Friday, February 26, 2010

Crafting on a Budget...I mean a real budget.

Crafting on a budget.

Mr. Until Wednesday has taken little Wednesday out for a morning drive and some chilly play time in the snow so I thought I would take a break from the hand-sewing and talk to you about something that affects all of our crafty endeavors. Money. Yes, that five letter dirty word. There are so many people out there being uber frugal with their crafty ways and there are so many out there what feels excessive to us have nots. But fear not, there are ways to remedy this. But alas, it takes something besides money, it takes patience. Do you have any?

Beyond an unlimited pocketbook it takes patience. Patience to build up a stash, patience to buy the right tools. patience to learn the skills to make all of the tool buying and stash hoarding worth the hard earned money spent. back int he early nineties when I was first bitten by the crafting bug-you know when country chic really exploded on the decorating scene- I wanted to join the masses. But alas, on my minimum wage budget I could barely make rent let alone go to my local craft store (which only bigger cities had, Michael's was not even a thought around here)and buy up the supplies for a project. I dabbled in sewing having a hand me down machine, but the machine was a piece of junk and it deterred me for years from the craft. This was before Wal-mart was in Canada and dollar stores were not on every corner. Later on my priorities changed and slowly I forgot about crafting completely.

my love

One of my very first attempts at scrap booking.

Enter a baby named Wednesday. Even having a baby didn't really spark the crafting flame so much as the thousands of pictures I was taking. I realized I could not frame every single one of my favourite pictures, bummer. Enter scrapbooking. It was like the clouds opened and light shone down from above while the choir sang. My lost crafting soul had been found. And it was a financially feasible craft at that. I scrapped like a mad-woman for a few months and then Wednesday got just old enough that I couldn't craft for long periods of time. So my interest in it waned just a bit (although the craft supply did not). Enter sewing. I found a brilliant machine on a local message board site for a mere thirty bucks. I was in love. But alas, the machine was so vintage it only had a straight stitch. I felt the need to compensate. I found a Singer Overlock machine for a song. Seventy bucks, and in great working shape. All it needed was a manual I found on the Singer website. Well, after a little bit of practice, but truthfully not a lot of inspiration we moved...again. So my machines went into storage.

I did not give much thought to sewing or crafting until this summer. I needed an indoor hobby for the super hot days and I really wanted to build some toys for Wednesday that would encourage each stage of development. My first project, bean bags. Super cheap, super easy and super fulfilling. Nothing makes you want to keep trying more than the sweet smell of success. So, I kept going, a little felt here, a little felt there. The beauty of felt is it is super cheap, you can buy it by the sheet for as little as twenty five cents. As my confidence grew so did my need for more materials, more tools and believe me, the plethora of crafty blogs ot there does not help one keep there crafty needs and wants in checks. I am inspired multiple times a day by the creative people out there.

Bean Bag Rainbow
The aforementioned bean bags from this post.

Ok, I know you are saying enough about you I want to know how I can build on a budget. Ok, the following list is how I built up a sizable (if not enviable by some) stash in a very short period of time. (Just over a year if you count the machine I bought last spring.)

First, pick a craft. Your money and efforts are better spent with a focus in mind. This will help you decide what supplies will be and even more importantly, the tools you will be buying for your craft. I will use sewing as the example from here on out.

Second. Understand that the right tool for the job is not just relegated to carpenters, plumbers and electricians. I have a professional carpenter hubby and he has thousands if not in the tens of thousands of dollars worth of tools and gear. These tools serve two important functions, they do the job properly and easily with the least amount of stress on the material and himself thereby serving their second function, making him money. It is the same for seamstresses, scrapbookers and tole painters. As a seamstress, we can sew everything by hand but would you if a working machine was at your disposal? How about cutting with scissors? Would you gladly cramp your hand knowing that a rotary cutter and mat were close at hand? Probably not. Also incredibly important is a good working iron. Super important, if your iron only works half the time now would be a good time to replace it. After that, the big stuff is all gravy. The big stuff being dressmaker's dummies and sergers etc. I just wanted to point out how tools are as important if not more than the stash you acquire.

1956 Kenmore C877.15 Sewing Machine
The machine. Isn't it beautiful? And it sews like a dream.

Third. Research, research, research! To acquire these tools at a fraction of the original price, you need to do research. The internet is a God send this way. I cannot imagine trying to get the deals I have gotten with it. Research is so important. get an idea of the tools you need and think you need. Surf the web for reviews both on retail websites and in forums. The best reviews I find are the message boards asking and answering questions on the subject. After you know what you want now we need to find it for a fraction of the cost. Know your budget and don't stop until you find what you need within it. sewing machines are super easy to come across free or near free. Even the super heavy duty awesome ones. Ask your aunts, moms, sisters and grandmas if they have a machine in a closet somewhere collecting dust, you would be surprised how many do. My grandma (who is my mom's mother-in-law) handed her a free 1972 Kenmore sewing machine that is easily the most brilliant machine I have ever sewed on. In fact it is the machine I have used to sew everything I have posted on this blog. (My machines went into storage remember.) No one is giving their machine's up? That is okay, there are a lot more to be had on your local message boards. Like I said before I found my machine for thirty dollars and it was not the only one in that price range (but it sure was the prettiest.) Don't jump on the first one you see either. Ask what features it has, ask for model numbers so you can google it. Ask when the last time (if ever it was serviced) and last, remember int he sewing machine world older is most often better. It is the difference between metal and plastic parts.

