Not that I’m like, GREAT at social media “things”, but a thing I’ve been kinda trying to do is the hashtag #practicallyfreesewing. I definitely don’t have the social media skills or aspirational qualities for this to become like, a big sewing community thing, but for me personally, it’s been a fun experiment for a couple of reasons: 1. it feels good to kinda pat myself on the back when I complete a make that cost nothing (or… close to nothing), and 2. I really want to break down the idea that sewing, slow fashion, and sustainability are luxury market things and not accessible to people with lower amounts of disposable income.
So how does this work, exactly? Well, there are two main components here: the incredible resources of the online sewing community, and alternative methods of sourcing fabrics. The former mainly looks like free downloadable sewing patterns, and the latter covers such a wide range of things I realized while typing that it made more sense to give that it’s own paragraph.
Obviously Pinterest and the Google are an infinite source of free resources in general, and sewing patterns are no exception, BUT, if, like me, you find navigating giant seas of information extremely overwhelming, here is a really great (and REALLY extensive) list of women’s patterns from SewSustainability, and here’s another one focused on childrenswear from the So, Zo sewing blog. I was going to put individual links to a few of my favorites but frankly they’re all on those lists….
As for fabrics, here are a few of my favorite resources, though, this is by no means an exhaustive list of ways to acquire fabrics at little to no cost…
Your own personal fabric waste - ok so mayyyyyybe this is just me, BUT I’ve noticed that the yardage estimates on patterns tend to be WAY more than you need and with some um… creative? cutting I’m often able to get a second (smaller) project out of what’s left from something big like say, a dress or pair of pants.
Industrial salvage stores - this is my FAVORITE way to buy fabric. Basically textile and garment manufacturers sell of their overstock/discarded fabrics and then stores sell them by the pound. My favorite place like this is the Michael Levine Loft downtown, where fabrics are $2.99 a pound but sometimes on sale for even cheaper than that.
Thrift stores - this one can be tricky because you’re really at the mercy of what people have donated, BUT if you think outside of the box and look at things like sheets, linens, and large dresses in the same way as fabric yardage the possibilities are endless
Remnants - when traditional fabric stores get to the end of a bolt of fabric, what’s left after the last cut (often a yard or less but Michael Levine regularly has 3-4 yard remnants) are set aside and sold at a discount. Sometimes this is a VERY steep discount like at Joann where remnants are automatically marked down 50% and often go on sale for an additional 50% off of that.
One free pattern I’ve had in my queue for I don’t even how how long is the Morning Glory top by Sarah Kirsten, which is unique because instead of being a printable PDF that you assemble, it’s a set of instructions to draft your own simple top based on your own measurements. A couple weeks ago I finally had the time to make it, and… well… it’s been on my list for so long I had THREE different fabrics to make it up in: a windowpane plaid flannel leftover from another project, a linen(?) remnant from Michael Levine, and a salvaged silky-stretchy floral from FabScrap (a really, REALLY cool organization in New York that repurposes industrial textile waste).
The Morning Glory is already reversible as is (you can tie it in the front or the back), but after I made the first one I kept thinking, “this would be SO good as a wrap though”, BUT I didn’t want to deal with ties or loose the ability to wear it tied. I’ve had an idea for a pattern floating around in my mind that used buttons to secure a wrap and maybe that would work here? GUYS IT TOTALLY WORKED HERE!
And it’s like, the quickest, easiest “pattern hack” there ever was!
LITERALLY all you have to do is add a buttonhole to each of the tie ends, and then sew a button onto the allowances of the french seams near the waist. That’s it. you can even do it on a Morning Glory that you’ve already made. AND NOW YOU HAVE ONE TOP THAT CAN BE WORN FOUR WAYS!!!! (tied in front, tied in back, wrapped in front, and wrapped in back).
So remember last summer when I had a VERY obvious Ogden Cami tan? I think this summer is the summer of the VERY OBVIOUS MORNING GLORY TAN.