Saturday, 7 April 2012

The Real Cost of Sewing


One of the questions I'm most frequently asked by non-stitchers is whether sewing your own clothes saves you money. The cost of sewing can vary greatly depending on your choice of fabric, but let's consider the costs involved in an example dressmaking project:

Fashion fabric x 2 metres - £20
Lining fabric - £6
Thread x 2 spools - £3
Buttons x 6 - £4.50
Binding - £2.50
Calico for bodice toile - £3
Belt and buckle kit - £6
Pattern - £6
TOTAL: £51.00

On top of that, consider the odd supply you may need, such as a change of sewing machine needles or spare bobbins, plus depreciation of your machine and other existing tools. At a modest guess, let's say these things cost £300 over 5 years, so if you make one project a month that works out as an extra £5 per project. And don't forget electricity for both your machine and the iron!

Historically, making garments for yourself and your family was viewed as an austerity measure, wearing feedsack frocks and home knits being an indicator of a modest background. These days, however, when you can buy a dress on the high street for £15, sewing your own could be considered the expensive option. In fact, I recently heard a prominent intellectual warn of the danger of craft becoming the preserve of the middle classes. Not so much 'make do and mend' as 'make do and spend'.

There are, of course, ways to bring the cost of a sewing project down:

  • Source fabric from markets and local shops for around £2 per metre
  • Look out for second hand notions or buy them in bulk from wholesalers
  • Set up a "pattern swap" between friends to minimise your ebay splurges
  • Reuse patterns multiple times to get the most use out of them
  • Choose projects which require less fabric - for example, a full dress can use 4m but a pencil skirt only 1m
  • Thrifted curtains can be upcycled into surprisingly nice clothing.

Moreover, sewing can save you a lot of money in the long term. The average person in the UK spends £735 on clothing per year*, and this figure is growing, even since the recession. Now, I'm no average person. Before I started sewing I was a self-confessed shopaholic. I don't have expensive taste - more Miss Selfridge than Missoni - but working near Oxford Street means that temptation is everywhere. Let's say I used to spend £75 per month on clothing, or £900 per year. From the moment I learnt how to make my own stuff, shopping suddenly lost all its appeal and my consumption dropped drastically. Instead of drooling over pretty things in Anthropologie, I now think, "Meh... I could make that". I've been through my wardrobe and can tell you that in the last twelve months I only spent £135 on clothing. That's a mere 15% of my previous spend, saving £765. Let's say I make five expensive projects at £50 each and five cheapo ones at £15 each, that works out at £325 per year on sewing. A pretty big saving.

So sewing may not be the cheapest hobby in the world if you look at how much it costs in itself, but if it turns you off shopping - and this attitude shift happens to a lot of people - it can save you a lot of dosh in the long term.

What about you? Do you think you spend more or less on sewing than you would spend on buying clothes if you couldn't make them yourself? Do you have any tips of your own on how to keep costs down?

[*data source]

107 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed reading this thoughtful post. I also spend £40 per six sessions of seing class. However my seing teacher also sews comissions and a dress made by her and fitted to you would cost upwards of £200. You are so right, I can't shop any more. The fit just isn't right!

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    1. Once you work out the cost of everything involved plus add on the time it takes to sew, it's now wonder your sewing teacher - and other handmade dressmakers you see on Etsy etc - have to charge in the hundreds. It really makes you value handmade clothing.

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  2. I've often wondered the same thing. I haven't bought clothes for nearly 4 years and considering how much I used to spend on them it's no wonder the economy is in dire straits now! But you're right, it's not just about saving money, making clothes is an awful lot more - personal challenges, pride, sense of accomplishment and, of course, style. Nice post.

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    1. Aha, so it's you who's responsible for the economic meltdown! You're right, there is so much more to sewing than saving money, it's just one of many benefits.

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  3. Amanda Peters7 April 2012 09:36

    I think this is a very interesting point, and completely valid, I'm sure. My cupboard is full of "bargain" things which don't really fit or flatter and languish in the back of my wardrobe after the excitement of the hunt has worn off. And £15 here and £15 there does add up. Whereas having fewer really good clothes is more satisfying.
    Another (knitting) friend made a good point as well, which is that she's not just spending £70 on a cardigan, that money is split between expenditure on her hobby as well as on a garment, which also makes sense to me.
    Thanks for being brave enough to look clothes shopping expenditure in the eye and write it down in black and white!
    Thanks for the great post! and for the blog.
    Happy Easter!
    Amanda

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    1. Adding up the cost was definitely something I was avoiding doing for a while! But yes, it's not just clothes you're investing in but a really satisfying hobby too.

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  4. The cost of fabric does stop me from sewing as much as I would like, but I already have a bulging wardrobe so that's no great disaster. I do prefer to spend my money on sewing supplies so I can make something special, rather than going shopping for the same clothes as everybody else, though.

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  5. I really agree with you! I would add, just to complement what you said, that handmade clothes are made to last for a long time, whereas the cheap stuff from stores like H&M is usually made so flimsy that it falls apart right around the time it goes out of style. So one of the ways I try to make my sewing pay for itself is that I try to make things that are (a) timeless, and (b) well-tailored. I'm not that good at (b) yet, but I am working on it!

    My inspiration is my grandmother, who clothed herself very elegantly in handmade suits and dresses when they were dirt-poor in post-war Germany. Those people didn't get new outfits every month, but they took good care of their clothes, wore them many times, and looked immaculate.

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  6. Another way I save lots of money on notions and such is to reclaim them from secondhand clothes. I like buying old secondhand skirts, for example, because they usually yield a zipper, one or two buttons, and enough fabric to make a tote bag or a baby bib or a pillow, and maybe bits of nice trim - all for maybe 2 or 3 Euro. Old muumuus and housecoats aren't bad either - to me they're sources of fabric for making a muslin. I like to get this stuff at places like the Oxfam charity shop; then I know my money isn't a frivolous expense, but goes to do something good in the world.

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    1. That's a great tip, Lisa. Charity shops can be great for notions as well as fabric!

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  7. I have been saving notions and bits and bobs for years - if I need buttons I have a jar full.
    I'm extremely lucky that my current nearest fabric store has a huge variety of inexpensive fabrics - usually around £5 a metre. I hardly buy clothes either - only really jersey tshirts and vest from H&M because the cost quality ratio is so good that I can't beat it myself. I also hate having clothes that everyone else has - my creations are unique one off garments that even if I replicate for a friend I'll do something different so no 2 are alike!

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  8. I love this post and agree 100% with everything said. Ever since I started sewing (to a standard where I can wear my pieces ;-) shopping lost its appeal.
    You look so much much more at how things are made, quality of the material and how it can be made at home. Thank god for shoes though!!! They are still big fun to shop for.
    I must add to the fact that sewing your own isn't necessarily cheaper, if you consider you're ending up with a one of a kind couture garment, you really are saving a lot.

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  9. Great post Tilly. I've definitely bought fewer clothes since I started sewing - mostly because I look at them and think I could make it. It might be six months later and not as cheap as I could have bought it in New Look, but that's not the point, is it!

    I'm thinking of making the Colette Peony dress for my friends wedding, and even if I splash out on some (reasonably) expensive fabric, it would still cost less than a dress I would have bought from the high street and would fit perfectly.

