Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Does Sewing Save You Money—Or Bust Your Budget? (With Poll)

Does sewing save your money? Polka Dot Overload Poll.
Is sewing a frugal tool for looking fashionable on a budget... or just a hungry hobby demanding to be fed with pricey fabric and gadgets?

I know sewing could actually save me money. It's a basic tenet of most frugal philosophies that making is better than consuming. In theory. I could make quality clothes (and home items) for my family for way less than retail, scrounge for fabric at flea markets and swaps, repair and upcycle and alter and just generally defy the ready-to-wear retail lifestyle.

But in practice... whenever I am actually immersed in thinking about sewing and knitting, in reading all my favorite blogs and paging through Pinterest and Ravelry and picking up copies of Threads or Interweave Knits ... I start to feel like I NEED more sewing and knitting STUFF. Maybe a new presser foot for piping or bias binding. A bright floral knit in just THAT shade that I don't have in my already bulging stash drawers.

Another knitting needle set. A different weight of yarn.

A different kind of measuring tape. Striped elastic—the really soft kind!

Or maybe a bra-making kit—I could save so much MONEY by making my own bras! I just have to buy some specialty elastics... and lace... and...

Etc.

I'm trying to change that, and I'm starting by listing the ways sewing HAS and HASN'T saved me money in the past. But first, I'd like to hear your experience. Please take the poll below and let me know: does sewing save YOU money?

And now...

Ways I have sewn on the CHEAP and SAVED money with sewing

  • By getting my machines used/secondhand. My serger was a gift left to me by my late grandmother, and I bought my Husqvarna Viking sewing machine used (for 50% of retail) with additional money she left me. (If I hadn't lucked into an inherited machine, I could have bought a vintage used machine.)
  • By swapping patterns and fabric with friends.
  • By sewing from the stash and choosing projects that work with my existing fabric and existing yarn.
  • By refashioning old clothes into new ones.
  • By mending my family's existing clothes — fixing tears, replacing lost buttons, hemming, replacing worn linings, even darning socks.
  • By altering the fit and style of old clothes to make them feel new again.
  • By making awesome Halloween costumes and then selling them on eBay right before Halloween the next year.
  • By making curtains and other soft household items.

Ways I have BUSTED the BUDGET and WASTED money with sewing

  • By buying way too many ill-fitting items at the thrift store with "potential" and planning to upcycle/refashion them... but never getting around to it.
  • By choosing sewing projects that require new fabric and can't be made from the stash.
  • By acquiring way too many "inexpensive" little gadgets and notions that really add up... special presser feet, special needles, special sewing lamps, special elastic, what a special headache.
  • By buying way more materials than my actual rate of sewing/knitting warrants—as much as 5 or 10 times as much as I could actually sew or knit in a given month.
  • By buying new when I could have bought used with a little more effort and creativity.
  • By subscribing to too many sewing magazines and buying too many sewing books and Craftsy classes (some of them unread/unwatched).

Going forward, I'm going to thing hard about all the above and work from a fixed sewing/knitting budget each month with the help of the YNAB budgeting software I mentioned previously (that sewing/knitting budget is currently $0, but I have a BIG stash, so that's hardly a hardship!).

So, take the poll and do tell in the comments: are you a frugal sewing god(dess) or a fancy sewing or knitting supplies fanatic? (And no shame, please... if you have the budget and the time to spend on a creative hobby you love, where's the guilt in that?)

62 comments:

  1. I have tended in the past to buy just because I liked the fabric, or it was a really great price, or....all of which is fine, except that I bought too much and couldn't use certain fabrics before my kids outgrew that stage or a size that fit onto the length I had, etc. I'm currently trying to sew mostly from what I have instead of buying new.

    On the other hand, when I buy, I will use sheets from the thrift stores (for costuming for church, PJ pants, etc.), buy on clearance or with coupons, etc. I rarely pay full price, and then it has to be really important.

    So I'm kind of going back and forth but really trying to stick to sewing down some stash to both make room and save money.

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    1. Totally! I have a big pile of patterns and small lengths of fabric I bought to make clothes for Z that she is now too big for, but I'm saving them just in case.

      I'm trying to sew all my Oliver + S patterns that go up to size 4T now, too, since she is rapidly approaching size 5!

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  2. I think that sewing does cause me to spend more money, BUT I get more bang for my buck. $15 worth or fabric can yield me a shirt and a dress, while shopping RTW I'd be lucky to get a shirt of similar quality and style to what I made for $15, much less a dress as well.

    Also I may spend $60 on making a special occasion dress and I could buy a nice dress RTW for $60, but that dress would not have as quality materials, as good construction, nor the quality fit of the one I made. The one I made would be more comparable to a high-end $200+ dress, so looking at that kind of value definitely puts me more into the green on the spending front.

