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Thrifty Sewing

Updated on July 11, 2012
Old jeans are a favorite source for fabric.
Old jeans are a favorite source for fabric.
Other peoples scraps can be very useful.
Other peoples scraps can be very useful.
Yard sales yield the most interesting sewing supplies.
Yard sales yield the most interesting sewing supplies.

Learn to sew without spending a fortune

Two of my greatest passions are sewing and saving money, and if I had been born 50 years ago, those two interests would have been a marriage made in heaven. I have many fond memories of standing beside my grandmother at the kitchen table, "helping" her cut out a McCall or Simplicity pattern. My grandmother, like many women of her day, stitched her own clothing because it was more economical than buying ready made. My how times have changed. These days everything about my hobby is expensive, from the sewing machine to the fabric to the patterns, but my friend, don't despair. I have learned the secret to saving money while sewing to my heart's content.

I have six primary sources for saving money on sewing. They are in order from least expensive to most: my closet, friends and family, yard sales, thrift stores, CraigsList/eBay/Freecycle, and coupons/sales. Let's start with my closet.

Cleaning out the Closet / Cost = $0

I love using old clothing, sheets, shower curtains, cloth napkins and such for sewing because a) it doesn't cost anything and b) it's very eco-friendly. In fact, I built an entire business, The Recycled Jeans Company, around the concept. If something no longer fits, if it has rips or stains, or if I'm simply tired of it, that item goes into my sewing studio. Some of my favorite uses for recycled fabrics are bags, purses and quilts.

Soliciting Friends and Family / Cost = $0

Another no-cost option is friends and family. Many seamstresses cut out patterns and save their scraps but never use them. I put out the word to my sewing peeps that I would LOVE to have their bits and pieces. That paid off big for me recently when my mother-in-law gave me a garbage bag full of pre-cut homespun fabrics. Other people's scrap fabrics really get my creative juices flowing, and if you enjoy a good treasure hunt, you know what I'm talking about. So let people know you're in the market for scraps and you might reap a huge reward.

Scouting Yard Sales / Cost = Very Low

I yard-sale every weekend not just for sewing supplies but for - well, everything! Occasionally I hit the sewing jackpot. If you need a machine, you definitely want to explore this option. Just be sure to plug it in and test it if possible. I adore vintage buttons, and yard sales are the absolute best place to find them. I've also scored some cool sewing boxes full of snaps, bindings, zippers and other notions. My best-ever yard sale success happened a couple of years ago up in Alaska. A gentleman was getting ready to move and had cleaned out his deceased wife's sewing room. A sad story, but he was selling primo quilting fabrics, which normally go for upwards of $15 per yard, for only $2 per yard. The moral of this story is - the deals are waiting for you. Go find them!

Junking It Up / Cost = Low

I also scour the local thrift shops regularly for crafting supplies. These items tend to be a little pricier than at yard sales, but not by much. Just last week, I found 7 yards of a zebra print cotton material for only $5. Just remember to examine fabrics to make sure there are no rips or stains. If you're buying patterns, look to make sure all the pieces are present, and if it's a multi-size pattern that's already been cut, ensure it's been cut to the size you need. Goodwill and The Salvation Army are both nationwide stores but there are scores of smaller locals as well. You'll soon learn which stores in your area carry the best merchandise.

Going Online / Cost = Low to No

When I'm not out shopping the yard sales and thrift stores, I'm on the computer searching CraigsList and Freecycle for good deals on fabrics and notions. And although I don't often use Ebay, it can be another good resource if you're looking for a specific item. These are all fabulous sources and your best bet for a good-quality used machine.

Clipping Coupons and Shopping Sale Items / Cost = Mid to Low

Sometimes, you need what you need and you need it yesterday. That's when you go to the store. But... hold on a minute. You still don't have to pay full price. The major fabric stores, Joann, Hancock, Hobby Lobby, etc., are almost always running sales. Furthermore, they almost always have a 40% or 50% coupon available for non-sale items. If you have a smartphone, download the app for the fabric store nearest you and you'll always have a coupon in your pocket. You can also sign up for the store's free discount card and they'll mail you coupons. It's up to YOU to remember to use your coupon. (A problem I sometimes have, but I'm sure you are way more organized than I am.)

That, my friends, is how you sew without spending a fortune. If you have other thrifty ideas, I'd love to hear about them.


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    • Jamie Brock profile image

      Jamie Brock 5 years ago from Texas

      LOTS of great tips here.. thank you for sharing :)

    • formosangirl profile image

      formosangirl 5 years ago from Los Angeles

      Amyxwhere, great suggestions. I was surprised how much free fabric you can find on freecycle (Los Angeles).

    • amyxhere profile image

      amyxhere 5 years ago

      Well thank you. You rock too. Love your profile blurb!!!

    • IratePyeRate profile image

      Anne 5 years ago from Washington, District of Columbia Metro Area

      Hey we are one in the same! I am always looking for scraps and sewing them up into something! You ROCK!