A Few Stitches to Savings

by Phyllis Guth


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Sewing 101

Sewing Tips

Buying a Sewing Machine

You don't have to be an accomplished seamstress to save big bucks by making minor alterations to your wardrobe, sewing simple tier curtains or turning clothing no longer worn into useful items for the home.

When I started working full time, I stopped making clothes, draperies and slipcovers, but I never stopped sewing altogether. I found that there were genuine savings to be had if I were to do small jobs that weren't time consuming.

When a friend sent away for a special gift for me, a sweatshirt with cocker spaniels imprinted on the front that turned out to be much too long, I removed the bottom band, cut off the extra length and sewed the band back on. Since then, I've done it several times with other sweats.

Another sweatshirt, in a dark green, had a cream-colored collar. After a number of washings, the collar turned dingy, so I picked open the stitches attaching it to the neckline and removed it. A turtleneck worn under the sweatshirt made a nice substitute.

I had a white cotton blouse with a fancy cutwork collar. After retiring, I seldom wore the blouse, so I shortened it and cut off the sleeves to wear it as a decorative dickey under sweaters and sweats. The neckband had a yellow tinge that no amount of scrubbing and bleaching would take away, so I simply removed the label from the back and wore the dickey inside out.

When I no longer needed my long paisley skirt, but hesitated to donate it charity, I made it into a calf-length skirt. For best results, I use hemming tape when turning up skirts or pants.

Sometimes, I'm reluctant to part with a garment even though I seldom wear it. If that's the case, I look for ways to use the fabric. For example, I had a denim jumper with an embroidered bib top. I converted the skirt into a pillow cover and centered the embroidered part on the front of it. Another time, I turned a denim skirt into a clothespin bag, using my old purchased bag as a pattern.

A cotton summer dress with an embroidered top and short-sleeved jacket made a lovely pillow for our family room. I was able to use the front opening of the jacket, complete with buttons and buttonholes, for the back of the pillow cover so it could be removed for laundering.

My husband wears a 32"-33" sleeve length, which is always difficult to find. Therefore, I sometimes bought the longer length and removed the cuffs, then re-attached them after cutting away a half inch or so. And it's usually relatively simple to shorten the sleeves of lightweight or unlined jackets and makes for a nicer appearance.

Unlined tier curtains and valances are easy to make and far less expensive than buying ready-made. We have a birdhouse-themed wallpaper border in one of our bedrooms. I purchased the matching sheets and comforter, but balked at the almost $100 price tag for the curtains. As luck would have it, the pattern also came in tablecloths and table runners. Because the tablecloth was made from the same fabric as the curtains, I bought several on sale and made them into tier curtains at about half the cost. The leftover fabric came in handy to re-cover the seat of a small dressing table stool in the room. I bought the matching table runners on sale and used them as dresser scarves.

Don't toss out leftover material after a sewing project. After making bathroom curtains from material that matched the wallpaper, I used a remnant to sew a drawstring hanky bag for my husband's soiled handkerchiefs. Fabric left over from making a skirt for the powder room sink was used to add a matching border on the hand towels.

When we replaced our ruffled living room curtains, I turned one of the old ones into a tablecloth for a small round table. If you have odd-sized windows and can't find the proper size, why not buy the larger size and cut away the excess fabric, leaving a few inches for a generous hem?

When buying fabric for kitchen curtains, I bought enough to re-cover the seats of our dinette set (with my husband's help). This project didn't require any sewing as the fabric was stapled to the underside of the chair seat.

Toaster and can-opener covers require only a small amount of material. Use your present covers as patterns or measure the height, width and depth of the appliance and cut to fit, allowing extra fabric for seams. When I bought bargain-priced kitchen curtains, I purchased an extra pair to stitch matching covers for my small kitchen appliances.

As you can see, it takes very little effort to sew up big savings for your wardrobe and your home.

Take the Next Step

  • Don't know the first thing about sewing? Contact a local fabric store. Many of them offer beginning classes for free. This last summer, my daughters and I took a beginning sewing class at our favorite fabric store, and we made their lunch bags for the coming school year. It was fun and easy, and now we have a new skill to build upon.

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