Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane

What do YOU think?


I’m starting a mini series of debates that hopefully will become a regular spot – topics that irk me and maybe cause a little controversy – but that’s the point – an opportunity to air views and opinions, to speak the truth and release some frustration. So use the comments section aplenty – open to anons as well.

We’ll start the series with a question that definitely applies to me and so I reckon (hope) also to others.

Are home sewers and their money easily parted?

Some sew so that we can have stylish, well fitting (!) clothes at a fraction of the cost of RTW: some sew for enjoyment: some sew to save money and thrift: some sew for others (nice): some sew because they can. We each have our reasons and justification for spending hard earned cash on fabric, notions, patterns, books, DVDs, trims and braids, retreats, classes, gadgets, attachments for our machines, threads, tools, magazines, etc etc etc…..

How many of you go to a fabric store for a couple of metres of lining and 6 buttons, only to come out with wool gabardine for a skirt, satin for a blouse, a bit of jersey because it looks nice and really anything and everything that catches your eye?

Pattern company sales! Buying three or four patterns because they are reduced not because you need them. I know it makes sense to buy in sales but do we buy more than intended just because?

Now this is not a question of usefulness or beauty but how easily we are seduced into buying stuff.  I mean we buy cotton fabric in winter thinking we can keep it to make something for summer and buy wools in summer keeping them for winter.

And gadgets are another thing altogether….

There are at least 30 different feet I can purchase for my machine – and yes I recently bought a super-glide foot for sewing leather and sticky fabrics. Do I have leather to sew?  No, but I’ve been thinking about it.

I want one of these


From Yanko Designs is the Leitfaden, and it is the world’s first sewing printer. What that means is that the machine takes white thread and then uses ink cartridges to die the thread to match the fabric, creating a professional look. The projector is mounted just above the needle and is used to project the desired pattern onto the incoming fabric. This allows the sewer to see the direction ahead of time and help keep a straight line. Unfortunately the Leitfaden is only a concept design right now, but if it ever was created, it would probably be an instant hit.


Colourful needle threaders anyone?

Or an automatic pin dispenser?
I have never accurately added up what I spend per month on sewing related stuff – maybe I’m scared to because while I know it’s loads cheaper than buying clothes, I also know that I have uncut patterns and a steadily expanding fabric stash; a few gadgets that I thought I couldn’t live without and have been used once, badly.  I’ve traced a grand total of three Burda patterns from a pile of 16 magazines. Each month I buy patterns, fabric, magazines and usually a ‘thing’ – little gadget, tool or accessory that might be useful someday. I don’t think there’s ever four weeks that go by without me buying something. Are you the same?
 A small selection of sewing manuals, pattern books and pictures of pretty frocks.
So, are we the marketing executive’s dream? Are we gullible? Do we just like buying stuff? 
Does anybody display self discipline in this field of perpetual purchasing?

Could you honestly say how much you spend weekly, monthly, yearly (daily!) on sewing stuff?

What do you think?

45 thoughts on “What do YOU think?

  1. I'm afraid to be the first commenter! Yes, I am an overbuyer! The worst part is- the husband feeds into it. His hobby is expensive and he feeds mine to feel better about it. So I can't get a 'you don't need that' out of him in the moment when I need it. I swear, I have a will of iron- it's all his fault- he's even gadgety. He's made me look at the ridiculous pin dispenser several times in the store?! He bought me a new machine becasue he'd bought a lens of unspeakable cost. I cannot reveal my monthly spending. To calculate it would bring on hot, maroon waves of guilt. You may shame me now.

