I had a conversation recently with someone who was considering purchasing a serger but was concerned about having to buy 4 cones of every color of thread. I posted earlier on thread blending so I won’t belabor the point, instead here are some of my favorite ways to save big on sewing fabrics supplies and notions.
Buy thread in bulk or from an industrial supplier. There is usually a volume discount available. Share with a sewing buddy if needed. I buy threads from Wawak (woolley nylon) and GoldStar. I love GoldStar for serger thread because the prices are great, the quality is good and they have free shipping. The online color chart is great too.
Be patient with purchases; wait for sales whenever possible (see 7 for exceptions).
Double up on coupons. When JoAnn and Hobby Lobby offer the chance to save an additional 15-20% off sale and non-sale items, take it!
Shop for supplies and fabrics that you need all the time online, like interfacing and lining fabrics when they hit rock bottom.
Think outside the box. Remember that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The concept of “it has to look as good on the inside as on the outside” is great, but the person looking at the inside of your garments is most likely to be you. I add funky thread and lining colors to the inside of garments all the time and smile when I wash. By choosing non-traditional colors, prints and fabrics I can save because everyday prices are often low on things that are less popular. The added benefit is that it adds the “smile factor” to a chore.
Know when to buy. I know that the truck arrives at my local fabric store on a Tuesday, so the best time to check for new arrivals and sale items is Wednesday morning. If you are into higher end fabrics, know the fashion cycle. Understanding it is simple. When the January sales kick in, that means that retailers are making room for spring and summer clothing, and that in turn means that the spring and summer manufacturing cycle is coming to a close. Great fabrics are on sale!
Know what to buy. For example, I love wool for winter; when a new shipment arrived in a color that I loved I bought it right away. The full price of the fabric was less than a coat made of comparable goods, so I did not hesitate. Knowing which fabrics hold high retail value is important. I saved money in the long run over what I would pay for ready to wear clothing and will enjoy my new coat many seasons.
Try to organize a local Stitcher’s Switch or participate in one. Trading fabrics with other sewists from your stash that have been on the shelf for a little too long is a great way to get fresh inspiration from unused goods. Here in Memphis you can join the Soul Stitchers and Machine Quilters group or The Beginners Sewing Class.
Invest in the best. It doesn’t sound like saving money but buying good quality supplies is more cost effective than buying poor quality at low prices.
Shop flea markets, garage sales, re-sellers like Goodwill, consignement shops, and online auctions for great deals. My 2 favorite deals are still the desks I bought and painted, one for my Bernina and the other for my serger. I use old sheets and pillow slips for muslin, lining, and even clothing. If it is made out of fabric – sew it! I bought a jacket for $1.50 years ago just to get the buttons and fabric. Up-styling is good for the environment and the budget.
Buy it and dye it. Shopping for natural fibers like cotton, silk or linen makes sound financial sense. Buy the fabric weave that you like in white, off white or light grey and then dye it to the color you actually want.
Save scraps. Saving the selvedges, and scraps has helped me out of more corners than I care to write about. Be careful with this one, it can turn into a space consuming monster, lol!
The final tip is to embrace the place you’re at. If you are a novice then avoid high priced fabric (unless it is deeply discounted) until your skills are up to the challenge. After nearly thirty-five years of designing, pattern making and sewing, I still put myself through my paces before trying to sew on costly goods. This isn’t just about sewing a sample and getting the tension right (both are necessary) but also about practicing the skills I need time and again to create muscle memory and reinforce hand-eye coordination.