Making on a budget – Making do

I’m trying to get in the habit of posting regularly again and be a bit more connected with other bloggers. So I’m planning on doing a series of tips about ‘making on a budget’ and linking it up with the tuesday tips and tutorials link up that quiltingjetgirl and late night quilter are running.

This series is definitely a series of tips. I’m a postgraduate student living in a rented flat in one of the world’s most expensive cities and while I’m happy to spend some money on my hobby, I don’t have much to spare. When I’ve looked for tips on saving money on craft or sewing blogs, the tips are fairly repetitive. There are tips on budgeting, shopping sales and to collect stuff, and this is fine and useful but not necessarily appropriate especially if you a renter or live in a small space. So I’m going to curate some of my tips on making without space and money.


Making do with what you have

My first tip is to use what you have, especially for tools and notions. This is especially true if you are beginner. While having the best tools will make the job easier, there’s often a work around. This gives you time to decide if this is the technique or skill for you before spending money.

When I took up sewing properly, I was in the lucky position that I had been beading for a long time so had a collection of things of needles and thread that could be used. However I often find reading peoples advice that fairly specific thread or needles are required – but realistically what they mean is it will make it easier. So use what ever you have at least until it isn’t working – then its time to buy the better product.

And this becomes even more true when you stop talking about basics but more specialist tools. I have two main examples, one from beading and one from quilting. When I started bead weaving, I needed something to store the beads I was about to pick up. And there are many different types of trays and mats and pots that are sold for precisely this but I was very young, had a small amount of pocket money and it was pre-internet shopping so didn’t have access to specialist shops in the small town where I grew up. So I ‘borrowed’ the mini tray from my mothers tea strainer (I still have it well over 10 years later so stole may be more accurate). Its nicely shallow but has a lip to stop the beads escaping and even though I now own some specialist trays and mats, I still use the little tray.

The other is when I started quilting, I took a course and among some of the other recommended tools were clover clips. I spent money on things like rulers, rotary cutters and cutting mats but clover clips were too expensive for me to justify at the beginning. I’ve done some quilting since then but less than I planned originally. However on both projects I have finished, I’ve had to put binding on. At first I tried pinning the binding but it was really tricky, so I looked around for something like a clip and found paper clips. They do the job fine, at least for the small projects I am currently making. Actually I use paperclips for all sorts of things, holding fabric together, to hold paper and fabric together when basting for english paper piecing, binding and as stitch markers when knitting and beading

The motto of my stories is that there are other options for most tools, especially modern ones. If makers have made do for centuries without that tool, then you can probably finish your project with an alternative. So don’t wait but give it a go.

Here’s a list of my current make do’s:

  1. Paper clips for holding down binding on quilting projects
  2. Paper clips as stitch markers when knitting
  3. Prittstick (Asda own brand) as a water soluble glue for EPP basting
  4. Cotton wool or make up pads as a stuffing for small toys or ornaments – These can be very cheap when bought at discount shops or on offer and I’ve used them for all sorts of things
  5. Using my beadloom for weaving – yeah this is a pretty specialist make do but I was really interested in trying weaving and by rigging my bead loom up a little differently I have a close enough approximation of a weaving loom to let me do small pieces.


Hopefully this gives you some ideas of places you can save some money at least until you are sure you really need the proper thing. Do you have any make do’s to share?


5 thoughts on “Making on a budget – Making do

  1. I use a pencil as my fabric marking device in areas that I know won’t show instead of investing in specialized fabric markers. I have also used the same “borrowed” (yes, stolen at this point as well) needle for whip stitching my binding for 20+ years. It will break or get lost at some point, but it still works just fine as my thumb will attest (I seem apt at pricking my left hand repeatedly after all these years of practice and binding).

    Thank you so much for your tips and for linking up!


  2. I use pencil on the light areas of my quilts and regular chalk board chalk and a pencil sharpener for the white areas, it took me a long time to find these. Link ups from last month I didn’t realize where they were ( can we say liz had a senior moment!), it took me until today to realize it and come find them…


  3. I have found that the clover clips are great, but I never need to clip my whole quilt at once. I use a handful of them and move them along after I have finished the stitching for the first area that I had clipped. Those ten packs would be adequate when you do buy them (if you do) when used in this manner. I have also see others use the metal hair barrettes which work well also, apparently.


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