According to a study by the Craft & Hobby Trade Association (CHA-UK), over 7.7 million people in the UK practise sewing as a hobby, most of them women. After a drop in popularity once sewing was no longer taught at school, the modern yearning for something truly unique has brought it back.
And this even though, between the cost of a sewing machine, the pattern and the various sewing accessories (never mind the fabric itself), making your own clothes is usually more expensive than buying them at a shop. But making something yourself can be very satisfying, and is also a good way to practise between your sewing lessons.
You can also personalise your things by sewing your own drapes, using beautiful fabrics to tailor your perfectly – or adapt clothes to your body shape and individualise them rather than buy your jeans “made in Bangladesh”.
Whether you are looking for taffeta, muslin, upholstery fabrics, organic cotton, silk or waxed canvas for embroidery – you will first need to make a pattern and acquire the proper sewing tools.
But sewing supplies – even beautiful, high-quality fabric – do not always have to come dear, as long as you get them in the right place.
Sewing automatically implies setting aside a certain budget to equip yourself in haberdashery and plunder the aisles of your favourite fabric shops.
This is why it’s important to optimise your purchases in small local haberdasheries or online fabric shops.
Thrift stores can be real treasure troves for unusual and cheap fabrics. Photo by jeffk on Visual hunt
Buying less fabric but in better quality can, paradoxally, help you save money. However, you need to know exactly what you will be sewing – whether simple sewing projects or home dec – before you enter the fabric shop.
Choose discounted fabric in high quality or nice prints. You will be saving money on good quality and wasting less fabric in the long run. A cheap fabric might be too stiff or difficult to sew, or warp or get damaged easily – meaning you have to re-cut, or replace, and end up paying more.
But just because the quality is good doesn’t mean you have to pay full price – so look for clearance sales, holiday sales, special bargain fabrics, 50% off deals….
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There is a way for hard-up tailors and dressmakers to get new fabrics almost for free. Many fabric aisles in department stores or sewing shops have a scrap table with the bolt ends – pieces of materials only a few yards long left over after cutting for customers.
If your project doesn’t require too much fabric or you are willing to combine two different prints (or a print and a uni), you can get some very good deals at the scrap table. You will have to be very careful placing and cutting your pattern, though!
Hitting the flea markets is a good way to find sewing treasures: imitation leather, prints, silk and satin for a few pounds at most or even discounted organic fabrics. Keep an open mind as you wander the stalls and inspiration is sure to hit.
Though we often don’t think of it, recycling is a good way to find cheap fabrics. Search in flea markets, thrift shops, garage sales… true caves of wonder to find unusual and fun fabrics for very little money. Everything is re-usable: zips, buttons, fabric, trimmings… Or: how to give old materials a new take on life.
Look out for unusual patterns on old skirts and shirts – those outdated leopard prints can be fun as part of a sewing pattern that uses colour blocking.
Don’t forget that scraps don’t just come from the remnant table or thrift shops. Save up your scraps from other projects to make fun small craft sewing projects or sew them together into larger cloths, patchwork-style, to make new fabric for crazy and unique garments.
Smaller fabric scraps from other projects can be turned into cute craft gifts such as this pincushion. Photo by Studio Paars on Visualhunt
However, not everybody enjoys going shopping or urban hiking. Fortunately, the Internet has a wide range of cheap fabrics. And often also your basic sewing supplies.
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The choice available on the web is quite staggering. There are a large quantity of fabrics and sewing supplies to be found online, and you can even import cheap fabrics from other countries.
So – what fabric should you choose for your new evening gown? Gabardine, linen, velvet, japanese fabric, satin, wool, cotton jersey, muslin… You can find almost everything online.
Without listing every single type of fabric available on the Internet, here are some online haberdashery sites to suit your budget.
Cheap fabrics offer just that – low-cost:
They even have a whole site section dedicated to fabrics for under £2.50/m. Their range goes from embroidered Dupion silk at £34.99/m to simple muslin at £ 1.89/m.
This is a whole site dedicated to sewing fabrics:
You should count about 9.95 €/m for a coloured jersey cotton; 14.95 € for French terry or 5.50 € for cotton poplin.
Prices vary greatly depending on the type of fabric you are looking for.
Fabric UK has a range of
They often offer sales and have two special section for fabrics costing £ 1.99/m and 99p per metre.
Britain’s first mail order fabric shop is now online and offers reduced fabrics at prices under £10/m, including a lot of children’s prints.
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There are a lot of things you can do with remnant fabrics and fat squares. Photo by clumsy kristel on VisualHunt
Remnant House is a jobber site with discount fabrics of all sorts, from prints, children’s fabrics, dress fabrics, craft fabrics, quilting panels, curtains and draping fabrics… and bargain bundles, including the ever-exciting mystery bundles to boost your creativity.
Abakhan offers good value on fabrics and has a large clearance section that includes bargains on upholstery fabrics. They also have a remnants section if you are adventurous enough to venture into smaller fabric pieces for interesting patchwork or contrast clothes and cushions.
White Tree has a great range of dressmaking fabrics from denim fabrics, chambray, linen fabrics, cotton prints, bridal fabrics… And a price slide to limit your search, with options at under £2/m! They also offer a good range of haberdashery and sewing patterns.
This physical shop in Lancashire also has an online presence, with dressmaking fabrics, cottons, upholstery and curtain fabrics. And if you want a nice, new sewing machine, they have a range of Brothers sewing machines to choose from.
Patch Fabrics specialise in patchwork, so they mostly have cotton prints that they sell by the half-metre – but for very affordable prices. Even if you don’t want to do patchwork, their cheerful prints make lovely children’s clothes, cushions, tablecloths or add sweet little touches to skirts and blouses. Or try some simple sewing projects for fat quarters, from skirts to making your own bias tape.
Fabric Godmother offers designer fabrics at discount prices. Photo on Visualhunt.com
The Fabric Godmother has a wonderful choice of fabrics that you can search by fabric type, colour or design (different prints or motifs), very practical if you are looking for something specific. One nice little plus is a constantly changing collection of designer fabrics – that’s right, mill ends from the fabrics used by designers such as Prada and Burberry could be under the needle of your sewing machine. So if you’re trying to recreate a specific dress or suit in your sewing class, you might just get lucky enough to find the actual fabric for affordable prices!
When buying fabric, the Internet offers so much more than a gigantic fabric shop: the ability to compare prices without leaving your couch. Now all you have to do is buy a sewing needle, fill the bobbin of your sewing machine and start your sewing lessons.
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