I was tidying up my sewing space this morning and started thinking of all the tricks I do to keep costs down for sewing. Here’s a few:
1- The most obvious- look for sales.
Sign up with your sewing store’s mailing list and get coupons to keep down costs on larger purchases. I get Joann mailers quite frequently and my favorite is when they have the 40-50% off clearance fabrics sales. It’s a great time to pick up solids and staples that others might have passed by because they’re “boring”.
2- Do your homework- see what colors and styles work for you and are appropriate to your project.
Study up on vintage styles, fabrics, and prints to see what will really work and what won’t. When I started vintage sewing I purchased fabrics on sale that looked sort of vintage, but years later I hated them because they were synthetics or the prints looked too modern. Don’t waste your time or money on fabric purchases you might regret later, no matter how good the deal at the time.
3- Don’t buy notions at regular price (if you can help it).
Places not to skimp are needles, thread, and machine oil- using good quality thread and changing your needle frequently make your machine happy, and a happy (and well oiled) machine produces better quality garments. I do, however, buy most notions and fasteners on sale or secondhand.
4- Get supplies at garage sales, estate sales, and thrift stores.
A great thing for seamstresses is that this is becoming a dying art. Home sewer’s children, who are now adults, didn’t always pick up the hobby so when they’re cleaning out homes or moving them to retirement will empty the sewing room. I often see patterns, fabric, trim, and fasteners at thrift stores. When you’re looking in the paper or online for garage or estate sales look for the key words “craft” or “sewing machine”. More often than not these come with little tools you can use. I’ve got a well stocked sewing room of supplies thanks to these sources.
5- Get enough of your fabric to complete your project.
I always pick the wrong times to be cheap. I’ll be making a fabulous gown and realize I’m a yard or two short, so I spend the time driving all over town looking for extra fabric. If you know you’re doing a big project get a yard or two to be on the safe side. If you have left over fabric use it for accessories or sell it online. People even buy scraps (I know, I’ve sold them) for making doll clothes and crafts. Not at high prices, but even a few bucks is better than throwing nice larger pieces away.
6- Investing in good tools will save time and money later.
I know this technically isn’t “on a budget” but there are some things that are totally worth the expense because they’ll make your product better. Don’t get caught up on hype, though, and buy something just because it’s the cool new popular thing. How often are you really going to use that battery powered bobbin winder or embroidery machine? But nice rulers, skirt markers, loop turners, and sharp seam rippers, and a good quality basic machine are totally worth it.
7- Don’t buy on impulse.
If at all possible, hold up fabrics to yourself for color and drape. There’s no use in buying that fabulous steal if the color will look rotten on you. And there’s no use in buying that floral print if you’ve got nine lengths of a similar one at home already.
8- Know when it’s best to buy ready-made.
If you’ve got an event in two days and you’re a slow sewer don’t kill yourself making a dress you’ll hate because your seams were crooked. Sometimes buying new or vintage is actually a time and money saver.
9- Shop ahead of season.
If you’re shopping for vintage patterns or materials buy your supplies for a suit, coat, or fall or winter wardrobe in summer. Likewise, buy your swim/summer wear in winter. Fabrics are on sale and patterns aren’t as popular. Know when the big events are. Don’t look for the to-die-for sarong or circle skirt pattern when people are getting geared up for Viva Las Vegas. Don’t buy your 20s or 30s wear a month before an Art Deco Festival. May sound obsessive, but prices actually do get higher leading up to big events.
I guess that’s all I can think of. Do you have any tips and tricks to share?