Thursday, May 06, 2010

Nah, I don't think so!

Don't you just dread the words that come shortly after a compliment is given on a garment you've made...

"So why don't you make a few pieces for me?" 

In my case substitute the word "pieces" for "summer dresses".  Ah, NO!  See I wear my big girl panties now and have no problems saying, "No, I only sew for myself!"  Because no where in the previous exchange was money mentioned except to say, "boy you must really get off cheaply making your own clothes."

See that's the problem, you see cheap and I see ART.  You see cheap and I see Quality.  You see cheap and I see the cost of materials I use.  But most importantly you see cheap and I see you Devalueing my work.

So nah, I don't think so!  No, I'm NOT sewing for you!


******************************************************************

SWAP Update:

I spent three hours with my friends last night taking pictures.  One helped dress and style me, and one took over 200 pictures.  So today I'm wading through them and coming up with the best 12 to submit.  I swear this is worse than the sewing...

....as always, more later!

75 comments:

  1. You are so right and thanks for saying it so clearly. I knit and it is the same story--people are clueless.
    Carolyn I really enjoy reading your blog, your sense of humour and all your wonderful sewing. And I do sew also, just not that much of late.

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  2. Ah yes! You are singing my song, honey! ;-D I've just stopped doing custom work and it feels soooo good! LOL! It's gonna feel great to tell people "Nope!" or "hell no!" Haha! I run into the same issue. They want me to make them a handmade garment and still get Wallyworld prices (not that thier clothing isn't technically "handmade". I just don't have all the fancy machines like a factory does or the resources to get wholesale pricing on fabric and notions.). I've had enough!

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  3. Carolyn, you said that! It's true, they see CHEAP! I give those that say that the side-eye. I pay more for the fabric and notions than they would be willing to spend on a dress. And they pretty much flatline when I hit them with a labor charge.

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  4. Oh Carolyn, I so understand! I realize that many people simply have no clue how much time and expertise it takes to construct a garment, but it's presumptuous in the extreme to act as though someone owes you a garment simply because they've taken the time to learn how to make them.

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  5. Yes, yes. yes. People are clueless. I also find it quite rude. Aside from the "art" aspect, I wouldn't think of telling someone - Oh, you just cleaned your house? Why don't you come on over and clean mine?!

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  6. How true. Whenever anyone asks me to sew something for them, my knee jerk reaction and response is "No!"

    There are a few exceptions, mostly if it's something that interests me, like my son's teacher's dance dresses. Otherwise: no way, no how.

    And when someone comments about how I get off cheaply making my own clothes, I just say, "Compared to what I would pay for the same garment in Bergdorf Goodman or Barneys, I guess that's true." That usually shuts them up.

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  7. Amen! You hit it right on.

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  8. Well said Carolyn and well said everyone else! These are essentially rude requests that no one should feel bad to turn down.

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  9. A well-meaning friend likes to tell me I'm so lucky I can sew and that I should have a sideline making clothes for others. We were shopping on W.38th the other day and she mentioned it again. This time I said, loudly and emphatically, to never bring it up again because sewing for others as a sideline is a HORRIBLE idea!! I gave her more specifics about why it is. I hope to God she got the message.

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  10. You know, if it's something I WANT to make to sell, fine, my choice. I had toyed with custom sewing, but the general public here wouldn't pay. Mostly, for me, it's for the kids or a gift, also my choice. I spend as much in fabric and notions as the finished RTW at Dillards, but it looks different that off the rack, it's my idea. My mom can't get that, even though many moons ago she sewed for us.

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  11. hee hee - what cracks me up is I don't know how many people have said something like "oh! you know how to sew? could you but a button on for me?" (or fix a loose seam) - super simple things. When I just got my new sewing machine, I had at least 3 people ask about buttons and I honestly didn't know how to reply! Um.... yes, I can sew on a button, No, a sewing machine isn't required and All you need is a piece of thread and a needle!

    And as Lindsay said, I have a lot of people who are like "you should make clothes to sell!" (and you should design kitchens after we did our kitchen remodel, our living room redesign.... make jewelry after I made some bridesmaids gifts... go into the wedding business after our super cool handmade basset hound themed invitations went out...) I'm flattered at well meaning folks suggesting my work is good enough to sell to others, but my stock answer is that I'd be a perfect (seamstress, interior designer, graphic designer, jewelry designer) for someone with EXACTLY my taste!!