  2. No, I couldn't even begin to guess how much I spend weekly, monthly on sewing gadgets, fabric, patterns, books etc. I don't even want to think about yearly. A great deal (most I think) of what I buy is thrifted and what isn't thrifted is on usually on sale. Why? The reason I buy more patterns is because there has been so many times I decide to buy a pattern only to find it has been discontinued (the first Claire Schaeffer Chanel jacket pattern for one), so now if I think I might use it one day, I buy it. On sale of course. If I lived somewhere where it was easy to find quality fabric at great prices whenever I want(New York, London, Los Angeles), I probably wouldn't have a fabric stash at all. Of course when you find a fabric you like at a thrift store for a ridiculously low price, you have to buy it. For instance 3.5 meters of Italian cashmere/wool blend for $8. It lives here now.Gadgets. My favourite. I have no explanation. I must have them all. Ok, maybe not all, the pin dispenser I can do without. But give me a tool that merely suggests it will make a process easier, faster or more professional, I am weak. The sewing printer looks very tempting, doesn`t it?Books, at last count over 150 sewing books, and I haven't counted in a while. A lot of them I do buy thrifted but not all. Magazines, Threads, always, Vogue Patterns, always. I have stopped (finally) buying any magazine that merely has the suggestion of sewing, they are a waste of money. No one sells Burda where I live. Probably a good thing. I probably would never make anything from them anyway, because I have a ton of patterns. Did you really have to show photos of books that I don't have? 8-D Bad Ruth.

  3. Ruth, you hit the nail right on the head. I just started a blog ( in which my first blog was about the stuff I have bought over the decades, magazines, patterns, etc. Inspired by you and other sewing bloggers, I have decided I must get rid of the stash or my family will just dump it in the trash when I die. I agree with everything you said 100%. I requested a ruffler for my machine one Christmas about ten years ago. Have never taken it out of the box! There isn't a ruffle anywhere to be found in my house or on me. But I had to have the ruffler. And books and magazines – oh good grief. Having said that, I do like the automatic pin dispenser and the colorful needle threaders. Where can I get those? 🙂

  4. I used to buy too much, and now I have stuff I don't even use. For example, I have a buttonhole spacer, yet I don't even DO buttonholes if I can help it!Now I don't buy gadgets — ha ha, because I already have all that crap!

  5. I'm a reluctant spender, probably because I lived in much poorer places as a child, including Africa, and never got over the shock of how much people have in the lucky West. Then I lived as a student for years, then in low paid jobs. Now I have the struggle of finding space. My OH encourages me to spend more because like Pink's above, his own hobbies are expensive. But he then regrets it when I do damage to the car or whatever gadget I've spilt tea on….

  6. Having just bought 7 new patterns, just because they were on sale, I am reluctant to share my innermost thoughts and feelings. But…having all these patterns, and this stash, and seeing my inbox filled with sale notices and must haves…I get a little sick to my stomach. It is so interesting to look at my buying-my other hobby doesn't elicit this frenzy. Horse tack is expensive!! I have a workmanlike attitude to what I use for riding. Maybe I feel more confident as a rider than I do as a sewer?

  7. The enjoyment is worth every penny, nickel, dime, and dollar! Gadgets? I'm a computer geek, by education and vocation 🙂 more gadgets please!! Patterns, fabric – they give me pleasure by just being in the Loft. On a more serious side, for me sewing is a very centering activity, therapeutic as it were. I love having a wide world of retail choices to explore on my constrained retirement income. No complaints and no regrets.

  8. I felt I should comment. I started sewing to make Christmas gifts. I'm the kind of person who see's being frugal as a sweet hobby. So I sew to be frugal. I bought my first fabric at the thrift store. Three bags of fairly big scraps. Since then I've had fabric given to me, I bought all my thread at the thrift store. I even got my sewing desk with a machine included there for 12 bucks. And I love it. I took out the machine because my only huge ( to me ) purchase was a sewing machine I got for my christmas\birthday present last year that was 150 bucks. Being frugal isn't about being cheap. I saw it as the biggest investment I could afford. Since then it has saved us tons. I sew all the gifts. I embellish with embroidery or buttons cut off of clothing, or that I got in the thrift store thread bags. Our thrift store puts a big bag of sewing stuff together and sells it for like a dollar. So I got a shoe box full of trims and bias tape, a drawer full of thread, and a big jar full of buttons, and various other things for like 8 bucks over a period of maybe three months. Once I put out the word that i sew, I got gifts of boxes of fabric, zippers, thread, patterns, sewing books. All kinds of stuff. I also look to other means for fabric, shirts, sheets, curtains. I have bought notions or fabric for something specific. I'm more inclined to invest in notions like good scissors or crochet hooks, but I only get what I need and look for extras at the thrift store. Once i bought a set of 4 fat quarters at Walmart because they were pretty. I knew what I wanted to make out of them, and I also bought yarn I needed and some white thread. I was out of it and needed it. So I was super excited about my haul. Until I got home. I started realizing how expensive fat quarters really are. I got one yard of fabric all together for ten bucks. I started regretting it. I asked my husband to take me back so I could return it. He said the gas and stress of going back into Walmart wasn't worth it. I still feel sick for buying it because I could get a yard or 5 yards of fabric at the thrift store for 20 cents if I was in on the right day. Pretty fabric too, not just ugly stuff. I've done it lots of times. I still haven't made what I was going to with that fabric. I'm working on Christmas gifts, and that project was for me. Anyway I know that was long winded. I just wanted to let it be known that sewing can definitely save tons of money. Not just at up all of it.

