|I'm a new sewer, and decided to start with doll clothes. I love dolls, and learning with small amounts of notions is pretty cheap. And, if I can do a set-in Barbie sleeve, I can do it in a full size garment !
Here's what I do to keep the costs down :
1)I use outgrown or damaged clothes from our closets, or cheap finds from yard sales as fabric. I've purchased prom gowns for a dollar or less several times, and the expensive fabric was worth many times more ! I try to use the hems and decorative touches already in the garment if I can.
2)Small dolls look good in small prints, so infant clothes are great ! There's often ribbons and lace to reuse, too. A stained outfit ? I can cut around it ! They're often cheap at thrift stores and yard sales. Always check the 'free' box if there is one ! Buttons and zippers are put aside for future use in larger projects, and I've even reused Velcro.
3)Yard sales often yield big savings on notions. I've gotten gallon bags of bias tape and stretch lace for a buck or two. Half-finished projects also end up there, and can get a new life in your hands !
4)Ask your fave fabric shop what they do with small remnants. Our Hancock's sells them for a buck a bag, with many fabrics and lengths inside ! Ask your sewing friends to save you remnants, too.
5)'Fat Quarters' primarily used by quilters are pretty cheap for a dollar or so, and you can make a lot from a quarter-yard of fabric. But look around - I've seen 'FQ's for a buck when a whole bolt of the same stuff is mere feet away for $3. or less a yard !
6)Look in hair accessories for ideas. I got 30 ribbon roses for $1. - all I had to do was gently peel them off the hair elastics they were glued to. I'd been paying 80c for ten !
7)A hair 'scrunchie' can double as a Barbie blouse if it's long enough - put it over the doll's head, check the fit, and sew a single line to make the sleeves and bodice. Make sure you can easily take it off !
8)There's quite a few free patterns available on line. Do a search with your doll's name and you'll probably find some ! Our library also had several books with doll clothes patterns.
9)When I buy a pattern (on a $1. sale, of course !), I always scan it before I use it. The tiny pieces are too easily lost or damaged otherwise. I scan the pieces according to what they make - say, all the parts of View A are together on one page. Because scale is so important, I place a measuring tape along the side. Then I make sure the printer's on 'black ink only' before I print. This also makes me more choosy about patterns - it's tedious to cut out and scan each new one !
10)If you scan and print patterns, after you cut the piece out, save the page you cut it from. You can use it to determine where you want the piece placed, as sort of a template. I store mine in an old ring binder with inexpensive document protector sheets.
11)With a toddler in the house, I have to be able to store my project in seconds. Shoeboxes come in handy ! I also snag plastic pencil boxes on markdown (10c this week !) for small thread spools, tiny scraps, etc.
12)Socks also make great doll clothes ! Save your solo ones !
13)Used dryer sheets make great knit stabilizer ! I just place it under where I'm sewing and rip it out later.
14)I thread needles for hand-sewing from cut-away machine-sewing threads - my machine needs a long 'lead time' ! So no one steps on 'em, they're stuck into a small bulletin board above the machine.
15)Small bra hooks make great doll belt buckles ! Also check old watchbands and kids' sandals for small buckles, too.
Oops ! Now I'm getting more into recycling than sewing ! But I hope this gave some good ideas.