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    1. Mary, I think you've hit on something I really struggle with too. I definitely get WAY more bang for my buck with sewing or knitting than I would if I bought something new...

      BUT I don't usually buy things new... so in periods where I only buy clothing used at thrift stores, I spend less money on clothes than in periods where I am sewing a lot. So for me, comparing the cost of quality pricey RTW to home sewn items is less accurate than comparing the cost of quality thrifted or second hand items to home sewn items.

      So... dilemma! I don't think I'm going to switch to sewing with old sheets, but I am going to start with the stash and then just be really, really judicious about future fabric purchases and look into more second hand sources for sewing supplies.

      Because even more the problem is my tendency to buy several or more projects ahead... even if I bought new supplies but didn't buy anything else until that project was done, I'd be in better shape!

      Another issue I forgot to mention on my "waste" list is wadders... there have been a few things I've sewn that just never quite worked for me and never got worn, so were pretty much a waste of materials cost (although I certainly LEARNED skills working on them).

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    2. I feel like people don't love their failures enough! If you took a one hundred dollar sewing class that ended with skills learned but no wearable object, would that be a failure? Not for me! (Maybe $500 university classes have ruined my sense of scale for education...)

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    3. I hoard fabric, but not nearly as badly as a lot of other sewists. Most of my stash is fabric that was either given to me or I found super cheap at a thrift store or somewhere similar. While I do sew a lot from new fabrics that I buy, my main three rules for purchase keep my stash from being a crazy money suck. Those rules are as follow:

      - I have to know exactly what the fabric will be used for (ex. the pair of jeans that I've been planning for a while or the clearance fabric that I found that I knew I HAD to make into a blazer).

      OR

      - The fabric has to be really cheap (ex. a limited time sale on a fabric that I've wanted for a while or fabric that I get from thrift stores).

      OR

      - I know I won't get the chance to buy that specific fabric ever again or for a very long time (ex. souvenir fabric on vacation or when I make the trek out to the big fabric store an hour away- if I see a fabric there that I know I'll use and is a good price and I know I can't get anywhere else, I'll try to get it).

      Those three rules seriously curb my fabric spending and keep my stash small. The longest a fabric has stayed in my stash un-sewn was a bird print jersey that I HAD to have when I saw it online and that I knew would sale out quickly. It stayed in my stash for about three months and then recently I made it into a shirt and a dress.

      And regarding thrift store shopping, I've taken to asking myself, "Do I want this because it's a good deal or because I legitimately like it?" I'd rather spend $15 on new fabric that I know will create a garment that I'll love and wear extensively, than spend $2 on a garment that I'm lukewarm about and will probably not wear much. Those $2 add up over time!

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  3. When my daughters were younger and my money was more limited sewing saved me alot of money. Not only could I dress my daughters in dresses that would have cost hundreds of dollars in RTW but I could do the same for myself. I limited how many gadgets, books, magazines I bought at that time and I only bought fabric on sale. Bought loads at the 25% - 40% off sales and used almost all of it...a lot of fabric has passed through these hands. *LOL*

    Now that I have discretionary income, I spend way more money on fabric and sewing items. I try hard not to purchase every thing that comes my way and I add a lot of things to Christmas and Birthday lists. It gives my family something to buy for me.

    However, as a plus size woman, I make myself things that I would never find in my size in RTW or if I found them I would be unwilling to spend the kind of money that they would charge. So in that sense, sewing does save me money!

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    1. Definitely a good rule to follow (only buy discounted or sale fabric and use everything you buy or almost all!)

      And you're so right, I think it would be really hard to put a price on the gorgeous clothes you make... because they are really custom designer-inspired one-of-a kind pieces!

      I think similar to what Mary said, this is partly why sewing is so amazing—you can make something really high quality and really custom and expensive looking for a small fraction of what it would cost RTW... except the RTW equivalent wouldn't be a custom fit and design just for YOU.

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  4. Oooh, I love this question! I can't say I'm frugal by nature. I started sewing almost 4 yrs ago (knitting almost 2 yrs ago) and since then I've spent thousands of dollars on both hobbies combined. I mean, not only have I made countless sweaters and other knits, but I have lots of needles (I like the good ones). And knitting's the cheap habit! I've bought 3 machines - 2 new, one used. And then there's my starter machine. I do like to have good notions and interfacing on hand. I mean, I don't have a ton of fabric - well, I have a cupboard full! - but I do love to know that I can go into the sewing room and come out with a garment. For me, it's a hobby and a passion, a skill-development exercise, a way to make things, to learn about fit and so much more.

    Trust me, if I never made or bought another thing, I'd be ok (if unfashionable as time went on). But I love to craft.

