10 tips on sewing at low cost

Monday, February 08, 2016

Here's a very brief look at a simple skirt, made on a shoe-string at the end of a very tight-on-money January. I find that sewing my own clothes is generally cost effective, until I get tempted by all the nice patterns and fabrics. So this got me thinking that I should probably write down some tips on low cost sewing - mainly for my own reference - and see if anyone else had any too!

The under £5 skirt
  • 1. Best for basics: Most of my craft-related expenditure is spent in Leeds Kirkgate Market, where I can usually pick up all the basics - and some extra indulgent bits -  at a really good price.
  • 2. Think about your thread: There are occasions where you really should sew with high quality thread - and yes it is nicer to work with - but most of the time, I'm happy to work with cut-price bobbins. I pick up bigger-than-average bobbins of cotton at 3 for £1.20 in the market.
  • 3. Cut corners with colour matching: Again on the topic of thread; I usually keep a well stocked collection of black, white, and a neutral grey/beige and get away with sewing in these colours wherever I can! Of course, you will need a nice matching thread if topstitching - unless you're brave enough for a neat row of contrast stitches - but I try and use what I have in stock where possible.
  • 4. Reusing and recycling: It can be pretty painstaking, but try disassembling old clothes and harvest their zips, buttons and other and hardware for your new projects.
Some excellent but entirely accidental pattern and nail matching with my zip insertion
  • 5. Review your stash: A totally obvious one, but it's always worth having a look over what you already have, and maybe even making an inventory. I've lost count of the times that I've bought a zip/some elastic/new needles and then found the ones that I already had.
  • 6. Hack your patterns: As tempting as it is to buy new patterns (or the whole of the new Named collection) sometimes it's worth seeing what you can do with a pattern you already have.. It could just be widening or narrowing a trouser leg, or shortening a sleeve and adding a cuff. My recent experiments include this skirt, which was made from an TNT pencil skirt pattern that I altered the side seems of, and see my last post for a detailed look at doing just the same but with added faux wrap panels.
A hack of a TNT pencil skirt pattern that I knew had a good fit on my waist
  • 7. Savvy fabric shopping: I'm a huge fan of rag markets and craft fairs (like the Hebden Bridge WI Rag Market) where you can unearth treasures at a snip of the regular cost. I made this skirt from fabric that I picked up for just £4 at a recent Craft De-stash in Leeds - check out my other spoils below! I love trawling the bins in Abakhans too - it's no end of fun and so satisfying when you find something you love!
My super haul from the craft destash - fabric, leather, stamps and more
  • 8. Feel your fabric: I have to touch everything, and it can definitely be a deterrent from buying. This doesn't sound like a good thing, but I've seen some of the best prints that I would have bought at sight value, but after touching them and seeing how they drape, found that they're not exactly what I'm looking to work with. *Technically* saving money here by never buying them in the first place.
  • 9. Work with what you've got: I love a long length skirt, but where fabric doesn't permit, I'll raise my hemlines. In this case, the fabric really did determine the length and shape of the skirt as it was a really narrow piece. I had just enough to squeeze it out.
  • 10. Skip lining: To be honest, its a very rare occasion that I line anything anyway. I find it more economical to have a slip or underskirt in my wardrobe to wear with any garments that need the extra layer.
Adding a bit of sparkle to my day wear - worn with my Papercut Patterns Rise Turtleneck
I think this skirt's worked out as a smart little number, and it just shows that you don't have to have a huge fabric budget or masses of fabric to make something worth wearing. I definitely have some other odd metres that could be used up in a similar way.

How does everyone else manage their sewing budget?

Stay in touch!

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  1. Love that skirt, such great fabric! Sadly I live nowhere near any fabric markets so cheap fabric is hard for me to come by in person unless there's an unexpected bargain in the local fabric shop or a charity shop. Mostly I keep my spending in check by only allowing myself to buy a new length of fabric if I've used up something from the stash, like a one in one out policy.

    1. Thanks Jo :) The fabric was such a find! I like the idea of your one in one out policy - not sure I'd be disciplined enough to stick to it myself, but definitely something to try! x

  2. I have a child keeps my sewing budget in check really well!!!

    I just did a post on budget sewing too !


    1. Ah I think that would definitely keep my sewing budget in check! Just read your post too. Fab tips, and I like that we have some of the same ones too - great minds think alike :)
      I'm totally going to start mentioning my sewing to people more - maybe I'll be as lucky as you and get some fabric donations! x

  3. Great tips!
    Much appreciated, since I'm on a frugal kick (probably for the rest of my life).

    1. Thank you! I keep having to look back at them myself when I'm tempted to spend loads on sewing things! :)

  4. Skip lining! Fantastic idea! Makes me feel much less guilty for never bothering ;) Very tempted to make a slip to go with anything now though... Fab post xox

    1. Thanks Angela :) I never bother! (And I cheated even further by buying my slip from M&S) X


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