I’m Making a Skirt! Phase 2: Gadget Testing

This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which support the blog at no cost to you. The Joann and Walmart links are non-affiliate links.

I don’t usually like to buy things. I’m a big fan of repairing and making do, which is why my three-year-old wears sandals that are glued together and I still cook in Grandma FP’s spare slow cooker. But I may have gotten a little carried away buying tools for the project I’m working on, making a skirt (using The Essential A-line: Make 17 Flirty Skirts from 1 Basic Pattern, which I checked out from the library). I have been to Joann Fabric and Crafts approximately 97 times and have gotten extremely adapt at downloading their coupons to my phone.

So here’s what I’ve been buying, its cost, and why. (Prices are approximate, as they reflect percent discount coupons and tax.) If you just want to see how much money I spent, skip to the end. Hint: Buying a whole, brand-new skirt would definitely have been cheaper. But way less fun.

1. Blind hem foot ($9.23, Amazon)

This is a nifty little gadget that can obviously be used for blind hems–which I don’t need, because I don’t wear things that fancy–but also for edge stitching, a trick when you stitch as close as possible to a fold (as in making a pleat). It has a fabric guide that keeps you from wandering off to the right, making it easier to stay straight and close to the edge. (As far as wandering to the left, you’re still on your own.)

Edge stitching with regular foot. I'm sure I would have gotten better with practice.

Edge stitching with regular foot. I’m sure I would have gotten better with practice, but see how far away from the fold it is, and uneven.

First try with blind hem foot. Worse than without it!

First try with blind hem foot. Worse than without it!

Third try with blind hem foot. That's more like it!

Third try with blind hem foot. That’s more like it!

Necessity Level: 3 of 5. I could probably have practiced and gotten a pretty straight line eventually, but not as straight as with the blind hem foot.

2. Rotary cutter and small mat ($15.26, Joann)

Even more unusually for me than shopping at all, this was actually an impulse purchase. I wasn’t going to buy one; Grandma FP made beautiful garments using only shears. But… well… I had a 50% off coupon, and I knew I would need one in the future if I wanted to make a bias hem, and I thought it would be fun and handy. So I bought this Fiskers kit with their basic 45 mm cutter and a 6 by 18 inch mat. It’s worth noting that while Walmart has better regular prices on both cutters and mats, they can’t match a 50% off item coupon at Joann.

I’ve been practicing cutting with it; there’s a bit of a learning curve to cutting corners cleanly and to following curves (see freezer paper, below).

Necessity Level: 1 of 5. May save time in the long run, but not needed for this project.

3. Freezer paper for patterns ($6.50, Walmart)

This is awesome! Joann apparently does not carry pattern paper; they (and Walmart) carry Pellon-brand interfacing that is designed for making patterns, at a cost of around $1.50-$3 per yard (depending on sale conditions). It looks handy, since it won’t slide around as much as regular paper, but I thought it was too pricey.

Extensive further research revealed that you can use freezer paper, like what you might find wrapped around an ancient roast at the bottom of Grandma’s chest freezer. Not only is this thin enough to trace through–no tracing wheel needed–but if you iron it, shiny side down, onto your fabric, it sticks in place gently and peels off easily. You can stick the whole pattern on before you even cut it out. I tested it with some leftover muslin, drawing a shape and then cutting it out for extra rotary cutter practice. I hear you can stick it several times before it loses stickiness (and then you could just pin it or weight it down if you didn’t want to make a new pattern).

Necessity Level: 4 of 5. I could have used wrapping paper, but that wasn’t very satisfactory and then I just would have had to buy more wrapping paper eventually anyway.

This is what the pattern looks like in the book

This is what the pattern looks like in the book

Lines clearly visible through the freezer paper so I can trace the lines for my size.

Lines clearly visible through the freezer paper so I can trace the markings for my size.

One piece of my homemade pattern. I used a ruler for the straight lines.

One piece of my homemade pattern. I used a ruler for the straight lines, and you can see I made a false start.

4. Hem gauge ($2.25, Joann, or here on Amazon)

A handy little gadget for measuring hems more quickly and accurately than with measuring tape.

Necessity Level: 1 of 5. Will save a few minutes, but it’s really just for fun.

Hem measuring made easier. Still one of the most tedious parts of sewing.

Hem measuring made easier. Still one of the most tedious parts of sewing.

