As a university student, my budget for sewing related expenses is not very big. And on top of this I am naturally not a big spender. There is a lot of discussion online about whether or not sewing actually saves you money, which I feel has a lot of personal variables. My clothes spending has never been big. I went from shopping at Target as a kid, to opshops, and then to sewing my own. I cannot think of a time I have spent over $60 on a single item of clothing. I think where sewing comes into its own is the quality, and personal choice aspects. Within this though, how do you keep costs down?
1. Alternative fabric shops I can get most of the new fabric I need from the Vietnamese/Chinese fabric stores around Sydney. Their prices are incredibly low, and they usually have extensive stock. They are also great for zippers, cotton, and buttons. I got my bridesmaid dress fabric (floral cotton) for $6/m and this morning got silk lining for $8/m.
2. Opshops Opshopping has been a favourite past time of mine for years. Sometimes there will be good sewing finds. Doona covers and sheets make for excellent muslin fabric, and if there's a nice print, it can be an actual garment. Occasionally there will be notions and sewing patterns hidden up the back, but it can be hit and miss. I find opshops best on the garment front. A large, sack like garment can yield good fabric yardage, or inspiration for a refashioning project. Also depending on how cheap the opshop is, clothes can be a good source of zippers and nice buttons.
3. Plan projects well I often buy more yardage than needed so I can squeeze an extra project out. This may or may not save money in the long run. Muslins also save money in the log run, as they an save costly mistakes. When I want to sew something new, I always check the stash first to see what I already have fabric and pattern wise.
4. Buy patterns strategically. Unless we are going into the realm of experimental fashion, there are a limited number of fashion designs, and most are variations on each other. When buying patterns try and focus on silhouettes, and if a new patterns grabs your attention see if you already have something that is pretty similar. Learn how to make small pattern adjustments: combining different bodices and skirts, using dress patterns for separates, changing necklines, and a couple of patterns can yield a lot of designs.
5. Best sources for patterns: Opshops. Big 4 are best bought on sale. Buy Indie if you really love it, and cannot find anything comparable. The internet is great, especially for cheap 1970s patterns, which often have great basic silhouettes once you look past the questionable pattern art.
6. Sew high quality projects Sewing less items saves money, and make sure what you're sewing are things of high quality, and that you really like. Taking time with seam finishing, and other good quality techniques will really make the garment last longer in the end, and you can feel better, knowing you've sewed something high quality for a lower price
7. Fabric markets Depending on your local sewing scene there could be fabric markets. I've been to one in Sydney where I bought fabric really cheaply, and in a few weeks I'm going to a swap, where I am offloading some stash my end in exchange for other people's fabric. I am a little excited.
8. Ask around This is highly dependent on individual circumstances, but chances are there is someone that you know who doesn't sew anymore, or is looking to offload a deceased estate. Most of my sewing equipment/most of my stash was inherited from my grandmother. I sometimes see large lots of fabric/patterns/sewing machines going cheaply online, because family members just want to get rid of it.
9. Repurpose I have never donated any of my old handmade clothes. Whilst most old RTW goes to the opshop, I pop anything I've made and don't wear anymore back into the sewing stash: take off buttons, pull out zips, use fabric for other items. A lot of my muslins end up being made of old project scraps.
10. Build up slowly If you're just starting off sewing, don't buy everything at once. Get a decent second hand sewing machine, good scissors, and one of those sewing kits from the cheap shop, and go from there. Over time you'll work out what equipment you need, and what you don't.
Feel free to pop any more money saving tips down below. I strongly believe sewing is only as expensive as you want it to be.