Friends, a few weeks ago I found myself engaged in conversation with a prominent professional member of the sewing community.
We were chatting about this and that, and the topic of shopping for fabric in the Garment District came up, specifically with regard to the relative benefits (and costs) of buying high-end fabric, and this person opined, based on decades-long interaction with countless sewing hobbyists, that home sewers are, on the whole, cheap.
I was a little taken aback, not so much by the content of the comment, as with the sense of total authority with which it was delivered. This was not a sewing newbie who'd had one bad experience wrestling over bolt ends at Metro Textiles.
I've recounted the story to a few people since, and their reaction has been...total agreement! In the main, we sewers are a bunch of tightwads.
Now I know that once upon a time, most home sewers were women contributing to the family economy by sewing their own -- and often the rest of their family's -- wardrobe. Decades ago, you could save a great deal of money sewing your clothes, as ready-to-wear was more expensive relative to what other things cost, and many more women were working in the home. There was no Forever 21, no Walmart, and obviously no eBay.
Today, American retail is totally promotion-based. We've grown used to (addicted to?) getting discounts on nearly everything, even when we know that the original price is a total fiction: nobody pays it. Today, most Americans don't even get out of bed for less than 30% off.
If you buy RTW clothes, you only have one opportunity to save money: at the point of purchase. If you sew, however, you can save in countless ways: by buying notions in bulk, by shopping online for refurbished sewing equipment, by digging through the bargain bins at your local fabric outlet, by holding out for the big sales at Jo-Ann Fabric or the Big Four pattern company websites, etc.. (Has anyone in the contiguous United States ever paid list price for an in-print Vogue pattern?)
So if we sewers can be considered cheap, we also
live in a world where bargain hunting is a national sport. Watch your local TV news this coming Friday: it will be saturated with
stories about post-Thanksgiving Day bargains. Journalism at its finest!
Do I consider myself cheap? I wouldn't use that word exactly (though you might), but as someone who doesn't have a huge cash flow, I'm accustomed to either finding a discount (a sale, a thrift store, or eBay) or doing without. There are a few exceptions but not many. When I started sewing, I loved hunting for $2/yd. fabric deals in some of those Garment District fabric "dives." There were real gems to be found (and an awful lot of gross stuff too).
Readers, where do you stand on this issue?
1) Do you think home sewers often tend to be cheap?
2) Are you the exception to the rule or the quintessence of it?
3) Are there some things you will always splurge on and others where you refuse to pay even a dollar more than you have to?
I'm a native New Yorker and sewing fanatic! I started sewing in 2009 and today make all my own clothes using vintage sewing machines and vintage patterns, in addition to sewing for private clients. Welcome to the warm and whimsical world of Male Pattern Boldness, where the conversation is sewing, style, fashion, fabric, and more!