Inexpensive Sewing Projects to Practice Your Skills

inexpensive sewing projectsSewing is one of the most immediately useful crafts to learn. It can save the crafter money in household expenses and provide extra income from the production of marketable goods that can be manufactured and sold from home. It's also a very versatile skill that can meet a variety of needs to adapt to changes in circumstances and market opportunities. However, as with most skills, it takes practice to gain competency and comfort with the endeavor. New sewers can become frustrated if they expect too much from themselves too soon instead of enjoying a more relaxed, natural progression rate.

One potential hindrance to this practice phase can be cost of materials. While a sewing machine and other tools used are a one-time expense for the beginner to accommodate, materials are consumed with each use and cannot be easily restored or reused if mistakes are made. This can put a lot of pressure on the sewer to get things exactly right the first time to not lose what they've invested or even push themselves to achieve professional quality, marketable goods right from the start to be able to purchase more materials to continue in the skill. This doesn't have to be the case, though. With a little creativity, cheaper alternatives can be found for practice materials to delay your need for commercial quality supplies until you are comfortable enough with your skill level to invest more without feeling stressed.

Using What You Already Have

The cheapest option, of course, is the free one. Look around the house for projects you can do with things you already have, especially items that are already well worn and near the end of their lifespan or that aren't very desirable to you so that mistakes won't feel like a big loss. Start with tasks that only require a simple, straight stitch, such as shortening skirts, pants, or sleeves. Once you feel comfortable with the straight stitch, try some projects that will give you practice with zigzag stitching, such as adding decorative elements to garments or home furnishings. If you have children, you can cut out favorite designs from clothes they have outgrown to transfer them as appliques to clothing in their current size, or you can cut shapes out of scrap cloth to make your own appliques from scratch.

Inexpensive Sewing ProjectsFocusing on the straight stitch and the zigzag stitch first will give you the foundation you need for the majority of future projects. Your zigzag skill can also be expanded to making buttonholes, either functional or decorative, wherever you see opportunity. Take your time with this, remembering that the purpose is to learn and gain proficiency and not just to get things done. The mastery of these skills becomes an asset you keep, so it is worth the patience and effort.

Thrift Store Projects

Inexpensive Sewing ProjectsWhen you're ready to move on to new and more exciting things, shop around a bit at some thrift stores. Look for discounted clothing you can envision being able to do something with. For example, you could take a dress and cut it in half, add an elastic or zippered waistline to make the skirt a standalone garment and then do some creative experimenting to make the top into a unique blouse or vest. Also try out getting some garments a size or two large and then turn them inside out, cut them apart following the seam lines, and resew the seams 5/8” from the new edge. This will teach you a lot about garment construction so that you'll understand patterns better, and it gives you the opportunity to try out a variety of new fabrics to see which ones you like best and gain practice with them before buying them on your own.

Practicing with New Materials

Inexpensive Sewing ProjectsEventually, you will be ready to start making items from patterns and will likely need to acquire new materials because most existing garments won't have enough continuous areas of fabric available to cut entirely new shapes from. However, you don't have to start buying commercial quality fabric yet. One often overlooked option is to look for sales on sheet sets in general merchandise stores. A king or queen size sheet set can offer a lot of yardage of fabric at a pretty economical price, especially after holidays when seasonal prints need to be cleared out. Because this fabric is meant for bedding rather than wearing, you shouldn't rely on it for making garments you want to be durable or crisp-looking, but it works great for practicing and testing the fit of a garment made from a pattern before committing to more expensive materials for the final result.

Trying out these projects should go a long way in improving your sewing skills while still being able to  creatively experiment and have fun in the process without stressing over material costs or perfection. By the time you have mastered them to your satisfaction, you should feel much more knowledgeable and confident in beginning to work with higher quality supplies so that your continued progress will be more productive and just as enjoyable.

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12 Responses to Inexpensive Sewing Projects to Practice Your Skills

  1. margaret reid says:

    I’ve been quilting for only 2 years now and just started sewing. My stash from the thrift store is enormous. Big enough to do whatever I need without much new fabric required. Lately (with my sewing a blouse or making slippers etc. I have been using muslin. Wow, less than half price than my normal quilting fabric and a dream to work with. I’ve actually begun a quilt-as-you-go project and I’m using muslin not only for the backing but for the background as well> You should see how the white thread quilting shows up on it. Beautiful!
    Thanks for the article good info and thanks for the encouragement.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Hi Margaret, my curiosity is always tickled when I see someone using an unconventional way to do things. I really would love to see your work.

  2. Denise says:

    Great advice. I have told my quilting students that if it becomes stressful then the joy is gone. My advise is to set it down and go back a little later.

  3. Guylaine says:

    I totally agree with you. I always tell family and friends to give me garments they don’t want anymore. First, if the garment is in mint condition,I’m offering it to someone I think it might fit. From the rest, I make bags and bag linings. With stretch knits, I make baby sarouel pants. From socks (containing merino wool, but having holes in it) I recently made warm mittens lined with fleece scraps I’ve been keeping in my stash for the last 20 years I think! As you might have noticed, I’m a “treasure keeper” kind of person, so I have to go over my stash once in a while to remember what I own and what I can sew with it. But upcycling is fun and you don’t stress if your sewing project is not as perfect as you want. Happy new year everyone!

    • Carol Bellin says:

      I so admire you! Silly me, I keep on buying fabric! I love to think of a beautiful gift made from a fabric with history. I think I’ll start hitting the thrift and consignment shops for fabric after I spread the word through the family.

  4. Great ideas! I started with doll clothes when I was 5… which would be 1951. Most were sewn on damaged architect’s linen – a very fine linen that was heavily starched to used in rendering designs. I don’t know where my dad found it but I used that roll for years! I would cut pieces off and soak it in water for a couple of days, rinsing once in a while, to make it softer, and with some ironing, I had free fabric. I started off turning the wheel by hand (so my mother didn’t know I was using it. 😉 It was just a straight-stitch sewing machine so it was simple to learn on. I need to dig my doll box out of the closet and photograph my things.

  5. KMaldonado says:

    Thank you for this article it was very helpful

  6. vijoi Bhat says:

    ideal for a beginer

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