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  10. I definitely spend less on sewing, I think how much the finished item would cost compared to sewing and it always stacks in favor of making. Over the years I've been sewing I have found some great places where I know things cost less or brilliant wholesaler who allow small sales. Happy Easter!

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  11. I definitely save money by sewing my own clothes, but I decided years ago that I wouldn't make something unless I could do it cheaper than I could buy it (I'm the same way with my knitting and only buy yarn when it's hugely on sale). Thus I don't sew plain t-shirts, tank tops, jeans or anything else I can pick up in the sales for a few quid or on Ebay. I never buy fabric that's more than £3.50 a metre, yes that does limit what I can buy but then I'd not go into a shop and spend £30 on a blouse so really it's a similar limitation.

    I tend to have 1 large fabric splurge a year in Fabricland in Brighton when we go to visit my sister (19 metres this summer) and then during the year I will buy a few bits here and there, the bulk of my rather large stash is made up of co-op buys from the States back when it was almost $2 to the £ and I could get stuff sent surface and from a place where I used to live that sold roll ends and fabric with small flaws by weight, loved that place! I really think that having a stash saves me money as I buy things on sale or at low prices and when I want to make something I don't need to go out and impulse buy something that might cost more. I also have bought notions in bulk and from people having a clear-out so it's very rare that I need to buy a zip, thread and the very odd button (I inherited both my Grandma and Great Aunt's button collections) are all I really need. I figure electricity costs less than going out somewhere which is what I'd be doing if I wasn't locked away in my sewing room!

    I honestly can't believe how much clothes cost, and I also am amazed at how much money people will spend on fabric and sewing projects. To each their own though, if you'd spend £75 on a garment from a shop then spending £45 on making it yourself is a great saving, everyone has different budgets and different ideas of what is cheap and what is expensive!

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  12. I found your example very overpriced. For me it would be:

    Fashion Fabric - 2m @ £4.00 - £8.00
    Lining fabric - £4.00
    Thread - 1000m - £0.70 (I'm lucky that my machine is happy with cheap thread for everything except jersey)
    Buttons x 6 - £1.80
    Muslin fabric - £1.00 (probably even less because I buy second hand quilt covers which gets me about 8m of fabric for about £4.00)
    Binding - rarely use
    Belt & buckle kit - never used
    Pattern - £2.00 (I never pay full price for my patterns so the average cost is around £4.00 - and I nearly always use the same pattern more than once).

    Total £16.25.

    The most expensive project I have ever made was a self-drafted skirt that cost me £18.00 in materials.

    The very first project I sewed was a simple A-line skirt, pattern drafted from a book from the library, using a second-hand quilt plus a zip - cost me the grand total of £2.00 and I still wear it, six years later.

    If anything I sewed for myself was costing me over £50 I'd sell my machines because it simply wouldn't be worth it, for me.

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    1. Crikey, where do you get your thread from?! Please share!

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    2. I buy it from my local fabric shop - Fabric Land (all the branches are in Southern England AFAIK). I've also just looked to see if any of the reels have a label on them and they are 1000 yds, not 1000m, although that makes very little difference. I can't use them for jersey (three or four hours screaming at my machine taught me that :)), but my two modern and four antique machines use the thread just fine on wovens.

      If you know your machine isn't picky about thread, then even ebay can be a good source.

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  13. I admit, making my own stuff isn't cheap, because I like strange fabrics, but even though I haven't made a lot (yet), it has stopped me buying stuff. I like gothic clothing, and a lot of people make and sell their own, so for the last couple of years, I've looked at things, gone 'I could make that for less (bearing in mind I'm making it for me so I'm not going to count labour), and I could also make it to fit me. I rarely do, of course, but then it means I clearly didn't want it much in the first place...:D

    As for saving money - I've previously bought stuff from ebay, old linen etc from charity shops are useful for toiles (not that I ever make them, I need a slap) or practice, and round here we have a lot of Indian shops which sell some really interesting fabrics for not a lot of money. Some of them will only sell fabric in 'suits', so you get two, but it's still a bargain - I found a gorgeous jade green fabric, but I had to buy the 'matching' fabric to go with it which was a fuschia pink chiffony type fabric - I did get 2 metres of each and the matching embroidered scarf for £25 which would have been a bargain if I'd been any good at dealing with satin at the time :D

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  14. Thought provoking post, Tilly.

    I rarely buy modern clothes, but I do spend a fair bit on second hand/vintage from charity shops (though vintage is getting harder to find) and Etsy or Ebay, perhaps around £300 a year. I also hoard vintage fabric, spending up to £40 for 3-4 metres if it’s really special ….gulp, I just took the time to go through my Etsy sewing related purchases for last year (fabric, patterns, buttons, buckles etc) and discovered I spent £685!!! This was unusual though as I sold a lot of stuff on Ebay and used the profits to spoil myself.

    When I pop into modern clothes shops, I am sometimes tempted by the fabric prints (H&M have some amazing 60s style prints at the moment) but I am put off by the fit and the fact that many other people will be wearing it. I also think about the ethical considerations of them being able to sell things so cheaply and wonder about the environment it was made in. I agree that sewing can save money if it reduces modern clothing consumption as many of my friends spend an awful lot on clothes, plus if you learn to draft your own patterns then that cuts the cost too. I also get a lot of things from charity shops, such as patterns, fabric, zips etc, for just a few quid.

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  15. Though i suppose it depends on your perspective i could never afford to spend £51 making a dress, but i would have never bought a dress for £51 either. I have very little money so i have to make do. So at the very bottom level i find sewing is cheaper than buying.

    The first item of clothing i sewed after i got my sewing machine was a T-shirt, i spent £2.45 on a pattern (NL6978), 50p on fabric and £1 on three spools of thread, Total £3.95. The look was just as good as Asda or Primarks, and it lasted just as long. The pattern i could use over again. I was hooked.

    That was just under a year ago and my sewing has improved. I still rarely spend any more than £1-2 a meter for fabrics at the market. I buy new patterns only when they are on sale, and i have a large collection of second had patterns and books bought from local charity shops for around 10-50p each.

    At the moment i am making a series of summer T-shirts for myself, with £1 fabric and NL6807 (£2.45), and now the quality and fit is better than what i would have bought at Primark or Asda for £10. Overall i am saving money and spending a lot less on clothing. I am also making more than what i need so i can start to experiment with style, which was never an option if you are just buying only the very essentials you need to cover your self.

    However this new obsession with style has me drooling over shoes and accessories, which i cant make cheaply or afford. So their is a down side.

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  16. Very interesting discussion. I've thought about it myself many times since I realized that sewing is a lot more expensive than buying clothes. Nowadays we have cheap clothes in H&M or similar stores that are made out of cheap low quality fabrics, so it's a good question if sewing is good investment. Personally I know I spend tons of money on high quality fabrics but I do it because 1) sewing makes me happy 2) I know that what I make is unique and I would never be able to find it in any store 3) it fits my body perfectly.
    So that's why I will never give up sewing even though it can be expensive as hell.

