Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Bottom Line: The Cost of Competing in PR&P

Hello Everybody! - if you are newer to my blog there are a few blog posts that may help you understand my sewing background and why I upcycle/recycle/re-purpose (Here and Here).   But at the end of the day the short answer is that I am cheap.  I live on a tight budget with three kids under 2 and I started sewing for them to save us money - not spend a ton.  It can be a bit intimidating when you see the big blogs buying up all the awesome new fabrics and patterns; but don't think you can't sew amazing things without breaking the bank!!!

 Winter Wear-Wolf:  $0

OK, technically $2.50 (which is what I paid for the grey bias tape in the fall, but I only used half of it, and if I hadn't already bought it I just would have made my own from one of  the fabrics in the outfit).  All of the fabrics were upclycled; two skirts and two shepherds costumes.  The buttons came from an old coat, and the elastic loops were made from 2 hair ties I had.

Collegiate Cool: $.83

I never could have pulled this one off for $0 if it wasn't for my mom gifting me access to her stash as part of my Christmas present.  This outfit used the most yardage of any of the PR&P looks.  The jacket, jacket lining, shirt, and tie all used yardage from my mom's supply - but that's the thing, there are always people you know that have some kind of left overs hanging about that they are willing to share ;o).  The sweater was made from a men's sweater that I scored at Goodwill for 83 cents.  The pants were an upcycle from a women's skirt.  The buttons for the shirt came from a men's button up in my stash. *Oh and I won the pattern for Melly Sews' Basic Blazer.

Elephant Shoes: $7
I spent $1.99 on the fabric paint to print the Elephant fabric.  Another Goodwill score gave me a grey knit T for 83 cents.  I caught the teal corduroy and grey fleece on super Christmas sales combined with coupons and picked up a yard of each at about $2 a yard.  The black knit came into my stash in a donation from one of my friend's grandmother, the teal knit was a women's T, and the black lining of the pants was a women's skirt.

Butterfly Kisses: $0
Yep, every once of fabric on this one was upcycled.  The gorgeous butterflies were an old skirt, the velvet was a sleeveless woman's top, and the green knit was a T-shirt.  I stole a hook off a skirt and the two snaps for the jacket were in my button jar.

Mo-Squish-Le: $5.60
Once again, the fabrics were all upcycled - two button up shirts, one white dress shirt and one flannel plaid shirt.  All of the buttons on the top were from the original shirt.  But then there was the boots- they needed a special button to make the look.  Once I decided that I wanted cool buttons on the boots, I decided that I wanted to tie in the shorts with the same/similar buttons.  With the help of a couple coupons, I was able to get 2 large, 2 medium, and 4 small silver buttons for a total of $5.60.  Oh yeah - and those cool leather boots came from an old leather jacket of mine from middle school.

Gabba Ga: $5.30
I was actually willing to spend more to get this outfit 'just right'.  I was prepared to spend as much as it took to find the perfect green on green striped knit at the store for the Brobee hoodie.  But it didn't exist - nada in stripes.  Boooo!  I had gone through all the green in my stash and taken swatches with me of anything I thought might work.  I decided I could rework my design a bit and 'create' stripes using two knits.  The maternity top in my stash was the perfect fit, so I grabbed half a yard of the dark green knit to compliment it - I also had used up all of my 1 inch elastic and needed to buy more for the pants, a coupon came in handy for that.  Muno's outfit used the remaining fleece from Elephant Shoes, a grey knit skirt, a red Tshirt, a white women's knit top, and a women's sweat shirt.  That red sweat shirt had been my mom's and dearly loved - to the point that it became her painting sweatshirt.  The seamed bum was divine inspiration as that section of the sweatshirt torso had large paint splatters (the arms were too short to use as pant legs because this was a women's M/L).  Brobee used more of the grey knit skirt, the remainder of the women's white knit top, the maternity waffle knit top, the purchased  green knit yardage, the remainder of the red T, a curtain panel   and a separating zipper stolen from one of my pre-pregnancy sweatshirts.  Oh, and those cool zippered pockets on Muno's pants - the zippers were stolen from sleepers the boys wore last year.

So there you have it, a Grand Total of  $18.73
Yep, under $20 for 7 full outfits - I think that counts as saving my family money!!!

Now, you probably couldn't make exactly the same outfits for the same amount - but you'd be able to do similar things with what you can find and build into your own stash.  And yes there is always thread ;op
Where does my stash come from???  Well, it started with me going through my own closet and weeding out what no longer fits my larger body and my hubs' smaller body (yeah that isn't fair, but let's not dwell).  Then friends of mine read on my blog about my goal last summer to make fall clothes for the boys without spending a dime, and they started offering me first dibs on bags of clothes that were destined for Goodwill.  Then my mom started cleaning out her closets (both crafting and clothing), and the piles grew and grew.  Recently, I've started getting some yardage from friend's whose parents or grandparents are downsizing and cleaning out.
The biggest thing I do is start at my stash.  Yes I have a design in mind, yes I have a desired color pallet; but almost every time things work out better than I could have expected by starting with what I have and 'Making it Work'.
Now don't get me wrong - when our budget allows I WILL be buying some pretty fabrics and patterns - and I am already plotting exactly what I will spend my prize gift certificates on!!!!  My only birthday and Christmas requests this past year were sewing notions.  And someday soon-ish, I will need to purchase a newer sewing machine.  But until then, I will continue to use whatever comes my way to create cool new clothes for my three quickly growing babies ;o)

Huge hugs to all!!!
*oh and ask questions - I love comments and questions, I try very hard to answer them all via e-mail, so make sure your profile is set to receive reply e-mails!!!


