Bargainous sewing: ways to save the moolah

Sewing is a wonderful hobby, but we have to admit, it ain’t cheap. I tend to live a fairly thrifty lifestyle but sewing can be really bloody expensive. I have a friend (not naming names), who started to track her sewing spend and one month it almost hit £1000! So, in the name of saving a bit of cash, I thought I’d share some tips for ways to save while still enjoying this awesome skill of ours.

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There are so many brilliant online fabric shops and haberdasheries, but as they tend to be independent businesses that stock hand-selected, beautifully curated fabrics, they’re not always the cheapest fabrics to buy. However, if you sign up to their newsletters, you’ll be in the know when they have a sale and can nab those bargains first!

Second hand doesn’t mean sloppy seconds

Ask around your friends and family to see if any of them have random bits of fabric lurking around. Make sure everyone knows you sew – it’s surprising how many people have an aunt or a random friend who’s been hoarding a load of fabric that they’d love to see put to good use. Also, if it doesn’t make you wince, old bedsheets are perfect for toiles, so ask around; everyone has a bedsheet that just sits in the cupboard and never gets used. My Safiya dungarees (from Tilly and the Buttons’ book Make It Simple) are actually made from the back of a bedsheet!

Charity shops

Ah, charity shops, how I’ve missed you these last few months. It takes a lot of ‘popping in’, which isn’t possible for everyone, but if you live near or are going past some charity shops, it’s always worth a quick visit. I’ve found some brilliant lengths of fabric including a whopper of denim for £7, and for a fiver I found 5 metres of velvet that I used for a maxi length Kielo to wear to a Christmas party; there was even enough left over to send to my friend Mel (@stitch.make.bake) for her dress for a New Craft House party (see what I mean about asking your friends?!)

The bargain denim was perfect for these trousers:

Charity shops are also great for tablecloths and sheets that you could use for toiles or wearable muslins, and it’s always worth checking the clothing sections for items that could be repurposed.

My sewing doppelganger, Cortney at S is for Sew, who is also an avid thrifter, just published a blog post specifically about thrifting fabric, so go have a read for more in-depth info about this area!

Destash accounts

They don’t come about very often, but sometimes sewists on Instagram will host a ‘destash’, where they sell off their unwanted fabrics. These are great for bagging some bargains, just make sure to follow the account, set your alarm, and be ready. These fabrics go at lightning speed, no time for faffing!

Tools

If you’re part of the Insta sewing community, it can be easy to get ‘sewing room envy’. It can seem like everyone has a Pinterest-worthy sewing room, replete with uplifting postcards strewn on their whole-wall peg boards, alongside every scissor type and sewing gadget imaginable.  My sewing space?

sewing table

‘Nuff said. You don’t need all the tools, gadgets and machines. A basic sewing machine (who uses any stitches other than straight, zigzag and buttonhole?), a pair of semi-decent scissors, the basic sewing kit (pins, needles, thread), and you’re good to go. What not to scrimp on? Bobbins – buy the branded ones! I almost threw in the towel with sewing when I couldn’t sew a straight line without the threads going all over the place; turned out it was the cheapy fake bobbins I’d got on eBay that were causing the problem.

Online marketplaces

eBay, Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace can all be brilliant for scoring mega cheap fabric, notions and tools. This is obviously unpredictable and won’t always deliver the goods, so it’s worth just having a quick browse every couple of weeks to see if anything has popped up. Buttons are perfect to buy second hand online – a couple of years ago I bought two tins of mixed vintage buttons for something like £6 each and I’ve barely made a dent in them (the button stash, not the tins!).

Use your judgement

My last tip for saving is simply to just to ask yourself if you really need it. It sounds obvious but stop and think if you really do need that bit of fabric, and if you have a specific project in mind. If not, maybe just do a Frozen and let it go…

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