Monday, October 31, 2011

Thrifty Finds: fabric and notions

I've discussed the problem with my local thrift stores at length (if you don't feel like clicking, the long and short of it is that they pay higher rent than in other parts of the country, and the pricers are very Internet savvy... making most local thrift stores here not very "thrifty").

So I didn't feel like I was getting the greatest deal when I walked out paying $16.05 for the fabric, binding, bias tape, and piping pictured above.

But I couldn't help it; 50 cents for each of the Wrights tape/binding/etc. was certainly a good buy. I would've purchased those anyway. The fabric all worked out to about $2 or less a yard, but it still pained me to buy it, considering I've still got my Gramma's stash to work through.

It's just that I don't think I have any little boy fabric in the current stash, and I've got to start jamming out various item's for my son's room. The trucks and tractors pictured above hardly fit with the "Robots in Space" boys room theme, but at the very least they could go in a quilt. Prices for the truck and tractor remnants ranged from 50 cents for a 7 inch by 2.25 yard strip, to $2.50 for 2 full yards of the John Deere stuff.

The 90s looking floral second from left I'm not particularly fond of, but for the price and quantity ($5.50 for 3 yards), it'd be great for a muslin without me actually having to use muslin. And that piece in the middle is may absolute fave; a HOUNDSTOOTH with a FLORAL BORDER PRINT! I paid $2.50 for 1.5 yards, but might've dropped a little more for that one.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pattern Haul: Vintage Vogue and Retro Butterick

Here's the latest round of patterns I purchased; all reproductions of vintage patterns and not one contemporary pattern!

I did a little research before this pattern sale and it seems that $3.99 may be as cheap as Vogue goes at Jo-Ann, so I bit the bullet and bought some of those. And even though I expressed regret at not buying certain Butterick patterns last time Butterick was on sale, those weren't the ones I bought. That's because they were $1.99 this time, and even though that's a huge discount, it's still twice as much as the 99 cent sale!

From left to right in the image above, these are the patterns I purchased in my latest pattern haul:
  • Butterick B5281
  • Butterick B5209
  • Vogue V2960
  • Vogue V2787
  • Vogue V1044
  • Vogue V8728
Most of these are labeled advanced... tell me, am I courting trouble with these purchases?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Is sewing cheaper than buying?

Is sewing cheaper than buying?

The general consensus on the Internet seems to be "no", not at all. They'll tell you to buy clothes instead at WalMart, JCPenny, Target, or the thrift stores. They'll tell you patterns and fabric cost too much, not to mention the notions. They say they buy a shirt on clearance, only to go to JoAnn and find the same fabric going for the full price of the shirt!

I disagree. I believe these people have only slightly looked into sewing, or not at all.

My answer to "is sewing cheaper than buying?" is: IT DEPENDS.

Many of those in the "no" camp seem to be frugality and money bloggers as opposed to sewing and craft bloggers. And they're definitely taking the wrong approach to sewing.

Here's what I mean by the wrong approach to sewing: it seems those who say "buying is always cheaper than sewing, no matter what" are picking out a pattern, and then picking out full-priced fabric. Many times this pattern/fabric combo is based on a shirt or dress they've already seen that they're trying to duplicate. Instead, those interested in sewing to save money should be stocking up on patterns while they're on sale, and matching fabric as they come across it.

Of course, my sewing machine was a gift, but I've seen them pretty cheap at garage sales and thrift stores,  and even free on Craigslist. The following lists assume one already either has a sewing machine or access to one.

You're into runway and high fashion.
Couture is expensive. Sewing can be, too, but rarely will you drop hundreds or thousands on an outfit. Hands down, the most inexpensive way to get a custom, made-for-you outfit is to sew it yourself.

You're into more expensive clothes in general.
Even if you're not into one-of-a-kind, custom clothing as above, but are into pricier items such as vintage clothing or clothing from places like Anthropologie, sewing can be cheaper.

You want quality clothing.
This assumes you're a talented sewer or the potential to become one. I LOVE Target, but one my $5 clearance maternity tops started coming apart after one wash. I'd like to think I could sew a top that will hold together much better for about the same price in fabric.

