I learned how to sew when I was in the 4th grade. There was a lady in town who was part of the 4H who gave knitting, crochet and sewing lessons after school. I still remember that I knit a pair of 2 tone green on green slippers and a pair of mittens that were white with a purple cuff. I can’t remember what our sewing project was-a bag or wrap around skirt comes to mind for some reason. (My mom did know how to sew and helped us with later projects, but with 5 kids her time to teach the basics was limited)
Sewing is one of my most useful frugal skills. Not necessarily for garment and large project construction-I rarely whip up a dress or pair of slacks (many times the fabric for these projects would cost more than what I can buy them for-I’m a fairly standard size carried in stores so even the “made to fit” thing isn’t a big concern). If you do have a machine and can sew a basic straight seam you can save a bunch of money on curtains-but this is a project you only do occasionally.
The biggest benefit I have seen to knowing how to sew is being able to make repairs. I can easily fix a ripped seam, re-sew a button, and take up a hem on pants or a skirt. Although I haven’t done it in years I have in the past done a bit of “garment reconstruction” to change a thrift store buy into a piece that fits me perfectly. (If you want to see some very “hip” garment reconstruction done by real people, check out the forums at Craftster.org-not all to my taste, but interesting to see! There are also some great tutorials)
Most basic repairs don’t even require a machine. As a matter of fact, if you want to have a nearly invisible hem you need to sew it by hand (scroll down to see the hand sewing part). The additional benefit to hand sewing is that you can do it in front of the TV (not really an option with the machine).
When I looked online to see an average price to have pants hemmed a common figure was $8-$10, so doing it yourself is a definite cost savings. Also, since I can repair items I save the cost of replacing them. You don’t need expensive equipment to start. There is a great article at Frugal Living at About.com about sewing frugally.
So, if you don’t know how, where do you learn?
I found some basic information on line at Digs Magazine (which is aimed at the 20 something on your own for the first time no kids yet crowd). She covers how to do a straight stitch, backstitch and a hem.
There are tons of resources at Sewing at About.com . The “sewing lessons” in particular cover a lot of the basics, even if they are aimed at machine sewing.
There is an article from the Texas A&M University called Sewing 101 that also covers some of the basics.
If you learn better in person then start asking around. The older generation probably has more folks who know this particular useful skill. There may be someone at your church or in your neighborhood who’d be happy to spend a few minutes showing you the basics. You can also check at your local library for both books and videos. A quick search online at the local Four County Library System here in Upstate NY brought up 3 videos and over 50 books. A last idea is to check the evening classes offered at high schools and colleges.