Sew What?! ~ by Sam

I know, I know, it has been ages since I bothered to write anything here.  To be honest, things have been crazy, and we haven’t been keeping up with much of anything other than our day-to-day obligations.  I have managed to get everyone to where she needed to be, when she needed to be there, so that’s good.  We had guests for Thanksgiving, which was also good, and we have attended two Hannukah parties, one potluck, one play and a couple of concerts.  As I said, the joint is jumpin’!

Financially, we are doing okay.  I have not been so strict about the budget, because there were things like Thanksgiving, lots of rehearsals, late nights, carry-out a few times… Nevertheless, Shane is working several jobs (which has served to make things even crazier, but sure pays the bills, so ~ thank you, honey!!), so we have managed to keep on top of everything in the bill=paying department.  In fact, we are close to paying off a big chunk of the debt we ran up while buying the house, which, given the fact that we only did that a year ago, is pretty awesome.  We are also on the verge of securing health insurance, which will certainly be a boon, in the long run, given that some of us have chronic health problems that need to be managed.  So, on that front, we’re doing okay.  I decided that, after the first of the year (I want to get through the holidays), I will do a spot-check on our spending.  I’ll keep grocery receipts for a month and see how much we are actually spending, and whether we need to make some changes, track our water & power and gas bills, things like that.  I will check in, and let you all know how we’re doing.

In the meantime, I wanted to post about one thing we have been doing recently that might not always save us money (I am sure it does, sometimes), but sure makes I feel pretty good about ourselves.  The girls and I have been doing a lot of sewing.  Well, I have been doing a lot of sewing.  They have each recently made themselves something, and I hope they will keep sewing, because they each did an excellent job.  Justice and Hallie each made one of those 20-minute dresses I love so much.  They always take me more than 20 minutes to complete, but they use only about a yard of fabric, some thread and elastic for the waistband, and they look simply fabulous.  If you are able to get your fabric on sale, these can be very inexpensive.  Justice’s fabric was on sale for $5.99/yd, I believe, and, even at its full price of $14.99, Hallie’s was not unreasonably priced, considering that she got an entire (and quite adorable) dress for that.  Kaia made herself a butterfly top, which took less than a yard of fabric, so it was not very expensive, either.  Now, I made an outfit (skirt and top).  I used a pattern I had purchased at Walmart quite some time ago, but never gotten around to using.  I don’t often shop at Walmart, but I happened to be there, and they had this great pattern for two dollars.  It was too hard to resist.  So, I left it lying around for ages, until I found a very pretty fabric I liked, and happened to have a 50% off coupon.  I bought about 3 yards of fabric, but at $5/yd, that was still pretty reasonable for an entire outfit.  Granted, I needed thread and elastic, too, but I think it still works out to be pretty cheap.

But see, here’s the thing: you have to buy your fabric on sale, if you want sewing to save you much money.  You have a few choices here.  I shop at Joann Fabric and Crafts, because it is nearby, but I suspect other fabric stores (chains, at least) operate the same way.  Shop sales, check sale tables and remnant bins.  You can find some great stuff there, at discount prices.  Sign up for a mailing list and/or smartphone app that will send you coupons.  Go online and print coupons from the store’s website.  I hardly ever walk in to a fabric store without a coupon in hand, and what’s on sale sort of dictates what projects I will be doing next.

Also, I find that sewing without a pattern saves me money, because patterns have gotten very expensive.  That said, I am limited as to what I can accomplish without a pattern, but can turn out a couple of styles of skirts and tops, a pair of pajama pants of leggings and a couple different dress styles without a pattern, using tutorials I have found online.  My advice here is to search for tutorials about how to sew styles that appeal to you, and that you will wear.  I tend to use key works like “simple,” “easy” and “DIY” in my searches, and I have found some really great ones.  Once you have found a few tutorials for sewing a style you like, read (and/or watch) each one through a few times, to determine which one makes the most sense to you, seems to turn out the best product and/or seems to be easiest to follow.  Read reviews.  Have others attempted to follow the tutorial and done so successfully?  Once you find one you like, follow all of the instructions, making sure you also follow any helpful hints you found in the comments.  I have found that, once I got used to the idea of sewing without a pattern, I quite like it, but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.  If using a pattern is easier for you, absolutely do that (but try to buy them when you have a good coupon).

The girls and I all wore our latest creations to our friends’ Hannukah party last night, so Shane took some pictures, but it is early, we got in late, and he is still asleep, so, for now, I will just post the pic I have of the outfit I made.  I used a lightweight slub knit, and I absolutely love it.  debating going back and making the coordinating scarf…or I could use the excess fabric to make leggings for Kaia, which she always needs.

Here’s my outfit:

The pattern I use was New Look A6108.

A note about New Look patterns: I find their measurements are off by 1-3 sizes.  Yes, that is quite a wide window.  In the end, I measured the actual pattern pieces, instead of trusting the measurements listed on the envelope.  When I measured myself. it looked like, according to their chart, I would fall somewhere between a 6 and a 10, which is also a pretty wide window.  I thought about making a size 6 top and size 10 skirt, but decided to measure the pattern pieces first, just to be sure, since the sizes seemed way off base (I wear a size 0-2, most of the time).  In the end, I cut just outside the lines for a size 4, and I wished I had cut right on them, because it was still a little roomy, and I had to make some minute adjustments.  That notwithstanding, having worked with New Look patterns and encountered this problem before, I planned for it, double checked, and arrived at the right size (sorta), and I actually quite like their patterns.  Their styles jive with my own sense of style, and I find them easy to follow.  The size thing might seem like a big problem, but, as long as you are aware of it, I think it’s just a little bump in the road.

Okay.  That’s it for now (until I am able to come back and add pics of the girls dresses…or make them do that themselves).  I will leave you with this handy, frugal and earth-friendly tip:

Like soft towels, clothes, sheets, etc., but hate spending money on commercial fabric softeners which contain all kinds of added perfumes and other scary chemicals?  White vinegar to the rescue!  I can buy a huge jug at Smart & Final for about three bucks, and it really is good for everything.  For fabric softening, add to your machine, just as you would add commercial softener.  The vinegar odor dissipates by the time the garment is dry, and, in addition to softening your fabrics, vinegar inhibits mold and bacteria growth, leaves clothes fresh (but not perfumey) and might even help inhibit mold growth inside your washing machine.  Works well, is environmentally friendly, and costs pennies.  Sounds like a winner to me.