  9. That last sentence was supposed to say not just eat all the money up. Also, I thought I would add I only felt the regret of buying those fat quarters because they were super expensive eye candy. The yarn I felt no regret for. I had something I was going to use that on.

  10. I think there are as many answers as there are sewers! I sew to have well-fitting clothes in my own colors and styles, in good quality natural fabrics, whether or not they are available in RTW at the time. I rarely buy clothing off the rack, because I have been spoiled by having clothing that actually fits my less than “model shaped” body. My style is rather casual while professional at the same time, so I also want classic clothing, well made, that I can wear for many years without looking dowdy. I also sew as that is the way I relax after a hectic day or week, and it gives me a great deal of enjoyment to look into my closet and see garments made by me and for me. It’s generally a Zen process for me. At this point in time, I would estimate 90% of everything in my closet is made to measure. While I have been on an austerity program for the last few years, I do buy fabric that “speaks” to me. I rarely buy patterns anymore because after having made to measure, and comparing the difference of a custom draft versus the time involved in altering, and re-altering patterns, it doesn’t make sense to me. Once you have a basic draft of the types of clothing you wear, IMO, it’s easier and more exciting to add the design details you want than to try to find a pattern, alter it, make a muslin, re-alter, ad infinitum. That said, as a former accountant, I keep track of every dollar spent. Even though I have been buying fabric for two queen sized quilts, which is a new endeavor for granddaughter’s wedding presents, my fabric/notions/sewing budget is a lot less than most people’s clothing budget for the same amount of time. I average around $2,000 US per year on everything sewing related. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone else’s’ responses. Very thought provoking! Thanks for making me think about this. BTW, I am in line for one of those sewing printers that matches thread to garment too!

  11. Oh, I should have admitted at this point in time I probably have 20+ bins of fabric waiting to be sewn. I'm at "almost retirement" stage, so am getting ready for retirement by trying to use stash fabric for most things. :P}}

  12. I'm not a sucker for gadgets. I'm pretty good about fabric. I've figured out to buy neutral basics in solid colours, or prints that will be sewn immediately. It's those cheap pattern sales that get me. I just cannot resist.

  13. I sew because I get a kick from turning less into more. Fabric reduced to $3 from $18, from 2 metres I can tailor a pair of linen trousers in colours that are just not available here in RTW and would cost $100+ if they were. Having moved to a smaller house and decluttered find I like "less is more" so no gadgets, fewer patterns but yes to fabric that talks.

  14. See, I like this one, it's the husband/partner's fault, not a defect in our personalities. I also have a DH who spends time and money on his hobby and is even encouraging me to purchase some v.expensive Linton tweed, so I reckon he has, or is planning to, but something expensive for himself.

  15. Yes, ElleC, if we think a gadget will make a job easier or quicker we buy it. But wow, 150 books at last count. Some of mine have been flicked through once. Always planning to sit down quietly some day and read them, but somehow never seem to get round to it.

  16. Hi Rita, welcome to the blog world and good luck. You certainly have a lot of fabric and patterns to work your way through, maybe you'll find a use for the ruffler soon. As for the pin dispenser, you know the box that they come in is a pretty effective way of storing and using them too!