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  12. Well said. Saying no comes real easy to me. There's not enough time to sew up all the ideas I have for myself.

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  13. I was showing my sister a dress I had made for my pattern draping class and she wanted me to make one for her. I mentioned that as part of the project we had to come up with a minimum cost sheet and that the dress came out to about $200 because of the hand details. She said, "I'm not going to pay you $200." I said, "And I'm not going to make one for you."

    She still keeps hinting that "now that I'm a designer" (which I'm NOT), I'll make custom designed clothes for her.

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  14. Carolyn I can't wait to see the photos you chose and I totally agree with not sewing for others. Everybody at my job knows I don't sew for others and when someone suggests I could make them some pieces someone else will usually very snobbily quip, "she's selfish and doesn't sew for other people." It doesn't bother me one bit that they resent me not sharing my craft. It's for me and me only! If some persists I'll usually say I make a boutique quality garment and I expect a boutique price! After that the person usually totally understands that they cannot afford my fee.

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  15. I love the one where they hear you sew and say, "Oh, you sew, I have a zipper that needs to be fixed, can you help me?"

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  16. I'm really looking forward to those pictures, so don't delay! Esp. of the beaded dress.

    People mostly don't ask me to sew for them, thank goodness. But since I do heirloom sewing, I've gotten a few requests for *children's* clothing. So far only from very good friends who are appreciative, so I've done it (and gotten paid). I think I'll have to come up with a way to say no when I get asked to do something I don't want to do, but so far I've been lucky.

    My mom sometimes says I could go into business, but really, what I do would cost so much retail that no one would buy it. Also I haven't got time to sew my own wish-list, much less someone else's!

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  17. Ugh, this is such a sore subject with all of us, isn't it? I see nothing selfish AT ALL about not wanting to sew for other people. It's just plain rude to even ask! As Erica already mentioned, my fabrics and notions cost more than what most people would want to pay for the whole dress.

    Yes, I do have a house full of industrial machines but the answer is still NO.

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  18. thank you for this! It's amazing what people see and think isn't it?

    Can't wait to see your outtakes. I'm so looking forward to them. g

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  19. I think beginner sewists tend to open themselves up to sewing for others because they are so proud of their new skill. And then it sets up a bad pattern. Ask me how I know! ;) But you're right. It pays to know how to say no!

    Oh and I think you hit the nail on the head when you said it devalued your work and artistry.

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  20. Really looking forward to seeing the photos of your work and of course the styling!

    I have lots of requests from others and generally do them...I'm doing very little for myself until I lose a bit of weight, so why not.

    I chuckled at the, "can you sew on a button for me," comments. When I worked in Parliament, several MPs would come rushing to me with buttons and thread sets for a quick repair. It's funny how quickly word got around!

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  21. So, So true. I learned early on not to sew for others. They do not want to pay you for your time and materials. They want a dress for $15 but they want the high quality fabrics and trims. I learned in 1989 when I was making the "Dress from HELL." After that experience, I will not sew for others.

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  22. Amen, sistah!!! Looks like we ALL run into this situation! Even though my cost of materials is low, I tell people that I would charge $100 per hour for my sewing, so they're better off buying "off the rack". Even if I charged $50 an hour for my labor, it's still going to take probably three or four hours to make even a simple outfit from start to finish, plus the cost of materials. But the price of my labor is irrelevant . . . sewing for others and trying to make a profit would take all the joy out of the process.

    The one time I did a sewing project for a very dear friend, it was a barter situation and she gave me a case of wine in return. I just couldn't put a dollar value on my work!

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  23. Hehehehe. Love it. Especially when people send me photos of elaborate $50,000 designer gowns that clearly took a team of seamstresses weeks to make, with the subject line, "Can you make this?" Sure. You buy the fabric and I'll whip that right up for you :D

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  24. Oh my gosh, that is so RUDE! (of the other person, not you). Wow. I've only really had one person ask for me to make her something, and she made it clear it would be a very special birthday gift if I chose to do so.