    PS: I do go through spending peaks and valleys as my budget allows and I try to buy good things used or at very good prices. I'm not just spending for kicks. But I'm not stopping myself if I can afford things. I see it as a vacation or an education.

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    1. Crafting is also about learning and vacation and education and experience — it's not the SAME as buying stuff, so there is so much more value for me in something I made myself and put my own ideas and love and sweat into.

      ...I just need to make sure I'm not blowing my budget to get that awesome value and feeling of accomplishment!

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  5. Ooh, great question! I think that, for me, I spent a lot of money at the beginning, but now I've accumulated a stash and I'm much more careful about what I'm buying. I don't want to go overboard with my spending, and I actually really like everything in my stash, but I'm short on time, so I'm focusing on making things from my stash. I've never really been much of a shopper, so I would wear a few garments over and over and over again when I bought RTW, and now that I can sew, I don't really buy anything except for the occasional bra (and tube socks, ha!). I can't actually sew fast enough to replace worn-out things in my wardrobe, so somehow I feel like I have fewer clothes now than ever!

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    1. Wow, that's great that you're able to sew your entire wardrobe... even if it is small, it is curated and designed by you! (most people have way too many clothes... even after repeated closet purchases, I think I still wear a small percentage of my clothes frequently).

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    2. The only problem with that is that there are a few things I don't/can't sew, mainly jeans, so I'm just wearing old ones from my pre-sewing days! Hopefully they won't fall apart anytime soon because I'm so not prepared to replace them!

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    3. I have the same fear about jeans... I have jeans patterns but don't really have the skills for that yet.

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  6. I am really into numbers and list-makIng so I have a budget for my hobby. I hate making phone calls at work and had a bad habit of putting them off too long, so I have a reward system where I keep track of how many out of office phone calls I make and that number is my $ amount budget. It varies between $9 and $40 per week. I have a separate purse that carries my sewing budget and every week a few more dollars go in. When the purse starts to look empty, I know I have to make something from stash or revisit a UFO.

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    1. You're so disciplined! I'm impressed. I also love your reward system.

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  7. As someone who sews 1950s patterns, I'm almost always looking at three to four meters of fabric per dress (or even skirt!) I make fabric buying a ritual: I will walk the twenty blocks to the fabric store, buy a cut of fabric (and whatever notions I was probably there for), sit in a cafe, drink a mocha, read the pattern's instructions and contemplate the envelope back and various views...

    That being said, I have a few other hobbies that require supplies (like knitting), as well as a vintage clothing habit, so the money has to go around.

    I'm pretty good with not buying fabric online too much since shipping to Canada is normally at least $20. I have a tendency to fill up online shopping carts, but rarely return to check out unless it's something special I can't stop thinking about.

    I can't imagine living in NYC and trying not to stash! That's a tough one. ;)

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    1. That is a fantastic ritual—turning it into a whole experience, not just a quick consumption in-and-out. It's always good to let things percolate in a shopping cart (maybe even for a week or two) before hitting that "buy" button.

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  8. Great question - tricky to answer! I loathe clothes shopping and so almost certainly spend more now because I'm actually building a wardrobe - I hit crisis point about 2 years ago my daughter went through my clothes with me and, having removed everything that didn't fit and was beyond rescue/alteration I had only 3 work appropriate outfits! I'd masked how desperate things had got by having a wardrobe full of clothes - barely any of which I could wear.
    I have also built a stash of fabric - and that's partly fuelled by the lack of fabric shops where I live, consequently I stock up if I get a chance. However, I do look out for bargains/sales and I have quite a lot of pre-loved fabric and notions.
    If I factor in major purchases (like my sewing machine) then I guess this is not a cheap hobby but it is a hobby that produces useful items at the end (unlike my husband's golf!) and I get great enjoyment from it :)

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    1. It is more necessary to buy in advance when you live far from the shops. Unlike you, I don't really have an excuse for the stash—I live in walking distance of three fabric stores, and my office is located 10 blocks from Mood and the rest of the Garment District shops.

      I do think sewing is of great value, and it is a CREATIVE pursuit... it just has a little consumption mixed into it.

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    2. I absolutely agree with you - the irony that I avoided buying clothes (and held on to garments way beyond their useful life) but would happily accumulate fabric and notions is not lst on me!

      I'm working through my stash and, having sewn for a year or so now, am getting better at being selective. I'm trying my hand at refashioning, held clothes swap parties with friends (great fun and a charity fundraiser to boot), and am learning to patchwork so that all those little scraps I can't bring myself to throw out can be put to good use.

