One of this month’s goals is to learn a new skill. How about learning to sew?
Who sews any more?
The art or skill of sewing has really fallen out of favor. When I was a kid, everyone took Home Ec (well, at least all the girls did. After all, I did grow up in Ye Olden Days.), which included a segment on sewing. Nowadays, the fabric stores cater mostly to sewing crafts (like quilts) and weddings. Clothing construction seems to be a thing of the past. Which is a shame, because there really are a lot of good reasons to know how to sew clothes. Not only can you make clothes that are sturdier, last longer and fit better than what’s in the stores, but it can also be very economical.
For most people, sewing is a “craft”, not really a skill. That makes it easy for manufacturers to boost the prices on sewing supplies–fabrics, patterns, notions, etc. Don’t fall into their trap! I’ve written a booklet called Sustainable Sewing. It’s filled with advice and pointers on how to sew projects that are much cheaper than anything you can get in the store and will last and look nicer longer than commercially-produced clothing. Be sure to check it out.
Today I want to share with you my latest two projects. Both these projects illustrate some of the principles you’ll find in my book. The first is a little dress I made for my granddaughter. Instead of the collar that the pattern called for, I finished the neck with bias strip cut from the dress fabric. (Just in case you missed it, I have to point out how well the eyelet on the bias tape lined up with the eyelet of the bodice.) I also used bias tape instead of elastic on the sleeves.
I bought the fabric at the thrift store for $1.49. I had a 50% off coupon from the fabric store so the buttons and thread cost me another $2. I crocheted the lace edging at the neck using thread I already had on hand. I bought the elastic in bulk and so it probably cost about 10¢.
The end results? We have a nice little Easter dress for about $4.
The second sewing project is a set of four re-usable grocery bags. The fabric also came from a thrift store and cost $2.40. The webbing for the straps only cost $5.50 because (again) I had a 50% off coupon. Total cost for four bags: about $8. This is a quick and easy project to do. In fact, I encourage anyone just starting to learn to sew to make this your first project. You’ll learn several basic sewing skills and have a nice set of bags at the end.
My favorite pattern for grocery bags is McCalls Pattern 803. It is a big bag, that holds about four times as much as a your regular reusable bags. (You know what I’m talking about: the kind you can get just about anywhere for $1.) Those $1 bargain
grocery bags may contain dangerous lead. You really can’t launder them and they aren’t that sturdy. But these homemade bags are completely washable, so you don’t have to worry about harmful bacteria. They are so big and sturdy, each bag will hold three gallons of milk, 20 pounds of potatoes or big packages of TP or paper towels without any problem. I made my first set of bags 20 years ago (yes, long before green was in) and they lasted more than ten years before the fabric started wearing out.
I ran into a little snag
One of the disadvantages of buying fabric at the thrift store is you get no say in how much yardage there is. As a result, the fabric I bought was about 8″ shy of the yardage the pattern called for. So I used this free online pattern instead. It’s almost identical to the McCalls pattern. I just adjusted the measurements to fit the fabric I had. I also re-enforced all the seams to make sure they will stand up to the stress of holding lots of groceries.
If you are careful about shopping sales and thrift stores, you can produce some very nice items for just a fraction of what they will cost in the store. In my book, sewing is one of the more important skills that everyone wanting to live self-reliantly should learn.