Don’t know how to sew? It's really easy to learn. Some fabric stores offer lessons and adult ed schools have evening classes. Another idea: ask around – you may be able to barter for “basics” lessons. There are also some helpful books for beginners and on-line instructional videos.

Don’t own a sewing machine? You can buy a brand-new sewing machine for around $150. I’d advise beginners to just get a basic machine. Don’t get sucked into the ones with the fancy embroidery stitches, with the high price tags.

Now that you've got the equipment and a little know-how, here are my tips for saving money when sewing kids’ clothes.


You’ll need some good patterns, but watch the cost. If your local fabric store has a discount club, you may be able to get advance notice of pattern sales. Check out Simplicity (which also has a virtual classroom), Butterick or McCall. You can sometimes find clearance patterns online, too. Also, try yard sales.

Kids grow, and you can often find used patterns for considerably less money. I also like patterns that offer several clothing items in one envelope, like pants, a top, and a dress. When sewing for girls, let them choose between a couple of pre-selected Don’t make the mistake of letting them leaf through pattern books. You may be thinking "corduroy jumper," but learn from my experience. If she sees the satin number with puffed sleeves, pin tucks, smocking, and a lacy crinoline, she will sabotage your “make it myself and save money” plan. You also may be completely out-gunned on the project, if you are an inexperienced seamstress.


When you go to select fabric, head for the clearance area. While you don’t need a lot of fabric for a child’s outfit, clearance fabrics in the range of $3–$4 a yard beat seasonal bolts at $8–$12 a yard.

For boys, fit and color seem to be the big criteria. It better not be scratchy or pink! If you can’t drag them into the fabric store, ask the store for swatches and let him pick. If you want the kids to wear the clothes, I’d advise letting them pick the fabric. Check your pattern to see what types of fabrics are appropriate for your project and head either to the clearance bolts or to the sale area. You can spend a lot more than you intended if you don’t buy on sale.


Notions, in sewing lingo, are items like thread, zippers, buttons, elastic, etc.  These little items add up really fast. A card of buttons can run $5. Zippers can be $8, alone! You may think you are saving money with some $4/yard fabric, but good-bye savings if the notions for the project are too expensive.

Make two

Face it, getting out the sewing machine and all the supplies that you need makes a mess. And, once you sew that first sleeve, the others go pretty quickly. You can sew two of the same items pretty quickly. My sister-in-law and I have girls six weeks apart. Making two outfits was especially great at holidays, when the girls wanted “matching” dresses or costumes.


Know your limitations

I can sew throw pillows, curtains, and simple clothes, but I know better than to attempt any more prom dresses. I have never been able to put in zippers nicely, but can handle buttonholes. My point is that you should master a technique before getting yourself in too deep and getting frustrated. I’ve had to sew my daughter into her prom dress and I never want to see another sequined tutu. Keep it simple.

A great side benefit to sewing clothes yourself is the quality of the finished product. Hems tend to stay in, and buttons stay on. The best benefit, though, is when you hear your child say, “My mommy made it for me!”

This post was included in the Make it from Scratch Carnival