Friday, October 26, 2012

Number Crunching: Sewing edition

One of the nice things about living in such a zuinig country is that there are sewing machine shops in just about every city.  I've seen them in Leiden and Maastricht, and here in Nijmegen there are two that I know of.  It always surprises me, a bit, when I see that they are not going out of business, and that they are actually doing well enough selling €600-machines that they stay open.  Actually, I suspect that most of them fill their bottom lines doing maintenance work on older machines--I've used the services of our local store twice now.  €54 to have someone take apart, clean out, and oil my little dinky Singer is probably not quite frugal, but I would be devestated if I accidentally broke something in it.

That being said--sewing isn't quite the money-saver some people make it out to be.  The only reason it's worthwhile for us is that I have the time and patience to stalk the fabric vendors on Mondays, and that most of our fabric needs aren't especially fussy about the type of fabric I need to use.  Anything woven that will hold a stitch, basically, will suffice for curtains and bags, and almost anything that's not shiny and vaguely cotton-ish will do for aprons.  

But when you start getting into things like diapers, blankets, and clothes, fabric quality matters a lot more.  For clothing, it needs to be comfortable and breathable.  For diapers, you need absorbency, which pretty much eliminates 99% of the fabrics sold in the markt.  You might want something to drape a certain way.  You might want something that has certain thermal properties.  And all of these qualifications are costly.  Flannel is an arm and a leg, at €11/m.  Cotton fabrics start at €5/m, and €7-8 is more normal.  Wool is a heartstopping €15/m.  In other words, by the time you start factoring in the extra cost of thread and fasteners, it's quite clear that you'd be better off rumaging through the C&A, unless you're that good that custom clothes always look smashing.

And then there is the cost of the paraphrenalia surrounding sewing:  things like a cutting board  are nice to have if you're going to do a lot of sewing.  A dummy to dress up is handy if you're looking into making your own clothes.  A good set of fabric shears is a must if you don't want crippling carpal tunnel syndrome or blisters on your thumbs.  If you're doing a lot of fancy work, a variety of presser feet might be necessary.  A stitch-remover is handy, though I've found that the smaller blade on my Victorinox does the trick quite well, tooAnd if you need a serger...But perhaps the most expensive of all things is experience--either in the form of lessons, or trial-and-error, or a bit of both.

I guess that's why I keep my sewing machines around: I've learned too much to just let it all go simply due to inconvenience.  That, and even curtains from the HEMA can be quite expensive. 

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