Is sewing an expensive hobby? And…the best FREE online sewing patterns

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I was talking to my sister the other day and telling her that I can whip up a pair of leggings in an hour with my new serger. She asked me whether it was worth it since leggings are so cheap and readily available. That got me thinking. How much does cost factor into my love of sewing? Does it really matter whether I could buy ready-to-wear cheaper than my own makes? Is sewing an expensive hobby?

Short answer? Yes. And no.

When you first get into sewing there are a lot of things to buy. Starting, of course, with a sewing machine. These days you can buy a perfectly decent new machine for under $200 or you can troll around craigslist and garage sales and get lucky with a tank of a vintage machine for next to nothing. I think most people grow out of their cheapie new machines pretty quickly and if you want to finish the innards of garments professionally or sew knits, then you are inevitably going to start dreaming about a serger/overlocker.

In addition to a machine, most sewers are going to want a good pair of shears, rotary cutter and mat, a sewing/quilting ruler and other notions. You can spent a fortune on gadgets and goodies if you want. Btw, if you are prone to fits of uncontrolled notion buying DO NOt click on this link. The Wawak catalogue is pure insanity.

I think I spent about $500 on sewing goods in my first month or so of sewing.

As far as fabric goes, the sky is the limit. I’ve had my eye on some Prada boucle at Tygverket in Stockholm, but mostly I buy what’s on sale.

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Yup, that 24 quid ($40) a metre.

I usually roughly cost out a project before I start.

For example my green Anna dress worked out this way:

pattern: $12 (although I’ve already used it once before)

fabric: $15

thread: $3

zipper: $5

for a total of: $35

(you can find inexpensive fabric in Sweden, but sewing notions like zippers and such are always pricey)

As far as I’m concerned the grand total is more than reasonable. Cheap as chips even. Now if I added my labour cost into the total it would be another story….

Buuuuuuut. I think the point of sewing is not to save money, or not just save money. Sewing is about creativity,it’s about taking control of your wardrobe and not being a hostage of the current offerings at the shops. Sewing is also a lot of fun, it’s good for the mind, and beats watching reality TV (except for The Great British Sewing Bee, Project Runway and Alla Severige Syr of course.) You can save money and you probably will, but you can also buy fabulous fabrics, like silk or cashmere, or employ couture techniques that you will never see inside the garments at H&M. As far as I’m concerned, sewing my own clothes is not about having more clothes or a less expensive wardrobe, but having better clothes that I’m more proud of wearing.

So yeah. Sewing can be an expensive hobby. But who cares.

Now onto the freebies.

Everybody loves a free pattern, right? Here are some of my faves:

The By Hand London Polly Top was one of my first makes and introduced me to BHL. There’s a great video tutorial on the website and you can see dozens of cool versions of Polly throughout the blogosphere.

Collette patterns, known for their teaching approach to pattern-making also has a great free top pattern, the Sorbetto. Like the BHL Polly, I’ve seen the Sorbetto made into a dress as well.

Collette also offers a free bloomers pattern, the Madeleine. The victorian style bloomers look sweet on the model, but I suspect they’d look like diapers on my generous arse.

Camelots fabrics has a cool cropped blazer pattern for free here. It has tuxedo style lapels and is sewn up with quilting cotton (I’m dubious about the fabric choice but it does look cute.)

So Zo graciously offers a gratis panty/knickers and cami pattern (go on, buy her a coffee to say thanks.)

Do you have any fave free sewing patterns?



A Green By Hand Anna Dress

Sometimes the fabric comes before the pattern. As soon as I saw this weird cotton lawn at Ohlsson’s I knew I wanted to make a long dress.

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From a distance it looks floral, vaguely asian, but close up it’s just plain bizarre. Skulls? check. Checkerboards? Check. Handprints and dinosaurs? Yup. Just the kind of fabric that screams long elegant dress.

I chose the long version of the By Hand London Anna dress. I probably should have lined it but it works without. It was also my first project using my serger. I’m slightly scared by the speed and potential violence of my Bernina 700D, but man is it ever cool.

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Behold my innards. And geeky library book about serging.

I love the way the dress turned out. Iona kindly took some photos at a T-Bana station.


You know, maybe I’m completely deluded, but I feel that I look way cooler and sexier in real life than I do in my sewing blog photos. Trust me, k?


The Anna dress sews up like a dream and the bodice is just sooo pretty. I’ll be making another long one next summer for sure. It feels like wearing pajamas while looking elegant at the same time. Perfect.

Sewing clothes for work…I got my first job in Sweden! Wardrobe planning Part 1.

Yup. I’m a contributing member of society. After a year in Stockholm I finally got a job as a substitute teacher at an English middle school. If you’re wondering what took so long…well, it is difficult to get a job in Sweden if you’re not fluent in Swedish but I was also not looking very hard, partly because I enjoyed being a happy homemaker, and partly because I got stressed out and depressed when I started job hunting. But that’s another story. What’s really urgent now is sewing some work clothes!

Over the last year I pretty much stopped buying clothes. I felt guilty spending money when I wasn’t working and tbh, I wasn’t doing much that required an extensive wardrobe. Also, like many new sewers, I was getting more and more turned off by fast, throwaway fashion and the sweatshops that produce it.

But now I need clothes! The way I used to deal with a new job and new work clothes was something like this: I ran around the mall like a deer caught in the headlights and came home with a bunch of clothes that didn’t fit very well, weren’t really my style, made me feel like a kid playing dress-up and were eventually consigned to the back of the closet never to be seen again.  Ever been to a university job fair where all of the students/jobseekers are decked out in their job interview clothes? Everyone looks uncomfortable, immature and vaguely robotic. That’s me when I hurriedly buy work clothes.

So this time I’m going to do it differently. I’m going to sew as much as I can. That way I’ll be able to use higher quality fabrics than I could afford if I bought from the shops. I can also get a perfect fit-something that I rarely found off-the-rack. And it’s going to be fun.

Now how to get started.

Inspiration is as good a place as any…

My job required me to dress professionally but I’m also need to be comfortable. My co-workers wear everything from jeans to shirts and ties. I need to be comfy but I also know that I feel better when I’m a little towards the dressy side.




My go to outfit is a pair of comfortable wide leg trousers (or dressy jeans) and a fitted shirt. I always feel good in this outfit and it’s flattering on me. Now to find a good sewing pattern for wide leg trousers. Any suggestions?

I also love making a dressy piece look easier with something casual like a tee or denim. Something like this:




I’m thinking a By Hand London Charlotte Skirt and a screen printed tee:


The library at Kulturhuset in Stockholm has a screen printing workshop every Saturday: Lava Bibliotek and Verkstad.

I also have a soft spot for clothes that feel like pajamas.


This one is Kate Moss for Topshop. I’m thinking a By Hand london Holly Jumpsuit as culottes in a silk jersey.

I really want to make the perfect midi skirt.




Maybe I’ll have a go at drafting one myself since it’s pretty simple. Like this one:


Aaaaaand, I just bought Drape Drape 1 and I’m learning by trail and error. More on that later!