Living off the grid becomes much easier when you have the sewing skills to craft clothes, towels, linens, and other household items that you use on a daily basis. Instead of heading out to the mall several times per year to buy staples such as clothes for a growing child or new towels to replace worn-out ones, you can maintain a stash of fabrics, patterns, and supplies and sew what you need, when you need it. If you have the confidence and the materials, you can make, modify, or repair nearly anything and avoid retail costs for replacements. Even if your on-hand materials are limited or run low, you can still make minor fixes that help extend the life of your favorite clothing staples and linens.
Versatile Sewing Supplies Will Pay For Themselves
To start sewing frugally, you should have a relatively comprehensive stash of materials on-hand, although you can build your stash gradually by picking up components when you need them individually instead of buying everything at once. You can do minor repairs with a basic sewing kit to start, and you don’t even need to buy your own premade kit. You can repurpose a clean canning jar or a mint tin to hold spools of thread, packets of needles, detail scissors, and other basic sewing components that are necessary for making repairs. The skills you will need to conduct basic repairs and modifications include knowledge of basic stitches such as the straight basting stitch, running stitch, and backstitch, all of which are great for seams and hemming. The slipstitch is best for stitching together two separate edges, making it good for fixing tears. Finally, the overcast stitch is good for hemming edges that would otherwise tend to unravel, such as linen.
This will be enough to get you through minor projects, but for anything more involved, you should have a sewing machine and basic skill in using it. Sewing machines can do everything that hand sewing can, especially if your machine is capable of the blind hemstitch, which renders hand hemming unnecessary. The purchase of the sewing machine itself may seem steep compared to the sparse odds-and-ends that can get you through hand sewing, but an entry-level machine can be affordable, and even moderately high-priced machines will soon pay for themselves in the time and money that you save. Once you have the machine, you can practice sewing basic stitches in straight lines by doing a simple project such as cloth napkins, potholders, or curtains. Straight lines will be your go-to skill in most cases, and having a great handle on how to sew accurately with your machine will make your sewing projects exponentially easier to complete stress-free.
With a sewing machine, you will need more supplies on hand, especially if you plan to complete many projects from scratch. To start, you should have extra bobbins, needles, and thread on hand at all times. Preferably, you should have neutral-colored thread at all times, as it is easiest to match to spontaneous repairs and projects, although an arsenal of multicolored threads is never a bad thing either. For needles, make sure that you have packets on hand in every size that you use commonly, as sewing machine needles tend to go blunt faster than hand needles and may need replacing more often accordingly. Most sewing machines have moving parts that require occasional lubrication and maintenance, so make sure that you keep lubricating oil and a small repair kit nearby to alleviate breakdowns and minor breaks.
Getting Ready for Frugal Projects: Materials and Fabric
Your materials for projects from scratch should be as extensive as the projects that you want to complete. At minimum, you should have supplies for cutting, measuring, and preparing or finishing your fabrics. A self-healing cutting mat is a great asset that will last through countless nicks by a utility knife. These usually have grid measurements, making it even easier to keep track of sizes. A variety of scissors, shears, and utility knives is also in order. Have some white chalk or water-soluble ink on hand to mark cutting lines, button locations, and other crucial guidelines that you’ll need to wash out later. If you plan to make clothing, then have a stash of buttons, snaps, Velcro closures, and other fasteners that will undoubtedly become necessary. If you plan to quilt and make pillows and linens, then have batting and fillers on hand to ensure that every project finishes up smoothly. All of these components are relatively cheap and necessary to finishing their respective projects – you can’t finish most clothes without fasteners, and you can’t quilt without batting.
You should locate a good source of frugal fabric, such as a wholesale textile shop or even a thrift store, and maximize what you have on hand while ensuring that every fabric you bring home is one that you’ll use in a project at some point. Buy materials and patterns that you love and want to work into your home or wardrobe, and avoid buying fabric that you won’t use just because it is cheap. Like any off-the-grid endeavor, sewing is only frugal if you use more than you waste. Once you have completed a few projects and have a feel for what projects you love and which you don’t want to repeat, you should have the ability to buy fabric smartly and make purchases that you will get plenty of use from.
One of the greatest aspects of frugal sewing is that once you develop an eye for sewing, you can identify old garments at home that will recycle well into another project. You might find yourself sewing a maternity dress out of an old jersey bed sheet or making new diaper covers from a beloved cotton t-shirt. Some patterns are naturally easy to adapt to any fabric you have lying around the house, such as a simple skirt that requires only a half-yard of fabric in total. This half-yard could come from prettily patterned cotton curtains that you want to upcycle into something new, a king-sized pillowcase, or even another dress that needs repurposing. Although cheap fabric is easy to find when you want it, you might find that your fabric stash at home is abundant enough without buying anything new.
Sew Clothes to Your Own Specifications
Another great aspect of frugal sewing is that many of us have bodies that don’t quite fit retail measurements, necessitating that you settle for a poor fit or take it to a tailor to be expensively altered. With a sewing arsenal at home, you can sew new clothes from scratch to meet your exact measurements, or you can buy thrifty clothing items and alter them at home to fit as closely as you want. Sewing at home also enables you to make modifications that completely alter the style of the garment. If you prefer a different neckline on a cardigan, you can make that change; or if you have a surplus of jeans and khakis, you can convert some of them to clean-looking shorts and capris and have a summer wardrobe at no additional cost. Sewing frugally is all about making items yourself and saving yourself from retail costs. Whether you choose to do minor repairs, sew an entire wardrobe for the household, or do everything in between, the reward is great in surrounding yourself with seams that you stitched yourself.