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  17. Great post! My point of view is similar to yours. When I took up sewing, it cost me lots of money- sewing machine, clases, scissors, notion, fabric- but it has turned out that i am less into shopping now. Also, now that I now just how much goes into a piece of clothing, I am much less willing to buy badly made garments with bad fabrics that are beeing made under tough work-conditions and won´t hold up, thus polluting the planet. I would say that now I have fewer, nicer, sturdier pieces- ot at lest thats whta I hope:-)

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  18. A big reason I have started to make more of my own clothes is because of the poor working conditions and pay for workers which allow us to buy a skirt or a dress for 10 -15 pounds. I'm a student on a budget so the cheaper shops are the only affordable place to shop.

    When I make my own clothes it takes more time and effort but I tend to feel more satisfied than the fleeting excitement of buying something new. I have just recently made a dress for a total of 12 pounds so I don't think it has to cost more money when you make your own clothes. I would like to see more ethical fabric choices for dress fabrics though, the organic and fairtrade fabrics tend to be more focused on home decor fabrics right now.

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    1. Great point Kathryn. Sewing does mean that we are not supporting sweatshops. It's not an advantage that had occured to me, but I'll definately add it to the reasons that I sew.

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  19. The problem, I guess, is that as a comparison, buying clothes from a shop and making your own is like comparing a cat and a car: it doesn't make for a fair comparison. I used to think that sewing was an expensive hobby but now I realise that for the product you get at the end, it really isn't, so long as you're savvy about your fabrics.

    Firstly, most of us are not the perfectly regular body shapes that the high street retailers draft for. I think that wearing something that fits perfectly always makes your clothes look more expensive than they are. Secondly, I think when it comes to making more complex or more expensive garments, such as a suit or an evening dress, that's where you really see the difference. I made myself a suit out of some crepe which cost £3.99/m with a contrast satin collar and satin-covered buttons. Along with some lining from my stash, thread, muslin, interfacing and a zip for the skirt, the whole thing cost about £25. That's only a bit more than a suit from Primark and let's face it: a suit from Primark looks like it came from Primark!

    I also think that when you make your own clothes, you tend to be much more attentive to after care. I know that I always try to wash my own creations as delicately as possible and if they need any repairs, I don't just leave it to when I can finally be bothered! You think about really making things last, rather than just bunging them in the machine and hoping they come out not too faded or shrunken!

    During her recent short series 'Mary's Bottom Line' Mary Porter pointed out that labour costs in the garment industry are rising. If the low prices of shops like H&M become a thing of the past as countries such as China demand better pay for their work, then home-sewn clothes might once again become the thrifty woman's alternative...

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  20. Thanks for this post. It used to frustrate me that so many writers of sewing books and blogs try to draw in new crafters by going on about how much money is saved, when I'd made the same calculations you'd made about how much it cost to make an outfit (and you didn't even factor in the cost of the time you spend making a garment).

    However, you're absolutely right: I have far less interest in buying clothes- it once got to the point where I had an almost pathological inability to go into a clothes shop.

    I make a lot of my clothes out of old clothes (charity shop curtains and bed linen are the WAY FORWARD), so I very rarely buy yardage. I only buy yardage if I'll still be spending less than the finished product would cost to buy.

    Great post, thanks for writing!

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  21. I save tremendously on sewing.

    Not only do I source very cheap fabrics and patterns, I also follow a strict plan of where my wardrobe is going. That means: no impulse buys, all of my patterns are intended for plenty of repeats, and I only buy when the price is right - no going out "needing" something and having to settle. I do not "stash", I "queue". I get the feeling, reading blogs, that when people say sewing is expensive it's because they're not actually trying to cut costs.

    And here's the real big save: there is no way I could afford to buy the clothes I make. 100% silk crêpe or peau de soie blouses with pearl buttons? 100% silk hand-knitted stockings? 100% wool flannel skirt? And because I want those things with proper sleeves, below the knees, etc, I would have to source them from more expensive shops. Meanwhile, I'm making a 55% silk 45% linen dress for this summer. The fabric was less than 4€ per metre, the thread is leftovers, I've already got a full slip for it...

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    1. "I do not 'stash', I 'queue'" - that's great!

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  22. Very thoughtful post. I still don't think you can compare a home sewn garment with cheap highstreet clothes - they rarely last as long, and the attention to detail and fit just don't match (of course, depending on your skill). And if you factor in the personal satisfaction, home meade pieces are priceless!

    I also think the cost goes down, as you sew more - I rarely buy a new reel of thread, I have enough buttons saved up that I don't need to buy odd ones for skirt waistbands, etc, and you can cut your own binding/bias tape from scraps.

    I run a department in a 'luxury' department store, and despite being surrounded by desirable catwalk items daily, I am rarely impressed but their construction or quality. I see £100 t-shirts that shrink after 1 wash, buttonholes that fray, seams that split from lack of seam allowance, and so on. I'll take my dress made from 50p a metre fabric any day.

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  23. I don't buy clothes anymore sewing has definitely had that effect on me.Last week I popped into a high street shop and found loads of lovely things . I bought nothing why - well everything was poorly made the seams were actually coming apart on some things. I just wish I could find lovely fabrics like I see used on the high street.I do try and save money buy buying and notions and fabrics I see in charity shops. I buy old sheets to use as muslins from charity shops too . I always look at the rails of curtains but I never seem to find anything that I would wear as fabric yet. White cotton sheets can be dyed to and I have done that on occasion.

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  24. You're right, sewing is an expensive hobby. But what hobby isn't expensive? I find my sewing time relaxes me (and keeps me from mindless eating!) and I end up with a top or coat or skirt I can wear. SO I count the time I sew as enjoyment and I get clothing to boot! It's an expensive hobby but a satisfying one. I save money by buying needles in bulk and thread in bulk (from Ebay). I love that one of the readers said she uses old sheets for muslins. I have a pile of things for the Goodwill but I am going to go through them and take out the old sheets!

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    1. Here here! Worth every penny.

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  25. Quality beats quantity and the self-made wardrobe has the potential to be unique, interesting and beyond designer. In 12 months I spent $5000 on craft and sewing supplies, which is about 2,500 pounds, a shocking amount, so I went on a zero budget. Only money earnt from that investment to be spent on more of the same. Result - I've bought a few gorgeous bits of quite pricey fabric from the proceeds of a fabric sale and christmas craft income,and I am delighted! I can't wait to get this new shop bedded in so I can start sewing in it during the day and make up some of the lovely things I've bought :)

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    1. I want to add that I have learnt the hard way, that a few good quality things are better value than lots of cheap tat. And I think this applies to sewing also. If I'm going to put time and effort into it, I am not making it out of a cheap fabric (although it may be inexpensive!). I have less clothes than ever now, both bought and made, and I constanly aim to increase the LOVE factor and decrease the "What was I thinking!?" factor. As a result I am spending less and less, and getting more satisfaction out of what I do buy. A couple more stash busting exercises and I think I will have achieved Zen Stash and Wardrobe.For a while anyway ;-).

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    2. Great idea to only spend what you can make from crafting - I bet that feels really satisfying. I know what you mean about cheap fabric, it kinda feels like a waste of time if the fabric feels a bit rubbish after all your hard work.

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  27. Wow- so many comments in just 3 hours! Well done, Tilly! I loved your post, and here's my thoughts on it. I grew up in the Soviet Union. The was a lot of mass produced designs in the shops, but women wanted to look different and a serious number of them made their own clothes. In my family every woman sews and really not bad. Those who cannot sew have their own seamstresses- work from home professionals, or they order their clothes in Sewing Ateliers ( which were operating in abundance everywhere). It was maybe more expensive to use professionals, but the final fit and style definitely prooved it worth every penny. For those who made clothes at home, those ateliers provided services like making buttonholes and attaching snaps and making fabric-covered belts. It was a sewist heaven!!!! Still is,judging by the Russian online sewing communities.

