girl is only 2yrs)

For me, the bolded part above is the big one, I'm having fun sewing and making something with my own hands.
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#16 of 29 Old 06-10-2009, 11:51 AM
 
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I make my own blouses and tops. Sometimes I make pants but my specialty is bras and swimsuits. I have found that you can make you own clothing for about 1/4 to 1/10 of the cost of retail depending on the fabrics and complexity.

Stef - mommy to Matthew and Katrina, wife to Dave; seamstress, bra-maker, and resident bra expert.  Find your proper bra size.
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#17 of 29 Old 06-10-2009, 06:00 PM
 
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I've made myself a couple maternity skirts. Maternity clothing is so ridiculously expensive and it's not that hard to alter a skirt to put in a maternity waistband. I just finished a spiral denim skirt that cost me (including all the denim, ribbing, and elastic) about $12 and looks awesome.

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#18 of 29 Old 06-10-2009, 07:34 PM
 
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I love thrifting, which is cheap and a good source of cool fabics and clothes that can be great with a little alterations. I just made some cute cropped tie up shirts out of mens western snap shirts and a very cute pink tunic style shirt with an empire waist and a pieced 'skirt' out of a size 3xl linen womens button down.

It is a fun way to experiment with sewing, and there's nothing to lose when you start with an item that only cost a dollar or two.

Oh, I also made some adorable seersucker "long shorts" for my baby from a mens short sleeve button down, just yesterday.

Hope that helps.
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#19 of 29 Old 06-10-2009, 10:46 PM - Thread Starter
 
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How do you make bra's? That would be so cool to actually have bras that FIT me. I think I am going to start going to the thrift stores more often, from the items you describe you have made from stuff you find there!
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#20 of 29 Old 06-11-2009, 12:39 PM
 
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How do you make bra's? That would be so cool to actually have bras that FIT me. I think I am going to start going to the thrift stores more often, from the items you describe you have made from stuff you find there!
Here are some links that I found helpful in making bras:

http://www.threadsmagazine.com/item/...ources-by-mail
http://www.threadsmagazine.com/item/...dilemma-solved

And here's one on sewing lingerie:

http://www.threadsmagazine.com/item/...dilemma-solved

Chris--extended breastfeeding, cloth diapering, babywearing, co-sleeping, APing, CLW, homeschooling before any of this was a trend mom to Joy (1/78), Erica (8/80), Angela (9/84), Dylan (2/98)
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#21 of 29 Old 06-11-2009, 08:46 PM
 
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I think if you compare the quality of the fabric and finished product, you do save money. I made a cute Amy Butler Barcelona skirt for less than $30, and similar skirts in Boden are about $80. Virtually any time we wear something I've made, people comment on how nice it is. If you're sewing for yourself, you'll end up with things that really fit you, and don't need to go to the tailor. So if you like really special fabrics and styles that you choose yourself, then sewing your clothes is fun. If you're looking to just save money by making your own, maybe not so much. Unless that sort of thing is fun for you!

I'm a fabric snob, but I never pay full price for fabric. I like coops, and if I need something at Joann, I wait for a sale or buy with a coupon.

I have several sewing books already, but I just bought another one that I couldn't bring myself to return to the library. It's called Sew U, and it's by the author of the Built by Wendy patterns that Simplicity does. The books has lots of good tips in an easy to read format, and it comes with 3 patterns.

On thats subject, I never pay full price for patterns, either. I generally use Simplicity, McCalls, or Burda, and those are regularly on sale at Joann for $1-2. You can pick patterns online, then go to the store when they're on sale. Kwik Sew are good, too, but I only get them through a coop to save. They're still about $6.
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#22 of 29 Old 06-12-2009, 06:01 PM
 
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Those are are some good links for bra-making supplies, sewchris. If anyone is interested in bra-making just send me a PM and I can share some tips and info. You can make bras for at least 1/4 of the cost of retail and probably 1/10 the cost for hard-to-find sizes.

Several years ago I started shortening the bands of retail bras so I could get a cup large enough to fit that was not loose in the back. Eventually I took apart so many that I figured out how to make them from scratch in any size. There are a few other moms here that I have either tutored in bra-making or make custom ones for them. Sewing is such a great skill to have.

Stef - mommy to Matthew and Katrina, wife to Dave; seamstress, bra-maker, and resident bra expert.  Find your proper bra size.
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#23 of 29 Old 06-12-2009, 07:16 PM
 
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You're welcome. I love both the Threads website (and their discussion board) and their magazine. I don't make bras on a regular basis but I do make my own cotton knit underpants from the KwikSew Beautiful Lingerie book (http://www.kwiksew.com/Catalog/Book_Lingerie.cfm).