  17. Love it! there MUST be something that will tempt you.

  18. My father has done much charity work in Tanzania and it is very humbling to hear his stories and look at the photos. People really can and do survive on much less we have. I can spend like there's no tomorrow and then feel really guilty.

  19. I buy Vogues in their $3.99 sales and because I have to pay $15 postage, I reckon I should fill the envelope and buy at least four at a time – the postage is the same for one or four. I've actually caught myself adding a fourth just because, not because I've any plans to make it, or even like it. It's the little amounts of money, a couple of dollars here and a couple there that makes it so easy to buy things. When you purchase a one off expensive item, you think twice. But add all those little purchases up and they're probably equal.

  20. Oh I totally agree Coco, the enjoyment factor is not to be ignored or underestimated and I supposed in comparison to some hobbies and interests, sewing is not that expensive.

  21. Good scissors are essential and would you believe it, they are on my 'list'. Don't beat yourself up about the fat quarter purchase – sew them and smile. I admire your ability to be thrifty, mostly I'm just lazy.

  22. Couldn't agree more Lynda – I never buy RTW now and like you my wardrobe is about 90% home made. I can't always guarantee a perfect fit but mostly the clothes are the length I want them and the colours. This was why I started sewing seriously a few years back because I couldn't find what I wanted to wear in the shops. I just didn't figure I'd be needing as much stuff as I seem to have gathered together in only 4 years. I actually blame the internet and the very bad influence of bloggers who show off their fabric purchases and tell me about new internet fabric shops – LOL

  23. I used to be like that Karin – I'd decide what I wanted to make, find the pattern, buy the required length of fabric only and the bits – make the garment. Then start over again for the next project but when I buy fabric from USA I reckon I should buy as much as I can to make the postage and the payment to the taxman worth it. Over time the stash has built up and, of course, the fabric isn't always what you though it'd be in reality.

  24. I justify some fabric purchases in the same way – if I were to buy this jacket in a shop it would cost at least £300, so really I've got a bargain at £40 + lining, buttons and thread. I do need a de-clutter in the sewing room, always makes you feel better doesn't it? I do like your ethos of "turning less into more"

  25. Thank you for your candour on actual spending $$$. I'm going to start counting and publishing.

  26. I, too, probably spend $2000 a year on fabric, silk screens, paint, notions and patterns. Working at a fabric business – Sawyer Brook – has actually eased my fabric buying habits. If I like a fabric, I have plenty of time to decide how much I like it, what I would make with it, if it would flatter me, etc. before I purchase it. Sometimes I can love a fabric and let it go out the door, yard by yard. Shopping online can be more dangerous, as I often lack the patience to wait for a swatch so I can make sure I like the fabric before buying it. I try to keep my online shopping to really special fabrics that I know I won't find elsewhere. I buy only quality fabrics, mostly from Sawyer Brook, Marcy Tilton, and an independent store in my parent's town, which I visit several times a year. I prefer natural fibers.I have a sizable fabric stash from which to shop. My pattern stash isn't huge. I always buy them on sale at JoAnn's, and even then, if I already have the basic pattern and can make the design changes myself, I'll do it instead of buying another pattern.I'm not a big gadget girl, having everything I think I need. I have only one sewing machine and a serger/coverstitch machine. In July I bought a needlefelting machine – at a huge discount – but I haven't taken it out of the case yet. (The weather is still too warm for me to even think about wool.)I quit buying RTW over a year ago, except for underwear and socks. I won't even buy a tee, now that I have a good TNT pattern for it. It's nice to not even want to shop for RTW, as it was always a bit depressing. Quality and fit are just not in the stores, at least for my body. And I love being able to make garments that express my personality.That's my story. Thank you, Ruth, for the opportunity to tell it!