    I live in Ireland for the last 13 years and the picture is quite different here. I personally know no-one who even owns a sewing machine ( apart from a woman in my estate, who's workshop I see through her window on the main avenue, but it looks like she is more interior designer than a dressmaker. never had a chance to talk to her though) There is a shop that sells curtain fabrics and haberdashery in the main town, but for the fashion fabrics I have to travel 100km to Dublin to meet a pathetic choice of very very overpriced fabrics. So I cry inside, wish I was living somewhere else (UK? Spain?) and go fabric shopping on ebay. It is so much cheaper, but there is an international postage costs, that needs to be considered (still cheaper, than the fabric in the shops over here). Lately, I discovered www.myfabrics.co.uk- they send up to 4 samples a month for free, so at least you know what you are buying. And they have a very impressive range of discount fabrics.

    Overall, when sewing clothes, every item turns out more expensive than something you get on sale on a high street, but much cheaper than some stuff they sell in local boutiques ( eg: I saw a price tag of 95 euro for a thin jersey pullover, that would cost me max 20- that for the "luxury" designer knit- which it didn't look like it was. And somebody does pay that price, only because that boutique has a certain reputation).

    So the bottom line is- it might be not as cheap to sew over here, but it is definitely more beneficial if you want to look fab and feel proud you made it. And that exactly how I feel every time.

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    1. Shame I don't speak Russian - the online sewing community sounds really interesting.

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  28. It's interesting to compare the total cost of sewing vs shopping over the whole year, rather than for individual garments. I never thought about it that way.

    I always think of my sewing purchases as falling into the "recreational" category rather than "clothing".

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    1. I usually classify it as recreation spending too, so it was revelatory - and comforting! - to compare it to clothing spend.

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  29. Great post! I have much better QUALITY clothing when I make things and I tend to wear them for years, so the longevity is factored in the "price per wearing" equation too. As a schoolteacher, I couldn't afford to buy couture, hand-tailored garments...which is essentially what I make for myself, right? If I could afford couture, then it would last years and years and the price per wear goes down with each passing year. Thus, sewing IS saving alot of money for me since I work cheaper than Dolce and Gabbana. ha.

    I almost never actually "shop" for clothing either. Jeans...I still purchase blue jeans, only because I hate sewing them. Luckily I almost never wear them either so one pair will last me years and years. It's time to replace my one pair now in fact, I just wore the fabric through on the back thigh! (maybe now is the time to branch out into "making jeans"!)

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  30. I agree that sewing can be EXPENSIVE. You have to factor in not only the cost of supplies but also the value of your own time. But like you, I've found that I rarely ever shop for new clothes anymore so maybe it all balances out in the end. Event coming up? Oh, I have the PERFECT pattern for that!

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  31. the other thing about sewing is, if what you want happens to be the opposite of what is currently 'in', you have to make it yourself! when i was looking for a wedding dress it was all strapless, big skirts and scratchy polyester satin - well, it my price range anyway! i wanted a slinky, slim dress in a gorgeous silk. as i didnt have 2 grand to spend, i ended up making it. a butterick pattern, 5 metres of oyster peached silk imported from hong hong, a lot of sweat, hard graft, sleepless nights, nail biting etc, and bingo, one wedding dress : )

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  32. I always tally up the cost of my projects, not because I particularly care about making a deal, I just like to know what things cost. For me, making clothes is a hobby and compared to a lot of other hobbies it's pretty darn inexpensive. And there are the added benefits, like you say: It really does cut down on my clothes shopping, I feel a sense of pride in my maker skills, and I've made something completely custom for myself.
    Of course, at different times in my life I've had to economize, but if I have the money, I don't mind spending it on materials that I love!

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  33. I'm a lady nearing 60.
    In my younger years, sewing was most certainly a
    money saving proposition. But in the last 30 years things have radically changed.
    Now a days, we all seemly "benefit" by cheap, semi-slave factory labor in 3rd World countries and Asia.
    Labor predicated upon cheap petroleum, central banks and global debt.

    Hence home sewing your own garments in a 1st Word country is not considered to be a true economic savings.

    But if you actually stop to consider the costs of human dignity and freedom, and hold the value a self-reliance dear - then home sewing is by far a better economy.

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    1. Very well said, Mary. I couldn't agree more.

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  34. Although cost is not my primary concern (that would be the fact that I find it nearly impossible to find clothes that fit me), I think that in the long run (you know, once I've actually learned to sew...I am such a sewing newbie now) it's going to save me money because my taste runs toward expensive. I mean, yeah, since hardly anything in stores fits me I don't spend as much as a lot of people on clothes, but then again I'm not fast at sewing either, and that's something I don't anticipate changing much.

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  35. You could say that sewing is a expensive hobby but the look on people's faces when you say "I've made that" is priceless!!!

    I also love to look out for a bargain in fabrics, and then make something absolutely stunning with it!

    But my main reason for sewing is the fact that I have an odd figure to fit dresses but I do love dresses so much..

    By the way: am I mistaken if I think you live in London? If you do: can you maybe tell me where you go to buy your fabrics and patterns? I'd love to buy some patterns from New Look or Simplicity when I am on vacation in London. Or do you have a hint where to find beautiful sewing magazines or vintage patterns? Thank you very much in advance!

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    1. I do live in London, yes. I get fabric from The Cloth House in Berwick Street or John Lewis if I'm feeling flush but more often cheapo local shops in Brixton (eg. Simply Fabrics), Walthamstow Market or Goldhawk Road. Or the internet. I buy patterns online - you can buy some in John Lewis but they're full price and only the big commercial companies. London isn't great for vintage patterns, unfortunately - I've only every found the odd one and usually get them on ebay.

      If you're on vacation I would recommend going to Liberty and the shops on Berwick Street in Soho to ogle the lovely fabrics - they're super expensive but nice to look at even if you don't buy anything!

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  36. Tilly, yet another thought-provoking post; how do you do that?! Thanks.

    We had this discussion in my skirt-pattern-making class @ www.bitsofthread.com & I said what I always say: I like to wear dresses. I like a bit of sleeve (I'm fair, and have had my arms & shoulders burned more than enough), and don't like knits (having lived in Japan, the Middle East & DC area--where summers are hot & HUMID). So I want clothes in the fabrics I've bought in the style I like. Since most dresses seem to be for matrons or teenage girls, it's hard to find modest, cute styles that I like. (Boden comes closest)

    When I lived in Abu Dhabi, I had a tailor (oh how I miss Mohammed!), and I could buy my own fabric, take him a photo from a catalog & voila! In about 10 days I'd have it...so I have lots of stuff from then. But I left AD in 2008, so some clothes are worn out (a linen dress literally has been worn thru), and I'd like to expand my wardrobe--I don't just wear summer clothes here in DC; unlike Abu Dhabi, we have winter, too!

    I also have a lot of cotton from our trip to West Africa, so I'd like to use what I bought there for clothing--reminds me of our travels.

