In which Kat tells you how to make nice things whilst being completely broke

Hello there! I’m wuogkat (fanfiction or Ravelry or probably anyplace you see a wuogkat), or the bead lady’s daughter (etsy). I’m currently a work in progress. 😉

I used to write a lot, and I still have 15 million “plot bunnies” swimming around in my head. The problem is that I lack uninterrupted time to let them out on a page these days. I am a single mom of four kids, attending nursing school, volunteering at church, and working. I barely have time to make sure I have clean clothes.

I’ve unleashed myself on a completely different creative outlet these days – sewing.

Most of the sewing I do is for utilitarian purposes. I work for a church and we have a dress code. Men wear shirts and ties, and women are expected to wear dresses and skirts.

My absolute inability to get laundry done led me to need a bunch of clothes for work that are comfortable enough to wear all day and still lookdoctor who dress good. After investing some money in a few dresses that quickly began to wear out, and getting some hand me downs from a friend I decided that perhaps I should put some of the skills I learned as costume mistress for my high school theatre troupe (20 years ago) to work.

I’ve made a lot of clothes this year, including this Doctor Who dress that was made with quilting calico from JoAnn’s geek line. It’s super comfortable and breathable (and says Doctor Who everywhere, which is always fun at the office), the only problem is that since it is quilting calico it doesn’t always wear nicely. It sits a bit wrong. So, although I love this dress I don’t wear it every week.

Another really important note about me is that I’m raising these 4 kids on a part time income and kind of low child support since we were already broke before the divorce. We live with my mother so that helps, but I have to do things inexpensively. This leads me to address my creative process for making the clothing that the kids and I need.

  1. I try not to purchase patterns. This is kind of a hold over from my SAHM days, back when I was married. There wasn’t any money for stuff then either. I collect web tutorials on how to make clothing and use them religiously. I also have been known to trace the pieces of existing clothing and add seam allowances to create my own patterns.
  2. When I do purchase patterns, I wait for them to go on sale. JoAnn was running Simplicity 5 for $5 Memorial Day weekend, and you’d better believe I took my list of patterns to the store and bought them. Butterick and McCalls patterns are also set to be on sale this week (the 2nd -today – seems to be the be the day they’re both on sale FYI) so I will be taking my list in and buying those. I really do have a running list of patterns that I intend to buy. I keep it on my phone.
  3. Fabric… *sigh* Fabric is expensive. Often, since this is the limiting factor for my creativity the fabric available determines my projects. There are a few ways to save though.cinderella
    1. Look for sales. The Cinderella costume I made for my littlest is composed completely of clearance fabric that was discontinued and priced to move.
    2. Use your 50-60% off one item coupons at big box stores like JoAnn on single cuts of fabric – I do this whenever I fall in love with a fabric.
    3. Fabric discount stores… This is going to warrant some time…

Fabric World is a discount fabric retailer that was introduced to me by a little old lady who used to work in the office next to mine. I don’t know whether I love her or hate her for this introduction but it’s there…

You have to understand that this place is on my way home from work. They run these specials like $8 for 15 remnants or my personal favorite $10 for a huge shopping cart sized bag that you can fill with whatever is on the remnant tables. It’s terribly addictive. I can 100% guarantee that I consider pulling into that parking lot every day.

My son wanted to be Robin Hood for RenFest and I went in on a bad day, meaning that the “remnants” were $1.99 per yard. I spent less than robin hood$10 on the costume. It includes pleather boot tops which are for some reason are under his pants in this picture.

Meanwhile, I want to make an Elizabeth Bennett costume for Halloween this year, and I got all of my fabric the other day in the $10 bag-o-fabric. There’s a 6 yard cut of white cotton-rayon blend, and several long cuts of blue fabric to make a coat/overdress.

So, strategy…

On days when they’re measuring how much fabric you get, I look for smaller pieces that I can use to make things for the kids. On the days when they’re counting the number of pieces you buy, I get larger pieces for myself. I’ve picked up several lengths of fabric in excess of 4 yards each this way. I plan on using these for costumes and dresses. The bag days are the best. On “bag days” I get absolutely anything I want.

I have no idea how much I fit into this bag-o-fabric last week, but I cleaned up. I managed to get fabric for my mother’s bandages, washcloth fabric for the refugee baskets we’re making at church, several lengths large enough for dresses, AND some sea foam green crepe that I’ll show you in this post.

My mom had surgery a couple of weeks back, and the incision site is closed but it’s still weeping. The nurse at the surgeon’s office suggested using washcloths instead of gauze on it because the gauze pads were sticking, well the washcloths stuck too. However, microfiber towels seem to absorb the gross and not stick. The problem is that we only have like 4 of them. I ran into a length of microfiber at Fabric World, combined it with some heavy flannel and serged the edges – comfy bandages. I made about 10 of them, and some smaller pads.

Then there was the refugee issue… We’re doing a service project at church in which we are putting together welcome baskets for refugees that have everything one would need to set up a house. I really can’t afford to contribute. Except… I found this length of terry cloth. After cutting squares and surging the edges I now have 8 fluffy washcloths to contribute.

Inked3 skirts 1 yard_LI

This is just the tip of what fit into that bag. The important thing to know when shopping is how much of any one fabric you’re going to need. If I can get 3 yards I usually can make a dress or a full skirt. A yard or two will make a blouse for me. 1 yard of 60 width knit fabric gets me a pencil skirt for me, and one for each daughter… don’t believe me, take a look. These black floral skirts are from one yard of 60 width double knit. These are incidentally constructed with my favorite pencil skirt method, which includes a sewn in elastic waist, and one seem up the back.

I’ve made three pencil skirts, a maxi skirt and at least two dresses for work in the past year. Lately, I’ve felt like my blouse game was a bit lacking, so I’ve been on the lookout for easy, classic blouse patterns and nice fabrics. This brings me to the seafoam green lightweight crepe. I had the idea that I was going to copy this blue blouse that I splurged and actually spent money on (it’s reversible and has 2 different necklines). After a few trips to Fabric World, this beautiful, soft, crepe that feels a bit like peach skin came home with me.

To get the green blouse, I simply laid the blue one down on top of a double thickness of the green fabric and cut 1/2 in away from it the whole way around. I then serged the pieces together, and because I’m a sucker for detail I used an embroidery stitch when I hemmed it. The leaf stitch is around the neck and sleeves adding a cute hidden detail. On another note, that gray pencil skirt is the exact same style as the black one above. This super cute, entirely homemade outfit took under two hours of work.

It doesn’t take a lot to make your life more comfortable with some skills and a little smart shopping. There might be a lot of things that the kids and I want or need, but clothing is never an issue. Between hand-me-downs that I can alter to fit perfectly or fun clothes that I’ve made out of fabric I paid practically nothing for, we might be broke, but we dress pretty nicely.

*Thank you to my coworkers Wendy and Kelley for taking pictures of me in work clothes. I love y’all.*

One thought on “In which Kat tells you how to make nice things whilst being completely broke

  1. Thanks so much for being my guest, Kat. I seriously love that dress, it’s awesome. I’m thinking it’s probably a good thing I don’t have a place like your fabric warehouse or I would be in trouble. lol. It’s awesome, though, that you’re making all of that yourself, both for you and the kids. Think the world needs a little more of that spirit, especially these days.

    Liked by 1 person

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