Cheap Seamstress Part 1 (Cheap Fabric)

I sometime wonder if I should start a separate blog called “Cheap Seamstress” because as much as I like to sew, I really don’t want to spend the money.  Unfortunately, life has taught me (multiple times) that you get what you pay for.   For most hobbies, it comes down to balancing quality, money, and time.  Spend more money and you can get tools/materials that will (usually) produce better quality and take you less time.  On the other hand, if your work won’t be overly scrutinized, you can sacrifice a little on the quality and lose the automatic thread cutter.  It’s all about setting realistic expectations and doing some research.

To start you off, here are a couple of my “cheap seamstress” tips.



You can quickly update a shirt or skirt with a few embellishments from your local craft store or by replacing the buttons.  For a more drastic overhaul, a seam ripper can help to turn an existing garment into flat pieces of fabric that you can recut and stitch back together.  The internet is a great collection of upcycling ideas.

tunic1 tunic3 tunic4

The Facts (India in Purple Dress)

Difficulty Intermediate
Completed August 2012
Pattern BurdaStyle Danielle bodice

Simplicity 3673 skirt modified with pleats

Fabric Existing red tunic plus purchased purple Kona Cotton fabric
Notions 20” red zipper
Total cost $15
Lesson learned Adding pleats to a pattern that didn’t originally have pleats

Mix Fabrics

Combine large amounts of inexpensive fabrics with small amounts of pricey fabrics. I bought one-yard of beautiful aqua fabric at $10 a yard from a small indie store. I agonized a bit over the decision because ’m use to the much lower fabric prices over at the big box craft stores. I was able to distribute the cost of the fabric by integrating it with other materials in three different projects. My cheap material in these cases were a store bought tank top and a yellow bed sheet.

aqua1 aqua2 aqua3

The Facts (Chrysanthemum Collection)

Difficulty Easy to Intermediate
Completed April 2012
Pattern Obi Belt:  BurdaStyle Obi Apron

Dress: New Look 6912 plus Simplicity 3673 skirt

Collared Tank: Butterick 4985 collar

Fabric 1 yard Kona Bay Floating Mums Aqua

Yellow bed sheet from Goodwill

Brown tank from Jo-Ann

Notions 20” yellow zipper
Total cost $23
Lesson learned None

Seek Alternative Sources

Thrift stores are a great supplier if you’re not too picky. If you have a specific fabric or look in mind, this is not the place to go. If you’re more in the browsing mood, you can find savings on clothes to upcycle, buttons/zippers to salvage, or random linens (bed sheets, tablecloths, etc.) to turn into a new project. Be sure to carefully inspect anything before you buy it and the wash it thoroughly before you use it. If someone turns in actual craft-store bought fabric, it usually ends up with the bed sheets. I once found 6 yards of uncut blue linen for $9 dollars.

summerdress1 summerdress2 summerdress3

The Facts (A Simple Summer Dress)

Difficulty Easy
Completed December 2012
Pattern Simplicity 2072 bodice

Simplicity 4236 skirt

Fabric Fabrics from Goodwill
Notions 20” white zipper
Total cost $9
Lesson learned This was originally going to be a muslin for a costume I’m planning.  However, it turned out so well that I lined it and kept it as a regular dress.

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