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Episode 115

Should You Buy it or Should You Make it?

Should I buy it or should I make it? In this episode, Sarai and Haley cover six questions to ask yourself when you're deciding whether you want to take the time to sew something for yourself or simply buy a readymade version.

Podcast Transcript

Sarai
I’m Sarai.

Haley
And I’m Haley.

Sarai
And this is Seamwork Radio. Welcome back to Seamwork Radio, where we share practical ideas for building a creative process so you can sew with intention and joy. And today today we’re talking about how to answer the question, should I buy it or should I make it? And we’re going to cover six questions to ask yourself when you’re deciding whether you want to take the time to sew something for yourself or simply buy a readymade version.

All right, heading into our icebreaker for today, this one comes from Nancy, and Nancy says, “just wondering if you ever lost a piece of your garment or the entire garment in your sewing room. I do lots of bridal and prom dress alterations, and one day, I lost an entire dress. My studio is large, but I had checked and rechecked every possible place I could have later hung the dress. I was in a panic. After sleeping on a complete loss of mind, I went downstairs to my studio and checked underneath my koala cabinet. There lay my missing dress. It was a slippery fabric and slid right underneath out of sight. Mind recovered also” I love that Nancy.

Haley
Nancy. That sounds so stressful.

Sarai
I’m stressed.

Haley
I would have been…can you imagine this year panic of, like, I lost someone’s prom or wedding dress. What am I going to tell them?

Sarai
Yeah, I get stressed when I lose anything. So yesterday I made a frittata for dinner, and I went to go cut it and serve it, and I could not find the pie server anywhere. And I checked the dishwasher, like, three times. I checked the drawer it’s supposed to be in. I enlisted Kenn’s help. We were both looking for it. And then eventually, I realized that I was eating, like, baked oatmeal for breakfast, and I had put it back in the pan with the baked oatmeal and stuck it in the fridge because I was in such a rush in the morning, and it was like, a good ten minutes of just running around like a chicken with my head cut off. I mean, it’s so stupid, but I got so stressed out just losing the stupid pie server. And here Nancy is, like, talking about an entire dress that’s much more stressful that belongs to somebody else.

Haley
When you started that story with I made a frittata, I’m like, oh, my God, did you lose it?

Sarai
I’m sure I’ve lost, like, entire dishes that I’ve made as well.

Haley
I’m like, the queen of losing things. This actually came up really recently. Erica messaged me, and she was like, it was a picture of a Kimmy dress that I had made. And she was like, it was some question about it. What was the fabric? Something that’s what on the community was asking. And I answered the question, and I was like, oh, my God, where is that dress? I do not know. I love it. I would not have gotten rid of it intentionally. I do not know where it went too, because it was really cute. It’s just like a classic black rayon challis. And it can be such, like, a classic dress. It’s something that I was hoping to have in my closet for many years, but apparently my absent mindedness had other plans and did something with it. Maybe I’ll find it someday. I hope I’ll report back if I do.

Sarai
It ran away from home. I’m sorry.

Haley
I’m so bummed. I’m so bummed. Watch me, like, recreate it and then find it.

Sarai
Yeah, and then you’ll have two. And that’s no fun if you have two of the same thing because it’s no better than having one, really, unless you wear it, like, every day.

Haley
Yeah, I don’t. Well, what about you? Have you any experience just losing things other than pie servers?

Sarai
Well, I lose stuff all the time, and I’m sure I’ve lost I don’t know if I’ve ever lost, like, a whole garment. I don’t think I’ve ever had a space big enough to do that. But I’ve definitely lost pieces of projects or even entire projects that I’ve cut out. And then I’ve done something with them and I don’t know what I did with them because I don’t really have a system for in progress stuff. Right now, all my in progress stuff is like, sitting in a trash bag in the corner of my room, which is not ideal. So I’ve definitely lost pieces of projects and I’ve definitely lost in-progress stuff. I don’t think I’ve ever lost an actual garment that I can remember. So now I have a new thing to worry about, though.

Haley
Yeah. Maybe one day Kenn will come in and be like, I’m taking out the trash. Throw that trash bag away.

Sarai
Yeah. I wouldn’t put it past him, or me, to lose something that way. He’s always cleaning up after me. Well, thank you so much for that, Nancy. Thank you for sharing that very stress inducing story. I loved it.

So if you have an icebreaker for us for a future episode, if you’re a Seamwork member, you can go to Seamwork.com.go/icebreakers and leave a question for us there and hopefully we can use it on a future episode. Thanks again, Nancy.

