Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Finding Time, Money and Space to Sew

I would like to say a big thank you to Donna for being my guest blogger today. She has the most amazing blog; so I encourage you to pay her a visit and take a look around. She posts on many homemaking-related topics. Some include copying store bought clothes, decluttering your home, homeschooling, meal planning, scheduling, spring cleaning, making time for your marriage, your kids, their family's favorite board games, frugal living, decorating, organization, quilting, candle making. She also hosts a show and tell on Fridays where she features her readers' creations, and she even has tutorials! And she keeps coming up with great new topics. She even just started a new blog on getting thin together where anyone can join and add content. It's basically a support group. You can find out more on Donna's blog Comin' Home. There is no end to Donna's energy and creativity.

And now I will allow Donna to share with you.

Hello, Everyone. I am so happy to be here! Thank you so much, Trudy, for having me on your blog today. This is such a privilege. I just love Trudy's blog. It's the next best thing to flipping through a fashion magazine! She keeps such a good eye on the current trends and is sure to keep you posted on what is 'in'. I love how she shows us just what to wear and how to put it together. She looks great in everything she models, which really inspires me, since I tend to be a little dull when it comes to clothing selections. Not only that, but she sews the most beautiful clothes..and her retro-style clothes are a work of art. If you love sewing, you will love Trudy's blog.  She has done such an awesome job. If you have come over from my blog, please have a look around. I know you will want to bookmark it so you can come back. I never miss a post.

Today I would like to talk with your about Finding Time, Money and Space to Sew.

One of the things I most feel regret about, is that so many people do not get to enjoy the pleasure and the benefits of sewing. So many things in our home can be sewn rather than purchased! Think about all of the items in your home that can or are made of fabric...bedding, throws, furniture covers, pillows, curtains, clothing, aprons, coats, purses, bags, toys, journals, gift items and much more. Think of the sense of accomplishment your children would feel if they could make all these things before they left home! They would not be left to the mercy of Wal-mart's selections or department store prices.   
Not only can sewing help you provide for the needs of your home more inexpensively, but you can add that special 'touch' that uniquely represents the  style of you or your family. This is something that you simply cannot buy in a store.
I get one of these four responses every single time I mention how wonderful it is to sew.
  • It's too expensive. They say that by the time you pay for fabric and a pattern, you could have purchased the same item several times over on clearance. 
  • They don't have time.
  • They don't have space.
  • Their sewing machine doesn't work well--the bobbin is messed up or it skips a stitch.
I used to say the same exact thing every time I saw my sister's five girls in new dresses that she had sewn herself. Or her pillow shams, curtains, tablecloths, couch pillows etc. She sewed for herself, for my children, for friends and on and on. Rather than run to the store, she ran to the sewing machine!   All I could think of was the $16.00 patterns and $6.00/yard fabric plus 1.73 for thread, 1.24 for zipper, .65 for buttons. In my mind, every dress, pair of pants, or shirt should cost a minimum of $26.00 plus tax!
If you are thinking that, then I hope this post will give you a new perspective on the art of sewing.
Can't Afford to Sew? Think again!

Clearance Fabric
--My daughter and I sew regularly...always planning ahead for the next clothing or household item needed (like holiday items or a party dress).  We do the same thing when buying cloth and patterns that many of you do when you buy clothes...we stock up while patterns are on sale and the seasonal cloth is on clearance. Every fall, winter, spring, or summer, seasonal fabric is put on sale at Hancocks, Jo-Anns, or Hobby-Lobby.  It's at exactly the same time that clothes go on sale.  We buy our fabric for $1.00 to $3.00 a yard.  A summer blouse need not cost any more than $3.00 if you have a couple of stylish patterns on hand (purchased at a $1.00 each on sale).

