Cassie Tatone borrowed a sewing machine from her mother-in-law in the spring of 2020 after the COVID-19 pandemic robbed her of her job and shut down most businesses and activities.
With no income and lots of spare time on her hands, the millennial put the beginner sewing skills she acquired from a class earlier that year to practice.
She used fabrics she owned around her home, asked community members in an online forum if they had any extra scraps lying around, watched YouTube tutorials and got to work.
Soon enough, Tatone fell in love with the craft.
Now, the thrifty 32-year-old’s wardrobe is made up of 80 per cent of clothing she made — from overalls, to dresses, to underwear.
“The clothes I would realistically love to buy, because I’m now so picky about quality, would be really expensive,” said Tatone, who shares her DIY sewing journey on social media.
“So I get to make the clothes that I want at a budget that works for my lifestyle.”
And she’s not alone. Many young Canadians are turning to do-it-yourself (DIY) projects in an effort to save money as the cost of living soars.
Alex Antrobus, a 28-year-old living in Vancouver, started cutting their own hair in August 2021 for two reasons — to avoid catching COVID-19 through close contact at salons and to save some dough.
And while they admit they’re still perfecting the art of hairstyling – they said they’ve incorporated a “scruffy” hairdo into their aesthetic — they’ve kept up the DIY activity ever since.
“A decent salon in Vancouver is pretty dang expensive … I generally keep (my hair) at shoulder length or so, so anytime it gets past that, normally it would have been a $100 salon visit or whatever, but this is much cheaper,” said Antrobus.
“I’m happy about it, especially with the cost of living. Every little bit of thriftiness I can incorporate, I always feel pretty good about it.”
The pandemic and rising costs of just about everything have also inspired Canadians to tackle their own home improvement projects.
Leigh-Ann Allaire Perrault, a design and DIY expert based in Burlington, Ont., said there are many appeals to DIY home decor and design. For one, there’s the customization factor.
“DIY allows within your space to really show off your personality,” the self-proclaimed DIY ninja said.
There’s also the knowledge that whatever project you undertake can be reinvisioned later on, she said.
Most importantly, Allaire Perrault, who calls paint her “secret weapon” and has painted everything from furniture, to bathtubs, floors, countertops, cabinets and backsplashes, said it’s helped her save “thousands and thousands” in the last decade that she’s been DIYing.
“It’s almost priceless because you can’t buy these pieces,” she said.
To tackle home improvement projects on a budget, Allaire Perrault recommends writing down the steps as well as the associated list of materials and costs for each project, doing some research to find the right product and visiting community tool libraries or renting tools if you don’t want to invest in tools you might not use again.
“It’s one thing to save up for the next five, maybe 10 years for your dream kitchen to get those quartz countertops and new cabinets, but why put off the dream … when you can get that look for less by doing a few little DIY tweaks here and there?”
Allaire Perrault encourages those thinking of giving DIY projects a try to not be afraid of making mistakes and to give themselves the time to really develop a skill.
“It’s not as easy as going and buying something off the shelf, you do have to put in a little bit of effort to do the research, and then what you’re saving in dollars, you have to invest in elbow grease,” she said.
“But at the end of the day, there’s nothing like the pride of completing something and being proud of it.”
When it comes to making clothes and giving your hair a trim, Tatone and Antrobus also suggest doing research beforehand to get the best results.
For sewing, Tatone suggests watching online tutorials or learning the ropes from a loved one.
She also recommends borrowing a sewing machine from someone you know, buying fabrics and sewing patterns at thrift stores, practising techniques on unwanted fabrics and checking out clearance sections at fabric stores to save some money.
“’I’m making really, really high quality clothing for a fraction of what it costs to buy and for me, that is where it is worth it,” said Tatone.
Antrobus, the DIY hairdresser, also recommends watching online tutorials to get hairstyling techniques down.
“I feel like it’s a choice that not everybody would want to make, sacrificing having a good haircut, or having a completely inexpensive one, a free one, but the little things that you can save on do tend to add up.”
—Noushin Ziafati, The Canadian Press