Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Sewing Craze: An Update

The sewing obsession continues. After Sadie went to bed last night I went back to work on her Fourth of July Dress. I actually sewed so long yesterday that the bottom part of the pedal was very hot to touch! And I'm getting much better at tweaking the sewing machine so that it works perfectly (or as perfectly as possible!).

I think I may need to start thinking about getting another dress pattern to try out soon. Nothing too complicated, just something a little tougher than the one I've been working on so far. I do have a pattern around her somewhere that I got on ebay last year. It's a 1950s dress pattern for toddlers, but most of the older dress patterns I have expect a level of competence (and maybe sewing common sense) even in "beginning" or "simple" patterns that I don't have yet!

On the other hand I'm continually shocked by the price of sewing patterns! I ordered some of those Vintage Vogue dress patterns back when they were on sale (for $2.99 I think). The website said that they were marked down off of $16.99 (or something like that) for two days. When they arrived they were all marked either $23 or $25 for sale in stores! That's insane! I can't imagine paying $50 for two dress patterns!

I have this vague goal that in the next few months I'll become proficient enough at sewing (this may explain why I've been working at it so much and neglecting my knitting) to sew several of the vintage vogue patterns. In an act of extreme optimism (and to help motivate myself post baby) I'd like to make them in the size 6 pattern size, which was what I was (a while) after I had Sadie... however I'm going to have to find a new source of "okay" quality fabric... because... and this is very sad... Our Walmart is no longer carrying fabric!

I could always count on Walmart for inexpensive, okay quality fabric. Especially since Joann's similar quality fabric seems to think that it's magically become high end stuff and is now selling at $9 a yard most of the time (when did that happen?!?!?). And right next to those higher prices was a small sign that said "chemicals in these fabrics are known by the state of California to cause cancer". What?!?!

And I'm a little disenchanted with expensive fabric right now. I had some very expensive cotton that I'd been saving for years (since before Sadie was born) that I got at a trendy little quilting shop when we were on vacation after we got married. I finally decided to use it for a dress for Sadie (it was originally planned for a quilt).

When I was ironing it I noticed how delicate it felt (maybe not the best choice for a toddlers dress... but since I don't see myself wearing red and white stripes anytime soon... it'll do...). When I started to sew I was horrified (that may be a strong word... but it was close!) because it snagged and made runs across the fabric every few stitches. And what was it snagging on? The sewing needle!

Now I expected stuff like that to happen when I started sewing other materials, but plain old cotton (even plain old cotton that was selling at $12 a yard)?

I was able to smooth it out and it looks fine now... but I have to say, my $2 Walmart prints seem a lot tougher! And while I'd feel great buying seven yards of fabric for a dress for $14, I'd have a problem (and just wouldn't do it at this point in our financial lives... or with my sewing skills...) spending $70 to make a dress at home.

Since Paul was the one who first heard that our Walmart wasn't going to be carrying fabric anymore, I've been grilling him. Is he sure? Was it just during the remodel, or is it permanent? Did he misunderstand the permanent part? Is he sure he didn't misunderstand? Oh yes, I am desperately hopeful that this is all a misunderstanding and that my cutesy holiday fabric will return with new "rolled back" prices.

I would never have believed back in my college days that I would love shopping at Walmart... We bashed Walmart constantly in our poli science classes... any yet these days I find myself telling Paul constantly that the next time we need to go into town I need to go to Walmart... because when you actually pay attention to saving money it just makes sense!


  1. Yeah pattern prices are ridiculous... and not every walmart carries fabric. Annoying. My sewing machine is still not working so its a moot point for me :-(

    Completely off topic.. Thanks again for the comment this morning. I'm so glad you did because somehow I lost your blog when I changed my background stuff the first time. I knew I was missing ones I liked & I had the list typed out somewhere but hadn't searched through it lol. Fixed now :-)

  2. One of the most helpful tools is to make a dress out of muslin first as a practice run. You can alter the muslin to create a perfect fit. Especially if you just baste the dress together. Bolts of muslin are very inexpensive. I used to take my 40% off coupon to Joann's and buy a whole plastic wrapped bolt with 25 yards for .99 per yard. That made 25 yards about $15. Very nice. Unfortunately, Joann's has raised the price of muslin to $1.99 per yard. It's still cheaper than regular fabric. The bonus part is that you can use the muslin dress as a slip under the finished dress. You could even put eyelet lace fabric on the hem of the muslin to peak out at the bottom.

    Another great idea I found is making a fabric doll with a matching dress she can carry around and look like twins. I first discovered this with a historical reenactment troupe who all had their own matching dolls in renaissance garb. You can find it here at this website:
    Also with making the doll you can try out different styles to see what you might like to do.

    I found a great book on The Encyclopedia of Modern Sewing from the 1950s. It has all sorts of patterns inside for pinafores and aprons, curtains, dresses, shirts, baby clothing, etc. I found it in an antique store. You can discover all sorts of great books at antique stores but you have to be willing to hunt.

    I can't wait to see what else you make. Good job!

  3. I just saw a Joanne's ad saying all Simplicity patterns are on sale for $1.99 this week. Maybe you could take advantage and stock up (limit 10) - I'm planning to! And I agree, it's quite disappointing when Wal-Mart cuts the fabric section! Especially in rural areas, where there isn't anyplace else nearby to get sewing items.

  4. Check the JoAnn's ads regularly, they almost always have some kind of sale going on. Also check their clearance bins--at the ones I typically shop at they have bins of leftover fabric that are rolled up and marked down. Ebay can sometimes have good deals on dress patterns too.

    Also--check out places like Goodwill or Value Village (or any other thrift store) as well, sometimes you can find large cuts of fabric for super-cheap, or adult clothing that can be ripped apart to make a child's dress. I'll admit I've been known to pick up clothes at thrift shops not because I'd wear them, but because the fabric was just perfect for a different project I had in mind.

  5. Walmart does still sell fabric but it's fabric section is limited. They used to have a whole corner of the store. Now it's two isles (at least in my Walmart). They locate it between the children's clothes and the electronic section. I'm not sure if fabric is carried at a super Walmart. I haven't bothered looking.

    Great places to find fabric and vintage patterns. Oddly enough flea markets and garage sells. Lots of elderly people sew but then have to stop.

  6. off topic = I notice you changed your header pic. The previous one was sure a nice pic of you, but this one now makes the wording so much easier to see. I "sew" too. Only I use rope & a book called, "Knotting & Splicing". :)

  7. I'm a bit slow on the uptake on this one with being gone all weekend, but I love your new header!

    About the fabric, it seems like a lot of the Walmarts are going out of selling fabric. All the ones around here stopped a while ago.

    And I agree about JoAnns, you can sign up for their fliers and then you can see when their patterns are on sale. I buy them when they're on sale for 99 cents. And many times they have coupons too so you can get money off the fabric.

  8. Thanks for all the tips everyone! I'm excited to check out the next closest Walmart of us (ours is an hour and a half, the next closest is right around two hours) because maybe they haven't taken their section out! And I'll definitely keep an eye on Joann's ads. I just have to convince someone to take me into the city this week to take advantage of the Simplicity sale! I think my mom has some grocery shopping to do, since Paul is on nights and will not be convinced that my fabric/pattern buying is important enough to keep him up during the day!


I love comments and I read every single comment that comes in (and I try to respond when the little ones aren't distracting me to the point that it's impossible!). Please show kindness to each other and our family in the comment box. After all, we're all real people on the other side of the screen!