We stock up on fabric once every season..stuff that we like...for skirts, blouses, capris, or just because we love it! Not a whole lot but a few yards of good solid basics...summer cotton prints and twills, knits, denims, khaki, and guazy or silky stuff for nice skirts.  Then we store it in a cubby hole shelf divided by fabric type, until needed. (My sister used an old dresser for the same purpose.) And don't forget to sign up for emails or newsletters from your closest fabric stores. I save my coupons every month just in case I have a sudden fabric need. That's at least 40% off!
Fabric from Re-fashioning -- We also save old dresses, curtains, jeans, shirts, tablecloths etc. rather than throw them out, and sort them according to fabric type once we are tired of them in their current form. Later, we 're-fashion' them. Thrift stores sell fabric, clothes, and tablecloths and throws very cheap...lots of great fabric!  We save our scraps to make small gift scrunchies, yo-yo's for embellishments, quilted tote bags,fabric bows for gifts, journal covers, drawstring gift bags etc. (Appliques too!) Not to mention the time honored scrap quilt for the last bits!
Cheap or Free Patterns -- We also stocked up one summer on patterns that were stylish but simple. They covered the basics...blouses with variations, skirts, and capris or shorts, and a dress or two. We spent $14.00 total and got seven patterns each (with lots of options) and have been sewing for the last few years off of these.  If we need something specific and right away, we buy the $1.99 It's So Easy or something along those lines. You don't get as many options, but you do get a cheap pattern for what you need, when you need it.  Also, thrift stores sell patterns too at great prices I might add! And if you are really desperate, check out my post on how to make a pattern from a favorite blouse or skirt, without ripping it apart! That costs nothing but the paper you trace the piece onto!

Cheap Sewing Machine --  Craig's List to the Rescue!  Thrift stores are GREAT!  I can't tell you how cheaply I bought my super wonderful sewing machine--a Euro Pro. (It's wonderful because it is heavier duty than most machines and I sew heavy duty fabric.) It was $35.00 plus had eight additional feet..gatherer, hemming, blind stitch etc. Sewing machines are almost universally cheap on Craig's list.  And thrift stores are over run with perfectly useable sewing machines.  YOU DON"T NEED AN EXPENSIVE MACHINE! I used a basic Singer for years.  I sewed ball dresses, wedding dresses, convention booth tablecloths, furniture covers, dress pants, worship banners and quilts...using nothing but a basic, plain jane machine.  You need to be able to sew a straight stitch, and zig-zag and a button hole. You need a zipper foot. You need heavy needles for leather and denim and light needles for satin and medium size for cotton etc.  You can monogram and applique with a zig-zag stitch. Almost any machine will do what you need!
Number One FIX for a 'broken' Sewing Machine  I am not a sewing machine repair person, but I have almost NEVER found a sewing machine that I couldn't fix!  I once taught 14 girls and moms how to sew. At least six of their machines weren't working well.  What was wrong?  Simple, the bobbin thread had gotten jammed up underneath or the machine was incorrectly threaded.  Whenever I have a problem, even with my own machine..the first thing I do is RE-THREAD IT!  This is especially true if the thread is breaking or the wheel won't turn.  Often, the bobbin case get's jammed with bunched up thread. Pull the whole thing out, pull out all the loose threads inside. Re-thread the bobbin and re-thread the spool of thread on the top. Then see if it doesn't fix the problem.  Also, make sure the tension is set on 5 or the middle and that the stitch witdth is set on 3.
Then oil your machine in all the holes.  So far, only one machine out of the 18 machines of my friends that I have looked at, could not be fixed doing these things.
But Donna, I don't have TIME to sew!  Okay, if you have babies or toddlers, I'm not going to fuss at you. I do know that my sister did find time even while all five of her girls were aged baby to 11yr. old. And I'm a busy mom homeschooling two teenagers, helping a college aged daughter through her daily needs, and have been babysitting a grandchild on a weekly basis. I sew for friends at church, family, and my own needs. We do several outside activities as well. So I am very busy! I sew at night instead of watching movies!
One writer of a homemaking book once said that the biggest part of any job was the GET READY time and the PUT AWAY and CLEANUP time. That is the key to finding time to sew!  I didn't manage to find time to sew, until I made a permanent place to do it.  The best sewing table is a small two to four drawer DESK--again, from Craig's list! I paid $20.00 for my sewing 'desk'. The file cabinet is full of patterns--and that is all the patterns I need--only current trendy ones, plus patterns for curtains, other home furnishings and baby gift items or clothes.  The top left drawer is for the current sewing project ( so you can put it away when you aren't working on it.) The other two to three drawers on the left are for scissors, thread, buttons, stitch witchery, notions, interfacing, bobbins and other sewing items. Use drawer dividers!
If you use a regular desk for sewing, alll can be OUT OF SIGHT but convenient!..not too tempting to little hands or distracting, regardless of what room you put the desk in.  Make a nice fabric cover for the machine so it doesn't distract from the room. Dining rooms are the best place for sewing--because you have a table right there for working on! Bedrooms work great too, just get a 40%off coupon and go buy a cardboard cutting board that covers the whole bed for $6.00. Tuck it under the bed when you are through cutting out the pieces. Put the pieces in the drawer and it's all out of sight for the evening.  Put it in the den so you can sew while everyone else is watching a movie...they don't need the room pitch black to watch a movie.  It's bad strain on the eyes anyway. :o)                                              
Remember, though, that if you can leave part of your project out on the desk, it will help you want to keep working on it too!  If you have to get out your sewing machine and put it on the table and pull out the sewing box from the closet, and hunt for a good pair of scissors, and go buy cloth and a pattern--at full price--you will never have the time, money or space to sew!

