Intention Series Part 3: The Sew or Buy Dilemma

As sewists we struggle with the urge to make ALL THE THINGS! But sometimes it just makes more sense to buy rather than a sew. We walk through he 5 questions we ask in deciding whether to sew or buy a particular garment.

We are up to our third and final installment of our intention series (previous installments listed here and here)! Today, we wanted to focus on the “sew or buy” dilemma. I love sewing, but my time is so limited, that making everything under the sun just isn’t possible. I know I struggle a lot with this decision and wanted to share the five questions I ask myself when making the decision to sew or buy a garment in the hopes that they will help you too!

    If you are a sewist and have been on any social media platform, you are probably at least vaguely familiar with Me Made May. It is a challenge to wear your handmade garments more – and involves a wide range of ways to participate. There is so much energy around it, that it makes you want to sew EVERYTHING from undergarments to outerwear – and everything in between! But honestly, Katie and I love to both shop and make – and we want to make sure our space is always about integrating the two worlds.  For the black linen/rayon Chi-Town Chinos you will see pictured throughout, I made a full handmade garment — but I can easily see me wearing all kinds of tops in my wardrobe with it because black pants are SO versatile!

      So that said, below, we have included a five-question checklist to ask yourself when making the decision to sew or buy a garment!

      1. Does RTW for this garment type fit you well?

      For some, sewing is an ABSOLUTE necessity! It’s possible that if this is you, store bought clothes tend to have unforgivable fit issues or might not come in your size. For me, I can typically find pants that are close enough (J Crew High Rise Lookout Skinnies are my FAVORITE) – but I usually have to make my own tops (I am short and short torseoed, and require quite a bit of fitting adjustments).  In the picture below, I made both the top (the Made by Rae Gemma Tank shared here) and the pants.

      View this post on Instagram

      @macsmakespace: I’ve learned so much about my wardrobe by participating in Me Made May this year. I learned getting dressed is a confidence booster (I’m looking at you sweatpants) and another way to express my creativity in something mundane. I ALSO learned that as much as I like the prints and bright colors, I still need to make more room for MORE anchor pieces (solids, neutrals, etc). Hopefully, you’ll be seeing a better mix of anchor and elevation pieces in the coming months, so that my handmade wardrobe gets maximum value with less pieces. Then I can put more attention into quality over quantity. These black @alinadesignco #chitownchinos are a great start! Have you tried them out? _______ #sewalteredstyle #mmmay18 #memadeeveryday #slowfashionblogger #instasew #DCSews #ootdfashion #makersgonnamake #lovewhatyoumake #capsulewardrobe #sewcialists

      A post shared by Sew Altered Style🧵Katie & Mac (@sewalteredstyle) on Jun 1, 2018 at 5:09pm PDT

      2. Is the garment style in season and easy to find in stores in your size and price range?

      If you have a dream image in your head, but you are finding that the neckline on that shirt or your pant rise of choice is out of vogue – that might be a good indicator to get sewing!

      By the same token, if you’ve fallen in love with a garment but simply can’t afford the price point, sewing it might be a good alternative!  Sometimes high-end fabrics drive up the price of RTW pieces.  In that case, you may be able to source the fabric you need at a reasonable price or substitute a lower-priced fabric (think rayon challis instead of silk, cotton/rayon suiting instead of wool, etc).  And if you’ve fallen in love with a high-end designer or runway piece, well the pattern market is overflowing with pattern options for you, some of them based on those same runway collections.

        Mac made this Seamwork Astoria in the perfect crop length for her frame

        3. Do you have (or can easily/reasonably source) the right pattern?

        This one is pretty self-explanatory. The market is full of patterns, so chances are you can at least find a pattern close to what you have in mind. But sometimes there really isn’t something exactly right on the market, and mashing or hacking patterns may or may not be a realistic option.

        However, I will add that if you can hack it – and that is your thing – go for it! It isn’t my personal preference, but see question five for more on that!

          Mac in a ready-to-wear (RTW) top and handmade Closet Case Files Ginger Jeans

          4. Do you have (or can easily/reasonably source) the right fabric?

          I can’t explain to you the number of garments I intend to make from the 12 yards of stone washed rayon I purchased from Stylish Fabrics – but let’s just say I will likely be sewing it all summer!

          But sometimes the juice just isn’t worth the squeeze, if you know what I mean.  For example, Katie found a linen knit tank from Everlane that she just loved for $28.00.  Linen knit can be difficult to source at a reasonable price, so after figuring in the cost of her sewing time, she knew that she couldn’t make a linen tank for less and decided to just buy it.

          View this post on Instagram

          ✨💙Me Made May Day 20💙✨ New day, new #fenshirt by @fancytigercrafts – same ol’ RTW skirt from @jcrewfactory ✨ Please tell me someone has pattern suggestions 🤞🏾✨✨ . First time sewing with Sandwashed Rayon – from @stylishfabric – have you used it before? What do you think of it? _________ #memademay #makersgonnamake #mmmay18 #isewmyownclothes #instasew #sewalteredstyle

          A post shared by Macharva✨Sew Altered Style (@macsmakespace) on May 20, 2018 at 6:53pm PDT

          5. Will it bring you joy?

          This one is most important – sewing for most of us is a hobby. Every time I hear someone say, “I have been putting off making XYZ because I hate making it,” I just shake my head. That’s where purchasing can REALLY make a difference. Making black pants is not fun. But the process of sewing up a new wardrobe staple – with a pattern that taught me some new skills, in a color that will get lots of wear this summer – was SO incredibly worth it.

          By contrast, I will not make underwear.  Just won’t do it.  I hate making them, and it brings me zero joy.  When it’s time to replace underwear, I head straight to the store!

            I also wanted my first version of my Chi Town Chinos to be a wearable muslin, so I opted to make them in black rayon linen, which hides some of the imperfections! I’ve shared more pictures below, but they are a GREAT pattern! Outside of the fact that I am not used to mid-rise pants (and that pockets are hard – like REALLY hard), I cannot recommend the pattern enough.

                    Those are our big 5 questions – are there any we left off? Let us know in the comments


                    And in case you want to read more about our Intention Series, we’ve linked them below:

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