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  25. hahaha.. the comments I commonly get are.. "You made that?! That's amazing! Do you think you can hem my pants or do some alterations for me?" Really? I hate hemming and I have a pile of alterations for my own clothes that I haven't touched in a year. I usually smile and walk away. :)

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  26. Why IS it that some people feel that because we sew for ourselves (and perhaps for our families) that we somehow have the time and interest in sewing for THEM? I can't fathom that at all. I was asked recently if I'd hem slacks for someone - having been through this before, I knew that if I said 'yes' - then I'd receive at least 10 pairs of pants to do and the woman would want me to do it for free for some crazy reason. The logic of this totally escapes me. At the time, I gave the woman the name and address of a cleaners I know that does alterations.

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  27. A neighbor dropped by the other day and saw me hemming a piece of clothing. "oh, she said, "are you making me an apron?" She said she needed an apron with a bib front and asked if I had a pattern. I was really taken aback by her request.I have never sewn anything for her or even hinted I would. I sew for myself and occasionally granddaughters. I do NOT sew for neighbors who happen to drop by! No sirree!

    Maureen

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  28. Sewing for others is another one of my pet peeves. Folks think just because it is done by someone they know it will be cheaper. A... NO! Should a agree to make something for someone else, they have to go with me to the store to purchase the fabric, notions and at least 1 bobbin. Then they have to sit with me while I cut out the pattern and fabric. If there are buttons, they have to come back and help with that. Then they will see, especially after they have to pay me to sew it all together that sewing is not a "cheap" alternative.

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  29. I always offer to teach people to knit (or spin) if they ask me to make stuff for them. I've had one or two takers, but most just shake their heads. I also joke, "You can't afford me!" to gently get the point across.

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  30. I'm right there with you on that one. I'm currently fighting off a very persistent co-worker who doesn't take "no" for an answer. I'm a little scared she's going to sic her Russian Mafia family members on me if I don't give in (not joking!). But I hate my work being devalued, and I hate sewing for other people.

    We run into a similar problem in our pottery studio; people want us to make something they saw somewhere else, not taking into account the design time, the many prototypes that have to be made in order to make one perfect final product, the materials, the kiln space, etc. I always want to say to those people, "You should have bought it when you saw it," but instead we quote them what seems like an exorbitant price but what is actually a fair price for the labor involved. Then we explain the time and effort involved in creating a new form. They think we're jerks. The feeling is mutual.

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  31. interesting post. i do sew for others but i don't 'sell' the things. it is only little girls' dresses, the same ones i make for my daughters and i either give them as presents or i charge the material costs (ca. 1m of fabric, zippers, buttons, trims, ribbons, thread....)plus 10 dollars for sewing. of course that works out an hourly rate of about 2 dollars. but nobody would pay the real value and at least like that they realise that it is not cheap or free. i do tell them how much of the price is for materials and how much is for the work. of course i only sew for good friends. one of them asked me to do the christening dresses for her girls, that just makes me proud and happy to be part of it. that is why i do it.
    carolyn, i can't wait to see your photos for the swap, i have been following all the posts about it. i am sure it will look great.

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  32. Carolyn, you've hit a big nerve with a lot of people. You are so right!!

    I don't sew for others because I don't have the time to sew for myself. Nor do I want to work for people who want to nickle and dime me while expecting custom work. And if they feel it's selfish, so be it.

    BTW, when people ask me for help with repairs or alterations on their clothes, I cheerfully give them my alterationists' business card.

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  33. you got it!!

    I love the $100/hour labor quote in the previous comments....must remember that one...

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  34. I have sewn a few things for others - but I am very careful. The last two things I made were maternity skirts for a friend who is not very tall but rather round. She had no chance of finding anything she would feel comfortable in so I thought that if I should ever ever sew anything for someone else should be that because that would really matter. And she was so so happy. That is where it makes sense to me - as compared to where people just want to save money.

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  35. Oh, and she paid for the fabric, of course.

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  36. My favourite "learning experience" was when I was asked to make a wedding dress for the daughter-in-law to be of some good friends of ours. I was the groom's babysitter as a teenager and was told how special it would be if I could make the wedding dress. I agreed to make the dress as a gift, however, the bride purchased a rtw dress. Great, I was off the hook

    Now the good part. After all of that, I was not even invited to the wedding.

    It was the best lesson ever. Saying, "no" has never been a problem since.

    Hmmm, I have always wondered if I would have been invited to the wedding if I had made the dress...

