Being a thrifty sewer

Sewing girl frame

No, not a sewer (soo-wah) which is connected to the toilet but one who sews (soh-wah). πŸ˜‰ I guess that’s why they use the word tailor or seamstress instead. πŸ˜‰

My kids are doing their level best to grow out of all of their clothes at the moment. Jasper is now 5 and is growing up fast, both in body and mind. He’s a tall but rather slim boy so finding things long enough and small enough around the waist can be challenging. Allegra has decided that she now does wear dresses without a screaming fit whilst her equally stubborn mother jams her into one. πŸ˜‰ So, this summer it’s all about dresses and floral patterns. Orik is pretty set for clothes as, being the hoarder that I am, he will inherit all of his older brothers clothes. He’s larger at this age though than Jasper was, just as tall but a far more solid unit so I’ll have to see what does and doesn’t fit.

Shopping and I are not friends. I don’t like the big chains, I don’t like the industries they support with their cheap products, the quality of which is reflected in the price and I don’t like having style dictated to me by others either. Those that know me well know I’m aΒ complete fashion queen that should be designing her own label,Β up with the latest fashions, an utter dagΒ (of the fashion sense, not the sheep in need of crutching sense πŸ˜‰ ) with no more fashion sense than a blind rabbit. πŸ˜‰ I do appreciate vintage fashions, styles, fabrics and clothing though. It’s not unheard of for me to prance around the house in a 1950’s full-skirted dress. πŸ™‚

An old photo but I still wear this dress often. It has a full circle skirt.

An old photo but I still wear this dress often. It has a full circle skirt.

Same pattern but with a collar. I also wear this dress often.

Same pattern but with a collar. I also wear this dress often.

In order to avoid the shops, and because I simply love doing it, I’ve been doing my level best to sew up new wardrobes for the kids. Over the years I’ve hoarded fabric remnants, bought fabric from op shops and I’ve also inherited a lot of beautiful fabrics from a friend as he passed me on his mothers stash of fabrics and patterns when she passed away. He also passed on scraps from his work (he worked in a large fashion house) so I have a lot of boxes of fabric currently cluttering up my new cupboards. As a hoarder I cannot bear to throw it out so the only other option really is to use it! πŸ™‚ So, after some pattern consultation with Allegra, we chose some patterns and went searching through the stash.

I’m channeling a little FrΓ€ulein Maria

I’d bought a stack of pillow cases a while back after seeing pillowcaseΒ dresses on Pinterest but I’d never got around to making them up. I realised yesterday that a pillowcase has enough fabric to make a simple pinny style dress for a 4-year-old with a wee bit less fullness in the skirt than the pattern dictates (not that you can tell) so Allegra is now the proud owner of a 1970’s fabric purple flowers pinafore dress. πŸ˜€

Quite the supermodel!

Quite the supermodel!

It needs a wash then an iron for it to settle into itself but I have a little girl desperate for a super hot day now. πŸ™‚ I cheated a little on the shoulders though as my sewing machine is an older model so no fancy button holer and I suck at making button holes. I suck so much I’ve seriously contemplated hand sewing them. I have been practicing though.

Press studs work a treat!

Press studs work a treat!

Now I know my photos are blurry but seriously, have you ever tried to get an excited not quite 4-year-old to stand still long enough to snap a shot? These are the best I could get! Lynda, they’re almost as blurry as your tail-chasing Miss Tilly. πŸ˜‰

Dress complete, what’s next. Ok, we need a blouse. One blouse coming up using a scrap of material from the friend. Just enough to make the sleeved pattern and using a little of stashed lace the sleeves are now suitably pretty for a little girl who is being a girly girl (this week at least ;)). Buttons found in the button tin, probably snipped off a shirt that was cut up for something else and pinned ready for button holing and sewing on.

Using a scrap of fabric and a little lace. Buttons to go from the button tin. This has cost me nothing but a little time.

Using a scrap of fabric and a little lace. Buttons to go from the button tin. This has cost me nothing but a little time.

Have you ever had a fitted sheet set where the fitted sheet has worn out or the elastic has gone and it’s too threadbare to make it worth repairing? What do you end up doing with the top sheets? Few people use flat sheets as bottom sheets in my experience as you can never buy fitted sheets at the op shop but the flat ones are everywhere and cheap as chips. πŸ™‚ I bought a lovely pastel blue sheet, a couple of white ones and also a divine musky pink one (skirt for me there methinks πŸ˜‰ ) most of which I’d sewed into another project that had never been finished. They were perfect size for cutting out kids clothes. Jas now has a pair of pajama shorts so I’ve cut out a sleeveless and a sleeved top to go with them and I’ll make up another pair of shorts too. 2 pairs of summer pajamas sorted. πŸ˜€ I also had several iron on motifs I’d bought years ago, from which Jasper chose 2 with which to decorate his pajamas.

1 pattern has so far produced 1 blouse and 2 pair of pajamas

1 pattern has so far produced 1 blouse and 2 pair of pajamas

Finished pair of shorts from a small portion of a flat sheet. Perfect for summer.