      I guess an element of consumption is unavoidable. I really like your list of how you keep it all in check, very helpful :)

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  9. A while back I worked out that every garment I sewed cost me approximately £40 when I factored in the costs of my machines, tools, patterns, magazines, fabric stash, etc. That means a fabulous dress cost me £40 which is brilliant, but a basic t-shirt also cost me £40 which doesn't seem so good - until I realised that £40 t-shirt doesn't shrink in the wash, doesn't twist at the seams, and gets worn a bazillion times because I made it just for me. I also have enough fabric stash, patterns, etc to last me a lifetime and I am now buying very little. And, of course, each time I sew something the price per garment goes down :)

    If I had kept buying at the rate I used to then sewing would have been very uneconomical, but I appear to have reached the point where I want to buy very little and will, hopefully, be sewing more.

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    1. I try to think of it that way, too... the more I sew down my stash, the more my price per garment shrinks. Luckily I had good taste even with the fabrics I bought in, well, high school... I just made a skirt out of some denim that dates that far back.

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  10. We just bought a house and are saving for our wedding and honeymoon so I absolutely have to be frugal with my sewing! I now organise every cent of my tax return money to buy fabric for exact patterns I want to sew. I have to balance prints and solids to make sure I'm going to wear everything.

    For Christmas I ask for gift cards to fabric stores and for my birthday I ask for patterns I've been eyeing off for some time. It's amazing how much sewing stuff you can squeeze out of a little present or two throughout the year!

    Speaking of sewing frugally I am now on a mission to make my own wedding dress. Firstly because I think I will beam with pride if I can wear something handmade down the aisle. But secondly because sewing has made me fussy about fabrics and I could not afford the kind of dresses I've tried on - but I can make it!

    I'm jealous of those people that just buy things because they're pretty without any particular project in mind but that's not me or my money situation. But quite honestly, I wouldn't change it for the world - I love every piece I turn out!

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    1. I admire your organized frugality! Planning is so key to budgeting for things — meal planning, wardrobe planning, etc.

      That would be amazing to make your own dress! I had ambitions to do so but got scared and bought a $100 dress on eBay instead. A friend of mine made hers and it turned out AMAZING.

      Buying things that are pretty is not my current money situation either, but it's all good. It might be someday.

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  11. So many interesting thoughts! Here's mine: 1. I don't save money sewing. I mostly don't buy used, but I buy inexpensive RTW, don't have a problem with quality either (maybe not using a dryer saves my clothes?), so I wear everything for a long time. Sewing (with new materials, which I do) is more expensive. Even if I sourced inexpensive materials (impossible with e.g. quality knit fabric), the notions drive the price up. Quality lining, zippers etc. cost as much as an inexpensive RTW garment. 2. In many ways, I'm a frugal sewer. I sew on an inherited machine, buy fabrics on sale or at markets, don't buy single patterns much less the expensive independent ones. My weaknesses are buying ahead for projects I never get to and buying more pattern magazines than I could ever sew from. Which brings me to 3.: I have put myself on a rather strict sewing budget a while ago and find it rather freeing. The stash doesn't grow explosively anymore (too much stuff overwhelmes me), I have passed by a couple of Burda mags which didn't entice me (and I now don't have to store), I think more about what I'll realistically make. IMO, you can only clothe yourself cheaper by sewing if you a) don't mind looking a bit unfashionable/-stylish or you spend heaps of time making interesting things out of humble materials by embellishing etc. Sewing has gotten trendy, so have the patterns and the supplies, and no-one wants to be left out and sew 10 pairs of pants from khaki twill because that's what was on sale! Sorry for the long comment, love your blog and the thoughts you inspire :-)

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    1. Buying ahead is such a budget killer. And I had to stop subscribing to or even buying Burda because I ran out of room and was making less than 1 item per issue.

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  12. Very interesting thread!

    I don't think I save money but I have found that I buy almost nothing RTW unless it's perfectly what I want and the right price.

    For big ticket items, like my serger, I made a savings spreadsheet itemizing what money I saved or didn't spend, impulse items I put back etc, and put that money toward the serger fund. That way I was sure I really really wanted it, rather than it being an impulse buy itself.

    Do I buy too much fabric without a plan in mind? Sure. Am I working on that? Yup.

    I completely agree with the comment-er Mary Nease who said by sewing you get "more bang for the buck". Being able to control the fabric and finishes means that handmade clothing will last longer and need to be replaced less frequently.

    In the end sewing keeps me sane and...it's WAY cheaper than therapy! So maybe I am coming out ahead :D

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    1. Sewing is far cheaper than therapy for sure. And it feels so good to actually save for something and remind yourself you're not saving money because you have a big goal in mind!

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  13. I have been asked this question by non-sewers and my answer is "Yes and No." I go onto explain that compared to shopping at Target or Old Navy sewing is more expensive. However, my sewn garments are more comparable to high-end stores and sewing is a bargain compared to that.

