Saving the planet... one garment at a time!

... and one upcycle at a time... Welcome to my blog: A place to have an "over the fence conversation" about sewing, altered couture, upcycling, and all kinds of crafts using found objects, beads, ephemera and other vintage finds!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Economics of Sewing - Part 1

Making your own clothing is a money saving activity, right? Well, it certainly can be, but it can also be relatively pricey - fabric from big box fabric stores, notions, trimmings, etc. It can all get pretty expensive. So, how does the home sewist keep costs in line?

Let's start with patterns. Full price patterns are prohibitively expensive if you're on a tight budget. With prices ranging from $5 to $25 (or so), for brand new patterns, and vintage patterns sometimes going for over $100 ($100 for crumpled tissue paper, you say!), patterns can be a very big investment. Check this article on New VintageLady if you doubt me! Now I absolutely love patterns, and I admit to having quite a stash, but I am very choosy about patterns for which I am willing to pay full price. For a full price pattern to be worth it, it must be a wardrobe staple which can be made many times in many different ways, or it must be for a very special occasion. Otherwise, I seek patterns from the following sources:

1) Pattern Sales. Big box fabric stores and pattern websites alike run periodic pattern sales which drastically lower the cost of the pattern from full price to a deeply discounted price. Even specialty shops which concentrate on certain types of patterns, such as vintage patterns, have occasional sales, so keep your eyes peeled.

2) BurdaStyle. This website is a treasure trove of patterns, many of which have been featured in the German periodical, Burda Style Magazine. The typical price point for these patterns is $5.50 USD. Readers of the site can also upload patterns to the site, and many of these are offered to fellow readers for free.

3) Online Searches of Independent Pattern Companies. Recently, I posted a series as I sewed the Colette Sorbetto, one of two free sewing patterns offered on the Colette Patterns blog. Other small pattern companies also give away free patterns as a demonstration of the quality of their wares in hopes that if you like their work, you will return and make a purchase. In my experience, if I like the fit and and I find the instructions easy to follow, I do become a loyal customer when my finances allow, because I know a bit about what I am getting.

4) Magazine and Books Inserts. Okay, the patterns are not free, because you are paying for the book or the magazine, but the value added content of the book or magazine often make the pattern(s) worth it. I already mentioned Burda Style Magazine, but other sewing magazines often have free patterns included. Two I can think of off the top of my head are Threads and Sew News. Also, two recent sewing best sellers (reviewed in earlier posts on this site) each included five patterns. These were the Burda-Style Handbook and the Colette Sewing Handbook. Again, these are merely examples of the many fine sewing books which include patterns.

5) eBay and Etsy. eBay, Etsy, and many other online marketplaces are full of sewing patterns at varying prices. When I shop these sites, it is usually when looking for something specific. I search for what I am looking for, and I set a very firm limit with myself on what I am willing to pay.

6) Estate Sales, Yard Sales and Thrift Shops. Spring is coming, and with it comes the yard sale season! Whenever I am out and about at yard and estate sales, or even at the thrift shop, I stay alert for sewing patterns. Often these can be purchased at one low price for a whole box full of patterns.  Be warned, however, that sometimes these patterns are not in mint condition.  The pattern may not have been placed neatly back in the envelope, or it may be missing a piece or two.  Also, if you do not like sewing vintage, the styles may seem a little dated.

I hope these tips have been helpful. If you know of other places to get free or low cost sewing patterns, please comment and let me know. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this article, In which I will focus on fabrics and notions.


  1. I totally agree with all of the tips you've listed. I would add Craigslist (if it's available in your area!) as a good place to be on the lookout for sewing patterns, and just sewing supplies in general. I've had some great success there!

  2. I totally forgot Craig! You're so right. Freecycle, too, now that my brain is working!