    In the skirt class, one woman kept threatening to head to Macy's & just BUY something. But when she finished her skirt zipper & held it up to the zipper on the pants she had on--guess which looked a zillion times better? Yep, the one she'd done--and it was her first try at a zipper!

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  37. This is a fantastic post! Well explained! I think for me personally sewing my own clothes saves me money. I have such a large stash now that I am not running out to buy more fabric. I do occasionally need to buy notions that I don't already have on hand. But I will typically make sure to use my discount coupons for Jo-Ann's here in the states.

    I also agree with you in that sewing my own makes me less likely to go shopping for clothes. And when I do go shopping I am much more picky. I look all the seams to see just how it was manufactured. I don't want to purchase something because it was cheaper than making it just to have it fall apart because the seam wasn't finished properly! In that sense I will gladly take the added expense that sewing my own clothes costs.

    I also enjoy wearing something that I know no one else has. I remember in high school how "taboo" it was to be wearing the same thing as another classmate. Sewing for myself means that I will never have that problem!

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  38. Sewing can be as cheap or as expensive as you want it to be, just like buying clothes! I can probably go into Forever 21 and buy something for way cheaper than I can sew it, but I can sew a knockoff Anthropologie or Modcloth dress for waaaaaay cheaper.

    I save money by buying patterns at Joann Fabrics $1.99 sales or on eBay, and a lot of my fabric is from thrift or antique stores. I alway use thrift store sheets for my toiles. I think I save a ton of money by sewing clothes myself, and I have a wardrobe I love and am proud of.

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  39. You're right Tilly. I've been explaining to people for years that sewing my clothes actually costs more than buying them from the stores usually. I always include the cost for my time as well (I figure about $25/hour, b/c that's what I make at my job - and how much I charge to sew for others).

    I hate buying clothes because I could make so much better quality /fitting clothing. Though as I've gotten older I have a harder time finding the fabric to create professional looking clothing necessary in my career.

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  40. Thanks for a thought-provoking post. I'm just learning to sew and for each project I'm going to keep a tally of how much it cost to make. I intend to reuse favourite patterns to keep the cost down and I'm looking out for fabrics on Ebay and at vintage markets. However, I think sewing IS good value for money - I enjoy the process of making as well as the (hopefully) wearable end result. Home sewn clothes may be more expensive than clothes from cheap high street stores, but they are made with more care and should last much longer than cheap, disposable fashion. Now I'm learning to sew, I see high street clothes in a totally different light and I'm less willing to spend money on items that fit badly and are poorly finished.

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  41. Interesting post! I think I probably spend more overall - sewing + shopping. I've become very picky about fit since I began sewing. So, I definitely spend less/shop less for cheap purchases (no more H&M, Forever 21 or Old Navy) - good enough is no longer good enough for me. BUT I am willing to pay more for RTW that fits me really well or RTW that fits well and I then have altered to fit really well. (I hate doing alterations myself since I have limited sewing time). I guess what I'm saying is that - now that I know quality and good fit - I only buy quality and good fit, which probably means I'm spending more for fewer garments. And as far a sewing goes, when I have a project in mind and I find the perfect fabric for it, it generally doesn't matter to me whether it is $2/yd or $15/yd, so I'm not really saving much there. ;-)

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  42. I've never spent much on clothes because my clothing tastes are not "fashionable", I dislike wearing synthetics and I'm also tall. So to get clothes I like and that fit, I either have to sew them myself or pay huge sums (which I don't have) to buy bespoke. Sewing my own therefore wins hands down. I still need to learn to sew a few things such as trousers/jeans and underwear (and find some sewing time in my schedule) but I really want to get to the point where I can make everything myself.

    I also love to find bargain fabric, reuse notions & fabric from old garments & furnishings, use old bedding for self drafting patterns and, as I use polymer clay as part of my art jewellery, I can make my own buttons in exactly the colour, size and shape that I want.

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  43. I don't know if sewing has saved me money because although I can't justify buying something expensive that I could easily make, I'm a bit of a fabric hoarder--so that money is just spent building my stash! I think in the long run though I'll have to make clothes from my stash instead of buying them. :)

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  44. Great post!
    I would say, for the most part, I probably spend more on sewing than I would on purchasing new clothing. If I only counted the materials, etc, then I would be spending less, but if I take into account the pattern, which most times is either original vintage or from an indie company, and I may not make it more than once, then I'm over my modern budget.
    *But* I am pretty cheap when it comes to modern clothing. I buy on sales or at discounts most often, if I don't thrift my wardrobe. I know I can sew a garment of better quality than the store bought counterpart so, in that sense, sewing is better because it will last longer.
    Most of the sewing I do is for costumes or vintage events and never makes it into my daily wardrobe. If I were to purchase it's counterpart ready-made I would probably spend at least twice as much.
    I did a post on my blog a few years ago about what I do to keep costs down :)
    http://wearinghistoryblog.com/2009/07/sewing-on-a-budget/

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  45. I have to add, that this is part of why I stopped doing custom sewing work. It was just impossible for me to find clients who were willing to pay the costs of sewing + an good hourly wage, especially when modern consumers are used to the very low cost of modern ready-made clothing. Plus, I just didn't like sewing for other people ;)

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    1. I have to second Lauren on this.
      I started sewing because I was tall and skinny and coudn't buy anything to fit. I continued when my girls were born so that they could wear good stuff that wasn't pink and often made stuff for friends children - they all said that I should do it as a business but I tried and it just wasn't economically viable.
      I'm still tall, very definitely not skinny and not prepared to wear black tents, so now sew for myself and enjoy it again.
      I've got a stack of free patterns from prima magazine and I can usually find one or adapt it. I tend to see fabric first and take my lead from that and love the challenge.

      Delete
    2. Yeah, I often get people asking me why I don't start selling things I make, but once I factor in my time I'd have to charge about 400 pounds and no one's going to spend that much!

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  46. How expensive your taste in clothing is can also be a factor. I've spent upwards to 300$ on a custom made (by someone else) corset, but I can now make something comparable for a fraction.

    On the other hand, I never did much garment shopping, so the amount I spend on sewing supplies isn't being offset by anything.

    I like to think of it as entertainment value too. Sewing is about the end result, but also the journey, so any money you might have spent on a different hobby could also be factored in. And if you're like me, there are the times you might go out, but spend it sewing instead, too :).

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    1. Oh, you've stated so well just what I was thinking, Sarah! Not only can I count the cost of my avocation (more than a hobby, less than an all-consuming passion) of sewing as entertainment value, but the time and money I spend on sewing prevents me from spending even more time and money on amusements that don't have a tangible, usable result at the end.

      Delete
  47. Really thoughtful post Tilly! I totally agree that sewing is not the 'cheap' option it probably used to be. But like you, it has totally changed my shopaholic ways, so overall I really do save money. Shop-bought is not completely eliminated from my life, but it has lost its appeal and I do find myself less and less inclined to buy. I save a lot of money by buying most of my fabrics from my local market, which really is excellent. Some of the fabrics are lovely quality and a fraction of the price in shops...that's my money-saving tip ;o) Oh and if you have an eye for potential, buying massive clothes from charity shops and using their fabric, or re-fashioning them is quite bargainous!

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  48. This has occurred to me in the past and I must admit that it tends to result in me sticking my fingers in my ears and saying 'Not listening, not listening!' But you have to ask yourself this: What is the value of having something truly unique and individual? and equally, what do you save in terms of quality and fit? because in my opinion this is much more important and something that you cannot achieve on the high street.

