/ 26.5.15 / 5 Comments /

How to Find the Time, Space, and Money to Sew

 In my opinion, sewing is the most useful hobby you will ever pursue. I truly feel everyone should learn to sew, but many people don't feel it's economical or feasible for various reasons.




It's a shame that so few people 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!

One of these was denim blue and the other hot pink corduroy. I used old curtains to recover them. It only took 3 hours!

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. Anything you make yourself is probably 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...


  1. 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. 
  2. They don't have enough time.
  3. They don't have enough space.
  4. 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 We're 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.


 The first secret to budget friendly sewing is to 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! (Love the new barcodes for online coupons on mobile apps!)

Mother-Daughter aprons made from a $3.00 skirt at the thrift store.

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 items..hair 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 Practically 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!

The two blouses at the bottom were copies of the blouse at the top purchased from a department store.
And if you are really tight on funds, 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 also great! You can't imagine how cheaply I once bought a great ewing machine for $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--mine cost under $150.00.  A basic Singer sewing machine  with a few specialty feet has served all of my sewing needs perfectly from clothes, to upholstery covers, to curtains, and quilting.
I've 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! Most of the time, this is the only problem.

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 understand. It was hard for me to and to be honest I didn't do a lot of sewing. But I do know that my sister did find time even while all five of her girls were aged baby to 11yr. old.

I'm swamped too! With several volunteer projects going and two college age boys at home, plus a website to run, there is constant demand. But I used some of that time I would have spent on a movie, or surfing the web to sew. When Hubby and the boys are goofing around watching youtube videos or playing computer games, I can get out the sewing machine and sew! Even an hour's worth of work will allow me to make some real progress!

In Confessions of an Organized Homemaker, (my absolute favorite homemaking book of all time!), Denise Schofield said,
The biggest part of any job is the  get ready time and the put away and clean up time which 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 a Cardboard Pattern Sewing Cutting Board-36"X60"that covers the whole bed for under $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.   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. I taught these girls and their moms to sew using only 2 patterns! One was a Straight Pencil Skirt and the other a tiered skirt . 

  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 certainly make one of these items in the time it takes the family to watch a movie.

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? Practice Makes Perfect

If you start with a simple pattern and cheap cloth you can teach yourself to sew. :)  I learned more by practicing than by anything anyone actually taught me. 90% of what I know about sewing I taught myself just by practicing and yes, failing sometimes.

Of course a good teacher is worth the paying if you can afford it. 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! If you can't afford lessons, at least start with a super easy project like a straight 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!
Happy Homemaking!
Donna  
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5 comments:

Trudy Callan said...

Great post, Donna. If one will clean out the lint from the bobbin case after each project, that will go a long way toward preventing the thread from bunching and locking up. Also pay attention to the type of bobbin being used. I was using the metal kind, and it damaged my bobbin case. The reason being is because many machines have a magnet under there, and it was throwing it off. It took quite awhile before causing a problem. It makes the tiniest little nick which you can hardly see. That may be what the problem was with one of your student's machines. You can sew like for what seems like forever, and one day it will just lock up on you. Kenmores and Brothers must use a plastic Class 15 bobbin. Singer machines must only use Singer bobbins and Singer machine needles, or it can eventually cause a problem. The Big 4 pattern companies have great sales on patterns quite often for $1 to $3 each. I keep an eye out for those. I also clothing for fabric and find fabric at thrift stores and garage sales as well as repurpose clothing. Sewing can be quite affordable. And you're right, we can use the time we spend surfing the web and on FB to sew.

Needled Mom said...

Sewing has provided me with some of the greatest joys in life. I'm glad to read that you are encouraging everyone to give it a go.

Donna Rodgers said...

Great tips Trudy! Isn't it sweet that the first time we met in real life and chatted was when you were learning to sew aprons with your daughter. You've taught me so much about blogging over the years and I love your sewing blog!

Thanks Mary for your kind comment. Your quilting work is exquisite. Sewing is an art we don't want to lose!

Trudy Callan said...

Lol. I didn't know the first thing about sewing then.

kopiluwak nya said...
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“There's nothing half so pleasant as coming home again.” ~ Margaret Sangster
Welcome to Comin' Home! If you lived nearby, I'd invite you over to my neck of the woods for a nice long chat and a cup of tea out on the deck. But since we can't do that, I hope you'll stay and look around. I love learning new things and sharing what I learn with friends. Comin' Home is where I share tips from my many projects. Let's have some fun together! XO Donna

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