Alright, so our topic for today, making all of your wardrobe. Making 100% of your wardrobe I don’t think is realistic for most of us. I don’t think most of us are able to dedicate the time to make 100% of our clothing. Maybe some of us do, but I think most of us don’t. And it might not be something that you’ve been aspired to do. I know for me, although it would be really cool and really nice to make 100% of my wardrobe, it’s not really a goal of mine. And I think for a lot of sewers, it’s the same thing. It’s that you want to make things that feel good to you.

You want to make a sizable portion of your wardrobe. You want to kind of make things fit together, make clothes that fit you and the styles you want, but it’s not necessarily to make every single thing yourself for most of us. So if that’s the case for you, how do you decide what’s worth making and what you’d rather just buy?

So we’re going to share some criteria to think about as you’re going through that process yourself and really deciding what you want to make and what you want to buy. So, Haley, is there any type of garment that you just have zero interest in making?

Haley
I don’t know if I can say that there is one particular garment that I have no interest in making. I think with jeans, sometimes I feel less interested in making them. It’s not because I have not as much of an interest in making them. I’m really picky with denim fabric, and I have a harder time finding sometimes the denim that I want or imagine in my head. But I’ve learned by now, never say never, because I’ve thought that in the past, and then I go and I make that thing. Is there anything that you thought in the past that you would never make that you actually, like, super enjoy making?

Sarai
That’s a good question. I would say at the beginning of my sewing journey, my sewing career, I wouldn’t have thought that I would ever make, like, bras and underwear, because bras just seem like, whoa, that seems really hard to do, and you need all this special stuff, and you need the special fabric and etc and etc. But actually, I’ve made bras, and it’s really fun. It’s not something I do all the time because I do, like, a lot of very simple bras that don’t have a lot of seams and things. Like, they need special fabrics that you can’t just buy. So for those, which is kind of what I wear day to day, but I have made some bras that are really pretty, and I really, really enjoyed the process, and I would definitely do it again. It’s not an everyday thing for me again, but it’s something that I would definitely do it again. And I think in the beginning, I never would have even thought to make a bra. It just didn’t seem possible. Especially, I have a kind of I’m on the larger cup size, so support is kind of important. But you can actually make really well constructed, really supportive, really comfortable bras yourself, which I didn’t really realize, I think, years ago.

So that’s one thing for me. What about you?

Haley
I totally agree with you. That used to be the thing that I was like, never. Absolutely never. And then I did one day, and I loved it. I thought it was so fun. The pieces are so small, so if you have a small sewing space, then it’s actually really reasonable to work on. I just think it’s so fun. So that is kind of the project that taught me, never say never, Haley, because you don’t know. You just don’t. Do you plan your sewing and your shopping at the same time?

Sarai
You know, I kind of do. So just yesterday, we filmed a video for YouTube about how we plan our sewing using Pinterest and some other digital tools. And I don’t totally plan out all of my shopping, but I do kind of work them together. I have a wishlist on Pinterest. I mentioned this on the podcast before as well. I have a wishlist board on Pinterest where I save I have different sub boards within there for things that I would like to add to my wardrobe and my home, both. And it’s a way for me to kind of keep track of things that I want and give myself some time to think about them before I actually commit to buying or selling them. So that’s really helpful for me. In that way, I am kind of planning them both at the same time. So, for example, right now on there, there’s sweater dresses on there, and that’s something that I would like to sew. And there’s also a pair of tall boots. So that’s something that I’d like to add to my wardrobe, and that’s something that obviously I’m going to buy because I don’t know how to make boots.

They’re all together in one place, and I do find that to be really helpful. What about you? Do you plan those things together.

Haley
A little bit. Yes and no. I definitely sow some things impulsively. I buy some things impulsively. I’m a human. But when I do Design Your Wardrobe, I definitely think about the things that I would like to thrift or buy new or a lot of time shoes come up, I’ll be looking at all of my inspiration and building my outfits, which is also a part of Design Your Wardrobe. You kind of build some looks, and a lot of times it will be pretty apparent the holes in my wardrobe, the things that I need to sow or I want to sew, but also little things like, yeah, I really need a brown pair of loafers. That is what’s going to really make this look. And sometimes it can be like a little incentive, like, okay, once I sew the first three garments from my collection, then I can treat myself to the shoes that I really want that will go with this really well.

Sarai
That’s a good idea, actually. I like that.