You're a unique size or shape.
I recently took my back waist measurement, and it was a good two inches longer than even the largest pattern size. I guess I should add that I'm pushing 6-feet-tall. That means that anything I buy off the rack runs the risk of showing my midriff or having the waist part fall way above where it should be. That's just the start of my problems; my figure is also rather manly. If you have shorter legs, a deep crotch, or a tiny waist and big bust, sewing may be for you. Especially if you buy clothing only to run to the tailor to have it altered.

You like to be "different".
Unless you're copying a look or using an inspiration piece, sewing guarantees you have a one-of-a-kind dress that no one else will have-- without having to, again, spend the custom price.

You purchase fabric on clearance, from thrift stores, or garage sales.
Or you buy sheets, tablecloths, or curtains on sale at the thrift store or from garage sales to use as fabric. This requires patience and an open mind. You can save bundles on material by waiting for the right material to come along, instead of seeking out a specific fabric based on print and color.

You live in an area like mine, where thrift stores are scarce and overpriced.
I've addressed this before: often, buying clothing from a number of Bay Area thrift stores will be just as expensive as purchasing it from Target or Ross. And nine times out of ten, the dated thrift store clothing won't fit me properly anyway. Our thrift stores are paying higher rent, and, thanks to our proximity to Silicon Valley, those working there are very Internet savvy and can quickly find the value of things (that's why I saw a tiny Pyrex dish for seven bucks yesterday). Depending on what part of the country you live in, thrifting your clothes may indeed be a better buy. For me, I'll stick to thrifting for just home goods and furniture.

You buy patterns on sale.
Most of the time it is easy to buy them for 99 cents. I read one account by a person who said she saved by making her own patterns from paper grocery bags; if only she'd known how cheap an actual pattern can be! You can't even buy the paper for 99 cents sometimes. If your pattern isn't on sale, find a similar one that is. Keep in mind a pattern is usable more than once.

You enjoy dresses, skirts, and slacks more than jeans and T-shirts.
If you work in a dirty environment where your clothes get thrashed, it's probably not a good idea to invest a lot of time into making them.

You want to be green.
I'm not saying all sewing in greener. That new fabric at the craft shop has to manufactured in some factory, and shipped in on big boats or trucks. But if you're using thrifted fabric, old sheets or curtains laying around, or up-cycling thrift store buys, then yes, you're giving new life to an old item. This is the slow clothing movement, and it can be much cheaper than buying bamboo T-shirts (which are very expensive even wholesale, as I recall from when hubby worked as a screenprinter) or hemp dresses. Of course, buying clothes from the thrift store is pretty green too. But, even if you're buying new fabric, you can rest assured that your garment isn't being made in a sweatshop, like most ready-made clothing items.

You are a creative type, or you have "the eye".
It doesn't matter how straight you can sew, how cheaply you buy the material, or how talented a seamstress you become. If you can't match co-ordinating fabric or pick out the correct color bias tape for your garment, you're not going to end up with something pretty, and it may be better to just buy off the rack. This is subjective, of course, and as long as your happy with your finished product, that's all that matters. But you're not going to save any money by sewing if you don't like what you've sewn and always leave it hanging in the closet.

You view sewing as a hobby.
How much money are you plunking down on new Apple gadgets, only to find them obsolete next month? Do you get to wear that photography hobby out to dinner? Will that vacation to Costa Rica provide you years of wear? Didn't think so. Sewing is a hobby, for many, a rewarding one. If you look at the money you're spending as hobby money, it shouldn't bother you so much. Especially when you realize that with this hobby, you're given something tangible and useful.

You're buying clothes for children...
who will outgrow the clothing quickly, and you don't have to worry as much about quality. You saw my story about my Target maternity buys above. My son grows out of clothes so quickly, the seams don't even have time to come apart. Plus, I can buy most of his stuff on clearance at Target for under $3. There's no way I can match that. I, on the other hand, stay close to the same size, so I can wear my sewn garments for some time.

You're a jeans and t-shirt kinda guy or gal.
Or sweatshirts and overalls. You get the idea. Sewing clothing should be for those who work in an environment where they're expected to wear nicer clothing, or for those who prefer to wear skirts, dresses, etc.

