Sewing style on a budget

What do you do when you love fashion and clothes shopping and you then your circumstances change and you have to cut your budget? If you have some basic experience in sewing then it can be a positive thing as it can bring out your resourcefulness in new and creative ways. The possibilities are endless with a decent machine, a good pair of scissors, fabric and a bit of patience – you can sew clothes that are perfectly suited to your lifestyle and age.


Project Runway is a great inspiration for what you can make and the sewing process. Seeing the contestants go to Mood fabrics in New York and Rathdowne Fabrics in Melbourne shows the enormous range of gorgeous fabrics that you can choose from and also that you can buy online. Nothing is the same though as seeing all the different patterns and textures, touching the fabrics and developing a sense of the weight and feel of them – it’s part of the appeal of sewing.

These places are known also for their designer fabrics as does Tessuti fabrics in Sydney (also online). There are numerous stores that have lower-priced fabrics. In Australia, Spotlight and Lincraft cover a broad range of fabrics at affordable prices.

Your tools

There are different ways of starting. Investing in a decent and reasonably-priced machine such as a Toyota (starting at around AUD $200 range) or Jenome (starting at around AUD $250) makes a great difference. It is also worth buying some quality sewing scissors – you’ll find out when you are cutting fabric whether the ones you have are good or not.

Start with something simple such as a skirt or a simple shirt. Most fabric shops sell patterns and other essentials and will give advice on what fabric will work for your pattern or idea; many of them hold sewing classes.

How to start sewing

Sewing with someone with some experience who can guide you through the basics is a great way to start. They can help you with such things as pattern reading, cutting, how to set up your machine and stitching until you gain the confidence to experiment yourself.

If you’re on a budget you’re not necessarily going to do sewing classes. There are a lot of alternatives though:

  • The companies who manufacture sewing machines often have online sewing groups.
  • You can try meetup to check if there is a local group.
  • There is a lot of information on YouTube.
  • “The Complete Book of Sewing: A Practical Step-By-Step Guide to Everyday Technique’ is worth having on hand.

Patterns and pattern-making

Along with buying patterns, which can be expensive, you can have a lot of fun and frustration if you just have a go and experiment. Here are some things you can try:

  • Unpick old clothes, trace the pieces and use them to cut from. This is a great way of learning about how clothes are constructed. Patterns often seem inversed to how they appear on a body for example
  • Make patterns by tracing over clothes – this is a rather inaccurate way of doing things but again it helps to learn how clothes are put together.
  • Buy Burda Style pattern magazines or go online to their site. This is a very economical way of buying patterns and learning from an online community.
  • Knowing your body shape helps you find certain patterns that have pieces that work for your body type. For example, finding trousers with the right cut for you that you can then adapt by changing their pockets or leg shape. Finding a good shirt sleeve/collar that can be altered for different occasions.

The sewing is just a small part of it. The fabrics, buttons, patterns, beads, laces, leathers, ribbons, magazines, shops you may go to for ideas, are endless. You can learn so much by trial and error and if you persist, you will see how far you’ve come over a few years. People will know you for your distinctive (in a positive way) style and when they compliment you, you can say with pleasure, “Oh thanks, I made it”.

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Be sure to check out our article on the Best Serger Reviews and Buying Guide!

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