“Justifying” Our Sewing “Wants”

by Ramona on September 19, 2014

My friend, Pat , prompted this post today. Last weekend we were talking about how those who sew are careful about their expenditures and of course try and get the most for their money. Pat is an embroidery digitizer and her livelihood depends upon folks buying her designs. Like all artists whether pattern makers, makers of hand-crafted items they sell, those who dye fabrics, or those who instruct, if no one buys the artisan has no income. Artists have to be savvy with their income because there are months that have really great sales and other months where sales barely meet the bills.

Pat was discussing with me how it may take her a couple of weeks to do one design if it is something like a free-standing lace building or a new technique she is trying out. Some days she may pop out a half-dozen designs like redwork. Now remember, the designs also have to be test sewn and if anything is found that needs edits, then those have to be done and the designs tested again until they sew out correctly.

Pattern makers have to design, sketch, and then draft patterns. The patterns are sewn up to test fabrics and construction methods. After the patterns are finalized, then they may have a group of sewers of different skill levels test the patterns for size, instructions and how the pieces go together. After any corrections are done, then the patterns have to be graded for size if they are clothing, printed, packaged, and then advertised for sale. All this has associated costs plus time– and time is money.

How does this relate to our conversation? I was explaining to Pat that when I first started sewing, we were on an extremely limited income. I was trying to be a stay at home mom (we figured it out, and it would have actually “cost” us money to have me go find a job outside the home) and figure out if I could make a living with my sewing skills while raising our children. With a limited income, other than my sewing machine, there was no money for all the “toys” for sewing. Today, of course, I don’t consider them “toys” but instead tools necessary to get the job done more easily, efficiently, and with professional results.

I started a small home-based sewing business doing alterations. As the little business grew, I found I could eek out a little bit of money each month for a special book, tool, or other sewing notion I really wanted. As a young mother and growing business owner, I felt I had to “justify” any purchase; sometimes I think that feeling never leaves we who sew.

I told Pat what I used to do to “justify” the cost of something I really wanted for my slowly growing sewing collection. She told me I should put it in this week’s blog because it would probably help other new and young sewers “justify” sewing “wants”.  She said, “We are all on a limited sewing budget in one way or another and this is a great idea!”

As a young family, we loved giving gifts but again, we were limited by income. Being a resourceful sewer, I like to lovingly handcraft gifts to give. I tried to be creative and I like to learn new techniques and challenge my sewing skills. I couldn’t “justify” all that I wanted until I decided to do this: purchase something I really wanted and use that purchase to handcraft gifts for others! I would create a “theme” that would suit everyone and everyone would get a gift based on the theme. I purchased the books and supplies needed to complete the gifts. By doing this, the money I spent all together was actually much less than if I had purchased individual gifts in stores.

For instance, I wanted to start quilting. I “justified” the purchase of a year’s subscription to Fons and Porters “Love of Quilting” magazine. Through the issues, I was learning new skills, there were free patterns included and I always had scraps of fabrics from sewing for others to use in projects. I learned and quilted and created table runners, small baby quilts, mug mats, all kinds of things I could give as gifts. For the price of the subscription, I basically was able to give a year’s worth of gifts by being resourceful in using my stash and using what I was learning through the the magazine.

Its a wrap book


If there was a book I wanted, I’d “justify” the purchase by using the book to create all the gifts I needed for birthdays or holidays and everyone got a version of the projects created especially for them. An example is the book “It’s a Wrap. The “theme” was fabric covered rope baskets and how could I create a gift for a male or female, youngster or older family member or friend, based on this “theme”? The technique intrigued me and I really wanted the book, so I purchased the book and “justified” the cost by making several gifts using the techniques in the book. I learned a new skill and my family got wonderful new baskets created in fabrics themed to a holiday, their hobby or sports team.


Later on when I got my first embroidery machine, I would see wonderful design collections I wanted, but I was just not able to “justify” the cost even though I knew they were worth more than the price because of what goes into creating beautiful collections. So I would study the designs to see if I could use the designs for my up-coming gift giving. I got to purchase collections such as a collection of Vintage Sewing Machines I personally wanted and I was able to enjoy stitching them out as gifts for recipients whom I knew would appreciate and truly enjoy them.

For new hobby sewers, it is sometimes hard to justify the cost of things we want. Those who don’t understand our hobby may think that purchasing notions and books is wasteful or unnecessary; however, we know it makes our hobby more enjoyable for us just like any hobby they may have.

Maybe these tips will help you purchase more sewing supplies when you realize that they not only add to the enjoyment of your craft but are useful in hand crafting gifts throughout the year. Think about all the time and knowledge that goes into creating our sewing resources. Honestly, the price on the shelf is a bargain for what goes into creating what we get to enjoy in our craft. The purchase of new notions, along with time spent sewing, will result in beautiful gifts for others, a gain in knowledge, new tools and supplies, and our purchases keep our favorite suppliers in business and creating new items for us.

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