Pick EASY PATTERNS! They take less time!!! I was such a dummy, always picking elaborate things to sew...super fancy dresses, skirts with pockets, zippers and buttons! I don't know why! One summer, though, I needed a bunch of clothes fast..for a trip to Hawaii!  I went and bought a simple skirt, capris, shorts and blouse pattern and made several variations of each. With a friend's help surging seams, we made eight clothing items in one day! The patterns were easy..that was the trick.   A skirt, shorts, blouse, or capris can easily take less than an hour to make! Try Kwik-sew or It's So Easy--you can make your own clothes in a jiffy! You can certainly make one of these items in the time it takes the family to watch a movie. :o)
Why go to all this trouble?  Because a nice dress costs at least $15.00 even on sale, fabric gifts made from scraps cost almost nothing, curtains, couch pillows cost a fortune. And store-bought clothes are often low on fabric and not worth the clearance price  you paid for them...flimsy and poorly designed.  If you will set up a permanent place that allows you to put everything out of sight without putting it out of mind, so that sewing is will find both the time and money to sew! I promise!


Comin' Home's ....
Top Ten Picks for Easy Summer Clothes

Shorts and Capris

McCalls 5117

DressesRebekah's Favorite Dress
Simplicity 4224

Mom's Favorite Dress

Simplicity 5189 6 dresses made easy

Long  and Short Flared Skirt - cottons and cotton mixes
Butterick 9 Sew Fast and Easy 5431

Tiered Skirts
Simplicity It's So Easy 4131

Eyelet  Kimono Top and Jacket

Simplicity Easy-to-Sew 3760 On my wish list to sew..

Stylish Knit Tops or for stretchy gauze material
Simplicity 6 made easy 3790

Cute Baby Doll Tops
Simplicity 6 made easy 2931

Long Slightly Flared Skirt for Crepe and Georgette fabric

Simplicity 6 made easy 7655  Long Flared Skirt, elastic waist.

Ok..and Two Not so Easy Patterns..but we loved them!!
Baby Doll Blouse...almost a dress with jacket and shorts

2939 Simplicity
Kimono TunicSimplicity 4528

 Follow this link to see Donna wearing clothing she has sewn from most of the top ten patterns shown above.


