Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Frugal Sewing

Recently a reader sent me a message asking if you can really save money by sewing your family's clothing. In short, the answer is yes! Here is how I do it.

Patterns: If you must buy patterns, buy them only when on sale for under $2.00 each. Many chain fabric stores have these sales once a month. Get your pattern numbers and then go to the store when the sale is on and buy the full limit of the patterns at that price. You can buy 5 patterns this way for less than the cost of a single pattern at regular price. I am picky about my patterns. I don't have a pattern for every occassion. I buy one set of basic patterns that will make up the entire wardrobe. Here is a breakdown of the patterns I have to make the clothing with.

For our daughter:
1 dress pattern that has 8 different options
1 underthings pattern that has several options of bloomers, camisoles, slips
1 nightgown & robe set
1 coat pattern (still to be purchased)

For our son:
1 pant pattern can be for day wear or pajamas (free online)
1 shirt pattern (self drafted from other clothing)
1 diaper pattern that also makes a diaper cover (free online)
1 bunting (free online)

For my husband:
1 sleep pant, shirt & robe pattern set (shirt can be used as a t-shirt, sleep pants can be shortened to make boxers)
1 shirt pattern
1 pant pattern (still to be purchased)
1 coat pattern (long ranger coat style)

For myself:
1 dress pattern (cape dress that can also be made without the cape portion attached)
1 underthings pattern (contains half slip, camisole, bloomers)
1 bra pattern (still to be purchased from Kwik-sew if I don't draft my own)
1 coat pattern (will alter my husband's pattern to make a feminine version)
My apron doesn't require a pattern
Headcovering - Prayer Kapp is a self-drafted pattern, Hanging veil is a free one given to me by another Sister

For the entire family:
1 slipper pattern - has sizes from infant through adult
1 fleece sock pattern - sized infant through adult
Winter hats - free pattern I drafted myself

There are a lot of free patterns available online if you look for them. Skirt patterns for example are very plentiful especially if you check the re-enactment clothing sites. You will find the directions for making the tiered or gathered skirts that require only your body measurements to make patterns custom sized to your body.

Fabric: this can be as expensive or inexpensive as you want to make it. It all depends on how much work you are willing top do. When I know that I have some sewing projects coming up, I start watching the sales. I rarely pay more than $3.00 a yard for fabric. Buying fabrics when they go on clearance is a favorite option. You can also buy fabric much cheaper online than at the local stores. Many of the online fabric stores will be willing to send you a swatch of the fabrics you are interested in if you ask. Some charge about $1.00 for sets of swatches. It is worth the money though, especially if you plan to purchase fabric from them often.

A cheap resource for fabric is old clothing. As I have posted about in previous blogs, you can make infant & toddler pants from adult clothing. Another way to utilize old clothing is to refurbish them. A short denim skirt can have fabric added to the bottom to make a longer one. The bib potion of a pair of old overalls can have a skirt attached to make a jumper. A skirt added to the bottom of a t-shirt can make a dress. For boys, you can use old men's jeans to make a pair of jeans for a young child. Any large sized adult t-shirt can be cut down and used for making a child size shirt. Old bed sheets can be used to make a girl's or woman's slip, an apron or a child's nightgown.

Old fleece blankets can be used to make slippers, boot socks, hats, scarves, or mittens. You can also use them (or any old blanket) as batting inside of a quilt. If you have an infant or toddler, you can use the fleece to make diapers, soakers, or training pants.

Notions: This is one area where you can really save money. While you will always need to buy thread, there are ways to recycle the other notions. When cutting apart clothing to recycle the fabric, remove all buttons, zippers, snaps (cutting a little of the fabric around the edges to give you a way to sew the snaps onto a new outfit), and any hook and eye closures. These can be stored in jars or cookie tins until needed later. String the buttons together in a set, measure the zipper and label it or place zippers of the same length in their own containers to make them easy to find.

I hope that this helps to inspire you in thnking outside of the box about your sewing. I haven't even touched on the idea of sewing for the home, but many of the ideas given above such as finding free patterns online or recycing fabric to make the items can be used for your home sewing also.

Happy Sewing!