Ask the Sewcialists: How do you budget for sewing?

Sewing is an expensive habit. How do you budget for it, or do you? Does your budgeting limit your productivity, or are you (like me sometimes) spending money that you don’t have allocated to sewing on fabric and other supplies?

Graphic: how do you budget for sewing?

Why is sewing more costly than ever?

Fabric prices are increasing due to taxes and tariffs, pattern aren’t cheap, and the relative cost of RTW keeps dropping. Of course, there are some exceptions — if you live in the USA, you might have access to $1 Big 4 pattern sales, or if you live in certain cities there might be cheap fabric in markets. The price of sewing increases as your size increases, or if you need natural fibres for medical reasons, and many other factors. For all of us though, the costs add up!

Social media also leads us to think that everyone else is always sewing new and beautiful things, and gives us the FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) when we haven’t tried the cool new trendy fabric or design. How many of us have bought a pattern or textile because it was the latest fad? I sure have!

Collage of 28 outfits worn by a petite plus-size blonde.
My favourite projects this year, which add up to at least 55m of fabric purchased, plus about 15m sent in return for blogging for fabric stores, which I pay import duties on that are approximately equal to the cost of the fabric. At an average of $10/m that is at least $700CAD!

What are your sewing costs?

I started sewing clothes in 2012 when my husband and I were living with my parents, severely underemployed, and disposable income was very tight. I sewed from my mom’s stash, thrifted sheets, and fabric I could find for cheap. Since then my fabric budget has increased as my income rose, but I always feel like money is stopping me from buying everything I want. That is especially true as the Canadian dollar has dropped further below the USD, and Canada has started charging import duties on every single package of fabric crossing the border. Yardage that starts out looking affordable online suddenly because a luxury good!

Of course, sewing isn’t just about fabric costs. I use bottom-of-the-line Brother sewing machines, and and try to use patterns many times to save money. Having a sewing blog is important to me, so I also spend money on my blog to make it ad-free and I pay $11/month (Canadian dollars, again) for Adobe Lightroom to improve my photo editing. I’ve blogged for fabric stores in return for free fabric, although that sort of content doesn’t appear on Sewcialists. For years I did pattern testing so that I wouldn’t have to pay out of pocket for new patterns, but whether that is a money-saving approach is up for debate!

Then there are the projects from 2019 which I’ve since given away to better homes. Combined with unblogged projects and gifts for others, that’s another $500CAD on fabric easily.

Do you budget, and how?

Truth be told, financial savvy hasn’t come easily to my husband or me. We spent 2019 teaching ourselves new habits by having weekly “Money Chats” using financial tracking apps and a paper calendar to set goals and keep track of progress. I allocate $250/month (8% of my salary) to myself for fabric, haircuts, makeup, shoes, clothes and anything else I could live without. I confess that I do buy myself fabric sometimes when I’m feeling down, and that’s a habit I’d like to diminish. Before you start to worry, I’m not driving us into ruin with my spending — in fact, my stash is sorely depleted and the reason I’m thinking about finances is that I want to replenish it with fabric that is good as well as cheap! Just trying to be honest here.

I choose to budget a lump sum monthly, but there are lots of other ways you could start, like setting an annual budget, a price per project, going on fabric fasts, and so on. I know that there are also people in this community who just don’t have any additional money to spend on crafting, and I honour that too.

Your turn!

Money is a hard topic to discuss because it is so relative and so deeply personal, but I hope we can be honest and kind in the comments. How do you budget for sewing? Do finances limit what you can sew? What are your strategies for spending sustainably on your sewing? How do you find ways to save money while still being able to practice your craft?