Thursday, 26 February 2009

how to...sewing on a budget (1)

I have put together a little series of tips, tricks and cost cutting ideas for sewing and crafting on a budget. I am sure these are familiar to many of you. However, there are always people discovering the joys sewing for the first time - you may find this useful.

1. Sewing Machines - Borrow from a friend or Buy a second hand machine
If you are new to sewing I would suggest borrowing a machine from a friend or family member. Have it for a while and try to sew up some simple things. Some people find that they are really not into sewing once they have tried. It would be a shame to spend lots of money and find that you don't enjoy it. If you then decide that love it, the first place to go is to this blog for great reviews of older sewing machines. I reviewed my machine here and I am happy to answer any questions on this model. Check out eBay, local papers, garage sales, and op shops. Keep in mind that the machine will most likely need a service or at least a very good clean out. Sewing machine repairers often sell older machines.

2. Shop around for your fabric and supplies
I know that this is difficult for many of us as unfortunately there are only a couple of major fabric stores in most areas. Sadly these major fabric stores have perhaps caused the decline of the smaller store holder (I could go on about that here but perhaps another day). Lucky people in Melbourne and Sydney have access to some great fabric stores like this one and this one and I have shopped at here and here in Tasmania. The good news is that these stores have online shopping available.
Look at places you may not always equate with sewing supplies - Big W sell a small range of Gutermann thread at almost half the price compared to the major sewing/craft supply stores.

I have also found noticeable price variations in quality quilting fabric so shop around. There is a whole world of shopping on the internet - I could go on for days... Look on eBay, Etsy, Google search 'quilting fabric' or 'fabric suppliers' and you will be inundated with hits. You will find some very good prices online but, remember to add shipping into your calculations.

Samples and off-cuts are a great way of getting some wonderful prints inexpensively. I got these fantastic off cuts from here for 10.00AUS a bundle - each bundle would have enough for about 8 bib fronts.

Op shops (thrift stores) are a great place for general sewing supplies. They often have big bins of fabric at very cheap prices. And yarn and knitting needles and great old patterns and sewing and craft books. I have picked up loads of supplies at my local oppy's - fabric, embroidery thread, this sewing basket, books, patterns, leather scraps, wool...

3. Re-purpose
You all know of the endless possibilities that re-purposing can hold (just check out this Mama and a new book that is all about this topic). Don't just stop at bed sheets and tee-shirts - Amy does it beautifully with old sweaters. Have a look through your wardrobe looking at the fabric and the possibilities. Do the same at the op shop - don't give up on that hideous heavily gathered skirt - look at how much fabric is in there. Take it from me, some skirts can yield a good few meters of fabric.

Look for dresses at op shops or on sale that can be cut down into skirts - this a-line skirt is cut from an ankle length dress. The dress was only about 4.00AUS, a size 8 but had a long (and big) a-line bottom half and a little top part. I got the big bit for my big bottom half and my sister fitted happily into the little top that I re-purposed into a jacket.

This (half finished) little girls dress is made from a 'new' 1960's housecoat that I picked up on eBay for about 5.00AUS. Lots of fabric left has made its way onto many appliques.
These cushions are made from some old curtain fabric that I picked up from the op shop - from memory the 2 old curtains were only a couple of dollars. This fabric has also been used in appliques. When buying old curtains give them a little pull/stretch - if the fabric has been too damaged by the sun, they will rip (perhaps not rip them when you are in the oppy but you get the idea). Look at them closely for small holes. I often buy curtains and discard the damaged parts.

Men's wool or wool blend suit pants can make rather smart trousers for a young boy or girl (a leg from each leg) or a girls pinafore (it will have a leg seam up the middle but this can 'covered' with lovely vertical rows of braiding or ric-rac). Big peoples jeans can be cut down into small peoples jeans.
The possibilities are endless!
More tips and ideas next time...


sophie said...

I didn't know Big W sold Gutterman -thanks for that! I love Gutterman but man it is so pricey. Thanks for all these tips rachael.

Jessica said...

I love this post since I certainly craft on a budget. My favorite tip is hitting the remnant pile at the fabric store often (and midweek) sometimes it's a mine full of great fabrics, other times there's nothing. I just bought a yard of linen for 2.00!

Cindy said...

I got a little excited when I read the title of this one, or as it translates to my ears, how to save $ so that I can buy the gorgeous japanese material that I can't resist.

Megan: The Byron Life said...

Great post Rach. Love that sunflower dress, so very sweet.

Michelle said...

Thanks for a great post - I'm contemplating buying a sewing machine so your words of wisdom are much appreciated. Great links to the fabric stores too, as I sure don't like to even step inside you know where!

Claire (ethel loves fred) said...

WOW Rach, some fantastic tips - and the skirt is great, I'm off to browse my wardrobe now, I often just 'forget' that I know how to sew!!