Sewing Vloggers

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Inflationary Sewing

Inflation,  Yikes  !!!

Just finished a pile of mending. 

Why sew economically? Well, the inflation we are now living with is forcing many to seriously reconsider their budgets. That includes entire household budgets, not just sewing budgets. We go along sewing our merry way and whoa, pandemics hit, inflation soars, and here we are craving fabric and patterns. This month last year our electric bill was 110.00 for the month. This year, with a 10% decrease in usage for the same time period, our bill is 240.00 for the same month. Then there is food, gas, etc, etc. etc. You all know what is going on and have seen it in fabric prices and it is a real balance for many. It is also a big surprise to those just starting out sewing or those returning after a decade or two away from our our art. Most of us need to hone our skill at sewing more economically. Hopefully this post will help a bit. I also hope others will share their tips and tricks.

Another way to look at it, and one that has a bit of a more positive spin, is that sewing economically can actually give you more money for fabric. It's the ole "what I save here, I can spend there" story. Often I see fabrics, patterns, paints, etc that I just have to have right away to make the latest perfect creation. I really don't need them. I want them. I've learned that if I really am mindful over my sewing budget I can spend in a fashion that I have come to prefer but did not always do. I am finding in my dotage an appreciation for finer quality fabrics to employ the skills I've honed over decades. Will I bow to  a bargain? Sure, if its a true steal and I really will use it and fairly soon. Now though, I hold back on a lot of "wants" in my sewing universe.  I  then  enjoy  buying that occasional  expensive higher quality fabric, notion or paint and not just hoarding bargains that are just nice to haves.  I don't hoard any more. I don't build up a big stash intentionally either.  I do make an effort to buy wisely when I can and  not wantonly like I have at times. 

I will tell you something I shared once at a lunch with a group of creative friends. I have done some of my best work over the years when I was stuck for resources. It forced me to think out of the box and work with what I had on hand. In those situations, I managed to make some of my best bags, garments, gifts, etc. This creative group all piped in at once with the same words, expressing the same experience, all proof that we don't necessarily need the latest and greatest to make something lovely.  Sometimes all we have is that drab olive twill to make a dress for an important occasion. Ugh. But what about that great red print quilting cotton scrap? I can  pipe the olive green twill  with that vivid red print, a complimentary color and all, and it will be spectacular! That sort of thinking! We need to look clearly at our buying habits and really see what might work with what we have on hand.  It may become one of your epic makes! Sewing wisely and economically can bring about great results. 

But sewists like to shop, like to be prepared when they sew and like  not to have to leave the nest to go buy a notion or thread. Well, let's shop and fight Mother Inflation!
Here are some ways I max out my sewing dollars.

Just some of the many zippers I got for one dollar. I use them all the time. 

Notions: First, there are the coupon sales at the big box stores, Michaels, Joanns and Hobby Lobby. I implore you to never buy there without a coupon. Get the phone app and use it when checking out. Often there are further discounts on the app. My biggest scores have been at yard sales, estate sales and thrift shops. I scored a bag of a couple hundred zippers, over half brand new and still in their packaging, for a dollar, for just one example. I washed them and my grandaughter organized them all for me and I use that stash over and over all the time. 

More yard sale zips!

Savers, a big box thrift store,  has organized bags of sewing tools, trims and bric a brac for low low money. I've been known to buy a cheap garment with fabulous buttons for the buttons. You can save serious money on notions. Learn how to size a zipper and you can take your zip stash and cut it down to whatever you need.  At yard sales, look in boxes underneath piles of ugly fabric, lots of great surprises there. Haggle. Watch Facebook Marketplace. Craig's List, beware. Some have luck. There are also Free Cycle networks in most towns that are worth joining online. Items are free there. I have often seen fabric legacies and sewing machines given away on Free Cycle. 

Patterns: Big Four are on sale frequently on the Something Delightful website online. Get on their email list for notification. Check your phone apps for the Big Box stores and their pattern sales. Keep a list in your wallet of the patterns you want. NEVER pay anything over a few dollars for any Big Four pattern. Wait until its on sale to buy. JUST WAIT. 5.99 for Vogue or 22.99 30% off? No brainer if you wait!  Indie patterns run sales as well, often with new introductions. Listen to podcasts and vlogs for notifications of those or sign up for email and newsletters. My favorite way to get notification of any type of pattern sale is to go to Pattern and  into their forums. There is a forum there for "Patterns and Notions." Go into that and you will find what is on sale currently and in the future, easy to read and find.  Never pay full price for any pattern. Wait until it is discounted,always. Thrift shops can also be a great resource for patterns. I've found some great Vogue Designers and Issey Miyake patterns in thrift shops. These are often still in factory folds as they seemed to be more aspirational purchases.

