Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Crafting on a Budget: How I keep my craft obsession affordable

My friend Brooke asked me to write a post for her blog and suggested this topic, which seemed appropriate since her blog is called "A Steal of a Deal". So you can see this same post on her blog today and browse the many money saving tips she posts there all the time.
I have a serious crafting/projecting/sewing/decorating obsession. And though Joe and I have a larger budget than we have in the past (we are two working adults with no children after all) we are focusing on paying of debt and saving for a house down payment, so I have to keep my craft budget under control.

Forgive the length of this post, but like I said, I craft a lot and like to do it as cheaply as possible. I've tried to use bullet points and bold to make it skimmable.

Here are 5 Simple Ways to Be Crafty While Saving Money:

1. Borrow, borrow, borrow.

  • I have been sewing for several years but did not own my own machine until a few weeks ago. Before that I always borrowed my friend Helena's or my mom's or a sister-in-law's.
  • Having crafting buddies actually is really helpful for this---why do you need 6 pairs of special scrapbooking scissors when you can borrow your friends' when you get together? Plus crafting together is more fun.
Tip 2. Use what you already have
  • When Joe and I got our moving van stolen a lot of friends donated clothes to me (bless you all). Some of them fit, some did not. Some were my style, some were not. But the point is that I had A LOT of jeans. And I'd always wanted to make a denim quilt so I set to work cutting up those jeans into squares. Cost of this project so far: $0. I'll buy some thread & maybe a heavy duty needle, but other than that I'm set (the fabric backing is going to be some drapes I bought at Big Lots then decided I didn't love and need to use). In searching for an image of denim quilts I found this one, which I totally love and now think I must cut my squares into smaller strips...what do you guys think?
  • In this same vein--inherit fabric/supplies. My mom has given me fabric for projects & so did my step-grandma. They both are big seamstresses and anyone knows that a woman who sews a lot accumulates fabric like there's no tomorrow (my mom always jokes that 'she with the most fabric when she dies, wins'). So I have gotten free fabric that way.
  • Plan projects based on scraps you have around the house (i.e. "oh great, this will be able to use the interfacing I have left from that bag!)

Tip 3. Be creative about where you shop for supplies

A few weeks ago I hit the crafting jackpot at a yard sale. A lot of people try to sell crafting supplies. They get really eager about a hobby, only to find they don't make time for it, or bought too much, etc...

Their loss is your gain. Hit yard sales, thrift stores, or the KSL Classifieds.
For example:
  • If I were more into paper crafting right now (instead of sewing) I would totally buy a used Cricut---I found one (sold already) on KSL for $85.00---retail price $199 and on sale at Joanns right now for $129.
  • There's actually an arts & crafts section of the classifieds, jump to that section right here.
Just be careful when dealing with classifieds that you test items to make sure they are in working condition and you do a little research to make sure the price you are getting really is a good deal. And remember, you can always try to bargain

Also, Walmart actually has an excellent craft supply section and I shop there quite often. They have cheap fabrics of decent quality, very cheap notions (buttons, needles, thread, zippers, bias tape), and tools. And I could not be happier about the fact that Martha Stewart has a craft tool/project line there. So you can get items like a rotary cutter or paper punches there.
Also, I've been seeing her project kits on sale a lot lately---like these beautiful pink pom poms that I would totally hang in a nursery if i had a little girl.
When at Walmart be sure to look for a sale aisle (lots of red tags) and also check the remnant bin in the sewing section.

Also search online when you are ready to make big purchases. has great deals online that aren't available in stores & if you are buying enough it can make it worth it with shipping. also has crafting supplies and if you order over $25 amazon always has free shipping.

Tip 4. Buy in bulk/Watch for Sales/Use Coupons
Just like these principles are taught for getting great deals on food, the same is true of crafts.
  • Memorial Day weekend there was an amazing sale at Joanns. I am making a quiet book (for my future kids to use at church) and knew I would be needing lots of snaps, felt, and fat quarters (quilting fabric) so I went to town---I bought things on sale & also used a coupon in ad. True I spent a good chunk of change that day---but I also saved about as much as I spent (50% savings!)
  • There aren't really manufacturer's coupons for crafting supplies (that I've seen at least), but store coupons abound--and some stores take competitor coupons so check on that too.
  • Joanns almost always has a 40% off coupon floating around (one item, not on sale)---I get them in my newspaper ad frequently. Also, Join mailing lists (snail mail and email lists) for your favorite craft stores/fabric shops--they send out coupons regularly, but you usually cannot pick up the mailer at customer service to get the coupon (at least at Joanns)
  • If shopping online always search for coupon codes, often they'll have them listed on the site itself (buy over $___ and get free shipping, just enter this code at checkout--type thing).
  • Do you love the idea of photobooks? Photobooks can be very economical (when you add up the cost of all those scrapbooking embellishments and compare to the cost of a photobook it's very comparable and possibly cheaper). Plus photobooks are thinner and look better on a shelf/coffee table than fat 3 ring binders. I love to use the website and they sometimes have coupon codes. Also has coupon codes regularly AND when you buy several photo books at a time you also get a discount (you don't have to print all three at the same time, you just pay up front and print as you finish them up) .
Tip 5. Have hobbies that use cheap supplies
If you aren't obsessed with felt yet, maybe you should be. Seriously, there are so many cute felt crafts out there and it is super super cheap. A good price on felt is like $4 a yard on the big huge bolts at Joann's or if you buy it by the sheet---anything under $0.20 a sheet is good. (Make sure you always look at the acrylic felt, wool felt is much pricier)

If I had young children I would totally get down on the felt food bandwagon and buy the kids an Ikea kitchen (available in the U.S. later this year for about $100) for Christmas

and stock it with felt food. There is an amazing felt food tutorial here, but search all over etsy and google blog search and you'll find a ton of felt food that can inspire you. So much better than that little plastic food. And fun to make too! Here's a screenshot of some etsy felt food goodness.
I also made this reusable felt garland to hang at birthdays around our house (this is a double money saver--cost hardly anything to make & you never have to buy crepe paper again). It's super long & I really love it.

Other crafts/hobbies that can be fairly cheap: knitting, crocheting, sewing (if you buy cheap fabric--walmart has $1 fabrics), card making

Well, If you made it to the end of this post you must really love to craft. Me too! I'd love any of your money saving tips (or craft ideas!!) so leave a comment.

4 little remarks:

Tiff said...

1. Love the jean quilt. DEFINITELY cut your squares into strips. It's adorable.

2. You've hooked me on the felt food. I mean, I love Melissa & Doug's line of wooden - cuttable - food, but the felt stuff is SO cute and inexpensive. I just might have to start that.

emily said...


Love it.

Also, that jean quilt is adorable.

Alex and Katie said...

oh, you make me want to be crafty. You're a regular Martha. When you have your own show, can I please make a guest appearance? I can help you whisk.

Tiff said...

I want to make that garland. How big did you cut your circles?

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