Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Is it Getting Too Expensive to Sew?

I read somewhere yesterday morning, I wish I could find it now, that someone was considering selling their machines because of the increasing cost of sewing.

{Source}


What do you think, is it getting too expensive to sew?

I can see her point as the other day, I picked up an invisible zipper for $5.50 (Cdn $) before taxes. Six dollars and twenty-two cents if you calculate that with the taxes. That is an increase of 41% from a couple of weeks ago and the last time I looked at zippers, they were three dollars and ninety cents before taxes. Even Value Village increased the re-sale price of donated sewing machines with a 38% mark-up! Now, it's not just sewing supplies, housing prices, groceries (remember the eight dollar cauliflower of 2015 that went down to $7.99 in 2016), just about everything now-a-days is being affected by price increases even though the rate of inflation has remained low. It really broke my heart to read someone would consider giving up sewing altogether because of the increasing costs even though I have experienced sticker shock as well.

Making clothing was once seen as an activity of austerity. But this is not the case now-a-days. Depending on how much your willing to spend you can dole out some serious cash for sewing retreats and expensive computerized embroidery machines. Like everything else, sewing costs more than it once did. But are recent price increases of 38 to 41% for basic supplies justified? After a decline in home sewing over the recent decades, sewing one's own clothes is seeing a resurgence. Could this renewed interest in sewing be what's behind the increase in prices seen at the stores? We'll likely never know for sure, price increases are often blamed on fuel costs and the low dollar, but it is hard to miss that it's happening during a period when sewing is popularized on television (do people still watch TV?) and on social media sites.  As Gail Vaz Oxlade once told a participant on her show who was trying to sell their car, "it's only worth what someone is willing to pay for it."

I still believe that it is far more economical to sew one's own clothes than to purchase ready-to-wear. Yes, I can pick up a cute Knot Front Tee-shirt from Joe Fresh for twenty-four dollars and break my four-year RTW Fast (don't worry it won't happen, I'm still committed to the fast) but it is a polyester and rayon blend. Not exactly my favourite fibre content. Even though there is some polyester and rayons in my current wardrobe (I'm trying to change my foolish ways), my preference is for natural fibres and these are getting to be more and more difficult to find in RTW clothing. I can still find these natural fibres in the fabric stores. Clothing made in cheaper man-made fibres have a higher cost to them over time. How long would that RTW item in a man-made fibre last compared to a home sewn item in natural fibre item? My money is on the home sewn natural fibre one. And with a bit of creative manoeuvring you can come up with your knot front tee.


I can tell you, I feel it's worth it in the long run to make something in a fabric that has superior qualities to that of the man-made fibres found in the RTW sections of the store. We have to compare and consider how long and well it will last before dismissing the act of sewing clothes as too expensive. And let's not forget fit! When I sew, I fit my project to my shape and avoid the expense and time of having something altered.

So how can one save while sewing?

Plan your projects.  This way you can shop with a plan, when a sale comes on at the local fabric store you'll have a list of what you need.  This is the time that I stock up on that premium thread for my serger!

You don't need all the fancy equipment. Sure it's nice to have but there are also tutorials to make your own tailor's ham and beautiful garments have been created on simple sewing machines of a certain vintage. I remember my Mom sewing us fantastic clothes on a treadle sewing machine, no zig zag or fancy stitches. And some swear by vintage machines.

Know your fabrics. If there is anything that I've learned the hard way, it is better to buy quality fabrics. Natural fibres last longer and wear better than most man-made fibres. You don't have to wash wools as often because wool has a natural anti-bacterial property to it, saving even more money on laundering.

Second hand stores often sell zippers and notions in bundles, even if you only use one zipper, it is cheaper to pay for the bundle zippers than buy one zipper at full price at the fabric store. I use threads found in these bundles for basting.


