Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Sewing When You're Skint


Happy New Year!!! How exciting to be looking ahead to a whole year of sewing-based fun. And all the other types of fun. I don't know about you, but a new year always feels like a fresh start and I'm buzzing with excitement to get cracking on new projects. Except... No. Funds. Ugh! It's good to think about how we can get more from what we already own, sewing-wise and more generally, but it always seems more pressing at this time of year, doesn't it? I wrote a piece five years ago (WHAT?!) about cutting the costs of sewing, but here's some more ideas about how to get your sew-on if you're feeling the financial pinch at this, or any other, time of the year:

  • Comb your pattern stash. This one may seem obvious, but I think it's worth adding because it's easy to forget about stuff you already own. A couple of months ago I bought some new storage boxes for my sewing area so I ended up sifting through all my patterns and was amazed to find that I'd forgotten about over half of them! It really got my mind racing with possibilities and I have renewed excitement about finally making some of them up this year. Also, if you don't immediately print out your PDF patterns once you've acquired them, like most people I'd imagine, it might be worth trawling through the downloads folder on your computer to see if you've got some digital gems sitting in there. 
  • Refold your fabric. The beginning of a new year is a great time to take stock of your belongings and get things straightening out. It may seem a bit drastic, but if you get a chance, why not get your entire fabric stash out and refold everything? Unless you have some kind of permanent set-up where everything is neatly arranged and always on view, taking everything out is bound to unearth something you had forgotten you owned. I'm going to get all Marie Kondo on you now, but by handling your fabric through the process of sorting and folding means you'll be more likely to connect with each piece and either remember what project it was originally intended for, or perhaps you'll receive a zap of new inspiration for what it should become. Plus, having everything neat and in order (at least for a short while!) can have a great impact on flagging sew-jo. 
(a fabulous fabric swap that took place in Brighton four years ago!)
  • Hold or attend a fabric swap. Refolding your fabric will hopefully help you fall back in love with some of the pieces you've stashed, but finding some duds that you can't remember why you ever acquired in the first place is just as likely! You should find this second category of discovery almost as exciting as the first, because unwanted fabric, and sewing patterns for that matter, is currency. Find out if there is a sewing meet-up with a fabric/pattern swap going on that you can get to in the near future, and you can give the stuff that was languishing unloved a new loving home, whilst picking up something new-to-you that floats your boat. If you can't find anything already planned, why not try arranging a meet-up yourself? You'll probably make a heap of new sewing friends and have an ace time as well. 
  • Selling out. If attending or organising a meet-up/fabric swap isn't possible, selling those unwanted pieces of fabric and sewing patterns will get some funds flowing and make space for more appealing replacements! Jen from My Make Do And Mend Life's fabulous Top 5 Tips on Sourcing Secondhand Fabric post gives great ideas for how you could sell, as well as acquire, pre-owned fabric. 
  • Refashioning, remaking and upcycling. Using existing clothing as the basis for sewing projects is not only a great option for cutting down on the environmental impact of making clothes, but it's also freaking cheap! Whether you plunder a charity shop/thrift store/op shop for your starting point, or merely the cupboards in your own bedroom, it's got to cost less than heading to a fabric shop for your next sewing project. I've been harping on here on this blog about reusing unwanted clothes for yonks, but I feel that last year's Refashioners challenge hosted by Makery really breathed new life into the whole concept. So. Much. Creative. Awesomeness. If you've ever fancied having a whirl at refashioning, but weren't sure where to start, the community Pinterest board for the 2015 Get Shirty Refashioners challenge is packed with amazingness that might get your creative juices flowing. My Refashioning Project Ideas Pinterest board is also chock full of all manner of upcycling ideas that I personally found inspiring. 
  • Let the cat out of the bag. This one might take a bit longer to bear fruit, but it could be a fantastic way to open yourself up to heaps of free sewing stuff. Often we keep our passion for sewing to ourselves, especially if we work in a non-creative environment, or we are (sadly!) mixing with people who we fear may think that sewing your own clothes is a bit of a weird thing to do. But by occasionally sharing the fact that you love to sew with people that normally you might not tell, you are more likely to benefit when they hear of someone who wants to get rid of their sewing stash. People don't generally want to throw something in the bin if it might be used and loved, so even if the relationship link is really tenuous, you could be the one to luck out if somebody has decided to stop sewing, or they are clearing out the belongings of a relative or something. By making sure people knew I like to sew, I once received an enormous stash of buttons that I will literally never be able to use up and some great pattern cutting books from my ex-boyfriend's grandma's friend. I never met this women, but I made sure to send her a thank you card! 