    Plus, I have the added benefits of garments which fit me in fabrics I like (almost never happens with RTW) and not worrying about how bad the conditions were in the RTW garment factory (think Bangladesh).

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    1. I should have mentioned this too. I wouldn't compare my home made garments to "fast fashion" because I try to never buy fast fashion. We can't win on price when comparing to items that were made for low wages in poor conditions at great environmental cost!

      It's definitely more accurate to compare to the cost of fair-trade garments, garments made in the U.S. or with quality materials.

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  14. Love this question--I think about it a lot! But I've decided that, whether on balance I spend a little more or a little less on my sewing activities than I would if I were only buying RTW or thrift store items, I really don't care. Most people spend at least some money on fun (whether it's dining out, movies, drinking, going to concerts or sporting events, playing golf, collecting stuff, pets, etc., etc.), and sewing is the main focus of my entertainment spending. Well, now that I've gotten into swing dancing, I am paying for lessons--but at least I've got plenty of cute dresses to wear already!

    At the same time, I try to keep a balanced perspective on what I actually need to produce high quality garments. Nearly all of us can recall an older family member who created vast numbers of wonderful items with a basic straight stitch machine on a dining room table. My equipment is pretty complete at this stage, so I try not to even let myself fantasize about new goodies like coverstitch machines.

    Also, I try to limit my crafting urges to sewing only. I used to knit and embroider (and I love the idea of fabric surface design), but I've decided that focusing my time, energy, space and spending on one discipline is the best way for me to maximize those investments.

    Interestingly, when comparing the cost of RTW versus self-made, it seems that the most luxurious fabrics and garments are the best "value" for making it yourself. A silk tank top can cost over $100, while you could get comparable fabric from FabricMart during a good sale for $15-20. A simple wool knit designer dress might be $600-$800 or more (and such things are nearly unavailable at lower price points). Wool knit purchased off season might be $15 per yard, or $30 for the dress.

    I happily accept some failures, some wasted time and some ruined fabric as the "price of doing business." RTW manufacturers have samples and flops, too, we just don't see them, and they can spread out their development costs over a much larger number of pieces.

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    1. That's so true about luxurious natural fabrics... it's so hard to find nice wool clothes ANYWHERE, and silk is similar.

      In fact, I can't say I've ever seen any children's sweaters for sale that weren't acrylic or cotton, even though wool is far superior for warmth and many other reasons.

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  15. While I do think the start-up costs of sewing can be expensive (even if you're buying a cheap machine and accessories, it can still add up!), I consider the cost-per-use to be important. Sure, my two sewing machines combined are worth more than my truck (don't get too excited, I think that thing's Blue Book value is like $2500 haha), but I am pretty sure I use the machines more than anything else I own - including the aforementioned truck. Not to mention, sewing for me is both a hobby and a way to clothe myself - not just one or the other - so that makes my budget a little bigger.

    I don't think sewing costs more than buying RTW because it is absolutely not the same comparison. Of course I can get a crappy dress from Target for $25 and of course I spent more than that on fabric, not to mention the time and other materials. However, that finished dress is not going to be on the same quality scale as the Target one - it's going to be superior. I would compare it more to designer clothes. Case in point - I just finished a silk maxi dress made with ~designer fabrics~, and the cost was around $60 in materials. Sure, that's a high price. But when you realize that a silk maxi dress coming off that same designer's line would be somewhere in the hundreds of dollars range, I think I got a pretty good deal out of it. Not to mention - I was also entertained, hobby-wise, in the meantime :)

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    1. It's definitely about prioritizing and deciding your values. If sewing is your biggest passion and entertainment, it makes sense to allocate a larger portion of budget in that direction.

      And it would be hard to put a price on your amazing wardrobe!

      The trouble I'm having right now is that medical bills and childcare costs are even MORE important! In a few years when my daughter goes to public kindergarten (and next year when I will NOT be needed urgent surgery) I will breathe a big sigh of relief.

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  16. Wow! So many fabulous points raised here! I think several people have made some good points that need to always be remembered when thinking about sewing saving money.
    1. Compare our finished work with the high end garments.
    2. This is an activity we enjoy spending our time on.
    3. We all have time, we just choose where to use it.
    4. Ethical reasons

    For me personally, I don't have the cash to go pay $100. for a pair of jeans that will mostly fit me well but I do have the $18. to buy the fabric for a perfectly fitted pair. Guess which I choose??? :) And how come no one counts the time it takes to shop and find that perfect pair of jeans??
    I think for those of us that literally don't fit into mainstream store bought clothes sewing is cheaper.
    I have been given lots of fabric and the stuff I don't like as well I use to muslin garments then chop it up into smaller craft projects as bag linings, etc. This allows me to use the fabric I do buy for its intended purpose without waste. Since I've been doing the Stashbusting Sewalong the fabric I have bought has a specific purpose and has mostly been used right off the bat.