5. Thread snips ($6, Joann; couldn’t find this kind online)

Cut thread closer than scissors and should also be good for cutting those tiny little triangles that help you match up pieces.

Necessity Level: 3 of 5 (for this project). There is very prominent top stitching and I don’t think I could have gotten close enough for my satisfaction with my shears.

Practice topstitching, cut with shears.

Practice topstitching, cut with shears.

And cut with snips. I still want to make it look neater at the bottom.

And cut with snips. I still want to make it look neater at the bottom.

6. Water-soluble marking pen ($3.75, Joann; again, couldn’t find online)

Grandma FP always used chalk, but I wanted something a little tidier and more precise for marking where my pleats should be and whatnot. The gadget I got has one end that’s a wipe-clean marker and another side with disappearing ink.

Necessity Level: 2 of 5. May make for slightly more accurate pleats.

7. Invisible zipper foot ($2.50, Joann, or on Amazon here)

Haven’t tested this yet, but supposedly it’s necessary for putting in a zipper that is invisible from the outside.

Necessity Level: 4 of 5. I could probably have found some other way to make it work.

In Conclusion…

Notice that technically, I could have completed this project without buying any of the things on this list, even though the book I’m using listed them all as required tools. The only things that I didn’t already own and without which I would not have been able to complete the directions were dressmaker’s tracing paper and the tracing wheel, for marking darts on the fabric.

Total cost of the items above: $48.84

Plus the tracing paper and pincushion: $56.70

That’s almost $60 on durable supplies alone! That’s not even counting the fabric! Again, though, please note that I could have done this much more cheaply. Instead, I chose to look at it as taking up a hobby. I’m having a ball fiddling around. In my next post, which might be after I get back from vacation in a few weeks, I’ll break down what it will cost per garment if I make several.

Also, hopefully I will eventually have, you know, a finished skirt to show you.

Do you have any making-things hobbies that don’t actually save money? What’s your reasoning?




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About frugalparagon

I'm a part-time librarian and mom to two small boys. I blog about striving for the long-term goal of financial independence while running a tight ship at home.

9 responses to “I’m Making a Skirt! Phase 2: Gadget Testing”

  1. Mrs PoP says :

    I love this and can’t wait until you model the finished product for us! Some day I want to try my hand at sewing. I actually am saving a favorite skirt that has permanent marker stain (rendering it unwearable) in the hopes of creating a pattern from it in the distant future. =)

    • frugalparagon says :

      That’s an ambitious project! The apron I made for my friend (in my last post), I made a pattern by tracing around my father’s grill apron. (Tall girl, my friend! It was a moderate pain. But for a skirt, you would have to pick the seams apart first. Actually, that would probably be very educational!

  2. Kathryn says :

    I didn’t realize you could use a blind-hem foot for pleats. New thing to play with!

    Sewing may or may not save me money. I invested in a nice machine last year (the $100 Singer I got 20 years ago had seen much better days and had definitely paid for itself), and I am pretty sure I haven’t broken even on the investment yet. But considering how much I use it for — curtains, quilts, upholstery, mending — I think I eventually will. I save money on fabric using scraps for quilting and, when that won’t work, taking advantage of the 50% off coupons at JoAnn Fabrics. I also pick up fabric and thread at estate/garage sales. A friend of mine sometimes hosts fabric and crafty things swaps. That’s a good source, too.

    • frugalparagon says :

      Haven’t tried quilting! I still have the one my grandmother bought me at JC Penney or something twelve or more years ago :-).

      Never would have thought of looking at estate sales for fabric! Thanks for the tip! I still have my original sewing machine, which Grandma FP gave me for Christmas circa ten years ago. It is a basic Brother–the nice thing is that it’s easy to get accessories for it.

  3. Tarynkay says :

    My husband makes beer. It would probably be cheaper to just buy beer, which we end up doing anyhow bc he doesn’t want us to drink all of his home-brew too quickly. He also plays guitar, which is a pretty expensive hobby that has so far profited us one $10 food voucher at a bar he played at. But I love that he does these things.

    • frugalparagon says :

      Mr. FP wants to take piano lessons and also get them for Big Brother! I’m sure that will not be cheap, but hopefully it will pay off in the end. Is the homebrew more delicious?

  4. Tawcan says :

    I’m totally going to show Mrs. T this post so she could try making a skirt herself as well. She’s been making pants and shirts recently.

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