Saturday, 19 December 2015

2015 in Review: How I Spent My Money

I love annual review posts, both writing them and reading them, and last year I did three: one about how I spent my money in 2014, one about the things I made and how they worked out for me in the longer term and one briefly reviewing the goals I tried to stick to over the course of the year and thinking about goals for 2015. I'm going to use the same format this year, and start with How I Spent My Money.

Being a giant nerd and currently on a fixed budget, I track all my finances pretty closely. Although I give myself a generous budget for my sewing, knitting and other crafty activities I'm also pretty concerned to make sure I stick to it, so I keep a close eye on my spending through the year. This year, I had to be stricter with myself the second half of the year because I overspent by about 10% in the first half. However, I ended up spending in total just a hair under my planned budget -- and I mean a HAIR, I was under by just £5.

I made no major one-off purchases for my sewing room this year; all my machines and my sewing setup are the same now as they were at the end of 2014. All my spending this year therefore fell into the following categories:

I am a giant nerd, so here is a pie chart of my spending

FABRIC: This year I spent 22% of my budget on fabric, buying a total of 54.8m of fabric. I used 18.1m of my 2015 purchases during the course of the year and the rest is gracing my stash. I am not particularly happy to have sewn barely a third of the fabric I bought during the year, as I originally planned to try to move to much more of a "buy mainly for immediate use plus a little stash" model. In fact, I probably reversed the ratio that I was hoping for -- I would have been quite pleased to have used two thirds of my purchases and stashed a third.

Looking at what I have left in stash from this year's purchases, the reason for this is immediately clear to me: I bought fabric for a fantasy life where I was not ill and needed to sew smart clothes. I can't even say I got better at this as the year went on and I realized I wasn't going to get better any time soon: my most recent purchase of this type of fabric was only last week. /o\ Since I vehemently resist sewing for a fantasy life, I have just ended up with a pile of fabric I didn't use, much as I like it. When (eventually) I do have to rebuild a work wardrobe I am going to be spoiled for choice with nice fabrics for work appropriate clothes. However, since that day is still an indeterminate distance away, it's a little frustrating that most of the things I stashed in 2015 probably won't make it out of stash for a while yet.

On the plus side, however, this year's total is the smallest value AND volume of fabric I've purchased in any year since I started sewing. Also positive: my leftover 2015 purchases are mainly things I still like and want to use, and overall there's very little "what on earth was I thinking?" from this year in stash. (I do have two pieces of fabric where I go back and forth between "This is so great!" and "What was I thinking?". I don't think I'll decide which it is until I actually try to use it.)

MAGAZINES: My biggest purchase category, at 28% of total budget, was pattern magazines.

Knip: My big pattern magazine innovation this year was subscribing to Knip (formerly Knipmode), the Dutch sewing magazine. I've received 5 issues so far, having started my subscription with the September issue (plus the June issue, above, that I bought as a one off to see what I thought of the magazine). Unfortunately, I haven't really done much sewing since I started my subscription because of illness. All I can say right now is that I am very pleased with the magazine from a content perspective -- I find a lot in the magazines I'd like to sew and wear -- but I can't say anything definitive about the patterns, sizing, etc. or working with the Dutch-only instructions, because I've yet to make anything. I will report back on this when I do in more detail.

Burda: I went Burda back issue crazy this year again and bought a ton of them. (This is in spite saying at the end of last year that I had all the back issues I wanted. I lied.) To be honest, I regret nothing about these purchases. I am thrilled with my Burda library and whenever my enthusiasm for sewing wanes a little I find that flipping through a few past issues makes me desperate to sew all over again.

I was sadly less excited by my subscription to the 2015 issues of Burda. I tend to blame that on not being super excited by the broader 2015 fashion trends, which Burda seemed to reflect quite faithfully. I have continued to subscribe though because there are always just enough good patterns for me to decide I don't want to miss an issue. Plus sometimes Burda is a real sleeper thing, and I'll realize 2 years later that I love something and need it immediately. I also bought the two Burda Easy and one Burda Vintage (The 1960s) magazines this year from the Style Special issues. I'm dubious about these purchases but got sucked into it somehow anyway.

Ottobre and MyImage: I bought both the S/S and A/W issues of each of Ottobre and MyImage magazines this year. Funnily enough, there was a real surge in interest and enthusiasm for Ottobre in the sewing blog community this year, right when my own enthusiasm diminished quite a lot. I wasn't overly struck by either of this year's issues and haven't made anything from them. That's not to say I won't in the future, but there's nothing from either 2015 issue in my sewing queue right now. This is a big change for me as I usually stack my queue with recent Ottobre patterns. I won't unsubscribe, but I am hoping 2016 is more to my taste as I do love Ottobre's style and drafting.

MyImage I am just about ready to be done with. I got both issues this year while they were on sale but my enthusiasm is very low indeed. I will only buy them next year if I feel really very struck by the content, because I feel it's very same-y and tedious at this point.

I bought so many coat patterns this year. If I keep buying coat patterns, a coat will magically happen, right?
PATTERNS: In 2014 I spent a stupid amount of money on patterns and I resolved this year to try to cut down on pattern buying. Outcome: I spent 20% less this year in absolute terms compared to 2014, and about 15% of my total budget compared to 19% in 2014.

I feel I've been garment sewing long enough now that I've become a lot less interested in new pattern releases. I already have a great selection of patterns between my existing pattern stash and my Burda library, so it wasn't hard to cut down a bit on my pattern spending. I can still see an obvious problem with my 2015 purchases: even as I restricted what I bought, I still kept buying things for that same fantasy life I'm not actually leading. Not only do I not really need work dress, party dress or tailoring patterns right now but I already have SO MANY of them. I really just need to stop.

