Thursday, January 19, 2012

Crunching the Numbers...

I've been pretty inspired by reading some posts by other bloggers on the sum total of their clothing expenditure; particularly Waves with her very interesting breakdown of her clothing costs for 2011 and her feelings and thoughts on the same, and Terri with her plans to stick to a set budget for 2012 and the documentation of such in her blog, and Veronica with her strict accounting during her very impressive Sew Weekly year of 2011.... and I have decided to put my own expenditure under the microscope.  
A self-audit.  Yikes!  Nail-biting stuff, no?!
When Craig and I were first married we were frantically saving and had a very strict control on our costs; I totted up all our incomings and outgoings constantly and stuck to a budget  rigidly....  but all that is in the past now!  I haven't had to add up each and every cent for a few years, and although I don't think I spend a lot I really have no idea unless I actually do account for myself... and so...
I am going to keep tabs on all the costs of my clothing creations for this year.
Now someone accounting for a RTW wardrobe has it pretty cut and dried, as your clothing just comes with a price tag attached and bob's your uncle...  when you are making your own stuff things get a bit more complex...  so I've jotted down here a few basic guidelines as to just how I'm breaking it down...

Time frame:  I am going to start my accounting from the 1st January to include all the clothes that I finish making in 2012.  
Fabrics costs: I'm counting all the materials for all garments made this year.  If I don't have the receipt for the fabric anymore and can't remember what it might have cost (some of my fabrics are years old!!) then I shall make my best guestimate.  If the fabric was a gift, I'll state that, and count it as free.
I shall not include fabrics bought this year unless I also finish the garment this year.  No really, this makes sense.  It does!  I'm costing my actual clothing here you see, not potential clothing...  
Also, the first time I make something out of a piece of fabric I shall include the cost of the entire piece in that garment, and any leftovers used down the track will be considered as already accounted for.
Pattern costs: I shall include the cost of the pattern I use; but only the first time I use it.  That is, the full cost of a new pattern will be included in the cost of a garment the first time I use it, but each subsequent time I use the same pattern I shall consider that pattern already accounted for and not include its cost again.
Likewise, for haberdashery: the first time I commence using "something", I shall include the cost of the entire"something" in the cost of that garment, but not for any subsequent garments.  So, say, the first time I pop a new reel of thread on the machine I shall count the cost of the entire reel in the cost of that garment, but not for any garments after that until it is finished.  Likewise dyes and other sundry bits and pieces... 

Does all that make sense?  I realise some of those rules might seem a bit odd and are going to seemingly inflate the cost of some garments at the expense of others that will appear artificially inexpensive, but that is the simplest way I could think of doing it...

And please note...!  I'm not planning to change my habits at this stage, but merely account for them...  This is not an exercise to see how cheaply I can possibly make everything!  (Cheap?  moi??)  There will still be plenty of silk and lace popping up here... (sigh) well, let's just say I would like for that to happen!...  I still passionately love beautiful fabrics and yarns, and interesting designer patterns, and I'm not going to deprive myself!  I believe my time and effort is worth good quality supplies, and my aim all along in making my own wardrobe has always been to make it the best I can.  Still being fabric efficient, naturally.  I really just want to see how I am going, cost-wise.  So, I will continue to source fabrics and yarns to meet my standards of ethics; supporting my local fabric store as much as I can; and buying fabrics and yarns from countries that have ethical manufacturing practices.

But in the meantime; here is a breakdown of my costs in adding to my wardrobe this year, so far...
The Double-Sleeved shirt:
Fabric $34.60 (includes portion of the shipping cost)
Sleeves; from an op shop shirt; probably cost around $3??
Pattern; been used a whole bunch of times! so free
Buttons; $5.20
Thread; $3.20
Total cost: $46.00
The Calico Cotton cardigan:
Yarn; $80.55
Pattern; $5.95
Buttons; $6.05
Total cost: $92.55
The Sorta Missoni dress:
Fabric; a gift from the lovely Passiona Cottee
Bodice; leftover scraps
Pattern; been used stacks of times, so free
Zip; $2.20
Total cost: $2.20
The Blue-Collar Crime top
Fabrics; leftovers
Pattern; the third time it's been used
Snaps; part of a box of 50 that I bought last year for the boys' birthday coats, still going strong... so I'm counting that as free too
Total cost; free!!

