Thursday, 20 August 2009

Tracky daks and other prosaic sewing

Elizabeth has asked me
Can I ask, do you sew to save money or just because you like to? I ask because I would always *think* about making things but will often cave and buy them, even though I know I could have made them better...

This question was provoked by the last post about jeans shorts, and fits very nicely into my current prosaic sewing, which is mainly polar fleece in anticipation of spending the next 2 weekends camping.

This is a complicated answer, so be warned, I will waffle on a bit.

I do not sew to save money, but I am very pleased to save money because I sew.

I like to make things. I like cooking, gardening, sewing, knitting, embroidery, all sorts of domestic hobbies. I spend a lot of money on these hobbies, but expect the hobbies to be productive. I also do not like shopping (and live a long way from a big shopping town).Badly made things - be it food, furniture or clothing, are very annoying to me, unless perhaps I made them myself :). I tend to do without things that I do not care to make, or run out of time to make, not always a good thing. As Robyn and Barbara have talked about recently, sewing can be part of a life choice.
My husband and I decided when we were first married that we wanted to use our leisure time making ourselves more skilled, more useful, more educated or more healthy. We try to be good stewards of our time and resources. This does not always mean saving time or money- cloth nappies, cycling tours, hand made pasta, sewing disasters! but it does mean thinking about things like spending several hours driving 150km to buy things I could make, or could learn to make, even if I don't entirely fancy making it right at that moment.

Initially, what drew me to sewing was the finished result - ie, clothes, verses the alternative, which was wearing the same thing, even if it had holes in it!. I was a student, my course work was engrossing and time consuming, and my income part time job was for important things like food and rent. I liked sewing but it had to be quick and easy. At the time, clothes in Australia were much more expensive to buy than to make, even t shirts.
I was without a sewing machine for about 2 years when we were first married, and did a lot of hand embroidery, buying very few clothes, as we were saving for a house. I borrowed my MIL's sewing machine to make curtains and cushion covers (definitely to save money, Home Dec is not something I enjoy). The embroidery was something completely frivolous that fulfilled my liking for making things. However, as soon as I was expecting a baby, I wanted to make baby clothes. I liked the baby clothes in the shops, but not the prices, although I could have purchased them (Frugal ancestors again?). I made a few things by hand, but after one or two pretty baby dresses took weeks, decided that I needed a machine. I sewed a few maternity dresses and nearly all of both my daughter's clothes. I think I started this because baby clothes and maternity clothes are much more expensive to buy than to make (still saving for that house), but soon became addicted to smocking, which of course has a terrible hourly rate, but is much more expensive to buy than to make if you don't count the labour. As I enjoy the labour, it gave me great delight to make one-of-a-kind dresses for my girls.It is not the same to buy them something nasty, made in China, and what everyone else has, now that they are beyond smocked dresses for everyday wear. Also, I have created shopping monsters, who say, "I like that one.Could you make me one the same, but shorter, pink, and with long sleeves, that fits me better across the back?"
We did look at Target for some denim shorts. We did not like what was available, and met the costume requirements, so I sewed them. I did not spend any money specifically for the shorts, the pattern was pre-used, the fabric was left over from another project, but I don't think they were really cheaper to make than to buy. Jeans are labour intensive, but I didn't have to drive anywhere to make them.
Here is something that maybe I made primarily because it was cheaper to make than to buy.

These are tracky daks, made for my husband in mimicry of his Mountain Design brass monkey pants, purchased for $70, on sale a few weeks ago whilst we were in Brisbane for work. I was not entirely happy with this purchase. He wanted 3 pairs, I admit, the Mountain Design pair are technical hiking pants, but really will be worn mostly lounging about reading the computer. I don't think they were worth $70. I have made the other 2 pairs for him from Polartech 100, making a rubbing of the original pants for the pattern, and incorporating the long welt zip, free bag pockets with the same shock cord tie and nifty little lycra insert across the top of the zipper as the original pants for a bit of a sewing challenge to myself. From the same fabric purchase (I hate that polar fleece taking up all my chiffon storage space), I also made my daughter a pair of tracky daks, but made a slightly different zipper and pocket construction. I don't think I have spent $70 yet, and I amused myself making them, a bargain!


Gail said...

Nothing wrong with making trackies. They will last longer and weren't made in a sweat shop. I particularly hate the scandalously expensive ones for this reason.

Sharon said...

Your comments are interesting and along the lines of my own thoughts. Even though I live in Sydney I am not a shopper, I am petite and find very little to fit me the way that my own sewing can fit me so I prefer to sew my own garments and be an individual in what I wear.

My husband also has those tracky dacks from Mountain Design and also wears them "working" on the computer. I love your version and would like to ask where you purchased your Polartech 100 from?

Tamara said...

I don't necessarily sew to save money either. But I sure like it when I know I am making something that would cost a fortune in the store. I just made my son some pants out of some very nice supplex (quick drying lightweight outerwear fabric). I found it for $1 a yard. My finished pant would have been sold at a store that would have charged at least $20 (on sale). They were very fun to make and I saved a ton of money. Yeah for sewing!

katherine h said...

What a great post. Thank-you for your sewing story.

Sue said...

I think uou have answered this question really well. It is not as simple as sewing just to save money. There are many reasons why we sew but mainly because we love it and it fills a creative need ;)

a little sewing on the side said...

I enjoyed your explanation of your hobbies. I thought of you today- I remembered a funny comment you made about using a tool to trim underwires. I find myself in precisely that situation. I need to trim down the underwires so I can finish my current project :)

katherine h said...

Now that I have been wearing my bras for a while I can answer your question about fusible fleece. It is no hotter than other padding. It is not what you and I think of as is more like a fusible batting.