Sewing was once considered the economical way to
dress. You could buy fabric at JCPenney, as well as most of your local dime
In the last few decades, we've seen the rolls of fabric
from department stores and other retailers. Many fabric chains have gone
out of business. Those left with fabric are either quilt stores, or lean toward
calicos and other craft fabrics.
What happened, and is it still worth sewing our own
As with so many other items, cheap labor abroad has
reduced the price on the clothing found in our retail stores. When clothing goes
on sale, you can find garments at very affordable prices. This has made
sewing less desirable.
Sewing takes time, and the outcome is not
always certain. When you purchase an item in a retail store, you have the luxury
of trying it on first, to make sure that the fit is prefect, and that the outfit
is flattering on you.
When you sew, you don't have that luxury. You must
know beforehand that the fabric you are buying is going to work for you, and
that the pattern you are making has lines that will both fit and flatter your
Added to this is the assumption that you are an
accomplished seamstress, and that you will not have any problems with the
construction of your garment.
Having said this, there are many reasons people may
still want to sew their own clothing. The price of a basic sewing machine is still very
reasonable. For a few more dollars, you can buy a machine with many extras, like
decorative sewing stitches, and computerized features.
Sergers give a
professional finish to a garment, resulting in increased satisfaction with your
work. The older hard to thread sergers have been replaced with sergers
that have a self-threading mechanism.
You may want to sew your own clothing if your figure
is hard to fit, or if you have trouble finding colors you like.
On the negative side, if you pay full retail price
for the notions and fabric you need to sew an outfit, it will be expensive. There is a huge markup in both patterns and fabric.
You should never pay full retail price for either. Patterns, marked to sell at
over $10, go on sale regularly for a dollar. You can often get them free with
the purchase of your fabric.
If you are careful with your choice of style, you
won't have to purchase as much fabric.
Fabric, at stores like JoAnns, is always on sale,
usually for at least 40% off retail. If it is not on sale, you can usually
access a coupon for 40-50% off one cut of fabric.
You can also buy fabric on the Internet. Most
Internet stores will have a free shipping sale a few times each year.
Another negative can be sewing space. If you don't
have a place to sew, other than the dining room table, it will be messy. If you
have small children, you are going to have to be very careful, as pins and
needles are hard to keep from falling on the floor.
If you do have a dedicated sewing space, however,
that place may become your haven, and you will thoroughly enjoy every minute you
Sewing can become a passion. Buying fabric can
become one of life's greatest joys. ( I quilt- don't ask me about my stash).
To me, being frugal has always meant saving money on
the things that don't matter to you so that you can have the things that do
matter to you.
So is it frugal to sew your own clothing? Perhaps
yes, perhaps no. I think the real question is "Do you want to do it?"
Sewing is a very versatile skill. Even if you don't
want to make your own clothing, you have other options.
Children clothes are great to make. Just learn a few
basic pieces, and you can make them in different fabrics and sizes. Most
patterns come in several sizes.
Great seamstresses can pull apart adult garments and
reuse the fabric for children's' clothing.
Special occasion dresses can be very expensive and
hard to find in the store. If you fabric is very expensive, make your outfit in
muslin first so that you know it will fit. Then, pull it apart and use the
muslin as the pattern for your expensive fabric.
Sewing for your home can result in significant
savings and beautiful, unique decor. Drapery panels are easily made with simple
straight stitching lines for hems. The only hard part is dealing with so much
Easier to make are pillow, shams, tablecloths,
napkins, table runners and even bedspreads and dust ruffles.
Bottom line- sewing is a great hobby, and can even
turn into a home business. If you enjoy it, do it. If you don't, shop the sales
and don't feel guilty. Either way, you win.
About the Author: Nikki Willhite,
mother of 3 and an interior design graduate, has been writing and publishing
articles on the topic of
frugal living for over a
decade. Visit her at
- where you will find hundreds of frugal living tips and articles. Frugal
Happy Families- more than just money!