    I think the key to sewing wisely is to take our time and think through our sewing decisions, starting with the fabric we buy, to the pattern we choose, we need to take a moment's thought and decide if it's really something we need.

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    1. Time is money, that's for sure. And I really HATE shopping for RTW, especially hunting for jeans that actually fit.

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  17. I am not even a tiny but frugal because I justify my sewing/crafty related purchases as "gifts to myself" because, other than magazines, I don't really buy a lot for myself. I don't really buy clothes (other than basics like tanks and jeans which I haven't made for myself) and I haven't purchased yarn in a while.

    BUT, as we've talked about before, I'd really like to do better. I have lots of fabric, some of it crap, but it's more than enough to have fun and add to my wardrobe.

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    1. I think I was doing that same justification and it was fine before I got into my budget crunch but now ... not working as well for me. Sewing IS a gift to yourself, and if you don't spend money on other things, it definitely leaves more room for sewing.

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  18. I doubt I save money sewing, but I don't break the bank. The major reason for this is that while I (mostly) don't worry about the money involved, I do try to be very, very disciplined about not acquiring materials faster than I can actually use them. Right now I'm quite time limited (11 month old, full time job, crazy home improvement projects) so I take the view that when I do have sewing time, I should make exactly what I want with the right materials for the job. I'm actually a lot more concerned about running out of space to put fabric/equipment than I am about spending too much money. As long as I'm making things I (or my family members) will actually wear (no super-delicate fabrics), it tends to work out. (I say this having tracked things very closely for about a year, and concluded that the money involved just wasn't an issue.)

    Of course, having the full time job is a big part of why I have the spare cash. If my husband or I stayed home with the kid, we'd have more free time but a lot less money, and priorities would shift. But right now we both have jobs we like, and this is what's working.

    I've also gotten REALLY picky about fit and fabric quality in RTW clothes. Pregnancy and 34G breastfeeding boobs mean that it's been a couple years since most non-stretchy RTW stuff has actually fit me to my own exacting standards. So I really can't buy something like a button-down shirt that doesn't gape in a store, and I consequently value the shirts that actually fit much more than I would if I had the option of buying something.

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    1. I have the same time limitations, but I don't think I've been quite as disciplined as you sound like you've been. I definitely WAS breaking the bank in some months when I looked back at it, just lots of little purchases adding up (I've had to unsubscribe to the Craftsy sale newsletter, for one!)

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    2. Ha! I only just subscribed to the craftsy newsletter, and it's dangerous! But I'll mostly wait to buy a class until I'm actually ready to do it, even if it costs $10 more then. Because overall, that results in me buying fewer classes. But that doesn't keep my wishlist on that site from getting pretty long!

      I've also been giving myself mini-challenges like this one, which really cuts down on the impulse spending. Taking a temporary break from buying things while I finish this project/get to the end of this month/etc. is a great way to be more mindful about what I'm spending money on.

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  19. I love spending on my stash, and my gadgets and notions. But I still think I spend less money now, because it's time consuming and absorbing, so I don't spend money on anything but sewing related stuff!

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    1. I'm glad that's true for you! It wasn't for me, sadly—most of my previous leisure time before I got sewing obsessed was reading books from the library. :)

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  20. I'm not necessarily a good test case :-). After a half-century of sewing, I not only have a good set of tools and books, but I know which I actually use (ie I'm not tempted by the latest $5000 machine).

    But I think for everyone the thing is to not accumulate too much of a stash. After a few years I don't like that print any more, I've changed my style subtly but enough not to want to wear that, this color looks out of date... If you get more than you can go through reasonably, the floatsam and jetsam eventually requires more and more space, and the "investment" is wasted. To me, a lot of the pleasure of sewing is making what I feel like making now, not last year.

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    1. Stash accumulation is a HUGE part of the problem, so true. Because I'm buying future clothes I may not make for years with the money I need to be using in my life RIGHT NOW.

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  21. I'm definitely in the "compared to high end" camp. My motivation for learning to sew was to achieve better fit rather than saving money. So, I generally go in with the attitude that if I am going to invest my time, I should honor my efforts and sew with good quality fabric. Where I really don't save is knitting - if you want natural fibers it's just not an inexpensive hobby.

    More important to me is that I view my hobbies as an investment in myself - not just for building skills for the future, but an investment in my personhood. And, IMHO, that is the kind of investment that pays untold dividends. So, compared to what I get back, sewing and knitting are a bargain.

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    1. Actually, since I cut back on buying knitting supplies way too far ahead, and vowed to buy no more than ONE project ahead, knitting has actually cost me a bit less than sewing because I knit so much more slowly than I sew.

