The cost of sewing

There are multiple ways to approach the topic of sewing costs depending on what you consider “costs”.  One of course is money spent on an item but others are time or impact to the environment. It is important to differentiate these different types of costs especially when making comparisons between the fashion industry and home sewers.

This blog post looks at the sewing expenses I had last year and what I learned from it. Although I have some thoughts on the overall costs of sewing vs fashion at the very end.

Some data to put things into perspective (not all of you know the specifics of the Swiss currency). Rent in Basel for a 2 Bedroom Apartment (with one living room, kitchen and bathroom) averages around 1500 Francs a month (1533$ or 1329€). A loaf of bread costs around 3 Fr. (3.1$ or 2.66€) and a Big Mac 6.5 Fr. (6.6$ or 5.75€). The average income is around 6500 Fr. gross (about 5500 net before taxes, 5621$ or 4875€). A metre of average quality cotton jersey costs at least 20 Fr. (20.5$ or 17.75€) per meter. A spool of 200m Gutermann thread costs 7 Fr. (7.15$ or 6.2€). I bought my fabric all over and a lot online from stores in the EU.

In 2018 (caveat I only started listing my sewing expenses from April) I spent 3098 Fr. on sewing related items (fabric, notions, sewing books, sewing patterns, printing cost, shipping and customs fees and subscriptions). That equals 3167 Dollars or 2745 Euros. Not included is my coverstitch machine I bought in November (exhibition model at a reduced price). That is A LOT and about three times of what I expected.

I spent 52% on fabric (no surprise there), 21% on notions (that on the other hand is a surprise), 13% on patterns, 3% on books, 0% on subscriptions (my sis pays for my Love Sewing subscription, ha), 5% on printing (that’s a lot) and 6% on shipping and customs fees. Over the months these numbers varied a great deal though (e.g. in August I spent 38% on notions). At the beginning of the year my expenses for fabric were between 25 and 40% at the end at around 80%.  What’s worse, there were some months where I spent around 500 Francs for my hobby and that is definitely too much (can you hear Sister Unella saying “Shame, shame, shame…”?).

Oooooh the shameeee…

I have all these details because I inserted every expense into my spreadsheets. I spent a lot of time programming these at the beginning of the year so Excel does all the calculations for me now and it all looks visually pleasing (not the numbers though). And what’s best, you can download my spreadsheet and safe yourself all the hastle. You do not have to subscribe or follow me for it. All you need to do, to have everything calculating correctly, is choosing a category and insert a price. The programme will calculate everything else for you (plus I have it in English and in German). Promise! Download the Sewing Expenses Spreadsheet here. (30 downloads)

Just insert your expenses and categories and everything will be calculated for you. (Disclosure: This pic is in German, but your download will of course be in English)

Is my wardrobe full of clothing now?

Ha, no! Where did all that money go to, specifically? Good question. In one spreadsheet I collected data specifically on what each item I made for me (gifts are excluded in this one, not on the spending sheets though) cost. Why? Easy, because a lot of the stuff I bought in 2018 went into my stash (fabric, patterns and especially bramaking supplies). So some items are “dormant” until I actually use them. Anyway, the items I made for myself in 2018 amount roughly to 1580 Francs.

I am pretty sure that back when I bought all my clothes I spent around the same amount. In 2018 I bought one cami in Lisbon because I did not pack enough summer clothes and some socks and stockings.

I sewed 57 items for myself (including underwear). I made 8 Agnes tops and 8 Acacia panties so those were definitely my favourite. A lot of patterns I did use twice (e.g. Ginger Jeans, Marlborough Bra, the Linden Sweatshirt or the Clara Blouse).

Cost per piece of clothing…

Did Sewing Save Me Money?

Sewing did absolutely nothing in helping me save money. But this was never my goal. My goal was to stop buying fast fashion items that did not last very long and making a more conscious decision on what goes into my closet (you can read a little more about this here). Of course the costs per item decrease depending on the amount of times you re-use an existing pattern. 2018 has really helped me to find those TNT patterns which make up a lot of my current wardrobe.

As I mentioned already I am shocked at how much I spent and I plan to reduce the spending to about half.

How? Well, I like planning and with the help of Trello I found my next 24 projects I am going to make (for myself) and the rough order. Of course there will be other (unplanned) items in between and maybe I will not get to make all the items I planned. But what I can say is that I already own all of the sewing patterns I will be making and a lot of fabric that I can make those projects with.

I plan to write a blogpost on my sewing plans. So I will link it here, when it goes live.

Is Sewing Cheaper Than Buying Clothing?

That depends. Firstly, as I mentioned before, the cost per item usually drops when making the item multiple times. The Agnes Top cost me around 45 Francs the first time I made it and every time after just the cost of the fabric. Although to be precise, to really factor everything in you’d need to account for electricity, thread, and value decrease of your sewing machine. But you get my point.

I cannot buy the same top in a comparable quality for less than 45 Francs in Switzerland. But I certainly can run to the next H&M and buy a shirt for 10 Francs. And what’s more, the price tags in fashion stores do not give you the real costs of the garment you chose. I am a firm advocate for the idea that all (!) items should be priced so that they cover “all the costs” (e.g. minimum wage for the workers, costs to reverse pollution from production, costs for compliance, health costs, recycling, etc.). Only then we could truly compare the costs of the garments or products in general. Funnily enough we only ever really pay for the advertising…

With these final thoughts I’ll leave you.

Happy Sewing Nadine

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