Finished pair of pajama shorts from a small portion of a flat sheet. Perfect for summer.


I still have buttons, buttonholes and a hem to go but a sleeved pajama shirt.


And a sleeveless one.

2 iron on motifs and 2 pockets cut from the scraps left over from pajama making. I'll iron on the motifs, sew on the pockets and I'll have 1 ecstatic little boy.

2 iron on motifs and 2 pockets cut from the scraps left over from pajama making. I’ll iron on the motifs, sew on the pockets and I’ll have 1 ecstatic little boy.

I’ve also been given a top by my mum that she’d bought but didn’t like. I’m not sure I have a need for it so I’m debating if I cut them up for stripey leggings for Allegra. I think I can get 2 pairs out of it but cutting into a new top is worth thinking about a little longer before making the first cut. I know I have some more stretch fabric around though so Allegra will get herself some more leggings to wear under her new skirts and dresses when the weather isn’t so warm. I’m hoping to make her a coupe of pairs. πŸ™‚ A barely worn but too small cardigan of mine has become a pair of winter leggings for Allegra now though.

A cardigan bought that never fitted. Not the sexiest pair of leggings but they will be warm and you won't see the ugly groin area under a dress.

A cardigan I bought that never fitted. Not the sexiest pair of leggings but they will be warm and you won’t see the ugly groin area under a dress.

Jas also needs some shorts for day wear so I’ll likely use the same pattern, make them a little narrower and longer and then find some more stashed fabric. πŸ˜€ I’ve also an old business shirt of Martin’s that is no good for work with the neck line frayed so I’m sure I can come up with a use for the fabric and some torn and worn out jeans that still contain usable sections. Waste not want not. πŸ™‚

I think this pattern might be one my mother bought for when I was little. About 30 years old then.

I think this pattern might be one my mother bought for me when I was little. About 30 years old then.

The model pout

The model pout

About 60cm of fabric, a lovely 60's pattern and a coupe of press studs in lieu of buttons and we have a sweet little wrap around skirt.

About 60cm of fabric, a lovely 70’s pattern and a coupe of press studs in lieu of buttons and we have a sweet little wrap around skirt.

So far, aside from spending a little on the electricity to run both the machine and the overlocker (serger)Β including the price of the sheets and pillow cases I’ve spent a couple of bucks at best making these clothes.. I think they cost me$2 to fill a large shopping bag. Even the spools of thread were mostly free too so each outfit is probably costing at most $0.20 (plus electricity). πŸ˜€

The pattern

The pattern

A pretty dress on a sulky princess

A pretty dress on a sulky princess. Needs an iron and a little finishing off yet. All made from gifted remnants and existing stash.

The major advantages of using linen as fabric is that for kids, a pillow case is often all the fabric you need to make something. The older linen in vintage patterns is a darn sight cheaper than buying the equivalent vintage fabric (that stuff is pricey) and you get a wonderful variety in the linen too. And on a time-saving point, thrift store sheets have all been through the wash already. No pre-washing of fabric to prevent shrinkage (something I’m terrible at doing anyway – yes I know Ing ;)) or washing to get out any toxic nasties that may be there like in store-bought clothes. The colours are unlikely to run as they would have already done so ages ago and did I mention that it’s cheap? πŸ˜‰

I’m sure the day will come when my kids resent wearing old bed sheets but for now, when they pay in the dirt in the garden and clothes get stained, torn and dirty I don’t plan to spend a small fortune on clothes to see them ruined within the day (it has happened). Until that day…

Doe a deer, a female deer…


13 thoughts on “Being a thrifty sewer

  1. says:

    You can always come to me for nice button holes!

    Sent from my iPhone


    • Thanks for that. I NEED to come visit you anyway so if I don’t manage to battle through the current tally of 14 button holes needed but I am practicing at making them on my lovely old machine. πŸ™‚ Mum had the identical model but her machine bit the dust earlier this year (not bad after over 38 years of sewing) so I will be getting it for spare parts should mine require them. I will get all the lovely cams, the various feet and the carry case/table too. πŸ˜€ Having the clear foot might well make sewing buttonholes a wee bit easier. πŸ˜‰

  2. narf77 says:

    I have a thrifty sewer…it’s a septic tank that digest our ex-food and drink nicely and hopefully all of the kefir sediment that we have been washing down the sink will be acting on any imbalance down there nicely. I, too am a very thrifty seamstress. I don’t. Can’t get more thrifty than that. No thread, no buttons to buy, no needles to repopulate when you stuck them in both eyeballs rather than watch another second of Steve’s TERRIBLE HILLBILLY SHOWS ON FOXTEL…and no hours spent wandering around Spotlight oohing and ahhing over fabric…nothing. Reading further along in the post I see the word “fit”. That’s what I have whenever I have to do anything vaguely regarding “sewing” in any form. I shop at the Exeter and Alanvale thrift shops. If I am feeling particularly glam and want something a little more upmarket we have a designer (but still amazingly well priced) Red Cross Thrift shop in town that I can head to and usually find what I am after. When Kym was here she infused me with the possibilities of sewing but now that she has gone home she took my enthusiasm with her and I am back to not giving a hoot. I am a dab hand with the staple gun if that’s anything? Nope? ;). I am having flashbacks…I am FROM the 70’s and would have been wearing something the same as Allegra is wearing in that shot… looks like the same material as well! (talk about flashbacks to Nam! πŸ˜‰ ). I recognise those patterns as well. I think my primary school skirts were based on them! Glad at least one of us is holding the sewing fort. I think that you and Jo are the queens of sewing. I bow to your cleverness and promise not to attempt to wrest your crowns (either of you) in the immediate future. To be honest you are safe forever. Sewing and I don’t mix, like water and oil (unless you shake them very VERY hard and they still separate πŸ˜‰ ). Looks like you have had a very productive weekend. We worked hard yesterday in the garden but today is our day off and we are really enjoying it to the max πŸ™‚

