Hobbies for busy lives: investing in materials

Having looked a bit at what it might cost to get equipped for hobbies like sewing, knitting or painting, it’s now time to consider the investment in materials

Ah yes, the bit that everyone thinks will be the money-saver until they find out the cost (cotton is HOW MUCH?) and the amounts required (for a SKIRT??). This is where seeing the costs as an investment really comes into play and also where it is handy to have scrap material to practice on!

“All the gear and no idea”

Considering materials should always involve quality and cost – neither should ever be overlooked or one way or another you may get cheated. There is a minimum quality level below which your project will either not work or not last, leading to time wasted and money down the drain (not to mention the negative environmental impact of such wastage).

With sewing fabric, quality can mean sturdiness, it can mean washability, colour-fasteness and ease of sewing. Many of the cheapest polyesters and polycottons are a nightmare to sew, blunting needles and playing havoc with automatic thread tensions. I once bought a cheap striped fabric for a costume and found the colour rubbing off on my hands as I sewed. That said, your first project needn’t cost the earth and you should probably aim for cottons and linens over more expensive silks or embellished fabrics for a first project. 60cm of Liberty lawn for £13 can yield half a dozen pretty table napkins, which make a stunning hostess gift or wedding present. Taking the Trapeze Dress again as an example, 2m of 150cm cotton might set you back £25, with £14.50 for the pattern and £5 for the interfacing, so £44.50 for the dress. The results would be similar to something you might pick up at Comptoir des Cotonniers for £120, saving you over £75, half way to paying off your machine.*

COMPTOIR DES COTONNIERS White Grey Yellow Chiffon Keyhole Neck ...
Dress by Comptoir des Cotonniers
Dress by Merchant & Mills

Where knitting is positively cheap in the armements department, you may need to brace yourself for the price of wool, and just how much you will require for your beloved jumper. Once again, the long-term benefits of buying quality materials, as well as supporting small wool producers, are worth the extra expense, but at the risk of shelling out for a jumper’s worth of wool before you know if knitting is really for you, I would advise starting small, with some wrist-warmers, a snood or a basic beanie. (Socks require a couple of fiddly steps, so I would recommend taking them on as a second project.) Short wrist-warmers from a single ball of yarn might cost as little as £5 in a merino blend, or £15 for 100% cashmere. Compare that to a £30 pair from Brora and it doesn’t seem quite to expensive. Jumpers requiring anywhere between 8 and 18 balls of yarn will be a more serious investment, so bear in mind the difficulty level of the project and how much you like your chosen colour before you start! I have been working on a complex pink jumper for a few years now (!) and my love for the colour waxes and wanes somewhat, but I usually come around to it. It is especially advisable to buy all of the materials together lest you return to your project months later only to find they have discontinued your shade! Yes, this did happen to me and is the reason why I own a curiously striped snood.

Cashmere yarn from Beautiful Knitters

Painting is another one, like sewing, where the quality can range from implausibly cheap to eye-wateringly expensive, and again I would advise not starting out right at the bottom. No amount of expensive paint will look great on printer paper; decent quality paper will go a long way to making your work, well, work. No need to buy heaps to begin with, most art supply shops will let you buy individual pieces of paper and pots of paint, meaning you could get started for under £5. You can even choose to work with jus one colour and some white paint to mix it with, practicing gradation and brushstroke techniques if you don’t want to commit to the full gamut (it’s called monochromatic painting – its a thing)

A simple watercolour tin can take you far

Of the other pastimes, embroidery is pretty high on the affordability scale, starting with floss under £1, but sketching might just have the edge – especially if you work in an office with a replete stationary cupboard 😉

Next up I’ll be looking at ways to try-before-you-buy. Have a great week! x

*Yes, I know that it probably took you longer to make than if you had just bought the dress online or in store, but I’m taking it for granted that you enjoyed making it and will enjoy wearing it even more!

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