My mom first taught me to sew when I was a pre-teen. I made one or two outfits and then promptly stopped sewing. But it was still a lesson that stuck with me and already it’s saved me money. Although a sewing machine costs up to a few hundred dollars, it’s well worth the investment if you learn to use it.

Fixing Clothes
This is the most basic money-saver and in most cases it doesn’t require a sewing machine. Everyone should know how to sew a button or tack a seam. You can even use hem tape to avoid the sewing if you want to. I still have to learn how to hem for real, but it’s on my list because it will save me serious cash.

Making Curtains
Our new house has lots of windows and not one window covering. We’ll be buying blinds for some of the rooms – and no, I don’t recommend DIYing blinds – but for other rooms my mom and I will be sewing curtains. Most of my windows are custom-sized, which means drapes or curtains easily cost $200 each. For example, I need three 43 x 23 inch curtains for the master bedroom. If I had those made, it would run me $600. I can buy the fabric and make them myself for $50, even if I buy expensive fabric and make Roman shades. Simple café curtains for the kitchen would set me back all of $10. Of course, there are some cases where it’s cheaper to go down to Bed Bath & Beyond and buy off-the-rack, but if you want something fancier, learn to sew them yourself to save hundreds of dollars.

As I detailed last year, I decided to resume my sewing career by making slipcovers. I also made produce bags and yoga mat bags while I was at it. However, slipcovers probably weren’t the best choice after 22 years of not sewing. It took a long time and lot of stabbed fingers, but it also cost me $200, which is at least $600 cheaper than custom covers would have cost.

Children’s Clothing and Diapers
If you have kids, then learning to sew can save you hundreds of dollars over their childhoods. Here’s a short list of things you may have to sew at some point: Halloween costumes, school plays, cloth diapers, cute dresses and shirts, hems so you can buy pants too long and let your kids grow into them, nursery curtains then later other curtains as they grow.

Now that I own a home, I intend to buy my own sewing machine. There are so many projects I want to make. Of course it helps that I have one of the country’s largest garment districts in my backyard, so I can get cheap fabric quickly and easily, but you can also find fabric online or with a coupon at a local fabric store.

It used to be that sewing clothes was cheaper than buying clothes, but that’s not the case anymore. Still, fixing clothes and making non-clothing items can save you thousands of dollars over a lifetime. If you want to learn to sew, you could take sewing classes at a store, but most people have moms who sew. Most moms also have sewing machines. Ask her to teach you how to sew. I’m sure she’ll be delighted to show you.


5 Responses to “Long-Term Money Saver: Learn to Sew”

  1. MoneyMateKate on September 11th, 2009 10:12 am

    I bought a sewing machine last year and still haven’t figured the darn thing out. The only classes I can find in Manhattan cost – I kid you not! – $350 for 5 x 2hr sessions. Do I think I’ll spend more than that on having hems and such done professionally over the next 30 years? No. I’m still hoping to learn, just not at that price tag.

  2. Aryn on September 11th, 2009 11:01 am

    Kate, that’s ridiculous! No way would I pay that much money to learn to sew. Do you have any friends who sew that could show you how to use the machine?

    Since you live in New York and have an awesome library system, I’d also search the catalog for sewing books with titles like “sewing 101″. I borrowed several before finding one that showed me how to make slipcovers with step-by-step instructions and pictures.

  3. Carnival of Money Hackers – 82st Edition on September 15th, 2009 7:05 pm

    [...] presents Long-Term Money Saver: Learn to Sew posted at Sound Money [...]

  4. Adela on September 26th, 2009 9:43 pm

    Hi, I live abroad and am planning on moving back to the US next year. I have been sewing most of my life. I used to make curtains, swags, valances,… I think I am very good at what I do (I used to make party dresses and wedding dresses before that- embroider them and all..not anymore). I have been searching the internet trying to find out if I can make a good living out of making custom request curtains in the US without much luck. I am not good at using the internet – begginer.
    I am a single mom with a young teen and I will be a one paycheck income home. I am very worried on whether I will be able to make a good living with this. Maybe you could shed me some light on the matter. I would be very grateful. Maybe you could tell how to search the internet for info. Thank you very much. Adela

  5. Aryn on September 28th, 2009 4:26 pm

    Hi Adela,

    I don’t have specific tips, but I think it would be difficult to earn a full living at the beginning. You would probably have to set up a website to take online orders, but also get to know people through a church or community center so you can network and get client referrals that way.

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