For those on a budget buying things like fabric is flushing money down the drain. For under £5 with a little time and effort, it is achievable.

The amount of times I have heard people say they cannot afford to take up sewing because the fabric is too expensive. Well yes, it can be, but I would like to demonstrate how you could get a good amount of fabric with very little outlay.

 I will also suggest ways in which you can make an essential sewing kit by adding items month-by-month for those on a budget.

A quick unpick – seam riper as it is otherwise known – if you do not already own one, is a very useful item in this kit. Designed for unpicking stitches and the cutting of fabric for buttonholes, these handy little items are indispensable. Point to note: They have a blade on them so not something you want to leave lying around.

I picked this one up for £1.40 – if you are struggling for funds this can be your first months purchase – your sewing kit is beginning to form.

If you are not already aware Charity shops or Thrift stores as they known in the USA, have become the budgeters and crafters best place to shop. They are gold mines for all sorts of treasures and are easily accessible for most people with smaller towns having at least one of them. Often charity shops will have a discount rail, items for a £1 and under.

What do we need? Ideally, large men’s 100% cotton shirt – any colour that appeals to you – from what is available.

The shirt I choose came from the shops discount section. For 75 pence, I purchased a man’s medium pale yellow cotton shirt. I fell lucky on the colour, but for the purpose of this blog, I was looking at any colour cotton shirt. Point to note: I would recommend washing the shirt first before unpicking, as not all items that come from charity shops are fresh. However, you could also ask family and friends if they have any old clothes that you could use, as another way to increase you fabric stash.

The shirt for 75 pence.

This is where the time and effort come in.



I have labelled the photo so you can see the areas on the quick unpick. To use it you use the poker and slice through the stitches using the blade to slice. 

First, I removed all the buttons form the shirt – wow this gives you the start of a button collection – these can be stored in old coffee jar or plastic storage tub.


When you come to do long straight seams you can use the poker to make an opening and then place the ball end into the fabric and gently run the tool along the seam.

Using the quick-unpick, I unpicked all seams and stitching on the shirt, this is the result.

To demonstrate the difference in the quantity of fabric, if you were to go to a fabric shop, I purchased the amount of fabric 75 pence would buy me from my local Fabric Store, Grimsby Sewing and Knitting.

 This is the result. I choose 100% cotton in a contrasting colour as I may choose to mix it up at another time.


As you can see there is a very big difference so my advice to you is; keep collecting and unpicking those shirts…

…Next time, I will discuss the sewing kit and what I find works for me. Not all items are cheap and some will require a little more investment.


  1. Sheena Stubbs

    I’ve done this since childhood and you get some great finds along the way. One tip I’d share is that when you take the buttons off thread them together. That way you’ll always have a set of buttons together. Great article