Frugal Sewing

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frugal sewing

When I was younger, I owned a business in which I sewed and sold hats.  The business lasted about 4-5 years.  Besides a couple of sewing machine needles and several spools of thread, my entire stash of sewing supplies consisted of a few homemade patterns, a cutting mat and rotary cutter plus 6 pins.  In addition, my sewing machine was bottom of the line cheap, with no extra fills or stitches. That was it and it was plenty.

So how much does it really cost to start sewing? Not much, and I’ll tell you why.

High Quality Sewing MachineDon’t Need – I worked for years as a professional seamstress with the cheapest Singer sewing machine I could find. Unless you plan on doing a lot of heirloom sewing or machine embroidery, you really only need a machine with a straight stitch, zigzag stitch and button hole stitch.

How do you cope without a serger? Simple. Just zigzag the edges of your garment.

By the way, lately there’s been a big move towards going back to hand sewing. I have two books on the topic. One is called Alabama Stitch Book and the other is Alabama Studio Style. You’d be surprised by the gorgeous clothing you can sew without a machine.

Pincushions – Don’t Need – A fridge magnet thrown into the bottom of a bowl works great.

Cutting Board And Rotary Cutter – Need – Many of you may disagree with me on this one, but I hate to cut out fabric with a scissors.

Pins – Maybe Need – You really do need pins, but if you don’t have any, don’t worry. Over the years I have substituted safety pins, tape (inside seams only), and basting for pins. Sure pins are easier, but if you don’t have them, there are alternatives.

New Fabric – Don’t Need – Now that I don’t sew professionally, I rarely go to the fabric store.  Instead, I reuse old sheets, large second-hand skirts, clothes from around the house, and even old curtains.

If none of your fabric scraps are large enough, simply piece together several.  Here is an example of how nicely this can be accomplished. I purposely used a maxi-skirt as my sample, because there is almost no item of clothes that uses more fabric.

Professional Patterns – Don’t Need – There are hundreds of free patterns available on the internet. Here are some collections that I’ve put together:

If this is your first sewing project, or first time sewing without a pattern, I would suggest starting off with an easy apron or tote bag pattern.

Pattern Weights – Don’t Need – I generally use a tin can from my kitchen.

Sewing Machine Cover – Need –  I believe that dust does more damage to sewing machines than anything else.  Cover your sewing machine with large garbage bag if you’re feeling lazy,  or if you are feeling ambitious, try making your own.

New Buttons, Zippers, Elastic, Trims – Don’t Need – I scavenge every button, zipper, piece of lace and bit of trim I can find. I never throw an item of clothing out without first stripping it of every goodie.  I’ve even bought very cheap second-hand items, just for the fabulous trims and buttons. I have an enormous collection and can almost always find what I’m looking for.

Warning: When reusing elastic, be sure it is still in excellent condition. I once spent hours sewing a new skirt, only to find the used elastic wore out within months.

The same goes for trims with beads sewn on. Be sure the beads are still fastened securely before reusing.

Expensive Sewing Organizers – Don’t Need – I sewed for years with nothing more than a large ziploc bag and small cardboard box to organize my supplies.  Once a year the bag tore and I replaced it with a new one.

If that seems a little grungy, cover the box with leftover fabric scraps and craft glue.  Cut up some strips of heavy cardboard to use as dividers, using the very easy  how-to from Design Sponge.  If you want to get fancy, you can cover the dividers with fabric also.

This concludes the article on frugal sewing. You may not agree with everything I had to say, but I hope the post at least helped you to rethink your list of must-haves.

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