Finding the Time, Space and Money to Sew

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Finding the Time, Space and Money to Sew

 Sewing...the most useful hobby in the world!
One of the things I regret most is that so many people do not get to enjoy the pleasure and the benefits of sewing. So many things in our home can be sewn rather than purchased.  Think about all of the items in your home that can be or are made of fabric...bedding, furniture covers, pillows, tablecloths, curtains, clothing, purses, tote bags, toys, journals, gift items and much more! Think of the sense of accomplishment you would feel if you could make all these things yourself. You  would not be left to the mercy of stuff-mart's limited selections or a department store's prices.   

Not only can sewing help you provide for the needs of your home more inexpensively, but you can add that special 'touch' that uniquely represents your decorating style. This is something that you simply cannot buy in a store.And anything you make is going to be of better quality construction and fabric.

I get one of these four responses every single time I mention how wonderful it is to sew.
  • It's too expensive. People say that by the time you pay for fabric and a pattern, you could have purchased the same item several times over on clearance. 
  • They don't have enough time.
  • They don't have enough space.
  • Their sewing machine doesn't work well. The bobbin is messed up or it skips a stitch.

I used to say the same exact thing every time I saw my sister's five girls in new dresses that she had sewn herself. Ditto for her pillow shams, curtains, tablecloths, couch pillows etc. She sewed for herself, for my children, for friends and on and on.  

Rather than run to the store, she ran to the sewing machine!  

All I could think of was the $16.00 patterns and $6.00/yard fabric plus $1.73 for thread, $1.24 for zipper, and the .65 cents for buttons. In my mind, every dress, pair of pants, or shirt would cost a minimum of $32.00 plus tax! If you are thinking that, then I hope this article will give you a new perspective on the art and feasibility of sewing. 

Can't Afford to Sew? Think again!

Stocking Up on Clearance Fabric

My daughter and I sew regularly...always planning ahead for the next clothing or household item needed (like seasonal items, gifts, or a party dress).  We have the same mindset when buying cloth and patterns that many of you do when you buy clothes.

..we stock up while patterns are on sale and the seasonal cloth is on clearance.  

Every fall, winter, spring, or summer, seasonal fabric is put on sale at local fabric stores.  It's at exactly the same time that clothes go on sale.  We buy our fabric for $1.00 to $3.00 a yard.  A summer blouse need not cost any more than $3.00 if you have a couple of stylish patterns on hand (purchased at a $1.00 each on sale).

We stock up on fabric once every season--stuff that we like...for skirts, blouses, capris, or just because we love it! Not a whole lot but a few yards of good solid basics--summer cotton prints and twills, knits, denims, khaki, and guazy or silky stuff for nice skirts.  Then we store it in a cubby hole shelf divided by fabric type, until needed. (My sister used an old dresser for the same purpose.) A tower drawer organizer works too. Don't overstock--keep good fabric not stuff you know you won't use! And don't forget to sign up for emails or newsletters from your closest fabric stores. I save my coupons every month just in case I have a sudden fabric need. That's at least 40% off!

Fabric from Re-fashioning
We also save old dresses, curtains, jeans, shirts, tablecloths etc. rather than throw them out, and sort them according to fabric type once we are tired of them in their current form. Later, we 're-fashion' them. Thrift stores sell fabric, clothes, and tablecloths and throws very cheap...lots of great fabric!  We save our scraps to make small gift scrunchies, yo-yo's for embellishments, tote bags, fabric bows for gifts, journal covers, drawstring gift bags etc. (appliques too!)--not to mention for the time honored scrap quilt for the last bits!

 Cheap or Free Patterns 
 We also stock up  on patterns that are stylish but simple. They cover the basics...blouses with variations, skirts, and capris or shorts, and a dress or two. We spent $14.00 total one summer and got seven patterns each (with lots of options) and have been sewing for the last few years off of these.  
If we need something specific, now, we buy the $1.99 It's So Easy patterns from Simplicity...
or something along those lines. You don't get as many options, but you do get a cheap pattern for what you need, when you need it.  Also, thrift stores sell patterns too at great prices I might add! And if you are really desperate, check out my post on how to make a pattern from a favorite blouse or skirt, without ripping it apart! That costs nothing but the paper you trace the pieces onto!

Cheap Sewing Machine
Craig's List to the Rescue!  Thrift stores are GREAT! You can't imagine how cheaply I bought my super wonderful sewing machine--a Euro Pro. (It's wonderful because it is heavier duty than most machines and I sew a lot of heavy duty fabric.) It was $35.00 plus had eight additional feet..gatherer, hemming, blind stitch etc. Sewing machines are almost universally cheap on Craig's list.  And thrift stores are overrun with perfectly useable sewing machines.