These are my only woolens, although there are several Pendletons in here.  I don't have much fabric stash. 

Fabric: Don't completely diss the Big Boxes. Once in a blue moon, if you hunt and do your homework, you can find some really great fabric. You do have to sift thru a lot of fleece first, LOL! Kidding aside, the Sewing Workshop sells a Ponte knit for pants that I have read many rave about. It is 65% rayon/30% nylon/5% spandex.  I have been planning all summer to get some for pants for this winter and watching for a sale. It is 34.00 a yard. Two weeks ago, at JAs,  I was digging in the  black knits looking for  anything that would make a nice winter knit pant, pretty much all yuck then there it was!  Ponte, 65% rayon, 30% nylon and 5% spandex. It had a guaranteed not to pill tag and also said "great recovery". It was 24.00 a yard. It was gorgeous. I had a 50% coupon on my app and paid 12 and change a yard for it. Beautiful rayon ponte!  Same fiber content as Sewing Workshop. I'll grant you, there is a lot of flotsam and jetsam you have to swim thru when it comes to fabric in the big box retailers but if you know your fibers and search hard, you can occasionally find a gem.  This fabric, is simply called "knit solid" like all their knits. You have to look at the details and fiber content. 

Get on the mailing lists of vendors of quality fabrics for notification of sales. These are companies like Emmaonesock, Sewing Workshop, Sawyer Brook, and many more. Watch their catalogues regularly. Don't buy. Pick out that one fabric you will definitely make as soon as you get it . Watch your newsletter notifications. When the sale hits your dream fabric, BUY.  Learn to wait and let the fabric and the sale combine and come to you but always be watchful and ready with newsletters, emails and apps so you don't miss. But don't give in to every sale. Don't hoard. Stick to that one great fabric that you would normally not spend on and that you have a specific plan for, like your cousins wedding next March.  You've been saving money everywhere else by being a conscientious  sewing shopper. Wait and then strike, one piece at a time, one project at a time. Get yourself some dream fabric. You've held out for it!!!

Some real, some faux. Reals were given by a women who got her furs restyled. Somehow she heard I sewed and found me. I'll make hats eventually. 

My most enjoyable resource for fabric is the Thrift Store. There are two kinds out there. There are the big box stores like Good Will, Salvation Army and Savers. Then there are my favorites, the small , often church or temple affiliated thrift shops tucked in small towns. These you find out about by word of mouth so ask around. They often have FaceBook pages and follow them there as that is where they post special bargain days and clearouts . One of my favorites will randomly advertise every couple of months " everything in the store 50% off". Their wares are dirt cheap already. Another small church thrift that I love has Bag Fridays with all you can fit in a brown paper bag for a dollar! Search out and get to know these small thrifts and the women who volunteer there. I got to know the lovely women at my favorite thrift in NY and they got to know my style and what I bought. They started saving things ahead for me, unsolicited, and would bring them out from under the counter when I walked in. Got some great deals that way. 

As far as the big box thrifts, good luck. I don't know this factually but I suspect they are presorted before hitting the floor and not all donations hit the floor. Our GW NEVER has one thread of pure wool on the floor and it is a big store. Never! I live in a cold state, too.   No sweaters or jackets or suits or coats. I find them elsewhere but not at GW. I also find the big thrifts today are donated versions of Wal Mart for the most part. It is very rare I find anything at the big thrifts. 

How to shop the thrifts: So many ways to save money here.

* Silk charmeuse blouses are easy to find and in great shape. You will find these 80s leftovers in perfect condition as no one wanted to pay the dry cleaning bills or hand wash and they then just got relegated to the back of the closet until death did them part. I take them home, wash them and cut at the seams and press the pieces. They go into my lingerie stash to make silk undies and are also used for collaging, color blocking and scarves.

