Sewing on a Budget
It's true that sewing can be quite an expensive hobby to start...however, there are ways of minimising the initial costs without compromising on the quality of the materials, tools and equipment.
The biggest expense is nearly always on the sewing machine itself, so this is also the area where you could save the most money if you're on a strict budget.
Obviously if you stick to hand-sewing with just a needle and thread then you can spend next-to-nothing...but I'm pretty sure most people will be wanting a machine!
Basic sewing machine models are perfectly good for beginners - and beyond - so don't feel you need to splash out on a machine that has fancy gadgets and a large number of stitch design options straight away. A budget machine from a popular, reliable brand (Brother, Singer etc.) is ideal, and you can always upgrade later.
To save money to a greater extent, you could be really lucky and find that a friend or family member has an old machine hidden in the attic that they don't use any more and will gladly give it to you for free :) This may require lots of strong hinting and/or pleading!
If you can't borrow or use someone else's machine, even with bribery, you could try and find a good second hand machine. Check Ebay, newspaper adverts, car boots...anywhere you can think of that sells second hand goods. Make sure you get it serviced after you buy, so that that any issues are straightened out before you start.
Photo of a sewing machine foot and needle, taken by Roger Nelson.
Another area where you can save money is on the purchase of fabric.
Fabric is generally not cheap, and unfortunately you can often buy readymade clothes for less money than what just the materials would cost you, which means that sewing is not usually a money-saving exercise in itself. I think this is a real shame, but that's life!
Saving money on fabric purchases is therefore a must for those wanting to keep costs down.
If you specifically want an unusual fabric or something special and high quality, it can be hard to save much money, but always shop around for whatever you want to buy.
If you are not set on a particular fabric and can be less fussy, take a look around for cheaper fabric stores and try and buy fabrics when they're in a clearance sale. I often buy fabric off Ebay, and I find that hunting around online helps me find the best deals.
NOTE: One important tip that I should have heeded from the start (oops) is to only buy fabric when you have a particular project in mind for it. I currently have two boxes of fabric under my bed because I just bought the fabric I liked without having a particular sewing project in mind. And it is really easy to buy fabric because it's just so pretty (!) and you think 'I'll use it one day'... but impulse buying doesn't help when you are trying to stick to a budget.
So my rule is: "Pick the project then pick the fabric". Trust me on this!
Another way to save on fabric is to recycle. This can involve re-using your old clothes, duvet covers and curtains, for instance, as well as re-using fabric from cheap clothes and other items you find in 2nd hand shops.
You can pick apart clothes and all sorts of fabric items using a seam ripper. The larger the item and the less seams are sewn into it, the better. Bed sheets and pillowcases are therefore good, as are loose and flowing maxi dresses and full circle skirts. XXL large men’s shirts and t-shirts are a good source of material too.
You can re-size large items to make smaller items (such as making a man’s shirt into a kid’s dress); you can can turn sweaters into skirts; you can combine 2 or 3 different garments together to form a creative new ‘Frankenstein’ item of clothing...all sorts of things really!
Revamping old clothes is lots of fun and can be very cheap to do...plus it's great sewing practice and gets you used to seeing exactly how clothes are constructed.
So if you ever have clothes and other fabric items to throw out, think again! Instead, just cut out the solid pieces of fabric to re-use, or think about how you could upcycle it into something else. Patchwork is a great way to use up smaller pieces of fabric.
And don’t forget to unpick zips and remove buttons to save them for future use too.
It would also be useful to familiarise yourself with different fabric types. This is so that when you’re buying fabric online, you know exactly what type of fabric you are ordering and therefore won’t end up buying an unsuitable fabric for your project by accident and wasting your money this way.
And if you end up with any leftover or unused fabric after completing a sewing project, you could always sell it online to recoup some cash!
Photo of a lovely pile of fabric, by Miss Messie.
Another area where I spent far too much at the beginning was on gadgets. I love a gadget, and there are so many products you can buy which claim to save you time and hassle in every part of the sewing experience. I bought lots of gadgets and gizmos. I am weak. But the fact is you don't need them!
Fifty years ago most of these extras weren't available and people could use their sewing machine just fine. And of course if you find you do need something, then you buy it. Try not to buy many things in anticipation...instead, buy things as you need them rather than 'stocking up' beforehand.
When you do buy a sewing tool or accessory, definitely shop around for the best price. You also don't need to buy the highest quality or fanciest version of something ...however, I would recommend choosing very good quality when it comes to the basic items that you will be using a lot and need to be accurate. For instance, I would say not to scrimp when it comes to fabric scissors.
A further way you can learn from my mistakes is to keep all of your notions and supplies organised and easy-to-find. This way you won’t end up re-buying items when you can’t find them in your stash. You don't want to end up with a handful of seam rippers like I somehow have!
Simple sewing machines from a trusted brand are great for beginners.
Photo by Nancy L. Stockdale.
As mentioned above, the internet is a tool that can really help you save money. Not only does it allow you to shop around for bargains, but it can also teach you almost any skill – for free! So make sure you make the most of the free sewing tutorials, projects and patterns on various websites, blogs, and YouTube channels. There's no real need to buy books or lessons if you are on a budget.
Another money-saver is to have a friend or family member who sews. Not only could you possibly persuade them to teach you a few basics, but you could share sewing patterns and fabric leftovers with each other too. If you aren't so lucky, you could swap supplies online with strangers instead, which could be fun, even though you’ll have to pay postage costs.
Well there you go! Those are all of the ways I can think of to conserve your cash when it comes to learning to sew.
One thing I haven't mentioned is the fact that once you build your sewing skills up enough, you could in fact make money from your hobby. You could offer sewing services or sell items you create in exchange for money. Just remember that this would mean you would be running a business, so keep it legal ;)
I hope you've found some useful tips here, and thanks for reading!
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