Can you save money sewing? Part 2: Apples, oranges, and cushions

Well, if you can contain your excitement, I have even MORE to say about the costs of sewing your own clothes, whether you can save money doing it, and why we should even bother in the first place (except for the opportunity to write long, pointless blog posts about it).

Okay, so in my last post, I tried to examine whether in terms of cold hard cash, sewing is a money-saving activity. And in the most basic economic terms, it’s not. As Lizzy said in the comments, if you want to save money, don’t sew yourself a cushion, just… don’t have a new cushion. The same with sewing – it would be much cheaper to clothe yourself entirely from Primark/charity shops/hand-me-downs.

If you want to save money, don't buy this cushion from Liberty. Even though it's lovely.

But what fun would that be? If you like clothes, as you surely must do to enjoy sewing them, it sounds like a kind of polyester purgatory.

What I left out of my first post, as Nicole commented, was the issue of:

Quality vs Quantity

There’s no point comparing apples to oranges, and I doing that when I said that you can buy clothes for cheaper than you can make them. Of course it’s true in most cases, but it’s also a bit of a fudge. Say you do buy that 20 pound suit from Asda – it won’t fit properly, it will be badly made from cheap materials, and it will probably give you static shocks whenever you sit down.

The blog Kitchen Counter Economics put this better than I can, but if you sew, you can add quality and longevity into garments, making clothes you will never find in a shop. Even super-posh and expensive wool coats from somewhere like Hobbs will have a cheap man-made lining which will shred in a couple of years. Manufacturers are always going to cut corners somewhere, mostly on the bits you can’t see but that contribute to the long life of the garment.

I've just put this coat in because I love it and wish it was mine

Sewing teaches you what well-made clothing actually looks like, which is pretty important in a society where quality and price are thought to be exactly the same thing (news flash – they are not)

Home-sewing enables you to prioritise quality over quantity.

And, when you sew your own clothes, you’re not paying for somebody else’s marketing budget.

Of course, it’s hard to sew well-made clothes. I hardly ever do (i’m a chronic corner-cutter myself). And in some cases, its impossible to achieve the same finish as professional manufacturers, because they have resources that are beyond the reach of the home-sewer.

But I think we need to be cool with this, to find our own path, not to obsess about neat machine-made finishes at the one extreme, or deeply tedious couture perfection on the other.

Hope that made sense.


4 thoughts on “Can you save money sewing? Part 2: Apples, oranges, and cushions

  1. Sharron January 30, 2012 / 7:51 AM

    One thing I don’t think you’ve mentioned that influenced me to start sewing again is the feeling of opting out from the rat race of being dictated to by mainstream shops as to what I can wear at any given time. I like choosing the print or colour or design of a garment,I like knowing it’s highly unlikely I will bump into anyone wearing the same thing as me and I like being apart from the manmade retail cycle of new season, sale, new season. (Where does all that cheap crappy clothing go to that no one has bought at the end of the season?)
    Great topic you raised here !

  2. gingermakes January 29, 2012 / 7:37 PM

    You know, I agree that making something isn’t always cheaper than buying it (and certainly isn’t as cheap as non-sewers seem to think it is!), but I’ve had some pretty good luck making things for much less than they would have retailed for. I don’t have good thrift stores where I live, so I buy fabric new, but I was able to make bridesmaid dresses this fall for about $20 each. And I taught myself how to knit because so many friends were having babies, and I could make a special, handmade, pure-wool gift for less than $10 in about a day! Yeah, the start-up costs can be high and the learning curve can be steep, but once you’re underweight, you can make nice things without breaking the bank (you just can’t make full-skirted dresses out of silk or cashmere!).

  3. lizzylikescake January 29, 2012 / 4:58 PM

    That is a very nice cushion though……I love everything from Liberty……. I wish I could live in their shop…..

    All very good points. An entire wardrobe from Primark is a very depressing concept. Even if you exclude the children (probably) making them for about a 10p a week – all that polyester would be very sweaty and static.

    Another thing I love about making stuff is that it’s totally unique to you. Even if it’s a popular pattern like a Sorbetto or an Audrey (if you’re knitting) yours will be the only one in that colour or fabric or with the fit just the way you like it. 🙂

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