Back to Basics: Sewing to save money

September 20, 2010 (CHICAGO)

Few of us can grab something off the rack and have it fit perfectly, but with a few sewing techniques, the fix can be inexpensive.

Try sewing a pocket. Do a hem. No problem, if you've been sewing your whole life, but it seems a generation may have missed out.

"I have no sewing skills," said Allie Armstrong, a student at Lill Street Art Center in Chicago. She is in a beginning sewing class at the center.

The class is full and the center is adding sewing classes to keep up with demand. Students are looking for creative outlets and to save some money.

"I'm tired of buying clothes and they never fit you the way they are - so you could take it to a tailor and pay 20 bucks for someone to hem 'em - or I could just do it myself," said Armstrong.

Vogue Fabrics in Evanston offers classes. ABC7 found people there in the middle of a five-hour serging workshop. Serging is a finishing technique done on a machine. The fabric store opened in 1945.

Over the years, the owners have seen interest in sewing ebb and flow. They say that now, we are in the flow of sewing.

"If you have a child who grows at a rapid rate it can be very expensive to have the clothes constantly hemmed," said Rogie Sussman Faber of Vogue Fabrics. "If you can do that at home, then that's a big savings."

A craft traditionally handed down from mother to daughter appears to have skipped a beat as many daughters ran from traditional to the modern. Now, there is a shift to reclaim those skills.

"Younger women who didn't study sewing they don't have home-ec any more are coming in," said Wendy Grossman of The American Sewing Guild and Sew Chicago. "They're interested."

What interested Jen Ma was wearing clothes that fit.

Every piece of clothing she bought had to be altered to fit her double zero petite frame.

She has mastered quick fixes at home after classes at Tchad, LLC in Chicago, and now she is getting more creative.

"I never thought much about designing my own stuff but now have ideas where I want to make it like this," said Ma. "I can do this with the dress foams - I can actually drape it and see how it works."

There are sewing amateurs with flare at EWS Fashion Design Academy.

The Evergreen Park Sewing and Design Studio is getting younger, budget-minded students picking up the craft.

"I want to be able to make my own patterns so I don't have to look to someone else to make it for me and spends hundreds of dollars," said EWS student Tiffany Joseph.

Some sewing students have been inspired by recent fashion design reality shows. They realize that by honing their skills, they could do their own design project for the runway, for fun, or for the office.

"I can just make the garment myself and the hair and have my own runway fashion show," said EWS student Candice Newson.

EWS Fashion Design Academy is getting so much interest that it has added teen classes and classes on line.

If you are thinking about buying a new sewing machine, ask sellers about special offers. Some stores, such as Vogue, provide free classes to teach the sewer how to use the machine.

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