So tell me about you! Are you feeling fired up, creatively speaking, at this time of year? Are you waiting for a payday/paid invoice to get back to piercing-fabric-with-needles?! Do you have any ideas for cutting sewing costs whilst on a budget?

24 comments:

Stevie said...

Oh good lord I can't believe that photo was taken 4 years ago! I think we need another Brighton Meet up simply for the Swapping alone! Great tips Zo!

Louise Perry said...

I shall take your advice and refold my fabric. I agree that it fires your brain with inspiration. Louise

bbarna said...

I have taken the time to go through my patterns (oh the shame, I even had two doubles). I need to go through my fabric next. 35 yrs ago, I combed the thrift shops for clothes to refashion for my new baby. It was the thing to do in my family. Both grandmothers had raised large families during the Depression, and often refashioned clothes. I agree, if you put it out there , you will be gifted all kinds of sewing supplies. It happens to me on a regular basis. I go through it all right away, and find homes for everything. Local schools with sewing programs and church groups that make quilts for charity love to get boxes of excess from me.I only keep what I can truly use. Happy sewing in 2016.
Barb from Canada

Frankie Carson said...

im with you on the let the cat out of the bag comment! one of my mums friends recently gifted me two rolls [yes rolls!] of fabric that she found in a house clearance, my fellas nan gave me all of her oddmants of wool and a lovely lady who reads my blog sent me a parcel with fabric, carbon paper, pins and patterns all becuase it was stuff she wouldnt use!!!!!

Frankie

www.knitwits-owls.blogspot.co.uk

BLD in MT said...

Good suggestions! I recently weeded my patterns since I had taken to just grabbing any that someone offered me. There was a lot in there I never would make. Now I've got my mind set on trying some of these new-to-me, fun patterns! I am also going to try more refashioning this year. Its something I've wanted to do, but never have.

And the last one is a really good one--and the fabric swap! I almost never buy fabric because of swaps or people (often my relatives) giving me some of their unused stash. That really is the biggest "secret" to my ubber-cheap sewing. I (and I almost hate to admit it) almost never buy fabric. I oggle it at the shops--and resist, somehow.

Becky said...

This is so timely for me, since I'm currently reorganizing my sewing room, was planning to see how long I can go without buying fabric or patterns this year as part of our efforts to pay off debt, and just got a call from my mother in law about some potential refashionable clothes she wants to give me!

Melwyk said...

I love to sew frugally. I use thrift stores a lot for fabrics & patterns, and love to refashion what I already have. Thanks for reminding me of all these great ways to save money while still enjoying one's sewing.

Fabric Tragic said...

It's not going to work for everyone it if you can find a friend who sews, and has similar taste in patterns it's fab to swap or borrow patterns, and try on their garments - saves you time and money in toiles, and reduces the wasting of money on fabric and patterns! Also consider using old op shop sheets for toiles so your precious fabric isn't wasted. I was a bit shocked at the price of basic calico from my local fabric store recently too!

Rebecca @ pattydoo said...

Ahhh yes, I have 2 bags of fabric that I keep meaning to sort through... gah! But I'm not buying anything new until I've gone through and actually used some if it. It's amazing how one day a fabric can seem useless and the next you have a million ideas for it...

Ashley Jeanne Espy said...

I sew almost everything these days from thrifted sheets! The fabric is already nice and soft and a hot wash before hand makes it cootie free. The prints are great for sewing for kids. I originally started doing this to make muslins before I cut into my "good fabric" but after a while I realized the sheet items were my favorites because of their softness and drape. I also reuse the crap out of patterns, mostly because I'm not very good at fitting, so when something works it gets used to death. And anytime I cut something from jersey/knit, I always cut a pair of your panties (pants) from the scraps. There is almost always enough with creative positioning.

Gisa said...

Hi there, I'm a sew-newbie, so I'm eager to here saving money tips (I have no clue why, but whenever I try a new pattern it will end up as a disaster!). That is why I re-roll patterns (if one finally works ;). I will grab Ashley's thrift trick next time before I work on the 'real deal'. Very smart, thank you! In France the sales started today and I got some fabric to sew me some skirts.. which will hopefully for once turn out as a bargain in comparison to store bought clothes ^^.