    • The things you achieve in your garden shame me to tears. A green thumb I am not but sheer determination in that case, plus Mother Nature lending a helping hand means that at least something is destined to grow. Sewing however is far more my thing although I am at best a hack at it but I do (occasionally) produce something of which I am mightily proud (my two 1950’s dresses) but at the end of the day I too op shop. My body shape usually means a lot of adjustments, many of which I am not yet capable of making properly.
      And then there is the time factor. Sewing with 3 kids means small projects that use a small portion of the dining table whilst they occupy the rest of it. Larger patterns, delicate adjustments and the uninterrupted time in which to make them doesn’t happen so readily.
      Well, time to get off the computer and go make button holes I think. *sigh*

      • narf77 says:

        Ing already said she would do them for you! Get that derierre off the P.C. bundle the kids into some semblance of clothes and head ASAP to Ing and a cup of tea and some buttonholes. My motto is “defer to the genius of others when your own genius runs to that of a wine cork”. I will allow you to share that motto but only once…then I will have to kill you. Love the 50’s dress by the way. If I see any vintage gorgeousness languishing in thrift shops I will hoist it by it’s petard’s and will send it post hast to a more appreciative audience :). By the way, to coin an old song “where did you get that hat?”

        • I made that hat! Hence is matches so exquisitely with the rest of the outfit. πŸ˜‰ Likee?
          The buttonholes have had to wait. We’ve had a shocker with kids and weather but we’re FINALLY heading garden-wise to complete the great mow. I hope. 😦

          • narf77 says:

            It’s gorgeous here…cold but sunny and I get all day to mess about here dangling my brain amongst the clever clogs and pinching ideas with impunity. Excellent hat ma’am! I am hat challenged as well πŸ˜‰

  3. Lynda says:

    I am on the floor, bowing down to my PC in awe of your thriftiness. You are the Queen, hands down. Now you got me thinking about my overstuffed linen cupboard. Exactly how many sheets do you need when you only have 3 in the house. 6 maybe. 3 on and 3 off and exactly how did i end up with a tower of pillow cases.

    I also have some old towels are are thick and soft but fraying around the edges. Goodness, such inspiration you given me. Ill be on the lookout for vintage fabrics with your name on them. I do have a sewing project in mind at the moment but for me instead of a pillow case youd be using a king size sheet and that’s just for one leg!!! LOL.

    When i was off work with Tom as a baby i started an Avon business from scratch in a new area and saved for my machine. I made all Tom’s creche clothes and he was the spiffiest little boy. I loved making tracksuits in themes, especially Thomas the Tank with all those sew on motifs. Tom had a passion for trains (a common junior Aspie obsession), no problem, he was covered in them from head to toe.

    I hope Allegra finds her inner super model as i forsee lots of times in her future where she will be standing around on the top of th dinner table while her mother, mouth stuffed full of pins, mumbles (carefuly) to turn or stand still. Arhhh memories…… All our clothes were home made by an excellent seamstree, my MUM. At past 80 she is still sewing her own, housedresses.

    Big hugs to a big inspiration.


    • Ha, the memories you’ve just returned to me! Standing on the table in my debutante dress that mum made from paper taffeta, her mouth full of pins, telling me to turn, turn, turn, me as white as the material of the dress, low blood pressure, faint! I sank gracefully amidst my beautiful billowing white dress and tried to retain consciousness. Too funny!

      Your frayed towels can be recycled beautifully into hand towels or face washers (flannels) or indeed, with a flannelette sheet into reusable cloth “paper towels”. Google it. πŸ˜€ I’ve bought a snap fastener which is on its way from wherever (I figured it was a tool that would well earn its keep here) and once it arrives I’ll be grabbing myself some op shop towels. We cleaned out and passed on all our excess towels and linens a year or so ago. You’re right in asking how many we really need hey but I guess that throwing out the older ones that are still fully serviceable is hard. I only did it due to the severe lack of linen cupboard space.

  4. The Eco Mum says:

    You are amazeballs!!!

  5. Jo says:

    Wow, you can sew too – you are a true renaissance hippy! So far I can only sew a straight line, and haven’t worked up to a pattern. Those clever clothes are amazing, and I am so with you on the no shopping. Brilliant way to avoid!

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