* Look for garments with yardage. This can be gathered full skirted dresses, maxi knit dresses with no waistlines. The more unsewn fabric the better. I go straight to the large sizes which some find objectionable but here is my philosophy. I will pull out of the big thrifts maybe 2 garments per year. I am shopping in a store that has next to nothing in a size four so my shopping for my size is just as difficult for me as it is for a larger sized woman. If I buy one or two garments per year and maybe one is in a large size I doubt I am effecting the inventory available to plus sized women. Where is the inventory for tiny sized women? So I shop for what I need to make clothing to fit my smaller body and everyone else in the store can shop all they want for their size body. It is what it is. My last purchase at GW was months ago and a size 10 with a very very full skirt of a beautiful border print. I have purchased no plus sized garments in the past two years. I do look however. 

Just a small amount of bag hardward harvested from old pocketbooks on dollar day. 

* If you make bags, the thrifts are your friend. Watch for those discount days, particularly the fill a bag days. I would fill my bags with old pocketbooks with still great hardware, go home, remove the hardware, wash and polish it up and use it in my bagmaking. You will save a fortune here and there is some very clever hardware out there you won't find retail. 

Don't belittle simple word of mouth. I have much in my resources that was handed to me by someone who simply asked " Would you be interested in.......I heard you sew a lot."  This is often followed by "These were my mom's, or wife's or fill in the blank."  I have some amazing resources recieved that way. It is always just kind to say yes, as your giver will feel good that you, a sewist, will appreciate their loved one's stash.  Take what you want and move along the rest for others to enjoy. Ask yourself, "Will I really sew this?" before putting it on your shelves. Always be gracious to those who offer and their good intentions.  Move along what you can't use to those who can and are dealing with inflation trauma as well. 

What to do once you get your stash home:

Moths are not the only enemy of fabric and other items. Disgusting critters like scabbies, lice, etc, can all come in these lots of stuff in the back room. You couldn't pay me to work there and God bless those who do. Many put their items in the freezer. I do after washing but there is more to it than just that.  A fairly recent Threads article recommended  freeze/heat combo for 2 or 3 rotations to really kill the critters. I will first wash and dry the garment, then do the freeze for 3 hours/hot dryer for 20 minutes routine. No critters yet! 

For my bag hardware I soaked them in a sink of Dawn for an hour or so, then scrubbed with a very soft brush. Some of that hardware is filthy. I then polished with Brasso and buffed with a dry cloth. Like new!!! I store them separately with silver and black hardware in one tote, gold and other in another. I keep them in small ziplocs so they won't scratch each other. 

Zippers get soaked in a sink of Dawn and dried flat in the sun. They are removed from their packages. The washing removes any waves that will and can ruin a garment once installed. 

Trims and laces get soaked in a bucket of Biz for 24 hours, rinsed till the water is clear and dried in the sun. Flat on the grass drying is good. They are then ironed. Never store textiles with starch or any kind of spray on them. Critters consider it an invitation to lunch.  Years back I watched a Martha Stewart program on storing antique clothing. Queen Martha and her expert said that storing in "frosty" totes was fine but using the perfectly clear, highly seductive type of crystal clear tote is bad, bad, bad for storage of textiles as they continue to emit nasty gases forever. Really fine textiles should be wrapped in archival tissue which you can get on Amazon.  Label your totes and/or keep a journal or spreadsheet program to track your goodies. 

Notions like machine feet, scissors, etc get dirty too. Clean them with alcohol, cotton balls and soft brushes. I couldn't believe how much yuk was on one of my machine feet last week and I cleaned it. I used alcohol and a soft toothbrush. Made me smile. Rotary cutters should be taken apart and cleaned with alcohol as well as scissors that let you. It will extend the life of their sharpness. 

Prices for the ingredients needed to fuel our passion are ever increasing right now. There is every excuse in the book, from the lack of computer chips to the lack of fuel as Exxon marks the biggest profit quarter in its history.  #$!&**$#  them and all the hogwash being fed to us.  Hope the info here will help those who are starting out and those returning and discovering that sewing does not save wardrobe money as it did at one time, but that you can save money sewing. It is a costly hobby, like golf and coin collecting but Sewists will always sew.  Creators will create.  We always have and always will. Creativity always finds a way................Bunny...see note

*Note: This post was inspired not just by this burst of inflation we are all being hit with. I watched a Vlog last week by a popular vlogger about "economic sewing." She proceeded in the first video, quite lengthy, to extoll all she bought on sale from vendors  who had sales over the previous year, most of whom she shills for. She pushed her affiliates. She  never mentioned anything that would really save you money sewing in the now that didn't require you to go online and just buy more. No mention of working from stash, etc, etc. The next economic vlog was about being organized and she somehow spun that into saving money. I am all about being organized and all about being economical but did not quite see the conflation. So maybe my last suggestion on sewing economically is to beware of on line vloggers and bloggers who are using our current state of inflation to get you to buy, buy, buy. I question the depth of their own pocketbooks, the history of their own budgetary lives, and the motivation to get you to honestly make the most of your sewing dollars. 