You don't need an expensive machine.

I used a basic Singer for years.  I sewed ball gowns, wedding dresses, convention booth tablecloths, furniture covers, dress pants, worship banners and quilts...using nothing but a basic, plain Jane machine.  You need to be able to sew a straight stitch, zig-zag and a button hole. You need a zipper foot. You need heavy needles for leather and denim, light needles for satin or light knit, and medium size needles for cotton etc.  You can monogram and applique with a zig-zag stitch. Almost any machine will do what you need!

Number One FIX for a 'broken' Sewing Machine  I am not a sewing machine repair person, but I have almost NEVER found a sewing machine that I couldn't fix!  I once taught 14 girls and moms how to sew. At least six of their machines weren't working well.  What was wrong?  Simple, the bobbin thread had gotten jammed up underneath or the machine was incorrectly threaded.  Whenever I have a problem, even with my own machine....
The first thing I do is RE-THREAD IT!  
This is especially true if the thread is breaking or the wheel won't turn.  Often, the bobbin case get's jammed with bunched up thread. Pull the whole thing out, pull out all the loose threads inside. Re-thread the bobbin and re-thread the spool of thread on the top. Then see if it doesn't fix the problem.  Also, make sure the tension is set on 5 or the middle and that the stitch witdth is set on 3.  Then oil your machine in all the holes.  So far, only one machine out of the 18 machines of my friends that I have looked at, could not be fixed doing these things.


But Donna, I don't have TIME to sew!  Okay, if you have babies or toddlers, I'm not going to fuss at you. I do know that my sister did find time even while all five of her girls were aged baby to 11yr. old. And I'm a busy mom homeschooling two teenagers, helping a college aged daughter through her daily needs, and have been babysitting a grandchild on a weekly basis. I sew for friends at church, family, and my own needs. We do several outside activities as well. So I am very busy!  

I sew at night instead of watching movies!

One writer of a homemaking book once said that 

The biggest part of any job was the GET READY time and the PUT AWAY and CLEANUP time. 

 That is the key to finding time to sew!  I didn't manage to find time to sew, until I made a permanent place to do it.  The best sewing table is a small two to four drawer DESK--again, from Craig's list! I paid $20.00 for my sewing 'desk'. The file cabinet is full of patterns--and that is all the patterns I need--only current trendy ones, plus patterns for curtains, other home furnishings and baby gift items or clothes.  The top left drawer is for the current sewing project ( so you can put it away when you aren't working on it.) The other two to three drawers on the left are for scissors, thread, buttons, stitch witchery, notions, interfacing, bobbins and other sewing items. Use drawer dividers!

If you use a regular desk for sewing, 
all can be out of sight but convenient...

not too tempting to little hands or distracting, regardless of what room you put the desk in.  Make a nice fabric cover for the machine so it doesn't distract from the room. Dining rooms are the best place for sewing--because you have a table right there for working on! Bedrooms work great too, just get a 40%off coupon and go buy a cardboard cutting board that covers the whole bed for $6.00. Tuck it under the bed when you are through cutting out the pieces. Put the pieces in the drawer and it's all out of sight for the evening.  Put it in the den so you can sew while everyone else is watching a movie...they don't need the room pitch black to watch a movie.  It's bad strain on the eyes anyway. :o)

Remember, though, that if you can leave part of your project out on the desk, it will help you want to keep working on it too!  If you have to get out your sewing machine and put it on the table and pull out the sewing box from the closet, and hunt for a good pair of scissors, and go buy cloth and a pattern--at full price--you will never have the time, money or space to sew!

Pick Easy Patterns--They take less time! 
I was such a dummy, always picking elaborate things to sew...super fancy dresses, skirts with pockets, zippers and buttons! I don't know why! One summer, though, I needed a bunch of clothes fast..for a trip to Hawaii.  I went and bought a simple skirt, capris, shorts and blouse pattern and made several variations of each. With a friend's help surging seams, we made eight clothing items in one day!

The patterns were easy..that was the trick. 

  A skirt, shorts, blouse, or capris can easily take less than an hour to make! Try Kwik-sew or It's So Easy--You can make your own clothes in a jiffy! You can certainly make one of these items in the time it takes the family to watch a movie. :o)

Why go to all this trouble? 
Because a nice dress costs at least $15.00 even on sale, fabric gifts made from scraps cost almost nothing, curtains, couch pillows cost a fortune. And store-bought clothes are often low on fabric and not worth the clearance price  you paid for them...flimsy and poorly designed.

