Do You Save Money By Making Things?

I spend a fair amount of time on Pinterest and have found some great blogs that way.  Like Ravelry for knitters, Pinterest is a great resource for people who make stuff.  There are links to loads of free tutorials and lots of inspiration to be found.  It has the potential to be a black hole though and what recently showed up on my feed page was the quote,  "Being a good knitter is 3% talent and 97% not being distracted by the internet."   Yes, well, and here you are.

Anyway, I recently came upon a blog post that led to a very enlightening discussion about the true costs of sewing your own clothes.  While many extolled the virtues of making quality clothing that one couldn't possibly afford to buy, some factored in the hobby related costs - once you've purchased a sewing machine, the cost of the hobby is relatively cheap compared to other hobbies.  Yarn Harlot once figured that knitting cost her about 25 cents per hour as a hobby with full-priced quality yarn - cheaper than a movie (cheaper than a lot of hobbies!) and with a finished product at the end.  One comment on Tilly and the Buttons made an astute point:

I'm a lady nearing 60.   In my younger years, sewing was most certainly a money saving proposition. But in the last 30 years things have radically changed.  Now a days, we all seemly "benefit" by cheap, semi-slave factory labor in 3rd World countries and Asia.  Labor predicated upon cheap petroleum, central banks and global debt.
Hence home sewing your own garments in a 1st Word country is not considered to be a true economic savings.
But if you actually stop to consider the costs of human dignity and freedom, and hold the value a self-reliance dear - then home sewing is by far a better economy.
Self -reliance is a biggie for me.  I like to know how to do things.  Lots of things, like how to maintain a garden and bake bread, make clothing and properly paint a room.  Just because I can do it doesn't mean I do it all the time in some kind of manic puritanical fashion;  it just means that if I need it I can do it without panicking.  I want to demonstrate that "Little House on the Prairie" can do attitude.

I also like not being reliant on an industry that I feel is pretty unhealthy.  We have fashion trends because designers and manufacturers need to be constantly selling product.  We have fashion magazines that tell impressionable young women they need to be skinny and boy-like to look good in clothes.  They can preach all they want about encouraging women to appreciate their bodies, every time they stick Keira Knightley or Gwyneth Paltrow or Kate Middleton on a magazine cover they are pushing a narrative that true beauty is skinny.  The revered yarn and knitting empire Rowan recently addressed this in a couple of their bi-annual magazines.  While their models were the typical stick-thin waifs they favor for their photo shoots, they also turned to 3 generations of women to demonstrate various ways to wear the designs in one magazine and had Rowan staff model all of the designs in another.  It was a smart move as some of the designs that could have been dismissed by an older knitter as too young and trendy looked really smart on older more conservative dressers and different body types.  If only we saw more of this in the fashion industry.

Thinking about that makes me wonder if the craft industries can actually save us from our current malaise.   Every comment on that sewing blog alluded to a rejection of shopping, that once you embraced the ability to make clothing, it is no longer very interesting to purchase some other vision of what's fashionable.  I know that I've been feeling that way about eating out.  I once loved to eat out and felt the only time we experimented with interesting new flavors and ideas was when we went to a restaurant.  Now though, eating out seems like such an extravagance.  With websites like epicurious and foodies generously blogging recipes at places like  Smitten Kitchen, it is easy to look in the freezer and figure out what needs to be used then find an appropriate recipe.  No need to worry about what to order for the kids or if they will behave at the table.  And that $60-80 spent on a restaurant meal?  That's a sweater's worth of yarn or twenty-five percent of a good sewing machine.