make the napkins, buy the curtains: the economics of sewing for the home

when i moved to california two years ago i had grand dreams for a killer diy apartment decor..

i was going to put $75 worth of anthropologie hardware on a $50 dresser from craigslist i lovingly refinished while listening to podcasts, find a vintage school map and hang it as a funky piece of art, and of course sew any and all fabric components of the decor along the way.

these days i am a wiser woman and have come to realize that just because you can make something it doesn't mean you have to. so today i am going share my thoughts on what is worth it to make vs. what is okay to just buy. 

not worth it: curtains

so i like my curtains white, cotton, and tab top. (yeah i am super boring like that). so i thought making some for our office would be easy little project. not so much.

first off in order to have fabric that was wide enough to cover the window i had to go with the 58 inch size. not uncommon but certainly not as ubiquitous as 44 inch fabric. (i considered doing two less panels per window but in the end that would have been more expensive and I would have been left with a ton of extra fabric.) 

additionally the sheer yardage of the fabric required for this project was crazy: six yards. okay i know that isn't so much but for someone who is used to making children's clothing and prides herself on fitting two library dresses and two sunday brunch jackets out of two and a half yards of fabric it felt like a lot. also even though i was getting simple bleached muslin all this yardage make it a fairly expensive trip to the fabric store (around $100).

finally the actual process of making the curtains was sort of...boring. i mean I love carefully edge stitching something (see below) but when you are doing it for yards and yards and yards the project feels like all work and no creativity. which makes maggie a dull girl.


all of this is to say that when i got an email from west elm saying all curtains, including white tab top ones, were $29 i was all over it.

but hey my cat thinks he is really good at hiding behind my home made curtains.


'honey have you seen the cat?'

worth it: pillows

recently I was talking to a college friend and she mentioned wanting to learn how to sew because she felt like pillows were such a rip off. so true!

here are the pillows in our living room. the front pillow was made from the liberty of london apples fabric left over from maya's peacock dress. the back pillow is a simple tessellation print I picked up in pennsylvania. the entire cost for both was under $20.

not worth it: duvet covers

so here is the deal with duvet covers: they require really wide fabric, like outside the standard measurements of fabric wide. so unless you go with specialty fabric (which has far fewer options) your best bet would be to start with two flat sheets.

regardless of your fabric choice you have the whole button closure thing, and with buttons come button holes. it took me over a year to master button holes and even now i close my eyes, cross my fingers, and whisper "don't mess up don't mess up" whenever i do them. 

also, like curtains all that fabric is a big investment. so if you don't like the results...well you'll just feel bad about the whole thing.

so personally i was happy to spend $49 on a west elm waffle print duvet. (doesn't my fitzy look so handsome here?)

worth it: napkins 

napkins are ridiculously expensive to buy and quick to make, so they definitely go in the worth it category. but if i dig into it more there are a few specific reasons i like to make napkins:

first of all napkins can be made from just about any fabric. so they are a great way to try out fabric you are eyeing but can't think of a project for (i'm thinking my sisters both need napkins made from cotton & steel fabric for the holidays).

along the same lines napkins are a great way to use up that extra yard and a half of fabric that while pretty, must have been bought in a delusional state (seriously maggie what made you think you would wear mustard yellow). 

secondly napkins make great gifts. especially as more and more friends are doing grown up things like having nice dishes and hosting dinner parties. 

finally napkins provide an excellent opportunity to refine and sharpen your technique. even for the most experienced seamstress precision still takes practice, and napkins are a great way to get that.

disclaimer: this is based on my personal trade off between time and money. if i had more free time or less disposable income i would probably make more things. the opposite would be true if i had less free time or more disposable income. the econ major in me feels compelled to inform you this trade off has a name and it's called the production possibility frontier. 


aunt maggie