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How to Save Money By Sewing Your Own Clothes

Updated on August 21, 2014

Frugal Sewing Ideas

Yes, you can still save money by sewing clothes at home! Even though the prices of fabric, notions, and patterns have made home sewing feel more like an expensive hobby than a frugal activity, you can still find many ways to save.

Some people can buy everything they want on sale at a department store, but I'm very hard to fit and picky about color and style. The only way to get clothes that suit me is to sew them myself, which is a daunting prospect when decent fabric starts at ten dollars a yard or more.

Whether you're sewing to save money, or because you want to be socially and environmentally responsible, you'll like these thrifty ideas.

[Images by Valerie Proctor Davis]

Finding Inexpensive Materials

Here's the fabric I bought for my next sewing project. It's 14 yards of 90-inch-wide dress-weight cotton, prewashed and wrinkle free. Total cost? Only 12 dollars! I might pay that much for one yard of narrower cloth at a fabric store.

These are sheets that I bought at local thrift stores. I scouted several stores to find what I wanted, and examined them carefully for stains, holes, or pilling. There were many more good sheets than I needed: light florals that would have made pretty summer dresses, high quality white cottons that would have been perfect for soft tailored shirts, and so on.

What to look for at thrift stores:

Drapes: Use them to re-upholster chairs, cover decorative cushions, or remake into other styles. Soft cotton curtains can be used for clothes.

Notions: Check the craft and sewing bin for trims, thread, buttons, zippers, patterns, and fabric.

Clothes: Refashion into new styles or cut down for children.

Sheets: Great for dresses, blouses, shirts, children's clothes, table skirts, cushion covers, or curtains.

Used Fabrics: Yea or Nay?

Would you sew with used sheets or recycled clothes?

Choosing a Pattern

Since new patterns cost so much, I chose one that made several garments both my mother and I could use. Both of us need new house dresses, but Mom wants them much longer than usual, and I'm not satisfied with the available colors and fabric quality. We can also use the summer blouse and pull-on shorts patterns.

Buying a pattern that I'll use several times reduces the cost per garment. This pattern cost me ten dollars; if I use it for six garments, I'll save fifty dollars.

Simple Dress Pattern

McCall's Patterns M5640 Women's Tops, Dresses, Shorts and Capri Pants, Size RR (18W-20W-22W-24W)
McCall's Patterns M5640 Women's Tops, Dresses, Shorts and Capri Pants, Size RR (18W-20W-22W-24W)
A simple pattern that's good for learning to sew or getting back into making your own clothes.

Two Patterns for the Price of One

Commercial patterns usually have several sizes; you have to cut out the one you need. Since my mother and I wear different sizes, we need two patterns. So first I traced the smaller size pattern pieces onto tissue paper (remembering to mark the notches, folds, dots, and grainlines) and then I cut out the larger size.

This cuts the price of my ten dollar pattern to five dollars for each of us.

I'll also be doing alterations on the patterns (Mom's dress will be 19 inches longer than the purchased pattern, for instance) and adding some details like patch pockets. The resulting clothes will be exactly what we want.

A Touch of Style

I lucked onto a couple of queen-sized sheets, one in Southwest style and one in a complementing solid rose color - a motif and color that my mother really likes. So the first two dresses will be for her.

I plan to use each piece for details on the other, switching out the yokes, patch pockets, and hem bands.

Check back to see the finished dresses in a few days!

Fashion Sewing Guides

Sew Responsibly

Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion
Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion
Sewing with used fabric is not only frugal, but helps reduce waste and environmental damage.

© 2014 Valerie Proctor Davis


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