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    1. Tilly! Firstly, I'm a little freaked out that you have the same name as me. No one has the same name as me! Apart from the odd kitty, hamster or old grandma. Do you find this too? People with normal names just don't understand...

      I agree with your opinion completely. It's almost like I could have said the same myself... wait... you're not me in a parallel universe, are you? I'd better go visit your blog just to check...

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  49. Great post. I sew items that are unique and I know that I spend a lot more on the quality.. High street don't least much so I think long term I have been shopping less often because my sewn items last more

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  50. This is such an interesting topic. I've only recently started to sew for myself and there are several factors: I abhor clothes shopping (I'm convinced that I'm the wierdest shape because RTW seldom fits), I love to make things - it's really important for me to create things, to have something tangible to show for my efforts. I've made cards for years and the same thing applies, I could buy them cheaper. But it's not just the cost to consider, to make something personal and unique for the recipient is special. I've been asked to make many cards for others and you can't really charge appropriately (if you factored in time spent it would be prohibitive) so I'll make wedding stationery etc for friends as their gift, I don't charge. As far as sewing is concerned I guess I'm spending more now, not less, because I've avoided buying clothes. But it's reawakened my interest in fashion and I have a productive hobby. I could easily spend my monthly sewing budget on gym membership - I'd rather sew and walk home from work every day! :)

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  51. Such an interesting post, and one I always get asked about by non-sewing enthusiast friends! I won't lie - I have expensive taste. But this extends to cover clothing and fabric. By sewing, I can genuinly say I now spend less on clothes because I make them rather than buy them. I was never much of a shopper, in fact, I've never liked shopping for clothes. But shopping for fabric? The most enjoyable experience because if I find something I love - I know I can turn it into something that both flatters a looks good - 3 win's in one!

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  52. This post is great! And you haven't even mentioned the quality aspect yet. With a lot of stuff I make I even save money.

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  53. I stick with classic clothes. I might by the occasional tank top in the "in" color for summer, but that's about it. I look at shopping for sewing projects as helping the economy, just in a different way. I am very tall (5' 10") so finding clothes that fits me is a challenge. That's why I learned to sew. I also do home dec sewing. I like the fact that I don't have cookie cutter clothes or home accessories. I also like the challenge of learning new skills.

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  54. I get asked this ALL THE TIME at work when I come in in something I've made. It's a little frustrating, especially when, as you mentioned, the money I save from not buying pre-made clothes adds up to so much. Sure, I may never make that pretty dress that I saw in Anthropology, but because I know I can make it, I know I won't buy it (I just can't justify it most of the time).

    At the moment I'm slowly working my way through my huge thrifted fabric stash which means I'm saving a tonne and coming out with some lovely items. I may have splurged a bit yesterday, but all the fabric was 40% off, what's a girl to do?

    Jen

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  55. Some great replies here:
    >Home sewing doesn't support sweatshops
    >Clothes fit better
    >Clothes have a better finish,
    ...all very valid reasons to sew (other than the cost. For, sewing is my hobby: some people paint as a creative outlet, some people write poetry, I create clothes. The finished product is not the reason I do it, I actually enjoy the process.

    Fashion fabric x 2 metres - £20
    Lining fabric - £6
    Thread x 2 spools - £3
    Buttons x 6 - £4.50
    Binding - £2.50
    Calico for bodice toile - £3
    Belt and buckle kit - £6
    Pattern - £6
    Being complemented on your outfit and telling them you made it? PRICELESS

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    1. Bravo!!!!
      It's not the complements either.
      It's knowing that I've made something useful and beautiful. It's knowing that my clothes are the very best work I can do, at that moment. Hoping that next year, my very best work will be even better.
      It's working on something for me, which IS, indeed priceless.

      Doing a fair days work for a fair day's pay, has never been satisfying to me. No matter how "Important" the job, no matter how good I was at it. A pay cheque is nice, but someone else always reaped the benefit of my labour.

      Sewing is for me, and those I love. It's the best work I can do, from the best materials I can afford. Now that is satisfying. (except, of course, for the occasional blunder that goes directly into the dust bin.)

      Delete
  56. I guess it really depends on what your non-sewing clothing habits involve- like you, I was quite a shopaholic (with massively expensive taste!) . Since I've been sewing, I have definitely curtailed my shopping to the point where I simply don't buy new clothing anymore. I will hunt for bargains to make my sewing a little more cost friendly, but if a dress costs $50+ to make, that's still a hell of a lot less than what i had been spending on clothing previously! Not to mention the whole argument that this is my hobby, so i am entertaining myself in addition to expanding my wardrobe. I think its a pretty good payoff!

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  57. i love this post. i am extremely thrifty and would rarely buy a dress for the amount it costs me to make one ( and im still learning so i dont even end up wearing some of the ones i make), and at the fabric store i always go through a little discussion with myself about why it is worth it to spend the money on a hobby you enjoy and a pastime you love. because sewing can be difficult and can sometimes SEEM like work, i need to remind myself that i wouldnt feel bad about spending money on going to a museum for the day or paying similarly other pleasurable ways to spend my time. its worth it to develop a skill, to produce, to spend the day doing something satisfying, personally fulfilling, and special to me.

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  58. Great post! I want to read all the comments too but dont have time. Soon!

    My experience - I've cut my costs for clothing significantly, but that spending has funneled into accessories and PATTERNS. I buy most of my fabric from op shops for around $4AUD a piece, which can vary in yardage significantly. Notions are bought for a song off Etsy (vintage)..it's still cheaper to me to buy and ship bias tape from the US than it is for me to purchase it in store in Australia.

    But yes, my biggest splurge is patterns because I buy vintage ones and they can be up to $30 each (I haven't spent more than that on a single pattern - yet). These are also bought from Etsy as costs are high and supply is limited in Aus.

    I've also just recently started buying fabric new for certain projects. This drives the cost up of a garment because once again, fabric prices in Aus are high. Cotton can be cheap but silk and wool can get insanely expensive - $80+ per metre for those lovely wools.

    All in all, even if I did buy all my fabric new, I would consider it a more worthy enterprise than buying RTW ....I DO go into shops now and think "bah! I could make that myself"....and there's very few things that are made nicely these days so it's just not worth it. Not to mention our higher end chain stores like Review are selling polyester tops for $100!! Consider how strong our dollar is at the moment and you'll realise how absolutely absurd that price is. No way I would pay that when said top is just two square pieces, finished with a band at the bottom and a tie at the neck.

    Not to mention the fact that all the clothes I make are unique and no one else will have them. That is the biggest draw-card of all. Yay for sewing!!

    Oh - AND it's a useful craft...Being the nerd that I am, I think it's important to have a skill that would be useful to society when the (zombie) apocalypse comes. Everyone should learn a craft...any craft, dont you think?

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    1. Esz, the impending zombie apocalypse is DEFINITELY a good reason to sew. I really should have started the post with that point.

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  59. I have only just started sewing and yes I can see already that it can be expensive. My current and first project is an apron and I have already spent more than I would have buying. But at the end I will have an apron that is in the fabric that I really wanted not just the best they had, and that I made all by myself (well with lots of help!) So yes sewing your clothes can be much more expensive than buying them.