You're sewing for a man.
Let's face it, I'm not going to be able to, nor do I want to, duplicate my husband's cutoff cargo shorts and Danzig shirt. When he does need button downs and slacks, he'll get a much better buy at Ross or TJ Maxx.

You need maternity or other temporary wear.
Sewing can save you money when you can wear the garment for a long time, and get a lot of use out of it. For the same reason I advise not to bother sewing for children because they'll outgrow it quickly, it's probably best to save money by not sewing adult clothing that won't be used more than once or twice, or will be used for just a few months. The exceptions would of course be costumes and formal wear.

You're in the market for sturdy handbags and other accessories.
Some of the complaints I read about sewing not being all that frugal said that the individual started off by sewing purses and found that buying them would be cheaper. So stop sewing purses.

You don't like to sew!
No amount of money saved is worth frustration and tears if you're not going to enjoy yourself. It's a hobby. But it may not be for you, especially if you see it as a chore. If that's the case, save yourself the headache and stick with off-the-rack!

My answer on the economics of sewing bedding, curtains, and other home decor is the same: it depends. If you need a duvet cover, or your tastes run more expensive, I recommend sewing, especially if you have unused materials laying around such as flat sheets. I, however, will never sew a fitted sheet. It of course can be done, but I won't be bothering with that for the price I can find nice, high thread count fitted sheets for at stores like Marshall's. But I plan to sew most of our curtains (I can do these Anthro ones for much cheaper and with much cuter fabric), so our home linens will be a mix of purchased and sewn.

Still not sold? Just check out some of the garments Mena from The Sew Weekly whips up. I use her as an example because she provides the total price of each garment, sans labor time (remember, it's a hobby). We're talkin' six bucks, fourteen bucks, and thirteen bucks. These are entire dresses. There are a couple of exceptions (66 bucks, yikes)!

Bottom line: if you're a "clothes make the man" kinda guy or gal, a good shopper, and think you have the ability to sew well, sewing clothes may be cheaper for you. If you're a jeans, sweats, tees and basic tops kinda person who has a fit-model type of body that is easy to find clothes for, off-the-rack is for you. On home items, a pretty, high-quality duvet cover and curtains will almost always be cheaper to sew, while fitted sheets and pillow cases may be better to purchase.

Do you agree with me?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Thrifty Finds: zippers, souvenir scarf

Here's the haul I promised to show you weeks ago, although calling this a "haul" is an exaggeration, because it's really just two things. Two things I got for next to nothing.

I feel like the thrift stores in my town ain't what they used to be. There's an upscale Hoff Brau in the old Salvation Army, an Italian joint in an awesome place that used to be called "My Sister's Closet", and you can expect to pay the going rate or more for most of the goods for sale in any of the thrift shops. There's really only two stores in my town that I frequent.

So it was totally by chance that I decided to go by one of the younger thrift stores in my town, just when everything happened to be 50% off. The entire store, save a few furniture items.

I got this kitschy vintage Mexican souvenir scarf, which was originally $4. The red version sold on Etsy in the 20 buck range. The big ziplock bag of zippers was marked  $4.90, but the guy entered it into the register for $4 even, bringing my grand total to $8 minus 50%, meaning I walked out paying four bucks plus tax.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Color inspiration: indigos, violets, pinks, oranges, and yellows

I was very inspired by the colors of this bouquet when it popped up on my Pinterest, so I drew out the pallette in PhotoShop. Don't be surprised if this color combo turns up again somewhere on this blog.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Roundup: Granny Chic

No explanation needed, I think. I just totally lurrrrve Granny Chic. Think cross stitch, doilies, and crocheted granny squares...

Source: via Elisha on Pinterest

Monday, October 17, 2011

Pattern Haul: McCall's on sale for 99 cents!

You knew it was bound to happen when I told you the next 99 cent pattern sale at JoAnn would be McCall's. Here's what I came home with this time:
  • McCalls 6446
  • McCalls 6435
  • McCalls 6319
  • McCalls 5927
  • McCalls 6024
  • McCalls 5972
  • McCalls 6069
  • McCalls 6277
  • McCalls 6324
  • McCalls 6404 (Not pictured-- yes, it's jeggings. Don't look at me like that, I still wear Uggs, too.)

