Monday, July 5, 2010

Homemade Clothing - Frugally!

I'm out here at the beach with my girls, and this is the first of some great guest posts I have lined up for you to read.  Hope you feel inspired!

Guest Post by Kate

As I was sorting through clothes I had saved up for my children, I noticed that my 2-year old daughter had very little seasonally-appropriate clothing in her size (2T). I was faced with two choices: either I had to invest money in buying her a summer wardrobe, or I had to make some clothes for her. I decided to make a few dresses and it has worked out beautifully.

Let me start out by saying that I am an adequate sewer, but not great. So many people, upon learning I can sew, wistfully declare that they wish that they could sew but they never learned. Well I didn't learn until after I was married and, except for one "how to use your sewing machine" course, I am entirely self taught. Do not be afraid to try sewing. There are fabulous resources available for free on the internet and at your local library.

Making your own clothing is not always frugal. Fabric can be expensive. I have a large collection of fabric and most of it I didn't pay for. Here are some tips for gathering fabric that I have employed with much success:

1. Let friends give you their fabric. This sounds silly, but let me tell you, you have friends who are dying to get rid of their fabric stash. I have been given so much fabric from people who no longer wish to sew, that I have had to give some of it away myself in order to keep my house somewhat tidy and organized. Ask around and see what people are willing to part with.

2. Let strangers give you their fabric. Freecycle and other similar organizations are a great way to acquire fabric for free (and other things as well). You can't be choosy, but you don't have to keep what you don't like.

3. Repurpose, repurpose, repurpose! Don't get rid of anything made out of fabric unless you first ask yourself if it's something you can use again. The dress my daughter is wearing in the photo at the top of this post is made out of the sheets I used in my college dormroom. Since those sheets fit an extra-long twin mattress that doesn't exist outside of a college dorm, I knew I'd never be able to use them again for their intended purpose. So, why not make them into a dress? In fact, I have enough fabric left over to make several more dresses. I have also made dresses out of my childhood curtains and stained and discarded adult clothing.

4. Shop at thrift stores. Many thrift stores have a rack of fabric you can shop from, but you can also buy sheets, curtains, bedskirts, and clothing to make into clothes of your own. Think outside of the box and be creative!

5. Shop the Sales. When going to a fabric store, bypass the displays at the front of the store and go straight to the clearance rack. You can often find fabric for only $1 a yard. But be choosy. Don't buy anything that looks cheap, flimsy, or uncomfortable to wear.
Once you've collected some fabric you can get down to the business of making some clothes. You don't even need to use a pattern. I made the simple blue skirt above by cutting off the bottom of an stained shirt of mine and just adding an elastic casing. It's hard to get more simple than that. I didn't use a pattern for the striped dress above either. I just sewed the sides up a thrifted shirt and added ties at the waist and some pink fabric for modesty.

If you feel more confident using patterns, you can buy them on the cheap ($0.99 - $1.99 each) at stores like Jo-Ann Fabrics or Hobby Lobby. They have sales like this several times a year. Or, you can scour the internet for free patterns and tutorials. Here are some good ones to get you started:

Oliver + S: Lazy Days Skirt
Oliver + S: Popover Sundress
T-shirt Dress
Market Skirt
Easy Kids Pants

Now you have no excuse. Get off the computer and start sewing!

Kate Campbell is a stay-at-home mother of two who lives in the northern Virginia area. She wishes she had a lot more time to sew than she does, but is quite happy taking care of her home and family and finding sewing time here and there.

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