    But from the hobby side, I don't think it is expensive at all! I do a martial art and my training fees for 1 year at best are over $1,500! That's not including transport, tournament entry fees, travel to tournaments, equipment, gi's and because I'm broken, strapping tape for injuries... And my boyfriend does it too!

    Sewing looks pretty cheap to me, but it's all in your viewpoint..

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  60. Tilly, great post! Sewing can be as expensive or as cheap as you want it to be. That's what makes it a great hobby!

    At the moment I tend to go for good quality fabric and original prints, so it turns out to be an expensive hobby. But I know the garment will last for a long time and will fit me perfectly. At the same time my shopping spend decreased significantly. After some calculations I realized that I was spending much more on shopping then on sewing (even buying expensive fabric). No regret! I keep on sewing!

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  61. Interesting post and discussion. I admit I tend to be a snobby crafter, but I craft to stay sane and not necessarily to save money. As someone else mentioned, all hobbies can be expensive. One can spend as much or as little as you want on a craft, depending on your goals, which are different for everybody. Some people are trying to be thrifty by sewing and it works for them. Others do it mainly for the enjoyment and relaxation. For the latter, then I suppose you could also factor in the money you save by not going to the movies or seeing a show (or a therapist), but staying at home to sew instead.

    I used to buy a lot of expensive luxury yarn for knitting, but for health reasons now I can't knit that much. I started sewing clothing this year and find myself buying high quality fabric instead. Interestingly, so far I have found that sewing is a much more expensive hobby for me than knitting, not only because I had to buy all new supplies, but also because it uses the materials faster! Whereas it takes at least thirty hours to knit a sweater that cost me ninety dollars in hand-dyed yarn, I can often finish a sewn garment in under five hours using thirty (or more) dollars worth of materials. In a sense, that makes my sewing hobby cost at least six dollars per hour instead of three for knitting. Of course I have a lot more wearable clothing now, so the end results of the two are very different.

    Like others here I used to be a total shopaholic and I would spent a lot of money on clothing per month, usually nice clothing like Anthropologie and Boden on sale. Since i started sewing, the urge to shop for clothing has evaporated. The shopper's high I used to get from the "perfect" find or bargain is in large part replaced by the overwhelming satisfaction of tweaking and creating my own garment--a much more wholesome feeling and one you can't put a price on. (I'll admit I still get a shoppers high from fabric shopping, but nobody's perfect). It also takes time to shop for clothing. You can spend hours at the mall trying things on and then come out with nothing. But put those hours into sewing and even if your garment isn't perfect, you've used the creative part of your brain.

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  62. Ah this is an interesting post and something I have thought about quite abit! I suppose it depends why you sew and where you source your fabric etc from, how much it costs. Two of the reasons I sew are environmental (I'm big on re-using) and ethical (it's only my sweat that's made my clothes). I do sometimes buy new fabric if I can't find an alternative in a charity shop. If I have to do this, online is way cheaper than a department store (in my area, all the independent fabric stores have shut) and another suggestion is market stalls, there are none my way but other sewing bloggers seem to have had a bit of luck with them. I get my patterns from charity shops too or buy when they are on sale. When you get abit more experienced you can alter them yourself too, you just need to get a good basic fit. My clothes aren't desperately outrageous but I do enjoy wearing things that feel like they are really mine and I always choose them to wear more thn my shop bought gear. P.S. love your blog x

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  63. A friend of mine who has never picked up a needle and thread has always maintained that sewing is more expensive than purchasing clothing. What I pointed out to her was the total cost of clothing ownership. Due to economic/life/health events she has moved cross country and changed her field of work. She was amazed at the $$$ spent for alterations and dry cleaners over 6 months.

    For me sewing is a hobby that's much less stressfull than clothes shopping. I save money sewing because I'm too busy to go to the mall to spend $$$ there. Even a tshirt that cost $15 that shinks in the first wash so it's too small to wear out of the house is too expensive. Don't forget the pants with falling hems, loose buttons and popped seams that as sewers we fix without a second thought. It's a great time to learn to sew--basic tunic shapes, color blocking, raw edges and elastic pants. Saw a pair of elastic waist knit poly pants at the mall for $79 and I'm pretty sure my panty hose at home was made with less see through fabric. P.S The "designer" pants are only available upto size 14.

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  64. Great post! I've been thinking about this a lot recently and certainly get asked if sewing can save you money on a regular basis. I'm originally from the UK but I live in Crete and in light of the economic problems here, I'm sure you can understand why.

    I always start by explaining that sewing does save you money but perhaps not in the direct way you would think i.e. that you can make everything for cheaper than you could buy it. Sometimes it works out like that, especially as you build up a stash of trims, thread, button or remnants from other projects (this is especially true if you make clothes for children). But many times you will pay the same amount or even more to make your garment. The point is though that you'll have a better quality, longer lasting, properly fitted piece of clothing at the end of it.

    I think one of the key reasons it can save you money is that you start looking at you clothing with a different 'eye' - suddenly you realise that an easy alteration can turn an annoying top into one of your favourites. In the past you may have given a piece of clothing away and bought something new because of a minor problem (for example, loose elastic on a pair of PJs). Also, you can make alterations very easily (whether you enjoy it or not is another matter - you can if you want to!!) which in the past you may have paid for someone else to do it.

    Presents are another area that you can save money as we all know that something relatively simple and quick to make more often than not gets lots of oohh and ahhs when you say you've made it for them!

    A great point was made by one of the other commenters above - that you are funding your hobby as well as paying for the actual garment. I love that.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post, it was great to read all the comments and get involved in the discussion.

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  65. gail ann thompson8 April 2012 17:59

    Today I have on a nearly new (Purchased since the first of the year)pair of jeans, for which I paid a dear price. They have been worn, perhaps a half dozen times, and taken 2 trips to the laundry.
    THE INSEAMS PITCH FORWARD IN A MOST UNFLATTERING MANNER.
    Why should I be willing to part with my well earned dollars for this type of workmanship at any price?

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    1. gail ann thompson8 April 2012 18:09

      I'd like to add;
      I find the thought of someone (a child, perhaps) working in Unsafe, Unheathy, even life threatening conditions so we can buy cheap clothes to be appalling! I KNOW it's true and yet, I, still, bought the jeans because I could.
      SHAME, shame on me!

      Delete
  66. Awesome and timely post Tilly! Thanks a lot. I wrote a piece on the Colette Patterns blog a few years ago with some ideas on how to cut the cost of sewing:
    http://www.coletterie.com/tutorials-tips-tricks/sew-and-save

    Zoe xxx

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  67. I think I average about the same amount of money on sewing as I spent on clothes - mostly because I try to source none-too-expensive fabric on markets, and I was mostly buying H&M clothing before that. ;) But I consider time sewing well spent, as is time (and money) spent on any hobby (and most of those are usually expensive - think horseback riding, scuba diving, bicycle racing, photography...) I don't have any other expensive hobbies, so that equals out very prettily!

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  68. I have randomly figured what a few of my personal sewing projects have cost and some have cost way more (crepe sewalong for example because I splurged on voile!) than I'd normally spend at a store, but most things cost less.

    I go back and forth about my kids clothes - I LOVE sewing things for them and they LOVE having unique things, but those always cost more just because most of their purchased clothes are supplied from Grandmas or consignment sales. But I still gladly spend more to make their clothes since they are their favorites!