Can't Sew? Take lessons!
Any fabric store will have teachers and it will be a great investment in a hobby that is more far reaching and practical in it's scope than any that I know of and more rewarding than I can even begin to describe. If you have kids, sign up together!  You'll be glad you did! And if you can't afford lessons, at least start with a super easy a tube skirt or pillow cover. Then work your way up to more difficult projects. I learned most of what I know by sewing. Patterns are great teaching tools!

If you will set up a permanent place that allows you to put everything out of sight, so that sewing is EASY...
you will find both the time and money to sew! I promise!



Wonderful post! I am relearning to sew. I learned some when I was younger and my mom was awesome I just had no interest. Now, I have the interest. The space is a bit of an issue, but I have been trying to work around it.

Breathing In Grace said...

Oh, all your suggestions are great...and I totally agree about the re-threading the machine and checking the bobbin. I've found that's always been my biggest problem with my own machine!!! You're just sooooo talented!!

Unknown said...

What a wonderfully encouraging post Donna. Thank you.

Donna said...

I'm so glad that I could encourage you. Sewing is one of the best things I ever learned to do as a frugal homemaker. Ha! If I can tempt more people to adopt it as a lifestyle, I know I will be blessing them and their friends and family.

You just have to get started. We all get better with practice!

Melissa Jagears said...

So, my machine always does that bobbin thread bunching until I catch it by the noise or the top thread breaks. Why the top thread breaks when the bobbin is what's going screwy is throwing me. I take it out and rethread it but it's only a matter of time before it does it again.

Last project I happened to throw in this really thick thread on top and it didn't happen a single time through the whole sewing process.

Got any ideas for me? I just went and checked the thread tension, it was on 6 instead of 5, don't know if that would make a lot of difference.

Donna said...

Hi MJ...

Tension can have a lot to do with it. Also, I'm assuming that you are using the same thread in the top and bottom of the machine.
Check too, that you are using good quality thread. This is one place that you don't want to cut any corners. I've found that cheap thread, like dollar store thread, or even Wal-mart brand thread is just worthless.

But tension seems to be the most likely culprit in your case..or a bent needle. It can be just a tiny bit but it will mess things up really bad. If re-threading doesn't work..I change my needle out.

Sigrid said...

Great post--I agree it really doesn't have to be a big investment. I taught refugee women to sew for a couple of years, and the only problem with machines not working was the thread getting out of it's path. (This often happens with beginners who stop suddenly.) A lot of time when I think I don't have "enough time" it's because I am wasting time on the computer reading about sewing!

Caroline said...

Came over here to finish reading your post from Wardrobe Refashion ... Wanted to add that I sewed for YEARS on a sewing machine that my college roommate found for $5 at a yard sale. A few years ago the threads were jamming, skipping, etc. Hubby bought a new one for me, and went to work with the air can and the machine oil. So now I have two machines that work!! Hoping to be able to minister to someone else at some point who doesn't have one and wants to learn what I know...

I would also say, every project is a learning experience. Pick one new thing with each project and pretty soon you will know ALOT of techniques. I've recently learned piping, and have welted pockets on my list ....

Donna said...

I agree about the learning to sew by picking one pattern at a time. I learn new things every single time I sew! You really do 'learn by doing' when it comes to sewing!

Carolyn said...

I totally agree with you! I'm so tired of people telling me it's not worth it anymore to sew. I love to sew for my two (soon to be three) little girls. More than anything, it's just a lot of fun! When people say, "I just don't have time." I try to say nicely, "We all make time for the things we really want to do." I don't read a lot of novels or watch a lot of TV--I sew instead.

Anonymous said...

I think even boys would benefit from having basic sewing skills. Lots of men in my college walk around with jeans ripped at their back pockets.
Why limit someone just because of their gender?

Donna said...

Well...I actually didn't mean to limit because of boys just never had the inclination. They did learn to clean, cook, and iron though and even cross-stitch! They also sewed clothes, backpacks, and tents for their GI Joes and for their beanie babies. Kids do what their moms do. But Rebekah actually loves to I think of her most when I write about sewing. Most men who sew do it as a hobby and most women who sew are more likely to want to help make ends meet by sewing, which was what I was trying to encourage more than anything else.All my boys could have fixed their pants if they had a rip in them. :o)

Anonymous said...

Great post. Followed you from Wardrobe Refasion- I read every word. My mom (mom for most of her life) and sister have been sewing for years but I didn't get insterested until my sister told me about wardrobe refasion and I found a Janome combi on sale at the Goodwill for $7.50. Now I'm a sewing fool.

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