Shirt and skirt; refashioned from 3 of Craig's old business shirts (so if I was costing this, it would be a freebie!), details here
Shoes; Bronx, from Zomp shoes
Reading specs; a permanent new addition to the wardrobe (sigh...)
and btw, Bessie is wearing a sneaky peak of my next creation... you saw it here first!


  1. I really love this idea. I may try it at some point ... in the future :P

  2. This is an interesting exercise. your accounting rules make sense. your stash is an off-balance sheet thing;-)
    there is really no other way, While stash costs are real, I reckon the stash has to be accounted for separately or you will end up with an unwieldily mess.

  3. Oh, wow, I really don't plan to join you in this effort, any more than I plan to join Carolyn (diaryofasewingfanatic) in her desire to spreadsheet all of her stash. No thank you. ;)

    But it will be interesting to read your stats.

  4. I think that's a good way to account for things...otherwise you end up jumping with some hoops to account for 1/3 of a reel of thread. :) And it should work itself out in the end if you do an average garment cost in next January.

  5. I tried accounting for all I spent on my horses when I had them - and scared myself so badly I swore I wouldn't do it again. Ever.
    But I am interested in seeing your results. The criteria you describe sounds very logical. Good luck with this!

  6. Interesting. I just went and read some of the posts you linked to.

    I think it would be easier to total all your expenditure on fabrics, patterns, notions etc for the year. Sure, some of that would go into stash, but some would come out of stash also. Since you've been sewing for a while, you might have reached some sort of equilibrium?? Even if more is going into the stash than out, this would reflect the cost of the hobby...which do you want to know?

  7. katherine h; In answer to your question; I am accounting for the cost of my clothing creations for this year...
    Thanks for your suggestion, but not including the cost of fabrics bought in previous years will just make all my fabric sound like it was free, which is obviously not the case! thus my desire to include previous expenditures... Of course I agree it would be easier to just tot up all I am spending from now on, but that is not what I am trying to find out.

  8. I am 60 yrs. old, and, in my younger days, it was very economical to sew. Not so much now.
    In America, good apparel fabric has become scarce and expensive and available mainly through internet shopping.
    I will only sew those things that I know I can't satisfy with a purchase at the department store. For most things, it is not a productive use of time and resources to sew, if you can even find a suitable fabric.
    I long for times gone by!
    You do such beautiful work!!

  9. This should prove to be a interesting exercise :O).

  10. Thanks for reminding me, I have been meaning to tally my fabric & haberdashery purchases this year!
    It's interesting seeing how much other people spend on garment making, I liked that part of the Sew Weekly a lot. Great that you're sharing your expenses, too!

  11. Interesting. Personally, I think that I would go batty trying to figure out what the costs are on any garment, so I don't even try.

  12. This should prove very interesting for you. I like your accounting choices. I do something similar with my design sheets, but had not considered posting that info on the blog....hmmm, may have to change that policy.

  13. This should prove very interesting and informative. I like your accounting criteria...makes sense to me. I already do something similar as I track incoming fabric in a ledger as well as having design/project worksheets but have not posted that info as of yet....but maybe I shall in the future.

    Hope you are enjoying your summer.

  14. You are brave. It will be interesting to see just how much your sewing habit costs you. I also sometimes wonder how much I spend on frivolity (fabric, shoes, makeup, haircuts...). I may be afraid to find out.

  15. Last year, I kept track of how much I bought in terms of fabric, patterns, notions, books and so on. I imagine it was fairly indicative of a normal year. Certainly interesting. I'm keeping track again this year and wonder if that awareness from last year will make a difference. Right now, I have feelings of enough - enough fabric, enough patterns, enough stuff - and I've barely even looked never mind bought but that will most likely change as the year goes on. We'll see. It's an interesting exercise.

  16. I agree with some of the others, this might be a brave endeavor. But with your eye to detail I'm interested to see your honest numbers. I see so many creations and pattern reviews that people say the total cost is say $10 for a whole lined dress, then I go to start putting a project together and find myself quickly over $50 worth of pattern, fabric, notions. Knowing there are going to be scraps but I still attribute the total cost to that garment. I like and can understand your subsequent use theory! Thanks, for your encouragement as always :-)

  17. I also wanted to say, love your clever photo, and I'm glad to see that orange sneak peak, because I'm using that color in the Down Under challenge for my Sew Weekly garment!