  1. Awesome article and I'm glad I checked out this blog! I have only sewn for Zoe and at one time sold baby/toddler things to sell on ebay. I do not think I have made anything for ME! I love these pattern ideas...and I have a crazy amount of fabric...hmmm....

  2. Very good article! I agree with everything. We must be kindred spirits.

  3. Great article.

    My sewing machine has a broken internal gear and it was just cheaper to buy another one for $25;)

    If you want to wait for sales Jo-anns has $0.99 pattern sales every now and then.

  4. So true! Some machines really do break, but it isn't hard to get a replacement, as you say. And aren't the sales great for patterns? When we bought all of those patterns listed above, we paid .99 cent each! That's why we stocked up...the price was right. :o)

  5. Donna you have such a wonderful spot to work! I'm cannot sew but my mom made a lot of my clothes growing up! Then she started sewing drapes for me until I learned how to specify them at a workroom (lucky her)!

  6. Love this blog!!! Thanks Trudy & Donna!:)I am sewing on my mother's Kenmore 1967/68?sewing machine. She sewed clothes for us and now I am sewing clothes for my DD and myyself. Most of my material is Clothing I've picked up at yard sales or has been given to us. I have found great pieces of material & patterns at yard sales, as well or I(try to) make my own. Best of course, is WINNING them:) My big problem is my own machine. It's a Singer Merritt I received for my 16th birthday. It takes the cams for the diff. stitches(incl.zigzag)Somewhere along the line they have been"misplaced".:( And then I tried to take it apart, yesss, not the smartest move on my part!

  7. My sympathies Denise about the sewing machine. If it's giving you trouble, I'd try to get a replacement machine off of Craig's list. There's nothing more discouraging that not being able to do what you need to on a machine.

    Marie, I'm so glad you like my sewing room! I'm sure it was supposed to be for something else, but it works great for our purposes. :o)

    I've sewn some drapes, and lots of convention booth stuff. It can be pretty challenging. How special that your Mom participated in your decorating work! I'm doing the opposite..sewing covers for my mother's furniture. I've done drapes for her too.

  8. Great post!!! Thanks Trudy and Donna!

  9. Great post with lots of interesting and very useful ideas in. Thanks to both Trudy and Donna.

  10. Fab post, thankyou to Trudy and Donna! Trudy, I haven't forgotten I promised to be a guest blogger too; I'm getting around to it... Donna will be a hard act to follow for the next person!!
    Trudy, I loved the photos of you and your family below. You all looked so happy! And is that your adorable toddler in the background of the last photo?

  11. What a great post! I found you through your comment over at Handmade by Carolyn. I am adding you to my list of blogs to follow!

  12. If you want make run the mill stuff then sure I guess you can make em faster, but if you want sew things that stand out, that copy the stuff at medium to high end clothing dept stores and boutiques, not target or walmart, then you are going to need A LOT more time. If you want sew vintage patterns you need oodles of time, esp just to hunt for them online and you might get addicted like me and spend like all your time checking ebay and other sites for cool vintage patterns. Also I can spend hours on patternreview looking for people that share my sense of taste and then seeing what they've sewn and then copying down the pattern #s of what I liked. So even that is a lot of work, then I have to see if the store even has it to try buy it on sale there. Picking out fabric can take me hours too, I'm specifically looking for retro styles so I do search online for hours. I'm very particular. I want make a Chanel style suit eventually, lined and all, so how I'm gonna do that nicely and expect pay $3 a yd or less for fabric? Got be kidding me. You're looking at $15 maybe on sale for something nice. If you want make a silk blouse, you ain't gonna pay $3 a yd. If you want people to ooh and ahh over your clothes, you're gonna have to splurge sometimes. If you're only goal is not to go naked then maybe you can just buy the cheap stuff. I personally am not learning to sew just to make cheap clothes.


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