Color inspiration: Rust, gold, blue, dark gray, and cream

If I were to design a piece of floral fabric right now, I would make the flowers rust, a shade of blue I'm having trouble identifying (bondi blue?), and mustard (I'd rather call it gold). They'd be outlined in dark gray and set on a light cream background.

I'm liking this as a bedroom color palette.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Birch Fabrics giveaway!

Pinterest says I pinned this rocket fabric (with the intention of making it part of my "Robots in Space" boys room theme) a whole nine weeks ago... more than two months before I knew that it was going to be part of Birch Fabrics' giveaway of their Circa 52 fabric collection! I want it so badly.

Check out Birch Fabrics, and learn about the giveaway on their blog.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Things I Fancy: the Pajanimals' Swan Rug

In case you can't tell from my previous Berenstain Bears and Barney the Dinosaur "Things I Fancy" posts, I watch a lot of Sprout.

And in case you can't tell from my Pinterest, I love anything Jim Henson and the Muppets.

So of course I love the Pajanimals, their sweet lullabys, and especially their bedroom. And what always stood out most to me in their room is this round swan rug, which you can see in these stills I grabbed from their "La-La-Lullaby" video:

 Very Anthropologie! I can't seem to find a similar one online, not even at Anthro.

As of this fall, the Pajanimals have gone from singing lullabys in music-video type vignets on Sprout, to starring in their very own series. Good news for Pajanimals fans, but... the set has since been changed. And the swan rug is gone. But some good changes have also been welcomed into the Pajanimals bedroom. I'm going to be talking about those, too, once I get used to the all-new Pajanimals!

The Pinterest Problem

Maybe it's just my journalistic training, but I tend to be pretty hardcore when it comes to ethics in media. I like to give credit where credit is due.

Which is why it didn't surprise me that one of Pinterest's "Pin Etiquette" guidelines is to "Credit Your Sources":
Pins are the most useful when they have links back to the original source. If you notice that a pin is not sourced correctly, leave a comment so the original pinner can update the source. Finding the original source is always preferable to a secondary source such as Google Image Search or a blog entry.
The emphasis in bold is mine, because it's one of the guidelines I stick to pretty rigidly.

If I see an image on a blog that I'd like to pin, I try to click through to the original source and pin it from there.

If I see something I'd like to repin on Pinterest itself, but notice the link seems fishy (like "" or an expensive magazine-looking image from a Blogspot domain), I try not to repin it. I also don't leave a [douchey] comment for the original pinner asking them to correct the source, as Pinterest suggests. Instead, I again try to click through to the original source and pin from there, even if it takes some detective work.

What do I mean by detective work? Take this pin:

That image is all the heck over Pinterest, with the sources being random Blogspot, Tumblrs, and image searches. I tried Tineye and Google's reverse image search and still could not track down the original source.

I eventually found the image on House of Turquoise, where Erin went above and beyond and provided the architectural firm, designer, and photographer responsible. She also named the book it was published in. After checking the websites of all three responsible parties, as well as the book author, I found the image on the photog's page (I would've been satisfied with crediting anyone involved with designing or documenting the room), where I ultimately pinned it from. Right now, while that picture has been pinned and repinned dozens of times, I am one of just two people who've pinned it from the photographer's page.

This pin is another example:

I spotted this one on Pinterest and again could not find the original source. Using the same detective (broadcast reporter?) hunting skills as above, I tracked it to a book. While the author/designer didn't have the image on his website, I did find a blog that included the image in a review of the book and credited the image well. I pinned in from her blog.

So, why is this an issue? There are a couple of reasons, and the first one that comes to mind is copyright law. Before I signed up, I wondered how Pinterest skirted the copyright laws, but have since learned that they at least appear to take the matter somewhat seriously. Separate from the "Pin Etiquette" page I've already linked to, the site has a Copyright page, which details the dispute process and even gives the contact info for their Silicon Valley "Copyright Agent".

There's also the point Pinterest itself makes in the quote at the beginning of this blog post; Pins are the most useful when they have links back to the original source. That is, what is the point of having a pretty pin of a product to buy floating around, when one can't figure out how the heck to buy it? Or a pin of a DIY or craft project when there is no link to the how-to? Pins lacking their original sources make it difficult for those using Pinterest to discover new things.

