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?

 

Supermarket Snobbery, a New Obsession with Sewing… and Vintage Bernina Love

This June I bought my first sewing machine. It was an impulse purchase at Lidl. For those of you who don’t live in Europe, Lidl is a German discount supermarket chain. In Sweden (and the UK) some people are embarrassed to shop at Lidl. It’s not very glamorous. Selection is very limited and the staff always seem to be incredibly stressed out, but Lidl is CHEAP!

I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I was a bit of a supermarket snob when I first got to Sweden. The more expensive grocery stores, like Konsum are just so cute and friendly and what I imagined Sweden to be like: organised, super-clean, typically Scandinavian design on all the house brand labels. And yes…expensive. Scott tried to convince me to try Lidl. Keep in mind this was during the long dark Swedish winter. The conversation went something like this:

-But Lidl is really cheap.

-I’m not shopping there. It’s depressing.

-They have great sausages.

-That’s not helping your case.

-They have this ever-changing mystery aisle in the middle of the store with all sorts of crazy cheap things, like power tools or art supplies or women’s shapewear!

-ARE YOU SAYING I NEED A GIRDLE!

I had to admit, the mystery aisle intrigued me. Weirdly incongruous cheap things had greater pull than winter-induced snobbery.

A few weeks later I had a sewing machine. A Singer 2250 with a three year warranty for about $115 plus tax.

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Not bad huh?

I sewed a couple of things on the Singer.  Mostly too embarrassing to show here. It’s pretty basic and a bit plasticky, but it did the trick…meaning it fueled a new obsession with sewing.

And it wasn’t long before I started dreaming of a sexier machine.  Little did I know that an older man was soon coming into my life. A sexy European…

I found him in Myrorna thrift store near Hötorget in Stockholm. He was sitting all forlorn and lonely in his original case. My heart started beating faster as soon as I spied him:

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Yup. A 1965 Bernina 730 Record. Original foot pedal, accessory box with drawers and 7 presser feet. For 170 Swedish Kronor. Thats $28.

I dragged him out of the store as fast as I could. And I mean dragged. This mofo is heavy. A nice Swedish man helped me carry him to the station.

He smelled a bit like cigarette smoke when I got him home and out of the case, but man. He’s a beaut. A little oil and a new grounded plug and he was purring along like he’d just come off the assembly line.

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Check out that Swiss engineering. The red dots are the oiling points. those discs in the middle are the 21 built in decorative stitches.

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How cute is the swing-out accessory case?

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The removeable table extension is cool too. I’m in love.