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How-to: Sew on a Budget

It’s no secret that sewing as a hobby can become incredibly expensive very quickly.

Take a look at a few steps you can take to reduce costs, and learn to sew cheaply on a budget without sacrificing quality.

Whilst making your own clothes can be rewarding, and can result in a better fit than store-bought items, it will almost always be (far) more expensive than going to New Look and buying that dress you’ve had your eye on for ages.

Fabric alone can cost up to and above £25/m on the top end of the scale, but you’d be lucky to get anything under £5/m of decent quality, especially online.

Then you also have to consider any notions you need (i.e. zips, buttons, interfacing…) and also the cost of a pattern if you can’t, or don’t want to, draft your own.

Patterns themselves can be pretty pricey also. Big 4 (Simplicity, Butterick etc) can come in between £5-10, Vogue patterns are around £15, and indie PDF patterns can be anywhere between £5-20. For ONE pattern.

But fear not, I’ve compiled a list below of all the ways you can sew cheaply, on a budget – a handmade garment doesn’t have to end up costing you £50+. Just stay away from the pretty Liberty fabrics…

Budget Fabrics:

When trying to sew on a budget, forget about the pretty Liberty, Atelier Brunette and Art Gallery Fabrics that will cost you an arm to buy enough for a garment.

Instead consider these options:

  • Remnants
    Most online (and in-store) fabric shops will have a remnant/bolt end section where you can pick up small amounts of fabric cheaper than usual. I like Lamazi Fabrics and The New Craft House for this. You can pick up >1m of fabric in these sections for anywhere between £5-15, enough for a simple top.
  • Instagram/Depop de-stashes
    Sewists are often de-stashing their fabric collection and will sell on for a fraction of their original price. You can also find patterns this way.
    Keep an eye on:
    IG: @selfassemblyrequired.destash @stitchodessey_destash
    Depop: @abid10
  • Duvet covers
    Check out Ikea’s bargain corner or be on the look out for sales at Wilko, Asda/Walmart, Target etc. You can easily pick up 3-4 of good quality cotton fabric with one duvet cover for £5-10.
  • Curtains
  • Tablecloths
  • Pound Fabrics
  • Pound a Metre
  • Thrifting/second hand/ charity shops
    You can find tons of bargains in thrift/charity shops to use as fabric including curtains and duvet covers, garments that are too for you can be used as fabric (think maxi dresses and skirts), and items you actually like can be altered to fit/suit your style better.
  • Re-purposing what you already own
    Alter an old pair of jeans into a cute denim mini skirt, or change up some old trousers into a pinafore. Again, check out the section of thrift flipping below.
  • Shop your stash!
    You might have the perfect fabric sitting at the bottom of your pile!
  • Fabric dye to change up/refresh colours
    Change up a white bed sheet/duvet cover with some fabric dye.

Budget Notions:

I’ll be straight with you, you’ll rarely come across budget notions unless you find a great market stall in your local area, or happen upon an online sale.

However, there is one thing you can do that future you will thank you for. Whenever you’re getting rid of old clothing, be sure to harvest any buttons, zips or any other kind of closure that might come in handy down the line.

Budget Patterns:

Free patterns are your friend!

Don’t feel pressured by Instagram makers into making the latest It dress, or the brand new patterns on the block. These can cost you a fortune, considering these patterns average at around £10-£15 each.

Instead, consider some of the fantastic free patterns available from fabric shops, magazines and even those It pattern companies, themselves. I’ll list some of my favourite go-to’s below for pattern freebies, but be sure to check out my blog post and Pinterest board full of almost 200 free sewing patterns. I guarantee you’ll find something you love.

Check out:

  • Peppermint Magazine: Peppermint is an Australian magazine and collaborates with some of the best indie pattern companies including Common Stitch, In the Folds and Elbe Textiles to bring you quarterly free sewing patterns. Definitely check out their Peplum Top, Maxi Dress and Playsuit.
  • The Fabrics Store: Another Aussie offering of free patterns galore. Mostly suited to woven fabrics (they love linen!), you could quite easily make your entire wardrobe from their free patterns alone. Be sure to have a look at the Luciana Dress, Alejandra Jumpsuit and Paola Jacket.

Thrift Flip:

Thrift flipping is the art of either altering/updating something you already own (think the alteration challenge on the Great British Sewing Bee) or buying second hand items to alter/update/make something amazing from.

Check out Coolirpa and With Wendy on YouTube for some amazing thrift flipping inspiration.

On the theme of thrifting, you can also pick up some amazing bargains in charity shops in the way of curtains, table cloths, duvet covers and even actual dressmaking fabric in some cases.

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