      The last sweater I made for myself cost $120 in organic merino yarn... but it took me a year to finish it, so that's just $10 a month.

      The sweater I'm knitting now is stash yarn from over five years ago when I DID used to binge too much on yarn.

      The last baby sweater I made was maybe $35 in supplies, but it was less than I would have spent on a purchased baby gift.

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    2. Oh, and I definitely agree sewing is a hugely valuable skill and an investment in yourself. For sure!

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  22. I save money just in few things,specially if I sew for my daughter, BUT I also expend too much money in fabrics I never use :( or I have them for long time without useing them

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    1. Oh, the Stash, it is a hungry monster. :)

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  23. We must remember that RTW clothing is one of the rare industries that has made its product cheaper over time (compared to other basic needs such as housing, gas, education, health care). Comparing the price of my handmade dress to the price of an H&M dress is pointless, because H&M is one of the many clothing chains that have implemented atrocious manufacturing processes in order to drive the price of their clothing to the ground. Not to be the hippie here, but I try to factor in the environmental and social cost benefit of sewing, too. At least I can have some control over the resources and labor involved in the making of my clothes, which is a priceless feeling. Maybe my hobby of making clothes is more "expensive" than buying clothes off the rack, but whose hobby ISN'T? A paperback novel costs more than a Target dress, geez.

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    1. I see now that you made this same point in one of your comment responses above. Phew, I get heated about fast fashion. But you're right -- we should compare the price of our handmade garments to other ethically made or higher quality garments, not H&M. Unfortunately those ethically made garments are few and far between!

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    2. It's OK, I'm glad you're angry about this too! I definitely would never say fast fashion was a "bargain" compared to sewing, given its horrific effects on workers and the planet.

      Personally, I was comparing the cost of occasionally buying durable basics at the thrift store to my regular binges on sewing supplies/magazines/books/fabric/notions....

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  24. That's an excellent question. I think I definitely spend quite a lot of money on my sewing hobby, specifically on fabric and books, and occasionally on a new snappy little gadget. But I also spend almost absolutely nothing on shopping for clothes. I buy underwear and socks and the occasional sportswear or outdoor item and that's it. If I wanted to dress the way I do in my handmade clothes but store-bought I'd spend way more time and money shopping. So in this sense, my hobby doubles up as a hobby and the necessity of clothing oneself.

    Buying clothes is cheaper than sewing your own, only when you are happy with shoddily made, mass-produced, ill-fitting and child-labor involving clothes.

    By the way, I couldn't get the poll above you posted to work.

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    1. Not sure what's wrong with the poll, maybe your browser? Over 130 people have voted so far.

      Just to be a little contrary, you're right that sewing your own clothes shouldn't be compared to mass-produced environmentally damaging cheap clothes produced under bad labor conditions.

      But that's NOT the only way to buy or acquire clothes if, like me, you are on a very tight budget. Personally, I was comparing the cost of occasionally buying just the most essential durable basics my family needs at a thrift store... to my regular binges on brand new sewing supplies/magazines/books/fabric/notions....

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  25. Very interesting thread. Up until this past year I would have said I have everything under control. I certainly spend more on sewing supplies than I ever did on clothes, but it's my main form of entertainment and has mostly replaced previous forms of entertainment spending (books, art supplies, etc). Plus I more than made up for my sewing spending by selling artwork every year during open studios. But this past year I skipped the art show (because I was looking for a new job) and our housing costs went up considerably. So now I keep starting at my stash and thinking I have way too much fabric. (It's also a significant amount of storage space.) I think the thing I worry most about is buying fabric as a form of therapy when I'm stressed or bored at work. I don't have much free time and buying can be done when I don't have the time or attention to make, but it often leaves me feeling kind of icky. Although I've also noticed that the urge to buy and the urge to make are linked so when I'm not feeling motivated to make things I buy very little but my productivity is also down.

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  26. I have thought about this a lot! There are months when I spend too much money, and months when I go on "fabric diets" to force myself to sew what I have. It's not a cheap hobby. If it were just about the clothes, I could buy second hand or at Target and DEFINITELY spend less.

    But it's not just about the outcome, or the money. Looking back over the years, I can't say I regret my purchases of beautiful, quality fabrics. Sewing probably does not save me money, but it does bring great enjoyment and value to my life. There is no price you can put on that. I probably could save money by sourcing cheaper fabrics, etc., but if I'm going to be putting my valuable time into making a garment or item rather than buying it, I want it to be lovely and made with good materials. My TIME is valuable - if it were about the money, I should spend less time sewing and more time being a lawyer (my career). But it's not just about the money.