One very noticeable trend in my pattern buying: I bought very few patterns from the indies this year. I bought a couple of StyleArc patterns, a handful of inexpensive knit top PDF patterns, and the Grainline Morris jacket in PDF which I have printed out but can't be arsed to stick together. There just hasn't been much to tempt me coming from smaller pattern makers this year at all.

I am not at all sure what I was thinking buying this book. Is the M&M style really me, I have to wonder.
 BOOKS: This year I spent 12% of my budget on sewing books. These included: The Shirtmaking Workbook by David Coffin; The Merchant and Mills Workbook; three Japanese sewing books; Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns (the latest Alabama Chanin book); several tailoring reference books, and several fabric and sewing reference books. I love books and it's not really in me to regret buying anything book-shaped, but the most notable thing about these purchases is that, of those that came with patterns, I've yet to make up a single pattern.

OTHER: Last year I spent way too much in the "Other" category on Craftsy classes I never watched. This year, I spent only 4% of my budget on "Other", mainly because my Craftsy purchases were limited to the Alabama Chanin class (while on super duper sale) plus the all-access pass in October, which I thought was great value. Also in "Other" is my PR membership. I had actually decided not to renew it and then I won a year's PR membership recently, so that charge won't be in there next year and after the free year ends I will probably cancel.

KNITTING & NOTIONS: Each of these was about 10% of my budget, and I have nothing to say about either. I didn't make any major or significant purchases in either category. For notions, my total reflects a fairly consistent and low-key monthly spend on little necessary items like zippers, buttons, elastic and thread, that sort of thing. Knitting spending is more lumpy as I tend to spend nothing for months and then buy patterns, yarn and notions for my next project as I approach the finish of the current one. I have basically no knitting stash, which is exactly how I want it.

In 2016 I resolve to only buy fabric and patterns I want to use immediately, plus Unicorn Fabric and Patterns because I admit that I am weak (This is Pusheen the Cat being a unicorn, by the way)

OVERALL: I feel pretty good about my spending overall. The main thing this review highlighted for me is that some of my spending was maybe a bit misdirected: too much fabric and pattern buying for a life I'm not actually living. I'd like to try to avoid that in 2016, or at least until my real life catches up to my fantasy life and I am able to leave the house more!

My 2016 fabric buying plan is therefore to buy fabric only if I'm going to use it more or less immediately and I don't have anything suitable in stash, or if it really and truly is Unicorn Fabric. (Unicorn Fabric is fabric so perfect and magical and amazing that I just HAVE to have it and be hanged to everything -- it is definitely a rare thing!). I'm not really planning to fabric fast in any severe way because I know for a fact that I'll need to buy knits on several occasions this year. I need to replace multiple knit garments in my current everyday wardrobe and I have nothing suitable in my stash.

As far as patterns are concerned, I know I now have SO MANY patterns that I will never be able to use all of them, and that annoys me. My plan is therefore to really only buy Unicorn Patterns in 2016, as far as possible, and to try to get a lot more use out of my magazine library, subscriptions and existing envelope and PDF patterns stashes. I think when you've been sewing a certain amount of time and accumulated a certain number of patterns you begin to realize that Unicorn Patterns are actually even more rare than Unicorn Fabric, so maybe my pattern buying will fall off a cliff this year.

I have no goals with regards my other spending categories. Magazines will always be quite a big category for me but I like my subscriptions and don't plan to change them unless I decide against renewing Knip once I start using it.

If I am going to spend less on patterns and potentially less on fabric then in theory at least I could reduce my overall budget for 2016. However, at this point I will put my hand up and admit that during my recent sewing hiatus I picked up another hobby. For reasons, I started drawing, painting and doing a little papercraft in the last few months, and I'm really enjoying it and plan to continue. If you felt so inclined, though why you would be I do not know, you can read about it on a blog I decided to set up: And Then I Absent-Mindedly Ate Half My Still Life. My artistic endeavours so far have not had quite the initial upfront costs as sewing, insofar as you don't need much to get started and most individual items are quite cheap, but it will probably eat up any surplus from (hopefully) spending less on sewing.


  1. Good on you for extending your creative endeavours.
    I have sewn a few things from Knipmode and I am very happy with the drafting. I attempted to translate the instructions but it was slow and tedious and did not make sense. Using the line drawings and pattern markings I have been able to eventually work out the construction for myself. I do think they draft for taller people - I am making a tunic from March 2012 and it is very long. You do need to add seam allowances like burda. The pattern sheets however are much less cluttered so are quite easy to trace out. Good luck.

    1. I did notice that the patterns seemed to be quite long when I looked at the length measurement of skirts etc. I'll be interested to see how that works out. I am quite tall by British standards but not so much by Dutch I don't think!

  2. I love your art blog title! I should stick to a sewing budget. I also buy for the fantasy life where I have time and energy to sew.

    1. Thanks! I definitely like having the discipline of my sewing budget and it really works for me. :D

  3. I've been catching up on your year-end review posts this morning, and you've inspired me to keep a more detailed account of what I'm spending my craft budget on. I stick closely to my budget, but now I'm curious to know where exactly all that money is going. I have some of the same goals you have for the coming year, like only buying patterns that I'm going to use immediately and striking a better fabric-buying balance so I'm primarily buying fabric that is going to get used within a short period.

    Ottobre seemed to lean a lot on active-wear and lounge-wear type designs this year. I made a few patterns from this year's issues, but I'm also hoping the coming year has more patterns that are less casual and sporty.

    1. My budget/spreadsheet really does help me personally to keep track of what I'm doing and spending. It's not really for everyone, but I'm glad you've found my description of what I do helpful!

      I too hope Ottobre do more of a mix of things in the next issues. The good thing is that probably I'll want active and casual wear some day and having the Ottobre back issues guarantees I'll have a good pattern in stash for it!