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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Has Sewing Turned You Into A Shopping Grinch?

Before I started sewing seriously for myself and kids on a regular basis, I enjoyed shopping with my friends, by myself, and with my kids. 
Well, take back that part about shopping with kids....
That's not so fun.

In fact, now that I look back, I treated it as a kind of sport.
Finding great deals at outlet malls and discount shops like Marshall's, TJ Maxx, and Nordstrom Rack gave me a rush.

The thrill of the hunt I guess.

Over the last few years my shopping habit has dwindled more and more. When I go shopping with my daughters, I often hear myself telling them things like, 

"I can make that in a few hours. Let me take a photo of that outfit so I can try to copy it at home."

"Look, at the cheap quality of that fabric!"

 "How can they afford to sell that garment at that price? It was probably made by indentured servants so we can buy it, and watch it end up on your bedroom floor."

 In short, I have become a real pain and bore to go shopping with, what with my complaining about the low quality of fabrics and the underpaid labor in third world countries and the surreptitious dressing room use of my i- phone to take pictures of outfits that inspire me.

 So when I started packing to go and visit my friend and her daughters in North Carolina, I realized how sparse my girls wardrobes were. 

If it wasn't handmade, it was from the thrift shop. Their bathing suits were on the shabby side too. 
We were going to be going to a luxury beach resort in Charleston for the weekend and things there are more dressy than laid beck So Cal.

 I was being thrifty and resourceful but maybe I had gone a little overboard? 
 It was time for me to go shopping for some new clothes for everybody, myself included.

 After buying several outfits, I found myself feeling grouchy and guilty on the ride home. 
Not because of the money spent, that wasn't the issue. The shopping trip was within our budget and I bought everything on sale. 

The girls were really excited but I was not being very nice about things at all.  I felt like I had failed my handmade goals by buying a bunch of clothes which I would have preferred to make!

 I was guilty of being prideful.

That night I started thinking to myself and after much thought I decided I needed to lighten up.

Just because you can do something like make clothes or grow your own food doesn't mean you have to do it all on your own. For instance, we grow our own vegetables and buy our meat from a local rancher but I still shop at the grocery store and I don't feel guilty about that. 

I was putting too much pressure on myself! 

 If I wasn't careful I was going to make my kids neurotic. After all, shopping when you need some new outfits isn't a terrible thing.

 I had swung too far in the opposite direction of my former ways.

So readers. How about you? 
If you sew or make something else that you could buy instead, do you beat yourself up or feel like a failure when you decide to buy what you could have made? 
Are you taking all of the fun out shopping too? 
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  1. I have noticed my shopping going waaaay down as well. Lately the only shopping I do is at the thrift store to refashion stuff. The third world indentured servant part is what gets me, which is why I try to buy thrifted clothes for fabric. I know they were likely still third-world made, but they've already been purchased and at least aren't created new. I'm also looking at bulk ordering from Near Sea Naturals and American Grown.Spun.Made to feel better about my fabric. But I'm not above buying clothes (like swimsuits) brand new; maybe that's moderation?

  2. Oh my goodness - you are talking my language!!! I went through the same exact thing!!! I still go overboard, but I finally just gave in. What the heck - these stores make incredibly cute and very cheap dresses for $10, dresses that would not only cost me more in materials - but would take me hours upon hours to make.

    I finally started to it worth it? What is my time worth? Do I WANT to make this, or is it easier just to buy it? Once I have gone through all of the pros and cons in my head, I make a decision.

    I still feel like an a-class dweeb when I whip out my phone to take a picture - but a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do!

  3. I find that I enjoy thrifting more now that I have become aware of the conditions of the workers where some clothing is made. On the other hand, because I am so busy, I just can't make all the clothing I want for me and my family. So I'm not above buying quality clothes on sale. I'm trying to look for the ever elusive "Made in America" seal.

  4. Oh my goodness, gracious I feel the same way!!! Added to it is that my daughter, while she still likes to plan the outfits I made her, she is gravitating towards the store bought clothes when she picks out what she wants to wear in the morning. :( I don't want to be that mom who makes her kid wear all handmade stuff while everyone else is in Gymboree. :)

  5. Wow -- you really hit the nail on the head for me! I don't have kids, but have a super hard time wearing anything that isn't thrifted or self-made. For me, it's a matter of the construction quality to price ratio. It kills me to pay actual hard earned $ for poorly-made things that I know will fall apart. Of course, I'm in my mid-30s. My 15 year old self would have been mortified at the thought of wearing something handmade or thrifted -- she was insecure enough that that would have pushed her over the edge. Entertainingly, one of my high school friends and I recently "came out" as having worn dresses that our mothers made to 8th grade graduation. We were each too embarrassed to tell anyone at the time. I really loved that dress...

  6. My shopping habit has dwindled as well within the last few years. However, I do from time to time still buy RTW. I don't feel bad if I do. I usually buy RTW when I really need something fast for an occasion or something. But shopping doesn't do the same for me now as it once did. When my husband and I go on trips, he used to plan a day for me just to go shopping... but I'm just not that into it anymore! It's fun to go get ideas but I get more inspiration from the online sewing community now!

  7. Same here. I saw a beautiful dress while on vacation and would not get it. Why? Because...for the cost I could buy "several" yards of fabric and make several dresses for the cost of the one. Could I have made the dress I was looking at? Nope. It wasn't a question of being able to afford it, and my husband was telling me to get it!

    1. Yes, Shirley sometimes we have to realize we can't do everything. We don't have all of the time in the world!

  8. If my sewing skills were stellar, I'd never buy RTW again. But they aren't and I like to look good! I'll wear my self made clothing happily just about anywhere, but if I had a big event, I'd probably spring for a Nordstrom's dress.