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  37. A photo shoot!!! With stylists and everything! Oh, how fun!!!

    And, I'm curious, did you laugh hysterically at the idea you should whip up some summer dresses for someone else, or did you fix her with an icy glare and tell her you wouldn't dream of spending your personal time on a paying project, or did you pretend you didn't hear her... My usual response is to behave as if the other person is joking....

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  38. A co-worker asked me did I have any idea how to mend a sweater that was ripped. I told her just take it to the cleaners and the tailor could mend it. She hemmed & hawed that she didn't have time to go to the cleaners and asked me if I could do it and I agreed. Let me tell you when she received my bill she actually muttered damn I should've taken it to the cleaners. I charged her $40 to mend 2 small holes in her sweater and yes... she paid with a sullen look on her face. Matter of fact everytime we pass each other... she starts looking at the artwork on the wall.

    Now when I'm asked my response is - you would come out cheaper buying from the store.

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  39. My go-to line is - "I don't sew for other people." Repeat as often as necessary, with a polite smile on your face.

    If I do sew for other people, (very, very rarely...) I'd do it only as a gift, for someone who appreciates getting something hand-made. I don't think I could put a value on my recreational time, it is precious to me.

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  40. Well Said :)

    I so look forward to seeing your outfits.

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  41. this really hit a sore point with your readers, myself included! Cheap? I don't think so. Like most of you I spend more money on fabrics and notions than they might spend at a store. Save money? I don't think sewing puts any money in the bank, which is actually saving money. It is so rude to expect that I will sew for them for free. I too have learned to say, no I only sew for myself. I do make exception for my dd, but only because she pleads nicely and offers to clean and organizes closets in exchange.

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  42. It's amazing how people devalue our art, quality, and value with a "cheapness" attitude.

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  43. Amen, dear Caroline! You have touched a nerve in my heart! My latest is a good friend, really who I occasionally do a pants hem for. She is short like me and pays me well. She came over last week with a pants/jacket outfit that was way too short and wanted me to "add something to it to make the pants longer and you can just add somthing around the collar of the jacket to make it match. You'll think of something." I don't think so.....I told her it would look horrible and she really should just take the suit back. She said she got it real cheap because of the odd pants length and she thought I could fix it. Has they idea of murder ever entered your creative mind?

    When people tell me I "really should go into business" I tell them I give everything away and don't have time to keep up with demand. Then I explain how I am straight out all the time sewing for free for those who really appreciate it. Once they realize they are not part of my inner circle of giftees, they back off in embarrassment.

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  44. Caroline I don't blame you one bit for not sewing for others. You are well within your God given right! I have a sewing business and do have clients but you better believe that I only cater to those who are willing to pay me what my skill is worth. I always have a firm labor charge and allow them to control the cost of the garment by the type of fabric they use. So if they want the price to be slightly cheaper, then need not to head for expensive fabrics:) Can't wait to see your pics!!!!! I know they'll be fabulous

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  45. I recently "retired" from custom sewing and alterations. I have two dear customer/friends who I will cater to, but that's it. I am like all the other posts; I don't have enough time to sew my own projects let alone work for someone who couldn't be pleased if the finished garment was served on one of my silver platters! I never want to account for all the fabric and patterns I have-this is my legacy to someone in the future. I also will never give a quilt to anyone for any occassion, except I am working on one for DD for probably Christmas and that is only because I know she will love it.(There is a story behind this.) No baby quilts ever!!! If you want to learn to quilt, go to the local quilt shop and someone there will be delighted to teach you. Then YOU WILL HAVE TO PAY FOR THE LESSONS!

    As an aside: I have a pair of purchased pants (Talbots - 1.5 yrs ago) that I still haven't hemmed!

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  46. You'll get alaugh out of this blog:
    http://selfishseamstress.wordpress.com/
    She has even written some haiku about not sewing for others!

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  47. No one has asked me to sew for them! Either I have very polite friends and family... or they aren't impressed!

    Actually, hubby wants me to sew for him, but he appreciates the time, hard work, and cost. But I'm too selfish - I don't have enough time to sew for me!