And for me, perhaps those most annoying reason pinners need to find the original source is to avoid falling into the traffic-seeking trap that some bloggers have begun abusing using Pinterest for. Returning again to Pinterest's "Pin Etiquette" page, Pinterest suggests that users "Avoid Self Promotion":
Pinterest is designed to curate and share things you love. If there is a photo or project you’re proud of, pin away! However, try not to use Pinterest purely as a tool for self-promotion.
Like Pinterest mentions, I have no problem whatsoever with a blogger who creates a totally awesome project, takes photos and uploads them to their blog, and then pins from their blog. I also don't have a problem with a blogger who posts images to their blog from other sources, and even though they give full credit to their sources, their readers pin from their blog anyway. The bloggers have no control over that, and blogging about images from other, fully-credited sources, is standard practice.

I do have a major problem with a blogger posting images from other sources to their blog, and then pinning the image from their own blog when they clearly know the original source. This bugs me even if they've properly sourced the image on their blog, because this move is designed solely to drive traffic back to their own website by using someone else's beautifully photographed image. It's unethical.

And in that same vein, it's also unethical to post stolen images from other sources, either not source them or give a half-hearted sourcing attempt, and then invite people to pin the pictures. That's the problem I've encountered with this image, which I repinned anyway in order to demonstrate why I'm uncomfortable with this practice:

You'll notice that in the caption right there, Pinterest's embed code gives the source as the blog that this image was pinned from. The problem is that when you click through to this blog post, the blogger starts out with essentially a call to action to pin by saying "all apologies if your pinterest button bursts into flames- jk..not sorry haha". Then comes the parade of pictures, none of which are captioned, then comes the sourcing info at the very bottom. Just one of the sources listed is an actual link, and none specify which photo came from where. I'm not saying this blogger did this as a means to drive traffic; it quite honestly could just be a lack of knowledge on internet and blogging etiquette.

Or it could just be that I'm the only one who's really concerned with the ethics behind Pinterest. But I'm sure there's a photographer or crafter out there somewhere who appreciates my zeal.

Monday, October 10, 2011

McCalls 6433: Anthropologie's Varvara Maxi Dress

Maxi dresses are pretty much my summer staple, so it stands to reason I'd want to continue wearing them through the winter-- even though I've read that the winter maxi should be "avoided like the plague".

Anthropologie has this one I'm fancying: the Varvara Maxi Dress. And when I spotted McCalls 6433, I knew that if I were to attempt to make a Varvara inspired dress, M6433 would be the pattern.

And, as I've already mentioned, McCalls is conveniently the next 99-cent pattern sale at JoAnn. All I need to find now is the right Kilim, Southwestern, or Pendelton-blanket inspired heavy knit that won't break the bank. Have you seen any?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Pattern Haul: Simplicity on sale for 99 cents!

Say what you will about Jo-Ann (I've read the Yelp reviews, yikes!), the chain fabric store really throws down on the pattern sales.

Last time, it was Butterick for 99 cents, now it's Simplicity (through Monday, October 10th for the Columbus Day Sale).

And unlike the Butterick sale, I was determined to have no regrets-- I maxed out the 10-pattern limit with the following patterns:

  • Simplicity 2174
  • Simplicity 2180
  • Simplicity 2215
  • Simplicity 2282
  • Simplicity 2363 (Paging Mrs. Roper!)
  • Simplicity 2444
  • Simplicity 2702
  • Simplicity 2219
  • Simplicity 2588
  • Simplicity 4044 (Not pictured-- I only had space for nine patterns in my montage! It's one of the 1940s "retro" suit patterns.)

You know the drill, let me know if you're tried any of these and have any tips for me, and stay tuned for the dresses I actually make out of these. I'm a little worried about the Project Runway Patterns. They only go up to size 20 and my post-pregnancy bust is an embarrassing 45"!  I'll put those in the "way later" pile.

Next up on the pattern sale front: McCalls will be 99 cents at Jo-Ann October 13th through the 15th. And I've got a thrift haul to show you too.
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