Save or splurge?

Five sewing patterns on a table.

January’s not a month that most people have a ton of cash to flash. You might have bought such terrific presents for your nearest and dearest that your credit cards are all maxed out, or you might just be trying to kick your addiction to fabric shopping.

So what’s a good way to save money on your sewing habit and what’s a false economy?

Five sewing patterns on a table.
The lure of the new: just a few of the uncut patterns trying to tempt me away from finishing my Thurlow trousers

Five tips that help me cut costs are:

  1. Buy the stuff you use all the time in bulk – for me that’s black and white sew-all thread, lightweight fusible interfacing, and size 90/14 machine needles. If you live in a sewing shop desert and usually buy online, you’ll save a fortune on shipping and delivery costs this way.
  2. Don’t shop for new patterns! For me, pattern shopping almost always leads to fabric shopping, and to throwing aside whatever I was working on at the time in favour of the shiny new pattern.
  3. Sew your stash is an obvious one, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. If you’re anything like me there are at least four projects in there you could be getting on with, no outlay required.
  4. Scour the secondhand shops, charity shops and flea fairs in your area for vintage patterns and toile fabric at a fraction of the new price. Or if you’re the upcycling sort, you might find plenty of garments you can refashion – look among the plus sizes to find larger pieces of fabric.
  5. Think carefully about whether you need that clever-sounding sewing machine foot or specialist tool. I’ve learnt that a regular zip foot can be used in place of a piping foot, and you can make your own non-stick (Teflon) foot with an ordinary straight stitch foot and some masking tape. A tightly rolled towel can double for a seam roll and you can definitely use a chopstick in place of a point turner. Hopefully that’s £20 saved already.

Stuff I wouldn’t scrimp on? I find cheap thread is rarely up to the job, and I wouldn’t be without my (15-year old) pair of tailor’s shears.

I’d love to hear what you think is worth investing in, and what you do to keep costs down.

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