Also, some of us are blessed with major stashes. You've worked hard for them and they comfort you. I get that some need this type of comfort. You know I have my own issues and sewing has been my lifelong comfort. So let's be kind to those who feel the need of that stash like a big Charlie Brown blanket.  Lets also not forget about those who may be straddling this time in our crazy, post pandemic history with a thinner wallet, one where decisions between rent and food are taking away dollars for fabric. Donate, share and help them along. Kindness in sewing is so very wonderful and truly joyful to share. Ask around and see who you may help, teach, and maybe start out on this wonderful craft. Please share any ideas you may have to help others and/or to save money during our current state of risings costs. Thank you..................Bunny


  1. As always, you make excellent points. I think I watched part of the video series you mentioned…couldn’t finish it. I have been in pattern hacking mode for s few years now, having watched a lot of Silhouette Patterns postings about getting more mileage from her patterns, and extended that to other lines. I don’t think I’ve bought a new pattern in four or five years. I need to consider adding a few thrift stores to my errands day…I haven’t found interesting things on most of my GW trips… at least where we live now those prices are less than retail -in NJ you could forget-about-it. Thanks for the thought provoking post.

    1. I find I am relying on a few tried and true patterns as well. I go back to them over and over and find I can change them up how I want to. The fit has been worked out. So many new patterns just seem like takes on the same basic rectangle. Thanks for your input.

  2. I recently found quilting cotton branded with THE college football team in my state on clearance for $3 yard. I made it into his and hers aprons which I sold for $50 for the pair. Now I have "free" money to spend on fabric I want. Hint: It won't have bulldogs on it!

  3. I am thankful for this article. You had so many great suggestions. I cannot afford the budget some have for sewing supplies and fabric so really appreciate this.

    1. I am so glad to help. The internet has a way of making many of us sewists think other sewists are all beautiful with incredible wardrobes and sewing skills, that they show off sewing rooms that look like they belong in Architectural Digest and that they unlimited income and space to buy fabric. It is a fallacy, people. I am sorry, Anon, that you have to witness that. I hope you don't get that here. As shown, that meager shelf with its smaller pieces is all I have of wools, much needed in my climate. Most of that was not purchased in any kind of store. The first picture you see of my machine is exactly how my table was before I wrote this post--- a Vintage Kenmore I bought decades ago, a thirty year old Pfaff that I love and has all that I need and a tble from Lowes. I really sew here. I think I turn out some pretty nice stuff, too. I won't make Architectural Digest but it works with all its bargain surroundings. I am so glad I was able to help you a bit. Sew on, dear friend.


  4. This was such a great essay. I have found my best bargains at garage sales, and thrift stores. My most fun find was green 1/4 inch gingham, about 3 1/2 yards; it is not cotton, but nylon. I did a burn test. I made a long sleeve blouse and a summer tee with careful cutting. Both patterns are ones that I've had for more than 15 years. They sewed easily, and do not need ironing. ( Which means one or the other goes on vacation with me). I spent $7.00. The next week I went back and bought the same fabric in dark blue. 2 more blouses. I find that doing a burn test on garage sale and thrift store purchases is invaluable.
    The green blouse has been in use for Christmas and St Patrick day parties. Some people would say that is way too much gingham, but I don't wear them every week. When I do wear one of them my spirits are immediately lifted.
    I've also found corderoy at thrift stores, which has been hard to find at retail stores.
    Carol in Boulder

    1. Interesting. I've found some great corduroy at thrifts as well. Go figure. Love your story. For our newer sewists, burn tests are wonderful for identifying fiber content and therefore future care instructions and fiber content. Just google fabric burn test. Thanks, Anon.

