I have a 14-year-old daughter who wanted some of the latest fashions for school. We are a family of five on one income and clothing three for school this just wasn't cost effective.
What we did instead was pick up a copy of a back to school fashions issue of a teen magazine. My daughter picked a couple of pairs of jeans that she liked. I took some jeans that someone had just given her and went to my sewing supplies and redid the jeans. When she found a couple of the latest tops that she liked and I saw the style I remembered that I had my grandmother's patterns from 30 years ago when I was her age. I was the same size. I also found patterns for the "Peasant" tops at Wal-Mart for under $3 and a couple of those also included a pattern for hip hugger pants. They also have a rack of material for $1 a yard and have some nice prints available.
I have a 40-gallon tote that I use to store material. A few years ago I hit a fantastic buy at a yard sale. I completely filled my car with trash bags full of assorted material for $18. Some was material that were prints no one would ever wear, some was just small pieces for quilts (one yard or less), but I have been sewing for about five years from the rest. Now she has four pair of jeans and 8 tops and all I spent was a couple of dollars to buy some lace for embellishment. My biggest expense is going to be for a couple of yards of corduroy to make her the jacket she wants from one of the old patterns I have. Even at that I wouldn't be able to buy one as cheaply as I can make it They're running $10.99 to $14.99 at Goodwill for a good one that doesn't show serious wear.
I keep my eye out at the thrift shops and when I see material and it's something I know I can use down the road I'll buy it. I have also found that they can be a great place to pick up patterns super cheap. I live in an area where I have a mill store within 20 minutes and can pick up material for a couple bucks a pound. Trims can be bought for $3 to $6 for a huge industrial spool (up to 100 yards). I also make all of our blankets and comforters for our beds super cheap thanks to by the pound pricing. About the only thing I ever buy is fitted sheets since I have never gotten the hang of making them right.
My sewing machine isn't a new top of the line model. It is a 30 year old hand me down that was my grandmother's but it sews as good as the day she bought it, It has served me well for the 20 years that I've owned it. I sometimes think of up grading to a newer model that has more stitches but haven't been able to justify the expense, so I don't. I'll just keep doing routine maintenance on this one for as long as it continues to run.
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