Cost of Clothing: Penny Pinching

Penny Pinching:

In an effort to find the true cost of clothes, from economical to emotional, I sewed in the penny pinching fashion.

“Sewing is a really expensive hobby,” used to be my response to anyone who commented on the subject. But is this true? Must we have a special shopping trip for every project?

If there’s anything I’ve learned in the last year it’s that sewing does not have to be this perfect mechanical process. It can be fun and more importantly it can be cheap!

Method 1:    Discount Store

Cost        Supplies    $0.50

         Time        2 Hours

Political    Very Shady

        Emotional    Disappointed but inspired to try it again

Designing:    I found a lonely yard of purple floral at Wal-Mart for $0.50. I couldn’t believe my eyes and almost burst from joy that new fabric could be this inexpensive; never mind the print is not my favorite or the feel is very stiff, almost brittle, to the touch. I went online right away to find a wallet friendly tutorial and like magic a free pattern popped onto my screen without even touching the keyboard…it wass meant to be!


Execution:    This Carolina Dress pattern is just adorable, from Schwinn&Schwinn, and I printed it right away trying to make sure all the settings were accurate. Somewhere along the way I thought the pattern looked a bit small, but I quickly denied it since everything was cut out and I kept sewing. It turns out it is small, the final product measures around 6 months. Oh well, there is always Christmas gifts. I’ll definitely be tying the same style on another outfit soon, but perhaps I’ll have a tape measure and measurements on hand next time.


Result:        Material at a discount store can be incredibly inexpensive, but also poor quality. Obviously cheap labor is used (horrible images came to my mind), so I did some casual research and was surprised to find China’s minimum wages are on the rise (still at a low $300.00 usd monthly in Beijing) and because of this and a few other factors, many textile companies have moved off to other countries where factory work can be easily and quickly set up at lower costs. Basically the problem isn’t solved, just relocating and “Made In China” is no longer the bottom rung. Of course there are other ways to shop such as thrift stores, swap meets, or trading with friends.

For less than a dollar it was worth a try. The dress is still adorable despite everything.

Method 2: Up-Cycle

Cost        Supplies    Free

        Time        1 ½ hours

        Political    Gold Star

        Emotional    Fantastic

Designing:     I had an old sweater in my closet that was sacrificed to the ‘Baby Needs Pants’ fund. Knits are great because they are very forgiving on a sewer’s skills. Given the previous project’s results I decided to draft my own pattern from a pair of pants that she has just outgrown.


Execution:    I folded and traced around an old pair of pajama bottoms, giving an extra 1 ½ inches birth. There was just barely enough sweater material for the pattern I made, but it worked and it was quick to sew up. A small pocket was positioned on the back of the pants and I love how this random detail worked out.



Result:        I love these pants! They fit perfect, even over the giant cloth diaper. I’m so glad I made a template because I will be making half a dozen more for the winter. Up-cycling is wonderful for kids clothes since not very much material is needed and it’s a great way to give a favorite garment new life. It’s best to use articles with simple lines, few seams, and no darts or yokes. And don’t forget sheets, blankets, or anything else around the house.



Overall penny pinching can be a gamble, but there’s no harm in trying!!!

Original Cost of Clothing Post

Cost Of Clothing: The Middle Way

Cost Of Clothing: Special Occasion

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9 thoughts on “Cost of Clothing: Penny Pinching

  1. i like that you tried the junkie fabric (and can’t believe there was a yard of fabric for $.50). It’s fun to try something new and different – which might not turn into a masterpiece. (At least it is for me. I have to fight doubt all the time). So, it’s a good exercise in creativity. If it’s not something you can gift, maybe you could donate it to a program that helps mothers and children in need (just a thought).

    This exercise with the cheap fabric also reminds me that part of what is important to me when I sew, knit, etc. is the feel of my materials. I am always touching things wherever I go to see if the feel is something I like. I often touch things I think I won’t like, just to see if I am right. However, there are so many yucky feeling materials, that I try to use things I like to touch, so that the experience is positive. I just feel like creating something with my hands has so much to do with the process and emotions I feel as I working. If the materials make me happy, then the overall process is better. That said, looking for deals on good materials is a way to use better products. Trading with friends and up-cycling also make it more affordable. (I will note that when I make art quilts with the final intent being to be looked at rather than worn or touched, I care less about the feel of the materials and more about the look).

    Again, thank you for sharing this idea. It really has me thinking.

    • This is another great extension of the thought. The feel is so important in sewing, it makes me think of the the stark difference when we go from handling fabric so soft and smooth it resembles (or actually is) silk and then getting stuck by a pin. The extremes keep me fully engaged in the experience. I wish I had thought more about this and incorporated it into the post. Thanks for your thoughts!

  2. The dress would have cost you more in printing ink and paper than materials! It is a shame it is stiff. It looks very cute. Over the years I have learned (the hard way)that the feel of fabric is as important as the look.

  3. Hi, Lovely ideas for upcycling 🙂 You’ve inspired me to give it a try. Thank you. Also, congratulations on winning the Chicken Run giveaway/swap. I’m sure Mr Cluck will be flying your way very soon. Thank you so much for taking part. Please let me know when you are ready to post about your giveaway/swap and I’ll “advertise” on my blog too and display a photo of your chicken in the gallery when it is known where it will be flying to. Any questions, just ask. Enjoy! Avis x

    • Well thank you for the nice thoughts and for starting this international connection. I’m thrilled to be included, and I will certainly keep you in the loop (coup), just know I’m going to delay it a bit for Christmas.

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