Haley
I love incentivizing things for myself. Little, like, brain tricks.

Sarai
Yeah. Gamify it.

Haley
Yes.

Sarai
You know, I just thought of something with those boots. I mentioned that I’m looking for a pair of tall boots and was looking on eBay for them because I like to buy second hand whenever I can, and boots are something that have been around for ages, and hopefully they last for ages. So I was looking on eBay for boots and I found this fare. They’re really cute and they were knee high, which is what I’m looking for. And the description this is apropos of nothing, I just thought it was funny. The description was talking about the height of the boot, and they were saying it said, we’ll protect you from poison ivy, bugs and other critters. That was a selling point. The critters aren’t going to bite your cab. I mean, it was like it was written for me because I live in the wild, but it was really funny. I don’t know if that’s what people are looking for when they’re buying a pair of well, maybe some people, I don’t know. Critter proof boots.

Alright. So getting into some of our tips. So what we wanted to talk about today, when you’re kind of thinking about what you want to buy versus what you want to make, I think there are some questions that you can ask yourself that will help you to kind of clarify it.

So maybe this will be helpful to you. So we’ve got six questions. I’m going to share the first three, and Hailey’s going to share the second three. So the first question to ask yourself is how much time it’s going to take you. So this is a big one for me when it comes to deciding whether I’m going to sew something or whether I’m going to just buy it is how long it’s going to take me to make and whether that fits in with the bigger picture of how much time I have to sew generally in the coming months and what other things I might want to make. So if I want to make, for example, if I’m thinking about making a winter coat, I know that’s going to take quite a bit of time because it’s a larger project, there are a lot of detailed steps to it. You have to sew a lining. It’s a pretty big project, and that might be fine for me as long as I have the time to do that and I don’t have a lot of other things I would also like to use my sewing time to make, then maybe that’s worth it to me.

But if that’s not the case and you just don’t have a lot of time right now, or you’re not going to fit in all the other things that you would like to do, that might be a reason to buy instead of make. So that’s just something to think about. Again, it’s just one factor, but it’s really about how you can get the most joy from your sewing time. So however much sewing time you have, how do you want to spend it? And for me, sometimes making something big and complicated, that’s going to take a while is what’s going to give me the most joy because there’s a real sense of satisfaction from doing a big project like that. And sometimes that’s exactly what I want. Other times, that’s not what I want. Other times, you know, maybe I have a few different things that I would like to make, and maybe they’re simpler and they’ll be faster to make, and that’s what’s going to bring me the most joy. So just thinking about it in terms of how you’re going to invest whatever sewing time you have, that’s the first question to ask yourself.

The second question to ask yourself is whether the materials like fabric or hardware, whether those are available to you.

So, for example, Haley mentioned denim. She talked about how she’s very picky about her denim, and when it comes to making jeans, she’s been a little bit less interested in making jeans just because the fabrics that she’s most interested in aren’t always readily available. So if it’s something where it’s really hard to get your hands on exactly what you want, exactly the fabric you want, exactly the kind of hardware you want, then maybe that’s a good candidate for not making it.

On the other hand, sometimes it just takes a little bit more searching, and maybe you just need to be a little bit more picky or a little bit more patient and wait until you can find exactly the right thing before you dive into the project. So it might not be necessarily that you need to buy it. So if it’s something that you don’t need right away, maybe it’s just something you’d like to make at some point, then maybe it’s just a matter of waiting a little bit longer if you can’t find exactly the right materials. I, personally, I don’t like to compromise on my materials when it comes to sewing just because it takes a long time to make something.

Even if you’re making something as simple as a T-shirt, it takes time, and time is very precious. So if I’m going to make something, I want it to be right. So that’s another thing to consider. Or if the thing you want. The idea you have in your mind of what you want is a very particular color or very particular print that’s very specific to a garment that you’ve seen. A ready to wear garment that you’re thinking about buying. And you’re not going to be able to really recreate it because you don’t have that fabric. You don’t have that print. That might be another reason that might tip in favor of buying the thing you really want versus trying to replicate it and knowing you’re not really going to get exactly what you wanted. It’s all just about, I think if you are going for ready to wear, over making, still trying to be intentional about it and trying to really think through those things and understand why you’ve chosen to buy instead of make, that’s the second one.

The third question to ask yourself is if the ready to wear version is something you can afford to buy.