  18. I'm interested to see your results.

    Where your project is to look at the cost, these days I'm focusing more on "value". I guess this is coming from the perspective of clutter and having too much stuff, as my "make my own wardrobe" plan (where cost would be very instructive) is just in its infancy.

    In some cases, my cost was years ago - it's almost like someone else paid for it! I have more fabric in the stash than I can currently use at the present rate of consumption. If I would be just as happy not to have a piece of fabric at all, then its value to me is zero. I'm currently working on a project that will use up such a piece, and I feel lighter already imagining it departing to its new home!

  19. What an interesting project! I'll be really interested to see your numbers.

    I've decided that 2012 will be the year I become more thoughtful about what I sew. I've got a manageable stash right now, but I just sent four bags of clothes to the Goodwill (charity shop) yesterday and am feeling a little guilty about my over consumption of resources. I'm noticing that I wear about 1/2 of my closet on a regular basis and have been sewing a lot of aspirational garments and summer clothes that I only wear for the three months it's actually nice here. After living in the PNW for as long as I have, you think I'd have picked up on that by now... LOL

    Love the concept of your project! How fun!

  20. I am impressed by your idea Carolyn, and wish you luck in maintaining the records. Tracking costs of hobbies or avocations is very eye opening. As a recreational rider, I know I am paying out far more money for Woodrow than could be rationalized. But then I factor in the benefits of riding and being around such a lovely horse, and the spiritual aspect of knowing that I saved his life.

    With sewing, I approach it the same way. I cannot get "even" with sewing. It is just plain necessary for me and I love challenging myself to become more proficient and someday more creative.

    I'll be quiet and read others' comments now...I have apparently had a bit too much coffee :-)

  21. This is going to be really interesting; it is a totally different ballgame when you make your own clothes from scratch, and I think the way you break everything down sounds fair and sensible. There shouldn't be any reason to include fabrics that aren't made into clothes, or patterns for more than once. Thanks for the shout-out!

  22. Oooo can I play! I have been keeping track of my clothing costs for the last couple of years now in an attempt to reduce them (although mostly I fail at this)and had already decided to add more detail this year but this sounds like a fun experiment!

  23. I am not going to join you in this endeavor, but I think it is an excellent idea (thanks for the link to Waves, btw) to be more aware of what we do with our resources, be it cash or stash.

  24. If I were to do this also, I would add a 2nd cost that included my time with the amount it would cost others to have it done by me. Otherwise, I think I'd have a lot of people asking me to do it for them since, x only cost $5.00 and y only cost $3.00.

  25. This is very, very interesting to me. The few times I've been in fabric stores in recent years, I've been shocked at the cost of fabric nowadays. I would think your "labor" costs would be difficult to evaluate--since you have real skill, but also do it for pleasure.

    Will be interesting to see what it all adds up to at the end of the year.

  26. It would be a hair pulling experience to break down thread and other such things when tallying your expenses and I would certainly do it your way too!

    Maybe I should do this just for curiousities sake!

  27. As a stay-at-home young mom to 3 growing girls, I do crunch numbers for outfits, although it's not something that I had to do in the past when we were a double-income-no-kids family. Thank you for posting the costs of what you've added this year. Quite frankly, reading various posts about outfits and projects that cost pennies can be a bit annoying to me, because I prefer quality over quantity. And to be honest, all the "budget" garments I've sewn over the last few years are the first to leave my closet because I end up feeling that they're not "good quality". Very rarely will I end up making a garment that I love with fabric that is a bargain.

  28. Do you mind if I copy your system for accounting garment costs?

    I like it, and it makes sense to me, and I plan to do a similar thing on my blog.

    (Mind you, you haven't included the cost of the sleeves of a pattern that is otherwise unused. I bought New Look 6284, haven't sewn a dress from it yet, but have used the sleeves approximately 4 times, and counting! Bias-cut cap sleeves, so comfortable, so perfect for Darwin's climate!
    Never mind, I'll figure some way of accounting for this stray pattern use!)