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  69. I began sewing (in the 1960's) to save money. Clothing was comparative expensive, then, and I never wanted that which I could afford, anyway. Now, however, clothing is stretchy and 'cheap' (if as discussed, you can overlook the human rights issues) No, I no longer belive sewing clothing is a thrifty venture.

    That said, huge savings can be had from the sewing of Under Garments and night clothes. Even if one doesn't covet the genuine silk and linen fibers. $30 for a pair of synthetic panties???? I think not!

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  70. Excellent post, Tilly! I wish I could say I save money by sewing, but I know I don't. I also used to be shopaholic and spent way too much on clothes back before I was married and had a baby... but once I started sewing and knitting I think that shopaholism just got converted to purchasing patterns, fabrics, yarns, classes, notions, tools, rulers, etc... on the months in which I have been too busy to craft, my budget and bank account look a lot healthier.

    Basically the problem is that my ambitions and inspiration far outstrip actual sewing time. So yes, if you compared the fabric/notions cost of any particular garment I made to a high-quality fair-labor RTW garment (not the sweatshop equivalent), I'd win. But if you added up all the unsewn fabric and all my tools and such... no contest.

    Anyway, I'm trying to shift my sewing and knitting approach to more of a "one project at a time" approach--only buying materials for the next thing, not for future ideas, or only sewing from the stash. We'll see how it goes!

    BUT... all that said: sewing is fun. If you have the extra money, and you love to sew, and you want to buy fancy fabric and expensive patterns, well--is that an any less valuable spend than someone spending money on a vacation, or on fancy RTW or other luxury items?

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  71. For me, sewing is more a creative outlet. Can I save money? Oh probably. I recently saw a very nice short sleeve, V-neck top at Hugo Boss Woman at the local mall. They wanted $350.00 Canadian for it!!! Excuse me? The fabric was beautiful - would love to get my hands on it, a silk/cotton blend. But still...!!!

    So, I found a pattern (one with a V neck, square neck, round neck, and with short sleeves or sleeveless), it's in the muslin stage, and once the patten is proofed, I'm making a whack of them for summer.

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  72. I think in the long run I save a bit. I've stopped wasting money on things that aren't quite right that end up at Goodwill.

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  73. When I began sewing the first project I set out to make was an Infinity Dress, I was shocked when jersey at the shop was 15$CAD/mtr (4 needed)I would never buy a new dress for 60$ and was very turned off by the whole idea of making my own clothes as it seemed extremely costly.
    I have since then found ways and set limits for myself for supply purchases, firstly, I won't ever pay more than 3$/mtr for new fabric and try my best to thrift curtains and fabric.
    Patterns are only purchased at 2$ each
    I always use overlock thread which is 3$ and only need to change it twice a year.
    When bindings, buttons, thread, zippers and elastic are on sale, or if I find them at thrift shops I try to stock up.
    All in all I don't normally spend more than 6$ to make a dress. And hey, for custom made, that's pretty good!

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  74. Material: $50
    Look and feel like a million dollar
    Total save: $999,950!

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  75. Once you become proficient at sewing of course it saves money - it just depends what you use as a benchmark. I am getting a perfectly fitting individual piece of clothing that if I went to a designer for would cost me well over £1000! Bargain!!

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  76. I thought this was a really cool post. People ask me a lot if sewing for myself is cheaper than buying clothes. I tell them that I could buy a dress for cheaper than I could make one--there are many stores in the area that sell cheap dresses for 15 dollars or less. But, I cannot buy a handmade dress from a pattern that I choose, made from fabric that I picked out, with embellishments that I added that was made to fit my body.
    Being able to sew isn't just making things from scratch, though. There's also mending and alterations, which other comments have talked about. I save money by not having to buy new shirts when I get a small hole in one. For an almost negligible amount of thread, I can save the $13 cost of a new shirt. I can take hand-me-downs from my mother and grandmother, adjust them a bit, and have a free piece of clothing.

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  77. Sourcing your fabric properly is definately the starting point for any of these projects as it can bump up the price to a ridiculous degree. I'm lucky I live in wales where market fabric stalls are alive and well, and fabric is local and cheap- english prices always horrify me. If you can't find reasonable fabric, another option is buying the £15 dresses in patterns or styles you like and then going to town on them with your own machine- with a little effort you can tailor them into exactly what you want, and use stash materials and buttons to add collars, cuffs, hems, and any other tweaks you want.

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  78. This is such an excellent topic! A lot of people I've talked with think I end up saving money when I sew or knit for myself... I think it's partially true. Since like you, I shop a lot less and don't drool over anthropologie clothes like I once did.
    I do tend to sew using nice fabrics (when I can get my hot little hands on them) and put lots of time into them that I would never be able to afford the same quality off the rack. I try to sew items more durable and higher quality than my income can afford.

    The one thing you didn't mention is the cost of time. Technically speaking time is money. Like most home sewers/crafters I love spending time creating things, but it would be interresting to see the flip side of the equation: how much would our items cost if they were to be for sale (ie time, cost of materials, etc.)

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  79. You have to also count the environmental costs of buying cheap clothing - we've all heard the horror stories. If something costs £15, of course it's cheaper to buy than make, but ask yourself, how much is the Bangladeshi or Chinese person taking home? How many hours did they work? How do their countries fare on human rights...? The same can be said for buying cotton, and sewing supplies made in these countries, which is why I thoroughly agree with your points on using upcycled fabrics - plus you can patchwork stuff, add lace, even use selvedges printed with colour tests and maker name; which looks amazingly edgy and cool. And you'll be totally unique! Now THAT'S a fashion statement.

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  80. It's true, I rarely buy RTW now - when I do go shopping, I always rub the fabric between my fingers and then have a quick look at the seams - it usually looks and feels cheap (even in the higher priced chains). It just can't compare to handmade. So like you, although I spend more than I should on sewing stuff, I feel it balances out with what I don't spend in the shops.

    And yes, reclaiming fabric from charity shops really helps! Buy BIG for maximum fabric score(I've always got an eye out for size 22 skirts and shirts).

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  81. This is really interesting. I don't know if I spend less making my own clothes than buying RTW. Possibly I do. However one thing I do know is, that most RTW clothes I can afford often don't last long and someone else will probably be wearing it. With clothes I make myself, they fit me and me only, and they are one offs - no one else will own it. To me that's a bargain, as I could never afford to have all my clothes made especially for me by a professional seamstress.

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  82. I love this post - as I'm starting out in the world of dressmaking, and have just about mastered The Straight Line (just about), I'm always keeping my eyes open for fabric bargains and have just blogged about the cushions, skirt and table cloth I made from a £10.99 Ikea duvet cover. And the money that I'm saving by not popping into Morleys on my way home for a quick Topshop fix must surely count for something...

    Thanks for all the inspiration as a newbie in the craft blogosphere!

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  83. I am just making the transition from (albeit charity shop and second hand) shopper to seamstress (although I have been knitting and crocheting for a while), and clothes shopping no longer has the same allure as before. Like you said Tilly, you just think 'I can make that'! And I feel much better ethically making my own clothes, because you know that there is no sweat shop involved.
    Your blog is so good for tips and motivation, thank you for the wealth of information!

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