restraint (in theory)

I may have mentioned on occasion that sewing, despite rumours to the contrary, is not a cost-effective way of building one’s wardrobe.

It can be moderately cost-effective, if undertaken with great care. To take as an example one of Frances’s new t-shirts:

Fabric: Rayon knit at $8/m for 1 metre
Thread: Need to buy a whole spool, even though I won’t use it all: $5
Pattern: If I buy them online when they’re on sale, about $3

So total, it’s a $16 t-shirt. Which isn’t bad, but you can find cheaper t-shirts in the grocery store for kids. Of course, it leaves me with scraps and I usually use the thread again, not to mention the pattern, so the cost goes down over time by a bit. But it isn’t and never will be an $8 t-shirt.

Or her grad dress:

Fabric: Rayon at $8/m for about 3 metres = $24
Lining: Crappy acetate lining at $3/m for about 3 metres = $9
Pattern: $3
Zipper: $5
Thread: Two spools = $10 (I won’t use all of both of them, but for a bigger project it’s important to have a spare ready)
Bit of fancy sparkly trim for the neckline: $2

Total is approximately $50. Not bad for a nice dress, no, but I could go to Target or Wal-Mart and get something cheaper if I’d a mind to. It just wouldn’t fit. And where Frances is concerned, this is the main thing: she will have clothing that fits properly (dammit).

With grown-up sewing, the economics get even more screwy. If you search out fabric deals and get patterns on sale, you can make clothing that is reasonably priced, but it will never be as cheap as the sweatshop-produced polyester stuff in outlet stores. If you buy nice fabric, patterns in-store, or indie patterns,* your clothes will be more expensive handmade than what you can buy. Of course, they will fit, and they won’t have been made by a woman in a sweatshop chained to a sewing machine for sixteen hours a day, and they will be much nicer than what you would have bought for less, both in quality of construction and materials.

However, unless one lives off a trust fund, eventually one must consider the costs of one’s chosen hobby. Thus, after the fabric spree over Easter weekend, I have put myself on a fabric-shopping time-out.

Ladies and gentlemen, I spent about $500 on fabric in April. $500! And I can’t even wear any of it yet because it hasn’t yet made its way to the top of the sewing pile (but soon–once the grad dress is finished). Don’t think I don’t know that this is loopy. It’s completely bonkers, from any kind of rational standpoint. I just really like sewing, and hate spending money on clothing that’s a pain to wear because the fit isn’t right. I know that if I thought of the money as spent on outfits rather than textiles, the $500 would not be outrageous, because there’s a fairly large pile of clothing-to-be hiding in that stack on top of the fabric boxes in the den. However, I also know that if I’d gone into a clothing store, I would not have bought myself four dresses. But I bought myself fabric for four dresses. Somehow sewing gets a pass on the decision-making process.

I promised myself after that weekend that I would not buy any fabric until August. Things needed to finish projects I already have fabric for–thread, patterns, zippers, buttons, etc.–are fair game. Even lining, if I’m getting the lining for a fabric I already own.

I have made it through just over a month, Dear Readers. It is getting harder, though. My favourite local fabric stores post IG pictures of their new offerings, and I have to physically restrain myself from jumping in the car and driving down “just for one or two things.” Oh my god, there’s a black-eyed susan quilting cotton print. There’s a thistle print! If it all sells out before August, I will be heartbroken, even though I have no idea what exactly I would do with a thistle print on quilting cotton.

But I am determined. And I hope that sharing the pledge here will help bolster my willpower. I need to sew up what I already have, Dear Readers: NO NEW FABRIC UNTIL AUGUST!

(Two months to go.)


*Indie patterns can be pretty awesome. For any of my new-to-sewing friends reading this, would a post on them be fun for you? Patterns from the Big Four (Simplicity, McCalls, Butterick and Vogue) are easy to find and can be cheaper if you get them on sale, but if you have a hard time finding patterns you like from them, there is a world of indie options.

4 thoughts on “restraint (in theory)

  1. I am a sucker for fabric but only made up in garments as my sewing talents have disappeared. I consignment shop like you sew: somehow it escapes my budget until, of course, it doesn’t! Best of luck with June and July 🙂

    1. Thanks. 🙂 I’ll need it. I need to make a fabricland trip soon to get a zipper, some interfacing, and potentially some jersey lining. It will be so hard to pass on the summer fabric sales.

      You do consignment shop very well, you know.

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