LeilaMay said...

Great advice - but...I don't have a fabric stash to refold and find wonderful stuff in :( Used bits and bobs to make some morsbags for xmas, into which went things like hand-knitted socks and home-made jams.
Don't even have much or wool stash left now.
I have patterns, folks on freecycle and the like are kind enough to give them away, but no fabric.

Alison said...

Great ideas! I've been meaning to go through my fabric since I know I've forgotten some great pieces (I found one the other day while looking for something else.) I do have quite a few projects already in the works though.

romykate said...

My tip would be to get out your scraps and see what you've got lurking around. I often over estimate fabric when buying it for a dress, so have at least half a metre left over. I recently wanted to make a sleeveless blouse, and had enough fabric just from the scraps I had left over from a dress I made. I also have made a pincushion, jewellery purse and pencil case from scraps, and have other things planned, so always keep my scraps.

Another good place is eBay. I got two big pieces of jersey for about a tenner, which I'm making a tshirt and skater dress from. :)

Sewbellebeau.blogspot.com

Shauni S said...

Great post,especially as I'm really feeling the pinch this month!

I thinking of trying to combine all the odd half metres of leftover fabric to make a (hopefully cool) clashing print top. Any leftovers after that are destined to never be used, so they can be recycled (to make room for new fabrics, when funds permit!)

I'm also trying to put some leatherette to use that I bought a while back, by making bags and jewellery. It's been quite fun to try something I wouldn't normally do!

http://magnificent-thread.blogspot.co.uk

Minnado said...

Haha, I love the title of this post. I sometimes feel disheartened seeing many blog posts showing lots of new fabrics used.But I embrace sewing when skint. I have been lucky to receive binbags of fabric in the past because people knew I sewed. I also tend to eyeball new patterns, then go see what in my Ottobre stash or Built by Wendy books can fit those patterns.My new resolution is to only buy fabric with my paypal money made by selling excess stuff online, sort of creating a closed circle of spending. Make sense? I hope I can stick to it. xx

Mother of Reinvention said...

What a brilliant (and timely) post. I think we are all a bit skint in January. I always am anyway. One of the plus points of moving has been exactly what you propose - looking at my patterns and fabric as I put them away. I have been tempted by all the shine new things but have started having a look through my massive stash of Burda mags going back to 2005, vintage patterns and other mags. I have been very lucky to have been gifted several sewing machines and a lot of vintage fabric and notions over the years. People are really kind when they learn that you sew. Xx

Anonymous said...

I had good luck with your last tip. A woman started working in our office, found out that I like to sew, and told me that her cousin was wanting to get rid of her fabric stash. My offer of $100 for the lot was accepted and she delivered her cousin's fabric to my house. 155 pieces worked out to $0.75 per piece. Some of the pieces were 3 metres or more. I have sewn up maybe 40 pieces and will be sewing from that stash for years to come.

kirstenatx said...

Thank you for all these great ideas! Think I'll spend tonight reorganizing the stash and see what strikes me. :) I went down to part-time in September, so things have been a little slim around here for a while now. I'm treating it as an opportunity to work on my pattern-drafting skills, since a roll of butcher paper is like a thousand times cheaper than store-bought patterns... it's harder, but man is it rewarding when it works! :)

M&M FASHION BITES said...

Cute post :)
BLOG M&MFASHIONBITES : http://mmfashionbites.blogspot.gr/
Maria V.

Kimbersew said...

Brilliant! and I can absolutely recommend the Brindille and Twig hoodie freebie pattern online, which I made out of old sweater/sweatshirts. Free, practical, and adorable!

Kristine Abat said...

This is a really good article especially when in need of additional resources (but lack the money) to buy the things we need to start on a project. I find it a good thing I have a group of fellow female friends and we usually hang out in each other’s homes and we do fabric swap from time to time! There are times I end up getting free buttons or zips that they don’t plan to use, too.

pootleandmake said...

I think I was at that meeting up and it was one of my firsts. Sewing books are another resource. I think we tend to go straight to paper patterns and there are some lovely patterns in Tilly's book and in the current GBSB book. Keep you going for months. Plus they probably work out cheaper than paper patterns.

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