  1. You did such a great job. And you really illustrated that you can make quality items by upcycling. Your total for the season was near the same as what I paid for my signature look alone. I am excited to watch you grown Suzanne. And see how you will move people.
    With Love,

  2. Wow Suzanne!That is so impressive.It would have been neat to mention that during the contest.You should get extra points for being so clever!You did a beautiful job.

  3. I've followed you throughout this competition and voted for your designs. It's inspiring how sophisticated, detailed and gorgeous pieces you were able to create from up-cycled clothes! I agree that a lot of times old clothes offer inspiration and unique opportunities to create something you wouldn't have thought if you were just starting with a blank fabric. CONGRATULATIONS on the win and hope to see more beautiful creations from you in the future!

  4. You can't imagine how much I loved to read your post. Guess what? I have sewed along those past 6 weeks without spending either. i only had to buy the buttons for the coat on my signature look. I worked every single week with what I already had. I have a lot of fabric stash I've been acumulating over the years (it is my goal to use as much as I can through the year), and I also get a lot of donated clothes (because people know I sew!)...
    Anyway! You are an inspirations.!

  5. I can't believe all those outfits were under $20! Well, I can but I think it's fantastic and inspiring! This is the perfect example of how sewing saves money! Thanks so much for sharing!

  6. Wow I AM impressed! And I bet your kiddies are impressed with all their new outfits! I can't say id be able to accomplish so many outfits with only $20 let alone last the length of pr&p competition! So impressed!

  7. BABE! So impressed! You're such an inspiration! I told Tim and he had the biggest dumbest grin on his face, so he's proud of you too!!

  8. Wow I can't believe how little you spent. That's amazing! My question is how do you keep your stash from growing out of control? I filled up a closet with clothes I could potentially recycle that I recently emptied and took it all to good will. I needed the space because we live in a tiny apartment. Do you keep everything or do you have a system for determining what you keep? Or do I just need to sew more?

    1. HEllo Angela, I know this question is meant for Suzanne but I thought I could share my experience too. I usually go through the piles I recieve and choose what I think I could use (mostly because of the fabric/materials). All the rest I donate. Every few months I go through that pile again, and if I think something has been there for too long, I donate it too. =) But lately I am just trying to sew a bit more and use it all.

    2. Well at the moment Angela, my stash is a bit out of control ;op But mainly that is just because I still haven't put anything away from the competition ;o)
      I have a book case in the basement (where my sewing area is) and I have everything folded on it by like colors. At the moment that also requires a bin for whites and a bin for blacks - but still, easy to find stuff and fairly organized.
      When I get donations from people, I sort through it and figure out if there is anything I know I WONT use - that immediately gets passed on to Goodwill. But for the most part I keep it all - that will change as more and more things come in. I will always keep anything knit - knits are just super hard to find where I live!
      My system isn't perfect and it will have to grow with me as I grow - it doesn't hurt that I've been working through things fairly quickly between my fall collection of clothes for the boys and this competition.
      I would say since you are so limited on space for now - figure out what you love best - knits, silks, cotton prints, etc... and have a box where those things go, other things really look at them and decide if it is your taste - if not, let it go ;o)

  9. That is seriously amazing. I love how resourceful you are. The clothes/outfits are fantasticly darling (not as cute as your children). You are an inspiration to me.

  10. Wow, that's such a great job with almost no materials!!! Congratulations!
    I also love recycling, it's great for kid's clothes, that don't need a lot of fabric.

  11. Great post :) I was kind of expecting you to say it cost me triple digits or something out there! Fantastic looks were created, so a huge congratulations and a well done to you is deserved without question!

  12. WOW!!! You are amazing, making all these adorable outfits for less than $20. They all look great, but my two favourites are Collegiate Cool and Butterfly Kisses. Well done on making the final three!!!

  13. I love all these comments!!! I'm e-mailing you all back one by one!!! I thought after the competition was done everyone would vanish and I'd never get a comment again ;o) Thanks for sticking around!!!

  14. Don't you just love upcycling. My friends laugh at me when I say I go fabric shopping at Goodwill, but it really is a great place to find fabric for cheap. It does get harder though as they get bigger. Well done on keeping the cost down!

  15. Suzanne! You are a sewing ninja!!!
    Holy smokes---you are a girl after my own heart! I never have any extra money to spend on fabric so 99% of what I use is given to me, from my old clothes, or comes from the thrift store. And I save everything (and drive my husband crazy)! It's sorted in tubs by what kind the fabric is--knits, denims, etc.

    You are awesome.

  16. What an awesome post!!!! I am in awe of you - not just that you can create these adorable looks on a budget but that you can do it with 3 kids under 2!!!! WHAAA????? I have a 3 year old and a 1 year old and the only time I can sew is at night after bedtime. :( You rocked it this season!

  17. JUST GREAT! You've completely squashed my number one reason why I don't want to compete in PR&P... because I honestly felt like it would cost a lot of money! I do upcycle things and am constantly trying to use what I already have before buying! I HAD NO IDEA you were using everything upcycled throughout this competition! That is amazing!!! I feel like I haven't been sewing as much and actually working at a fabric store being surrounded by pretty stuff all the time makes me think about using new fabric a lot, but you are SO right! What got me started in sewing was using what I already had and I think it's time to get back to that! :) My favorite thing though is using a hair tie for the elastic loop! :) That's funny and a good idea! haha!

  18. This is really inspiring. I'm at the point where I really need to organize and start using what I have. Somehow my fabric stash has gotten a bit out of control....

  19. I am not sure what blog led me here, but am I ever glad. For starters, I have 20 month old twin boys. I have also been trying to save the family money by upcycling in order to clothe their rapidly growing bodies. Your creations are simply adorable and inspiring. I am headed up to hit follow as soon as I hit publish. Great job, and thank you so much for sharing!