Kenmore Model 1757 Zig Zag Sewing Machine
This is the machine I sew on right now. It was given to my mom and I am secretly hoping she gives it to me. I have another Kenmore machine zig zag machine that my moth-in-law gave to me but it does not have the triple stitch that I love so much on this one.

Sometimes, for the smaller tools you can find them listed online as well being sold second hand but you are better of buying these new. Because if you have to replace an item it stops being cheap right? Spend as much as you can afford the first time and you'll be happier I promise. And, it is not hard to do on a budget either. Thanks to companies like Michaels and JoAnnes you can take your 50% off coupons in and buy your rotary cutters, scissors and self-healing mats for half the cost. And with Michaels, you can take your coupon once a day every day until it expires. See where the patience thing is coming in to play? Michaels in the town next to mine so I can't go in everyday, but I do make sure I keep a current coupon in my purse in case we have the time and money to stop in for a moment. One more thing on hand tools, if you have friends who craft, use their tools. This will give you a better idea of what is more comfortable for you and what features are practical and what ones are not. For instance, I have been using my mom's rotary cutter while I decide which one I want. I like hers but at the same time I know I will not buy the same one. I will make sure the one I buy is more comfortable to hold. But I did buy my 36x24" self heating mat for thirty dollars, normally it is sixty. I have used it innumerable times in just the few short months have owned it. Worth every penny of the thirty dollars I spent on it.

Okay, so now you have your tools. Just the basics, but good ones. Now you are ready to build up that enviable stash. And I know what you are thinking, there is no way I bought my tools first and my stash second. Well, you are wrong...and right. I bought my tools first. The machines were so reasonably priced I bought them within days or weeks of each other. But for fabric I just had a giant vinyl comforter bag filled with clothing and bed linens that were destined for charity or the garbage. I didn't sew much in the beginning. I made napkins our of some of Mr. Until Wednesday's old dress shirts and a closet curtain for the bathroom and like I said, we moved. Fast forward to today. I have a beautiful stash that leaves me wanting very little. (besides everything else lol.) But I did this slowly. Once a month I go to the two charity thrift shops ion town and I would spend ten or fifteen dollars at each one. Tops. I just could afford any more. But that ten or fifteen dollars would buy me a vintage sheet here, a wool blanket there. Some yardage remnants and clothes to embellish. I have also built up a formidable wool sweater stash. Thirty dollars at a time my stash grew. Whenever I went to Wal-Mart I would poke into the remnant bin to see what one or two dollar items they had. But, most helpful of all but also the most expensive was my trips to Value Village. I don't do this often because I go way over budget. But the splurging feeds my craft for months after. I am still sewing the vintage sheets I bought in the summer. So, if you have the money to splurge now and again do it. You don't have to do it all the time, I only go to Value Village once every two or three months. But the selection is just incredible, from the vintage sheets to the mens wools sweaters and fabric remnants it is a recycling crafter's dream. And last but not least. Don't throw anything away! Keep clothing for repurposing or refashioning. Take the buttons off, deconstruct it to see how it is made. Take the zippers out. Everything is reusable some how thereby making it free!

Vintage Linen Love
This was first big score. I think when I finally cashed out I spent sixty dollars but it was worth every penny. These sheets have brought me so much joy when I create.

The last piece of the puzzle is practice, practice, practice! All your heard earned money will go down the drain if you are left feeling defeated one too many times. There are so many great tutorials on the internet, both photo and video that it is super easy to learn the basics literally overnight. Learn from the experts, advice is free, my favourite price. Between my mom who is my mentor seamstress who can answer my most pressing concerns and the brilliantly photographed and most generously shared tutorials on the web you are well on your way to enjoying your hobby, guilt free.

Rufflebum Skirt
From bean bags to ruffle bum skirts in six short months is not too shabby eh? Recognize the fabrics? Look at the picture above.

I hope that I helped even just a little bit. I hope that this post was not too long winded. I just wanted to impart some things I have learned about crafting on an incredibly low income. Which I can break down into three things: Allocate a tiny bit every month to help build up your stash. Have patience, soon it will need it's own room I promise! And three, splurge now and again.

Happy crafting!