  5. I'm so glad you wrote this. A friend of mine asked if it would be financially feasible for her to sew for her family. I told her if she didn't mind buying nearly everything from garage sales and second hand shops and end-of-season sales, then no, it wasn't worth it. Getting a used sewing machine and having it around for mending though... that is worth it. (for practically everybody)
    One of my favourite blogs is HandmadeByCarolyn, and sometimes she patches together odds and ends and looks amazing doing it! I realize she is financially more than fine (the travelling is a bit of a giveaway) but even so, there is no shame in making do and mending... and I love the way she does just that.
    Great post, thanks!

    1. Thanks for sharing an honest assesment with your friend. Vintage Kenmores can often be found on FB Marketplace for low low money and are real workhorses. You would have to pry mine from my curled up dying hands with horrid tools of torture. Great machines that never give up.

  6. Oh my gosh, this is all so true and you wrote some good advice for these inflationary times. I have said that if I were to start out sewing now, I couldn't afford it. There was once upon a time, when I scored some bargains that are unimaginable in these economic times. They are part of my stash. Sadly, they were found when several fabric stores in the area closed down and shortly after the remaining fabric stores started raising their price pre-pandemic and inflation. Shopping Big Four pattern sales online are not a bargain anymore when shipping costs are added, inflation hit shipping as well. Thank goodness for a stash and scraps. One of my favourite makes is a pair of pajama bottoms I patchworked pieces of left-over fabrics.

    1. Would have loved to have seen those jammies! One of my most memorable, not my greatest for sure, but memorable, was a tailored blazer I made when I first began working at the garment factory. We were the largest manufacturer of men's clothing in the world! We made beautiful men's suits that sold everywhere and turned out thousands each week. I noticed piles of wool cut scraps on the floor of the cutting floor and knew that they were sold and sent to a processor but asked if I could take a bag full home. Gladly! I then showed up at work one day in my patchwork wool tailored blazer to all these guys who made suits. It was a big hit and they thought my construction was pretty grand. I didn't wear it often but it was fun when I did as they recognized the "piece goods."

      I agree, patterns can be costly, particularly indies. I don't know how people buy them by the tons.

  7. My local Goodwill pulls many wool items to sell on Ebay. They can get much more for it that way. Susan (SeattleSews)

    1. Thanks for solving that mystery, Anon. I thought it was my imagination.

  8. I love this post SO MUCH! Thanks for tips on cleaning old trims and zippers. There is a crafter's re-sale store near me that has two file cabinets full of patterns and TONS of notions. Fabric is a mixed bag, but I always look! Thanks again!

  9. Such a timely and appropriate post, particularly for those of us determined to sew up the stash. In addition to my purchased fabric, I have been gifted and inherited lots of notions and fabric. I will admit to recent quilting fabric purchases but that is another passion. I've not been fortunate with the thrifting bug and have donated quite a bit over the last few years. Our local Salvation Army has a sale, once a year, for nothing but fabrics, notions, arts and crafts as well as books and magazines that pertain to the same. I actually watched the same video you mentioned and still did not get to the punch line. I have followed recently and find little information that I can use. Teaching, which you do so well, involves information much like what you provided here as well as your process when making and sewing such beautiful items. Thanks again!

    1. Thanks for the validation. I kept waiting for the punchline as well. Legacies do have a way of finding us and it can be wonderful. I inherited my great aunt's horde of liturgical laces, altar cloths, etc., beautiful treasures. There was a bit of bric a brac to wade thru as well. She threw out nothing in her lifelong spinsterhood.

  10. Thank you so much for this inspiring essay with SO MANY GOOD TIPS for cleaning and storage. I live in the tropics and since moving here two years ago I have experienced the "critter" issues so thank you for that! I'm so glad that I have a huge stash as shipping costs are prohibitive for me. Whenever I know I have guests coming, I order supplies online to be shipped to my guests' home address so they can "pack and tote" for me. There are no apparel fabric shops in this island, only a few quilting cotton shops. Fortunately there are a number of thrift stores and many many estate sales (retirees expiring) with great clothing that can be ripped apart and up cycled. Thank you Bunny for ALL you contribute to our online sewing community!

    1. Thank you and you are so sweet. Sounds like you have some awesome resources. I have no solutions for lizards!

  11. Thank you for this outstanding post. Great information and tips. I appreciate it.


Engaging commentary:

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