It's Sew Easy to Save
Unless you're particularly crafty, sewing might seem like it's totally out of your league. And it IS intimidating, especially when you've never touched a sewing machine before and you take your first look at the instructions for getting the thing threaded. However, learning to sew some basic items can also save you a lot of money, so it might be worth spending the time to learn.
Luckily, there are some easy projects that don't require very much know-how to complete. All you need to get started is a sewing machine, someone to teach you how to use it or a good instruction manual, and some cheap fabric.
If you're not quite sure sewing is the thing for you, see if you can borrow a sewing machine before you purchase one. You might be surprised how many people have them sitting around, packed away somewhere and never used. Make sure you get a good manual with any borrowed machine, and that it has all the working parts (check particularly for bobbins, bobbin covers, and a foot pedal).
Make sure you don't spend too much on fabric. Remnants are always good, as is fabric from Wal-Mart. Think creatively when it comes to getting cheap fabric. Old sheets can be reused, or you can purchase some when they're on sale. In addition, you can use fabric from old clothes. Don't even throw away your scraps. Small pieces of fabric can be used for pillows and quilts.
It's usually easy to find patterns for free, particularly for the basic items listed here. Check the internet, or look up one of the sites listed at the end of this article for some places to start.
Basic Mending and Alterations
One of the easiest things to practice your sewing on is your own clothes. If something gets a hole in it, don't automatically throw it away, use it as a rag, or throw it in the back of your closet. Instead, try to fix it. If you fail, it won't be in any worse shape than it's already in.
You may not even need a sewing machine for this type of stitching. If there's not a good way to get the machine to the place where the hole or tear is, don't hesitate to sew it by hand.
Basic alterations are also a great place to practice. Many professionals charge quite a bit to make your clothes fit the way you want them to, but you can do it yourself without a hassle. Depending on the type of material you're working with, it's easy to hem pants or skirts, change sleeve length, even add a zipper or some buttons. Look up your particular project and material online to find specific instructions if you're not sure where to start.
Diapers and Baby Blankets
If you have a baby or want to give a great gift to someone who does have a little one, homemade cloth diapers can be made cheaply and easily. Note that these aren't useful only for someone who is diapering with cloth, as the diapers are useful as burp cloths and many parents keep them around for baby spills because of their absorbency.
Not comfortable making the actual diaper? Buy some plain white cloth diapers on sale and add some ribbon. You can sew it on around the edges, make stripes across the length or width of one side of the diaper, or do something else entirely.
Making a baby blanket can be as easy as buying a large piece of flannel and turning over each of the edges with your sewing machine. Add some ribbon as a binding and it's an even nicer gift. One great thing about these is that you can make them large enough to use as swaddling blankets, because many of the blankets sold in stores are way too small.
Curtains and Pillow Cases
Both of these are incredibly simple to sew. As long as you have a curtain rod, all you need to do to make basic curtains is finish the edges of your material, then sew a tube of fabric large enough for the rod to go through in whichever end you want to be the top of your curtain. You can use whatever material you want, and make the curtains as complicated as you desire.
Valences are another easy-to-sew home accessory. Simply take a Queen or King sized sheet in a material you like, cut it in half long ways, and sew the short ends together. Make sure all your loose edges are turned under, and you've got a valance to drape over your curtain rod.
Pillow cases require a little more time and skill, but are still relatively easy. Measure your pillow form, then go online to find a free pattern that's the right size. Cut your material according to the instructions, and the sewing is a breeze.
Green Shopping Bags/Tote Bags
These make great gifts, and they're good for your own use, too. Find some sturdy-but-cheap material (upholstery fabric that's on sale can be great for these) and follow any one of a number of free instructions available online. Note that these can be as complicated or as simple as you want them to be, so don't take on more than you're confident sewing.
Green grocery bags make particularly nice gifts, as they're free to the recipient, sturdier than most of the ones you can buy in the store, and make a contribution to the earth. Again find a free pattern and get started.
Once you've mastered the basics, you can take your sewing as far as you to go. Interested in making clothes? It's totally possible. Wanting to delve deeper into home decor? Go for it. When you're established and started, there's nothing stopping you.
How have you used sewing to save some money? Do you have any patterns that you simply adore? Let us know in the comments.