Is Sewing Frugal?

Recently, an avid homesteading mommy asked me if I thought she could really save money by learning to sew. She was considering purchasing a sewing machine, but was hesitant to lay down the bundle a decent sewing machine costs. My answer to her? "It depends."

I believe basic sewing skills are something every homemaker should strive to have. That's because you really can save a bundle if you learn to repair your family's clothes and do your own alterations. Alterations are often relatively inexpensive to hire out, but if you have a child who, for example, always needs his pants shortened, it makes much more sense to do this quick and easy job yourself. In the long run, you'll save a lot of money.

And while clothing repair is often completely ignored or left to the dry cleaner, you can save a great deal of money doing it yourself. I'm not suggesting you put patches on your family's clothes (although, if you're creative about it, patches can make some clothes all the cuter). But you certainly can repair sagging hems, ripped seams, and broken fasteners.

But what people often mean when they ask whether sewing is frugal is whether sewing their family's clothes from scratch will save them money. Often, the answer is no. Unless you only purchase fabric and patterns at deep discounts, you're unlikely to save money making everyday clothes for your family. On the other hand, if you shop wisely, you can probably save money on things like prom dresses and Carhartt-style work pants.

What about home furnishings? Unless you're used to buying very high end things, you won't save money making your own curtains and such. You can't even save money making your own quilts unless you save scraps of fabric from other projects and purchase batting and backing fabric at a good sale.

But saving money isn't the only reason to sew. Not only is sewing a fun creative pursuit, but sometimes just being able to sew the exact curtains you want makes spending the time to sew them worthwhile. Being able to make modest clothing that suits your personality - or your children's - is also a great reason to sew. And sometimes being able to sew your own means you can afford much higher quality, too.

What do you think? How do you save money doing your own sewing?



  1. I have the capability to sew, but don't do it very frequently. I have a nice machine--a Brother with a lot of bells and whistles--but the daily demands of life plus my own waning interest in crafts in general means I don't get my machine out but maybe once or twice a year.

    I do intend to teach my daughter to sew--maybe even my son--especially since my mother failed to teach me, leaving it up to a wonderful lady in my local 4-H group, who also taught me to crochet and maybe knit (I may have taught myself knitting. I can't remember.)

    I know I don't save any money when I get my sewing machine out. But, there is pride in being able to say "I made that dress, blanket, etc." No one else will have one just like it since I picked out the fabric, trim, maybe even modified the pattern to fit just-so.

    One thing I do like about knowing how to sew is the fact I'm very long-waisted, so I'm more inclined to sew shirts for myself because I can lengthen them. So many of the store bought shirts just aren't long enough for me, so I can easily add two or three inches to a pattern rather than have a shirt that hits right at my belt (and shows my tummy and oh-so-lovely stretch marks if I raise my arms even a little.)

  2. I enjoy sewing so very much. Frugal? Oh,yes. I look for bags of fabric everytime I go thrifting and usually find good size bags filled with fabric. The many remnants are usually large enough for skirts for me, jumpers or dresses for small grandchildren, or to use later in sewing small gifts, tote bags, etc. at a price of $2.50 per bag. Yard sales can sometimes be a great place to find fabric. I've been wanting to make a slipcover for one of my upholstered rockers. A couple of weeks ago I found 7 yards of "shabby chic" fabric by Laura Ashley. Originally, it priced at $25 a yard. I bought it all for $5 ~ a savings of $175!!! has had a certain line of patterns on sale recently for $3, less than a third of what patterns usually cost. Also, I wear long skirts all of the time and they are getting more difficult to find ready made in the store. Frugal? Oh, yes!!! God bless!

  3. Anonymous, if you can find fabric at yard sales, you're right - it's usually a steal! I have trouble finding cloth at garage sales round these parts.

  4. Deeply discounted or even free fabric is SO readily available. I have saved easily thousands of dollars over the years by sewing! One thing it is necessary to remember is that, when you are comparing the price of a handmade garment vs a bought one, the garment you made is going to be more Macy's quality than Wal-Mart! I have made diapers for my kids, baby slings (savings on each of those is about $30!), endless clothing, cloth napkins (saves over buying them, and even more over buying paper napkins), you name it, I've probably made it. Hubs and I are both not good shapes for most store clothes, so being able to make things is less time-consuming than finding something that fits well at a store.

  5. I agree that sewing isn't always frugal but it is so rewarding! And you don't have to spend a fortune to get a great machine. Saw a fantastic older model Kenmore for only $20 last weekend at a yardsale. Some of my favorite machines are the old straight stitch machines, whether treadle or electric.
    Have picked up a lot of cheap but nice fabric at yardsales and auctions and thrift stores.