  27. I also probably spend $2000 a year on sewing related items and fabric and patterns, unless it is a year when I have bought a machine (eek!!!).I don't buy gadgets anymore, after the bobbin winder that I never used. It sat there and taunted me- I finally had to give it away. Don't get me wrong, it worked well, but I just didn't need it and didn't use it. I only bought it because the clerk at Hancock's talked me into it because it was on sale. Of course, I already have every notion and supply I need! I get inspired by fabrics I have on hand, so I like to have a stash. Purchasing for one project has never worked for me. I buy fabric online, and at some local stores, and occasionally at some of the big chains. My problem is that I have bought so many beautiful brightly colored fabrics on a whim, because they were cheap. The problem is that I really don't need and won't wear many things that are too colorful. So I end up using these for test garments. I'd like to think I have finally learned to buy mainly neutrals in beautiful textures, which is what I LOVE to wear, with a few brights mixed in for a kick. I definitely break down though! I am a sucker for color. These end up as linings and facings now 🙂

  28. A fun topic, and my answer has changed over the years. I used to spend more than I do now. I went through a couple of years when I could not get enough sewing machines. I would buy them on eBay, craiglist, or the local sew machine shops. Then I would sell them, sometimes at a profit and sometimes at a loss. Once I decided what kind of machine I like, I lost interest in that chase. Then there was fabric. I live near a couple of very nice fabric stores, so I went there often and always left with more than I needed. One year I went on a fabric fast and bought a Wolf Dress form, custom made. About 2 years ago, I got pretty overwhelmed by my stash and I donated everything that was wrong for me and that helped me relax.Now I sew almost always from my stash because I have so many pretty fabrics I love. When I do buy new fabric, it is for a specific project and it gets sewn quickly. Nowadays, the money I spend on sewing might be a sewing workshop, or travel to meet up with other bloggers. It's more about the experience now.I'd say I spend $2,000 or less every year. The only things I buy RTW are undergarments, socks, shoes and accessories. I think I spend way less than what my clothes would cost if I bought them, because I would want the expensive designer stuff. I am absolutely spoiled now when it comes to fabric. It has to be the best or I don't even want to touch it! LOL

  29. I am sitting here, in the dark, with the door closed, typing as quietly as possible. Why??? What if hubby reads the 'real' cost of my sewing hobby???? Currently, he loves it when I say "Ohhh, I made this for only $20." For that he encourages me. But the true cost was in the time trawling blogs for ideas, sending OS for patterns (yes, I too pay the $15 postage and buy as much as can fit) and fabric sight unseen. And heaven help me if he ever ventures into my little 'LadyCave' and open a cupboard door!!! The stash might give away my true spending over the years. But my sewing (and collecting of fabrics/patterns/stuff) makes me happy – and who can put a price on that????

  30. Online shopping is THE WORST and the best thing to have happened! You do know now that I'm going to have to take a look at Sawyer Brook? I also only have one machine, it replaced my very basic Janome that was already 5 years old and mechanical. I don't have a serger, though I'd like one. I am intrigued by your felting machine and eagerly await the results – so you'd better use it!

  31. Yes, we are seduced by patterns and bright colours – is this our flaw? At least you've found a good use for the 'unsuitable' fabrics and a garment is made all the more beautiful by having a unique lining. Thank you Elizabeth for sharing.

  32. Now you've just got we wanting a Wolf too! And you've given me other new things to spend my money on – workshops and travel – Doesn't Marcy Tilton have a sewing retreat in the wilds of America? If I stop buying fabric maybe I could save and go. Experience is important and this is a lovely way to part with money – learning, challenge, fun and good company. I shall think on this further……

  33. I too have my deep, dark secrets from DH. I use the "It was reduced from €30 to €5 and it's real wool!" as a distraction from the £2 cost per button (and I need 9) and £20p/m lining. But the true cost – priceless!