Here in Canada it is getting harder to find patterns we want at our fabric stores. Independent labels, Simplicity and New Look patterns are no longer found here and the focus in retail has been on the Big Four (McCall's, Vogue, Butterick and Kwik Sew). If you shop for the others adding in shipping cost and the exchange rate, it can be a shock to the system. Check out sites like eBay and Etsy for their offerings. You might be surprised what deals are to be found on current Simplicity and New Look patterns. It is how I got my hands on Simplicity 8229 which as it turned out to be worth it's weight in gold. And now that I found a good source for picot elastic (thanks, Tany!), I'll soon be making more.

These are just a few of my suggestions.  How about you, do you have any other suggestions for keeping sewing projects on budget?

Happy Sewing!


14 comments:

  1. That makes me sad to hear too! And I agree that sewing can range from being very, very frugal to pretty darned expensive. I'd imagine that for many outside of the US, a magazine subscription is probably their best bet.

    As much as I like buying patterns, if I only had my Burda mags, I'd be pretty okay.

    I don't find the sort of thrift shop/op shop deals in my city that others seem to find. But my mom for example, has a thrift store near her where they have a day of the month where things are 50 cents. Great source of NOTIONS!!

    My last closet cleanout, all of the things that were slated for trash got their buttons removed and stashed and zippers if they were in-tact (e.g. I didn't shorten them). I did this for handmade and RTW items that were done. Cottons can be turned into bias tape (I have a polka-dot top that I don't want that I'm saving to make bias tape from!!).

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    1. What a great idea for sourcing bias tape, I need to remember this one!

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  2. Sounds like things are more expensive there than in the US. And we have good sales at a variety of places. I can still get fabric at good prices from "outlets" that buy from manufacturing. And with the flat rate USPS shipping at lots of internet sites, I feel it is still economical.

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  3. Sewing will be as expensive as you make it. I browse through the thrift shops, garage sales, Freecycle and the local Buy and Sell. I am currently semi retired, but I have been looking for bargains for almost 50 years. When I left home, I shopped the Sally Ann for deals and upcycling ideas. Same when I had three small children to clothe. Later I made my work wardrobe, sewed for kids and grandkids and made a boat load of quilts. I have bought the odd piece of new fabric, but generally speaking, I have found lots of deals second hand, including a ton of patterns. Love the post and keep sewing!!
    Barb

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    1. Me too, many patterns have been found as second hand deals, especially for kids clothes patterns.

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  4. It would be a huge challenge for me to return to RTW. I've gotten spoiled wearing clothes that fit me!

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  5. I agree, it can get out of hand! Most of my sewing involves modifying thrifted garments, a lot cheaper than starting from scratch, and a lot of the hard work is already done (zippers, buttonholes). A friend just gave us his mother's stash of thread and notions, and it's been awesome to have thread in tons of colors. If I am mending or altering, I don't get too picky... Just pick whatever I have that is close enough.

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    1. I rarely do top-stitching on my makes and sew invisible zippers if a zipper is called for, so when it comes to threads, and the stitches are hidden inside, it is whatever comes close enough.

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  6. Well, I sew for my sanity, so it is far less expensive than therapy. LOL.

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    1. Agree! Sometimes I sew for friend's kids just because.

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  7. I agree with bbarna 'sewing will be as expensive as you make it'. The cost of fabric and notions can be expensive, depending on your preferences. I rarely purchase high end fabrics and notions since I update/upgrade my wardrobe frequently, just like I did when I wore rtw. I'm constantly adding newly made garments to my closet. My lifestyle doesn't require investment/long-term/high-end pieces, which makes my overall sewing costs a lot lower. Now that I put a freeze on fabric purchases and sewing from my stash, I'm learning how to be cost effective (lol).

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    1. So true! I have a preference for invisible zippers yet I have a collection of regular zippers that I really should use.

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Practical Sewing

UPDATE:  Over at PatternReview.com Quiltfixer shared another source for 3/8" plush picot elastic:   Sew Sassy .  Thanks Quiltfixer! ...