Chris--extended breastfeeding, cloth diapering, babywearing, co-sleeping, APing, CLW, homeschooling before any of this was a trend mom to Joy (1/78), Erica (8/80), Angela (9/84), Dylan (2/98)
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#24 of 29 Old 06-12-2009, 10:45 PM
 
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$8.00/yd is expensive, nice fabric. If you want to be cheaper than buying clothes, you have to get cheap fabric and re-use your patterns! You can find fabrics on sale for $1.99 at your local Jo-Ann's, Hancock, etc...look online for free patterns and tutorials. You can definitely save money sewing your own, but you can also be more expensive if you use fancy patterns that take lots of fabric and if you use designer fabrics...
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#25 of 29 Old 06-12-2009, 11:13 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I don't have a local fabric store, I have hobby lobby and wal-mart : they both are not so great hobby lobby has more than walmart but I never seem to find sales, so the closest real fabric stores are over an hours drive away.
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#26 of 29 Old 06-16-2009, 12:16 AM
 
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For my baby girl, I've found clothing options, in order of thriftiness, are:

- hand-me-downs
- home-sewn clothes from cheap fabric or repurposed other clothes
- op shop clothes
- clothes from cheap MIC stores
- home-sewn clothes from expensive/full price fabric
- nice clothes from fancy baby stores

Where I live we don't have Wal-Mart, but we do have The Baby Factory and similar places. The clothes aren't great and they're all MIC. And I don't know if it's just where I live, but op shops are EXPENSIVE around here! I bought a large woollen jumper today to felt down into a coat for the baby, and it was $8. I'm sure a few years ago it would have been around $2! And another thrifted top I bought recently was $12 - very cool top and worth a lot more, but still.

Compared to that, I bought some $3/metre fabric from a store in town. Half a metre of one colour made one pair of pants and two hats for the baby; the other half-metre of a different colour will make her a top. And from a more expensive fabric store I found some very cool $3/metre polycotton which I'm planning to make into a Victorianesque steampunk outfit. With the lining and notions, I'm expecting to get a really voluptuous skirt, a vest and a dress for the baby, like nothing you could buy at a store, for maybe $30? Custom made it'd be, what? Five times that?

So if you're a funny shape, like modest clothing, like out-of-fashion or anachronistic styles, refuse to buy unethically-produced clothing, or just like quirky out-of-the-mainstream clothes, it's worth it. I wouldn't do everything by hand - jeans, for instance - but I did make DD a cute pair of jeans from my old ones, with a floral accent fabric that was a remnant on sale. She's wearing them right now and looks a cutie!

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#27 of 29 Old 06-16-2009, 01:35 PM
 
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#28 of 29 Old 07-19-2009, 08:17 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Think of Winter View Post
I think if you compare the quality of the fabric and finished product, you do save money. I made a cute Amy Butler Barcelona skirt for less than $30, and similar skirts in Boden are about $80. Virtually any time we wear something I've made, people comment on how nice it is. If you're sewing for yourself, you'll end up with things that really fit you, and don't need to go to the tailor. So if you like really special fabrics and styles that you choose yourself, then sewing your clothes is fun. If you're looking to just save money by making your own, maybe not so much. Unless that sort of thing is fun for you!

I'm a fabric snob, but I never pay full price for fabric. I like coops, and if I need something at Joann, I wait for a sale or buy with a coupon.

I have several sewing books already, but I just bought another one that I couldn't bring myself to return to the library. It's called Sew U, and it's by the author of the Built by Wendy patterns that Simplicity does. The books has lots of good tips in an easy to read format, and it comes with 3 patterns.

On thats subject, I never pay full price for patterns, either. I generally use Simplicity, McCalls, or Burda, and those are regularly on sale at Joann for $1-2. You can pick patterns online, then go to the store when they're on sale. Kwik Sew are good, too, but I only get them through a coop to save. They're still about $6.
I have made 2 of the barcelona skirts! the second one I paid 6.99 for the amy butler nigella fabric and only used one yard (since I am a small). In that case i feel like I am definatley ahead because the skirt fits and I can use difereant material to make several of the same style...saving me money!

Denise, Mama to DS1 (7) and DD1 (5) and new baby due June 2012!

 
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#29 of 29 Old 07-27-2009, 01:02 AM
 
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I've been debating that very thing for so long now! While I sewed my heart out when I was young (prom dresses, etc), I dropped it once college hit, etc. Now that I'm older, and have spent hundreds of hours shopping in stores only to be discouraged and put off by chemical smells, etc., or throwing things away or giving them away after I've bought them and found I didn't really like them, I have decided to once again buy a machine so I can finally have a pair of pants that wasn't made for a 12-year-old....I'm tired of waiting for fashion to catch up with my taste! And don't get me started on little girls' clothes......what on earth happened to "cute"? So yes, I believe I will save a fortune and be much happier in even a 16$/yd home-made outfit...yes I will.
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