  34. This post really made my laugh. I work full time, pay my own household bills, and I still feel guilty when I bring stuff into the house, or buy more patterns, or fabric for my stash. But at the end of the day this is what makes me happy, and I figure buy it now while I am working so when I retire (god willing soon so I can sew more) I'll be well equipped (or not as the case may be)……………………

  35. I think this is a very good post. Humorous and I am happy I can honestly say I do not overspend on gadgets. I usually make a list of the patterns I want from the site and go by joann fabrics to get the things on my list during the sale, I might look around for fabric to see if they have any that goes with the idea I have in my mind for the patterns I purchased. Most of the gadgets I get I buy online and I shop around. But I must admit I probably spend outrageous amounts on fabric. I can say I use all the fabric as well. And do not have fabric just laying around unless I have been unable to sew in a while.I think all hobbies are expensive as I have many. And if I have to have an expensive hobby it would definitely be sewing.:)

  36. I know I'm guilty of this one. My main weakness is the pattern sales on the BMV site. I've discovered that i can get 7 patterns for $25 postage and 15 patterns for $55 postage. Needless to say, i've nearly caught up to my wish list! I know I'll never use them all, but it's the possibilities and inspiration they give me. I've got bags of materials i've bought in years past in storage – most of them were children's pieces and small remnants – out of sight etc, so i've been buying fabric for me. Now to actually sew!

  37. I'm the same, I pay my way and it's my money I spend on sewing stuff, no one goes hungry in our house but the guilt still exists.

  38. Are you the one with self discipline? Hobbies can be as expensive as we wish them to be – you know how much a sewing machine can cost! Hobbying within our means – that's the secret.

  39. I know Jen. I look at Vogue patterns and think – I'll make that or this or this one would go with that jacket. Last winter I bought 4 coat patterns and haven't even gotten them out them of the envelopes. You're right – stop shopping and sew!

  40. I am very strict on purchases. I don't need a pin dispenser! I only but what I need and when I do buy fabric- 'just because I like it' I HAVE to make something with it within a month.

  41. Self discipline is the key.

  42. I sit at work most days of the week, wishing that I could spend that time sewing. I am not as good at it as I want to be. I do long to be able to sew wearable clothes. With that said, between tasks at work I order patterns "on sale" monthly if not weekly while at work. Ebay makes finding out of print or vintage patterns so easy to get. My local Wal-mart has an excellent sewing department with a decent amount of cotton fabrics. This gives me a good excuse to pick up "sale yardage" for practice. Sadly the practice time is so very limited. I have one 17 year old that just started working, but does not drive. Two step children 15 and 10,one dear husband. Needless to say you are all familiar with the joy, pleasure and tremendous demand of managing a household and being involved with family. Oddly it is easier for me to purchase patterns, materials and notions than it is for me to just sit and sew! Currently I am re working my basement to add a sewing corner. That way I can have all sewing things in one place and will not have to set up shop like a traveling circus when I do find the time, only to take it down in a hurry when my attention is needed. My family calls it the sweat shop. lol. I use the kitchen table and it is really hard between meals, school projects and daily life. It is football season so I will have to share the basement and prey that the Dallas Cowboys have a decent season, so the room will be peaceful. I am optimistic. But I will say that this is a very addictive hobby, fabric is so inspiring and when you see a new print 3 yards at 4.00 seems innocent enough.

  43. Hi there Southern. Thank you so much for reading and adding a very candid comment. I think the same as you – at work I rather be sewing. Then I read blogs and think – I should be sewing. But I'm glad I sew. Yes, that is the ultimate reason I spend money – I'm glad I sew! It's great that you're sewing and remember to take time for yourself – teenage boys only pretend they can't make sandwiches!!!

  44. I think I am relatively frugal in all kinds of shopping but I do love fabric and definitely buy more than I need. Walmart is the only place reasonably nearby where I can buy fabric and it's hard to walk by the fabric department without buying something. I also buy fabric from online stores. I used to think I would never do that. I like to fondle the fabric before I buy it but once I tried it I was hooked. I almost never buy more than three pieces of fabric a month though, and I sometimes go two or three months without buying any at all. I like to have some idea what I'm going to do with a fabric before I buy it. So I really don't have a huge stash. I don't buy many gadgets. Patterns might be my biggest impulse buying weakness. I probably haven't used more than half the patterns I own. I have a habit of using a few patterns over and over again but I still keep buying more thinking, "I have got to make that someday."

  45. We all appear to have our own specific weaknesses whether it's fabric, gadgets or patterns. It's the optimism that we all share – I'll make that someday; this would make a lovely shirt; this thing will make my sewing better – and somehow we never actually get round to it!

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