I think this is a big one because we talked in previous episode about the fact that fabric can be expensive, and sometimes it costs as much to make something as it does to buy it. I think an exception to this is when you’re talking about higher-end clothing. I think with higher-end clothing, there’s considerable mark up for the quality of materials and the quality of the construction. So if you want something that is maybe very, very expensive to buy, maybe like a designer piece, something like that, sometimes it is much more affordable to sell it than it is to buy it. I think there’s a real difference between something that you could buy for not that much money at a place like Target and something that you could buy for a lot of money from a designer and your ability to actually make that for a reasonable cost. I think there’s a huge difference between those two things. Not saying one is better than the other. I’m just saying there is that financial difference.

So if you’re thinking about things like that. Or. You know. Let’s say like you want a really well tailored blazer. And you want it to fit you perfectly. And you want it to be in really high quality wool fabric. And you want it to have a silk lining. If you want all of those things. That’s going to be something that’s going to be very, very expensive to purchase for most of us. But you can make it, and you can make it for a pretty reasonable cost. Probably still not cheap. I mean, it’s not going to be as cheap as buying something again at a place like Target or something like that. But if you want that high level of quality, you can make it for a pretty reasonable price. So that’s just something I think to keep in mind, is that difference between the high quality version of something and the lower quality and your ability to replicate that for a good price. So those are the first three sets.

So Haley, do you want to share the next three things to think about?

Haley
Definitely. So the first one that I want to bring up is, can you find a version that fits you?

I know personally I wear a size 14, and most ready to wear sometimes, many times, especially a lot of small designers only carry up to a size, maybe ten or twelve. So a lot of times I can’t find what I want to make or what I want to buy. They may not have my size, or if I do find my size, it just may not fit me exactly the way that I want. So considering if you can find something that is in your size, and even then, can you find it that fits you well? Kind of making a judgment call of what your standard of fit is for a particular garment. But I think we’re going to keep on bringing up like, coats and jackets just because they make such great examples. I was just recently looking online at a blazer that I really liked. It was like a decent quality one and it was about $200. I was kind of doing the quick math in my head of if I were to buy those same fabrics, it probably would be a little bit less.

But the thing that was going to be the biggest differences is that if I made it myself, it is going to fit me perfectly and I’m not going to have to sacrifice any of those fit details on certain things, like on a T shirt, you may not care as much, you just wanted to fit you reasonably well. It doesn’t have to be just so, but certain garments, it may make a difference for you. So consider the fit.

The next thing I’m going to bring up is, are you sacrificing something if you were to buy it? So are there certain details that are going to be not quite to your liking? Like, if it’s a dress, is it going to be too long or too short? Is the neckline going to be a little bit too low or maybe too high? If you buy it, are you going to have to be compromising in one way or another . With sewing, hopefully this is something that we can avoid by making a muslin. We can get the cut of it just right.

And then the last thing is, do you enjoy making it? And I really think that this is perhaps the most important thing to ask yourself.

Sewing is supposed to be fun. You want it to bring you joy. You’re not going to make it if you actually don’t look forward to making it. That just is kind of like counter to the entire idea of sewing for enjoyment. So ask yourself, are you going to enjoy making it? And if the answer is no, then there is no reason at all that you need to make it. And this honestly is the biggest factor that dictates my own personal sewing queue versus shopping queue. I find that asking myself this, it actually forces me to sew more often because I’m actually looking forward to the projects that I am making. And I’m not saying, oh, go and buy everything ready to wear. In fact, I think that the point that we’re making in this episode, after you ask yourself these questions, you might find that you want to slow down, you want to make a lot of these things. But just thinking about it in an intentional way, where you’re bringing objects into your life with intention and you’re spending your precious time with intention as well.

Sarai
Yeah, I think just making these decisions for yourself and taking that little moment to think through the decision before you just impulsively decide to buy the fabric or you impulsively decide to buy a garment because it’s on sale or, you know, whatever it is for you, whatever those kind of triggers are for you. I think just taking a moment to ask yourself a few questions will bring you not just better decisions, but also a better attitude towards those decisions after the fact. Like you’ll understand why you decided to make this thing and what you’re getting out of the process a little bit better, or why you decided to buy this thing and be more comfortable with that decision too. That’s what’s helpful for me.

Alright, I’m going to recap for us. So we had six questions to ask yourself when you’re thinking about whether you want to buy something or whether you want to make something. So this is really helpful while you’re doing any kind of wardrobe planning or sewing planning for the season.

So, first question, how much time is it going to take me? So that’s the first thing and just thinking about how you’re most going to enjoy your sewing time.

