Well, it depends…
If you are sewing something simple like a t-shirt, you’re probably better off buying it premade from the store. However, if you are in the market for something expensive, like a prom dress, you’ll save money by making it yourself. That’s how I tend to think when I am shopping for clothing — I make the decision on a case-by-case basis. If I think I can sew something for less, and I have the time to sew it, I’ll make it myself. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, like when I really like the fabric of a store bought garment or it fits too well to pass up.
There are several things to consider when determining if you can make something for less money than buying it at the store. For instance, you have to look at the cost of the fabric, what notions you’ll need, what you already have at home, and how long it will take to sew. In general, I don’t bother sewing something if I can buy it at the store for less than $15-$20.
Note: If you have never sewn anything before, you do have to worry about the initial investment in a sewing machine and the headache you’re going to go through learning how to use it and how to read patterns.
Fabric Comes in a Wide Range of Prices
I don’t know about you, but I tend to like fabric that has a high price tag — I’m always going for the silk and wool. So, if you want to sew clothes for cheaper than you can buy them at the store, you have to stick with cottons and cotton-polyester blends. Of course, you can buy the more expensive fabrics if you use a coupon. Most fabric stores do offer regular promotions where you can get a discount on a single cut of fabric or a discount on your entire purchase. I try never to buy fabric at JoAnn Fabric unless I have a coupon like this. You can get them regularly in the mail or in your email.
Another great place to look for fabric is on the discount racks. This is particularly useful if you’re not looking for something specific. Just like clothing at stores, fabric comes in and out of season, so there are sales and clearances to reflect the stock levels. Use this to your advantage. Additionally, if you’re making something small, you can pick up remnants for a great cost savings.
You Have to Buy the Pattern, Too
On top of the fabric purchase, you have to buy a pattern, too. Patterns are very expensive. You can use them more than once, but you’ll easily pay $15+ per pattern at full price. I make it a rule not to buy a pattern unless it is under $5. My fabric store occasionally sells patterns for $0.99 a piece, but this only happens about once a year.
You can also make your own patterns, but you’ll need quite a bit of practice before they come out perfect. I sometimes make my own patterns, but usually I just alter the patterns that I have until I have a clothing design that I like.
Additionally, I’ve actually had quite a bit of luck with online sewing tutorials. I like them because they tend to be easier to follow than traditional sewing patterns and they are usually more affordable. You can find tons of free sewing tutorials, too.
Don’t Forget to Add the Cost of Notions
Notions are where the money really adds up. You’ll easily pay a few bucks for buttons, zippers, elastic, thread, beads, lace, interfacing, and any other notions you need. People think, “Oh, I can get this fabric for $2.99/yard, so making my own dress will definitely cost less than buying one at the store.” What they neglect to factor in is all of the notions that their dress will require.
Just like with patterns and fabric, you can save money on notions by using coupons. I try to stock up on zippers and buttons when I see them on sale or I have a good coupon. Over the years I’ve gathered quite a nice supply at home, which helps me save on the cost of my future sewing projects.
So overall, yes, you can definitely still sew things for less than you can buy them at the store. You just have to stay away from the expensive fabric and notions and use coupons to keep everything cost effective.