Welcome to our newest writer, Julie! This is her first post on BargainBabe.com. Here’s a little info about her.
I’m a new mom and licensed mental health therapist living in Southern California. My bargain passions are sewing, outdoor activities, eating out on the cheap, anything related to kids and babies, and trying to help my Apple-obsessed husband live within a technology budget! Leave me a comment to let me know what things you’d like me to write about.
Learning how to sew my own clothes is one of the handiest money-saving skills I possess. You can create and repair clothes, make gifts, upcycle old t-shirts into something new, and even alter clothes from Goodwill that are the wrong size! Every year sewing saves my household about $500.
If your mother didn’t teach you, or if you didn’t take Home Economics, sewing can be intimidating to learn as an adult. So focus on the savings.
Here are eight easy steps to save money by sewing.
1. Get your hands on a sewing machine
Don’t let overwhelming options and price ranges keep you from finding a sewing machine to call your own. Whether your machine has just a couple of knobs, or more buttons and screens than the flight deck of the Starship Enterprise, most any machine will do the two basic stitches needed for 98% of functional sewing: the straight stitch (for sewing seams) and the zig zag (for keeping the edges of your fabric from unraveling).
Before you buy, ask around to see if a friend or neighbor has a machine you can borrow to learn on (they are portable, after all). When you’re ready to purchase your own, many retailers offer introductory machines, including Joann Fabric and Costco. Even Ikea has a low-end machine with basic stitches.
Also consider buying used on Craigslist, garage sales, or estate sales – a quality machine that has been cared for and cleaned will hold its value for years (my mother just had to replace her Singer that was over 50 years old!). A machine from your local sewing shop may cost slightly more, but they will offer you the chance to try out a machine, may help you learn to sew on it, and may even sell used models on consignment.
Tip: Expect to spend $100-$300 for a starter machine. (Significantly less and it may not be worth it.)
2. Learn the very basic stitches
If a friend loans you their machine, ask if they’d be interested in trading lessons for homemade cookies (or another skill you posses)! Otherwise, the internet is your new best friend. Video tutorials on YouTube – search “sewing for beginners” – are the next best way to learn basic sewing techniques and terms, such as sewing in a straight line, starting/stopping, hems, and seam allowances. About.com has a comprehensive sewing section including glossaries, machine tutorials, troubleshooting, and information about working with various fabrics; and many dedicated sewing blogs like Tilly and the Buttons cater to novices.
Tip: Don’t feel the need to memorize everything before you start. Once you can sew a straight line, you can go back to the web to look up any terms and techniques that you’re unclear on as you work through your projects.
3. Pick the right fabric
Medium-weight cotton is great for first projects (always wash and dry your fabric before sewing). Avoid fabrics that are very thick or thin, highly patterned, or too stretchy, because they will be more difficult to sew evenly.
4. Look for “beginner” patterns
If you purchase a pattern, look for a “beginner” designation, which means the pattern will stick to basic techniques and stitches, including relatively straight lines and simple shapes, without extensive pleats, gathering, or curves. A basic pattern can be expensive, so wait for a sale, bring a coupon, or even forgo the pattern entirely!
5. Take advantage of video and written tutorials
For most simple sewing projects, good tutorials are available online with detailed instructions, downloadable PDF patterns (to print at home), and pictures or videos that are actually easier to follow than written directions alone.
Search on YouTube for “free apron pattern” or “apron tutorial,” for example, and explore the results. Read to the very end before starting your project to ensure the steps are clear from start to finish. Many crafters publish free patterns with a caveat that you cannot sell what you make (but be sure to read any restrictions).
Tip: Practice on old clothing at home to get the hang of new techniques.
6.Snag fabric from Goodwill
I stock up on “fabric” at my local Goodwill on dollar days – I recently found a fleece pullover for 50 cents that I cut up to make four diapers for my baby; fabric that would have cost about $5 at a chain store like Joann Fabric.
7. Download the Joann Fabric app
The store’s app alerts you to current sales and lets you use coupons on your phone without having to print them. Or head to your local fabric store.
8. Pick a simple project
Make sure your first project will be a success! Easy starting projects include skirts, fleece hats, tie-shoulder tank tops, and aprons.
Learning to sew is a gift that keeps on giving. Not only am I saving hundreds of dollars a year, it’s an engrossing hobby that keeps me creatively engaged at home and away from the mall. And, once you’ve got the basics down, there’s no end to the skills you can add as you go!