    And another reality - to the extent that sewing keeps me busy at home and out of the mall, it might be a net gain! I spend money on fabric, yes, but I don't spend much money on other things - sewing stuff is my main, and in most cases, only weakness. So I think it's a complicated calculus, actually! In any given month, it may be straightforward - I have only so much to spend and I either come out ahead or behind. But over the long run, the hobby of sewing, while not free, has many benefits and paybacks.

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    1. And I also want to echo the comments above. The value of clothing and other textile goods is seriously, insanely deflated due to global unethical labor practices. Even if I don't account for the value of my labor (which is a bit weird) I can't compete with highly skilled seamstresses who are churning out relatively high quality goods (let's face it, we can complain about fast fashion, but there is real skill that goes into those products - heavily exploited real skill) for a dollar a day, you know? When most seamstresses say "I made this for less than it would cost to buy it," they STILL aren't taking their time and labor and cost of basic supplies (machines, etc.) into account. If they included their own labor and the depreciation on their equipment into the equation, it really wouldn't be cheaper than storebought anymore. But that's because the world is screwed up and people are being exploited. So I try not to hold myself to an impossible standard. Realistically, hobby sewing is not about saving money, it's about having a fun hobby.

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  27. I think of sewing and knitting as a long game (nearly 50 years for me so far) and long term, I think it works out as a frugal activity. I DO darn my socks (even the cotton ones from the big box store), but I stash fabric and buy the machines when I have money, because, inevitably, there will come times when I don't have money, but need clothes. There is some very old yardage in my collection, but that's OK. This summer, I sewed some shirts and made muslins from 50-year-old fabric from my mom's stash.

    In budgeting, I think you have to separate the learning projects from the "necessary garments" projects. When I'm making something in my comfort zone with a tried 'n true pattern, I save money. When I'm learning to use a new tool or testing new patterns for fit and style, there's not necessarily a useful product. I'd classify that as "education cost."

    Inevitably, you have more of these when you're new to the craft, but I have these periods too. (I recently switched from working away from home once a week to full-time teaching--no clothes, and no good ideas what to wear! Lots of patterns tried, few of them chosen.)

    While it's always good to spend consciously, I hope you don't beat yourself up for not being frugal or environmentally friendly enough. (Remember, fabric doesn't spring cleanly from the earth--big agriculture, petrochemicals, and poor labor practices go along with textile mills, too.) We do the best we can at the time. And in the long run, you're going to get so much pleasure from your sewing and knitting (and you're bound to add other cool skills too) that it will be well worth it.

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  28. between knitting and spinning and now sewing...i spend wayyyy too much money on materials, patterns, notions, etc... a small fortune. and it makes me feel bad : frustrated i cant get to it all, frustrated to see it taking up so much space, frustrate i dont have the money instead lol. i have honed my stashes quite a bit and am trying to really not add to it!

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  29. I find it very strange to ask a question like this - does sewing save you money or bust your budget? First of all sewing usually is a hobby and most hobbies are not for free - unfortunately. I find the question quite odd since no one would ask a hobby painter if he thinks that painting will save him money or bust his budget and suggest he should rather buy a mass produced soulless painting from Ikea. I think this "painter example" shows the ridiculousness of the question.
    A hobby should be fun! And yes one shoud be able to afford the hobby. But to ask if a hobby is economic? Weird.........unless one is a really soulless dead person inside just focused on money. Well, then choosing to become a hobby stock broker would be a better idea then.Sorry but I am being frank here,

    How much money one spends on sewing depends on a person´s buying habits and how good they are at controlling the amount of money they spend.
    Sewing isn´t expensive at all if one buys a used sewing machine and the few basic things one needs for sewing. No one really needs to spend money on a computerized sewing machine which offers hundreds of stitch functions for example. And no one needs a serger either. Sergers are for industrial clothes production, mass production, used for clothes that are not special at all.
    Pret a porter would never use a serger and Haute Couture is sewn by hand.
    Many blogs, sewing experts and the sewing industry websites recommend loads of unnecessary and really expensive stuff (inlcuding sergers) since they make money from it or they have been brainwashed into believing they cannot live without all these expensive items. Welcome to capitalism - shop til you drop......it´s all about profit. There´s nothing new here.
    It´s easy to see through all this. Use your brian and stop believing everything you read on sewing blogs or the sewing industry´s websites. There is a lot of useless stuff one does not need and if one is not able to see through all the consumer advertising well then sewing can become very very expensive.
    Sewing will only bust your budget if you let it. If you only sew what you really need, buy only the fabric you really need and use a good used sewing machine that can do a perfect straight stitch and a zig zag stitch then sewing can be a really cheap hobby. And no you do not need a serger for jerseys, a sewing machine will do and if you know how to do it properly it will look professional, not "mass produced professional" but rather " pret a porter expert professional".
    So as usual it´s all up to you ladies and gents. No one forces you to shop till you drop.

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