Are the materials like the fabric or the hardware? Are those available to me?

Is the ready to wear version something I can’t afford to buy? That’s another thing that you can think about. We talked about the difference between sewing something that is maybe a more expensive designer, high quality piece versus something that’s more of an everyday or less expensive piece.

Can I find one that fits me? So is it even coming your size or is it going to fit you well if you buy it off the rack versus if you make it yourself? Are you sacrificing something style wise if you were to buy it? So are you sacrificing a preference that you have for the garment? Like if it’s too long or too short or too low cut or too high cut? Are you making a compromise somewhere just because that’s what’s available?

And last and most important, do you enjoy making it? Is this something that you’re going to really enjoy making? Because that’s just going to make your sewing time a lot better if you’re actually planning out things that you’re going to have fun making. And it’s not just about acquiring more stuff because you want more stuff.

So those are our questions that you can ask yourself if you are struggling with whether you want to buy something or whether you want to make something.

I think it’s a really great exercise to do as you’re kind of thinking about maybe what you want to sew in the next few months. So if you’re somebody who plans out you’re sewing again, I think this is super, super helpful.

So my big takeaway from this episode is really that whether you’re buying something, whether you’re making something, there’s always some kind of sacrifice involved. Whether that is a sacrifice of time or whether that’s a sacrifice of money or maybe you’re making a compromise on the actual end result. So, for me, it’s about, where do I want to make that sacrifice? And, you know, kind of balancing those things out. And for me, a lot of times, when it comes to sewing, it doesn’t feel like as much as a sacrifice because although it takes more time and you might consider yourself sacrificing that time, if it’s actually enjoyable to you, if you’re enjoying the process of making it, then it’s no sacrifice at all.

So that’s kind of what I’ve taken away from this episode. What about you, Haley?

Haley
That’s a beautiful takeaway. I think that my takeaway is that I have a lot more reasons to make things than I do to buy things. When I sit here and I reflect on these questions, basically, all paths lead to sewing, as they do in my life in general, I’m okay with that. I think that’s nice.

Sarai
I think these questions really do encourage you to sew more. I think anything that really encourages you to think more about what you want to own and what you want to wear. For me at least, always leads me to making and less buying. Because if I’m thinking about it that intentionally, then first of all, it leads me to want less stuff because it makes me realize that I don’t really need as much stuff as I might want. And it’s okay to want things that you don’t need, obviously, but there is a balance there, and that does help to kind of curb the consumption for me. And then it also causes me to reflect on the actual enjoyment I get out of sewing and that it’s actually something that is fun to do for the sake of it, apart from whatever end product you get out of it. So, those reflections really do encourage me to sew a lot more and to make a lot more in general.

Well, if you enjoyed this and you want to think a little bit more about fit in particular. So, some of our tips some of the tips Haley shared were about creating things that actually fit you well.

And if that’s something that you’re interested in or something that you have struggled with in the past, you might want to check out our Fit Journal. So, it’s a free journal that walks you through a very simple fitting process, and it helps demystify getting the fit that you want. So it includes worksheets for taking your measurements and comparing measurements, for choosing your size, and for making the adjustments that you need. And the cool thing is that when you use it over time, it really helps you to find your fit.

So it’s available for free at seamwork.com/go/fit-journal. And, again, it’s free. To download there. Just enter your email, and we will send it off to you. And if you liked this episode, please leave us a review. We would love to hear from you. So, if. You got something out of this today, please let us know. You can leave us a review on Apple podcasts, on Spotify, on Twitcher, on wherever you listen to podcasts. If you don’t have time to leave us a review, you can also just leave a rating, at least on Apple podcasts. If you leave us a five star rating, we’d super, super appreciate it and it helps other people to find the show, or if you want to share it with friends, either in person or on social media, we would really appreciate that too.
That helps get the word out about the show as well.

You can also find us on YouTube at Seamworkvideo. I’ve mentioned a few times, we’ve just wrapped up some filming for some of those videos yesterday, and I think they’re going to be awesome. So go ahead and check us out over there. We love seeing you all over at YouTube. You can also follow us on Instagram at Seamwork, and if you’d like to join Seamwork and become part of our private community, plus get access to hundreds of sewing patterns and dozens of so long classes, our podcast listeners get a 50% off lifetime discount when you join at seamwork.com/go/podcast-50. And that will do it for us this week. I’m Sarai.

Haley
And I’m Haley.

Sarai
And this is Seamwork Radio.

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