  9. I'm more critical with RTW and won't buy if I can make but I still love shopping. I have to confess I shop less clothes but I still enjoy it.

  10. Let's see, complaining about cheap fabric - check. Underpaid laborers - check. Taking photos in dressing rooms of design and construction details - check. Yep, you've summed me up! I never feel the desire to shop anymore and, in fact, have taken The Seamless Pledge. However, I don't have kids yet, nor do I hold my fiance to the pledge. And, I'll admit, if the occasion should arise where I really need a particular item, I would consider rtw. Sewing is a hobby so we shouldn't put unnecessary pressure on ourselves.

  11. For me, I do hesitate on buying RTW clothes especially when I know I can make it and better, but I ask my self, is my time worth it? And for me it's not just clothes but cakes also. I feel guilty buying a cake from a commercial store when I can make one and it will most likely taste better. It's double guilt for me. Luckily I have an amazing husband that brings me back to reality. And I am humbled. And Justine, thanks for reminding me that just because I can, I really don't have to.

  12. Guilty, guilty, guilty. I HATE to shop now, so much so that nobody ask me to go shopping with them. While shopping with my Aunt who only buys expensive clothes I kept commenting on how they weren't very well made, she said she wouldn't go shopping with me again. You make a very good point I think I need to find a happy medium.

  13. I haven't really gone clothes shopping since I started sewing seriously, and the few things I've bought in the last year end up languishing in my closet because I bring them home and realize how badly they're made. However, there is always room for shoe-shopping! I don't foresee making shoes anytime soon ;)

    I imagine I'll feel differently once I have children who outgrow hand-made clothes...

  14. YES!!! YES YES YES!!!! I've thought about writing a post exactly like this MANY times! Well said. I think I just annoyed a friend of mine at TJ Maxx, because all I was doing was talking about how easy things would be to make and how horrible the fabric was. It gets worse the more I learn how to sew - it used to be that I couldn't ever by toddler skirts and dresses, but now I can hardly buy things for myself as I'm getting better at adult sewing! It's a disease, I tell ya.

    I allow myself to buy cheap t-shirts, pajamas on clearance, underwear, and swimsuits for the kids. Basics. Oh, and jeans for the boy. Everything else,'s tough to justify. Good thing is, my daughter wears at least one handmade thing every day. Nice to know my efforts are worth it.

  15. GREAT POST! I am like that ALL THE TIME! But I recently bought myself a really nice dress and it felt great to just BUY it. Funny thing is, any time I wear ANYTHING people ask me if I made it. I almost feel guilty if I didn't! Is anyone else like that? Thanks for your post and your perspective. My son starts kindergarten in a month and I'm already feeling overwhelmed about all the clothes I want to make him. But maybe it would be better to enjoy him for the next month, then take him shopping the week before school starts, like everybody else? :)

  16. So I misread the title when clicking through from skirt as top's facebook comment but the answer is still yes- sometimes sewing makes me a grinch in real life (ie I don't want to do anything else and sometimes just want to be left alone ha) and I feel the same way about shopping (except for fabric!)- if I can make it for cheaper (cost and time) or don't 1000% love something or don't absolutely need the item then and there then I buy it (but usually on super sale). :)

  17. Absolutely! I'm not even moved to check out sales racks. However I will pull over for a random op shop! I'm so glad that the kids are learning to appreciate the treasures at op shops and garage sales and how over priced some new things are. We have turned my vintage pattern search into our mum/daughter mornings out and it's saved us a fortune!! It's not that we don't shop in 'normal stores' but it certainly decreased and we now comb through fabric bolts and imagine outfits and even at 7 & 9 they are learning about design lines, fabric types and colours. It might seem superficial but they are important confidence builders for later in life. I'm SEW glad I sew

  18. Oh yes.. I am so not fun at shopping. I don't enjoy it at the best of times because nothing fits but when i see such easy things for inflated prices I do the same and talk of third world labour and how wasteful we are. I don't have time to make everything and most times I do without (silly!), I had a wedding to go to recently and had to buy a dress. It was half price and from an Australian company that still manufactures in Australia and I still feel guilty!

  19. Amen! I think it's hard when you can make something, but I think we have to be realistic about what we CAN make. Sewing for myself and children has made me look at clothing differently and I am more careful about purchases. Things I look for are 1)being well-made 2)difficult for me to make 3)time if is those three things and it is in my budget, then I do NOT feel guilty about buying it. I do think we have to be careful not to swing to the opposite spectrum for sure! I do feel like it's a disease, because more often than not I am seeing how I can repurpose the "new" item for fabric, etc, but I still purchase things, because I don't want to have to make EVERYTHING! haha! I'm glad you lightened up and don't let it make you feel guilty!

  20. I hear ya! My shopping has gone down a lot! When I go shopping I ask myself a three things:
    1. Can I make this?
    2. Would it be cheaper to make myself (with the cost of time away from my family and materials)?
    3. Can I match or exceed the quality? (some things are so cheap and flimsy and they still cost an arm and a leg)

    If I answer "no" to question 1 or 2, then I usually buy it. Also, I've come to the realization that there is no way I can make everything for my family since I work full time so I have to buy things too (typically from discount and consignment stores).


  21. I know very few people (in real life, blog not included) that have the same creative passion as myself, so when I try to explain why I refuse to indulge in shopping sprees (which I too used to love so much before starting sewing) they simply don't understand. My one problem - I always see something in a shop, analyse how I can make it, perhaps take notes or a photo, but actually finding the time, or the correct material to start recreating it always holds me back, and i never actually end up making it!


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