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  48. I do sew for others; I made wedding dresses for a few years and now I'm a costumer but I do it for the thrill of the creation and the chance to play with designs and fabrics i would otherwise not get to use. I DO NOT do alterations. Fortunately, I don't get asked to very often. Your post reminded me of two young ladies who wanted me to copy a dress from a picture. The original was close to $1000. By the time I had given them a price based on creating a pattern, the fabric, notions and my time it was almost the same price. One of the girls looked shocked and said "I thought a homemade dress was cheaper!". I gently pointed out to her that 'this isn't homemade; it's custom made. YOU aren't making it,'. They walked out.
    I really like your work.

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  49. It's so nice to visit differnt blogs and to know there are folks out there that understand the value of a hand sewn garment. Carolyn, I so appreciate what you can do. Love what you do with a length of cloth.

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  50. I have a friend who years ago thought she was "helping" me out financially by asking me to sew for her. Then the demands kept getting more unreasonable and undoable. As a result, I no longer sew for others for pay. I will sew for my daughter, my daughter-in-law, my mother-in-law, and myself. If my mother were alive, I would sew for her.

    Every time I have sewn for others for pay, I have shortchanged myself in sleep deprivation, my housekeeping goes to pot, and I've neglected my family. Nope, not doing it anymore!

    I can hardly wait to see your pictures!

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  51. My sentiments exactly! Makes me sorry that I ever told them that I made it! Sometimes I KICK myself for ever letting some people know that I sew. But I have a new come back...when asked if I will sew for them, I say no, but I will teach you how to sew. That usually ends the conversation or at least they change the subject.

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  52. Correct.......I WILL NOT WASTE MY SEWING SKILLS ON ANYONE ELSE.......they are definately not appreciated.I am also waiting of your pictures with bated breath.

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  53. Since I have a studio that people can walk in to ask if I will sew for them my answer is "There isn't enough time in the day" - I'm selling my knowledge not selling my sewing. They always bitch anyway that they don't like this or that.. never happy... why give them my precious time away.
    WOW you have almost 500 followers! You have a great blog... thanks for giving us your time!

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  54. You are soooo right! I've sewn for people off and on for years, and even then people seem to think that they don't really need to pay you very much! I sew wedding dresses too... so maybe you can understand where I'm coming from. My MIL used to sew for people and basically told me that if I'm going to charge to sew... I best be charging around $18-20 an hour! I thought... yeah sure people are going to pay that! You know, they will... if they want something bad enough! But I must say... I'm excited to see all the pictures! Bet you had fun!

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  55. Well done girl!!! You should visit "the "Selfish Seamstress" and share some ideas with her.
    god bless!

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  56. I occasionally sew odd things for various Freemasons, but they are completely reasonable about prices; maybe because they understand that what they need is very specialized and not obtainable off the racks.

    The last time I made some items, they didn't work the way they should have because I didn't use heavy enough interfacing; when I said I would redo them, as it was my mistake, we had quite a tussle because they insisted on paying me again, to redo something that I failed to make correctly. They are my favorite--and only--clients.

    I also sometimes sew vestments for clergy, and they also appreciate the time and effort, and understand the costs, as purchased vestments start at $200 for a stole containing, at most, a yard of fabric.

    Other than that, everyone else gets told, "I'm really not that good at garment sewing--I would recommend going to this or that tailor." And I feel no guilt or remorse.

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  57. I'd just chalk it up to cluelessness. If someone has never set foot in a fabric store and goes by cheap import clothing, I can see where they have no idea of what goes into sewing for yourself, let alone someone else. Does anyone carry business cards for tailors/dressmakers/repair businesses with them to hand out? I wonder if handing a card to someone who is pushing the issue, and saying "this person is making their living sewing, I'm not. And *IF* I were ever to sew for you, I'd charge triple what they do" would get the point across?

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  58. Now waitaminnit... Someone says they want you to sew something for them, and, if you want to, you say yes... for $XXXX dollars. If they are shocked or confused by it, you can always add that it takes at least ____ hours to make, ____ hours to plan, ____ years of education and practice. Then you tell them where they can go to lear. No need to take it personally! I get asked similar questions all the time, but people simply don't know what it costs or SHOULD cost. Please let people in on just how much is involved, and let them appreciate your work with that knowledge.

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  59. Theresa in TucsonMay 07, 2010 10:38 AM

    This comment section just keeps an growing. You really hit a nerve, Carolyn. Just love some of the responses to requests from others. I'm going to have to make a list of the best ones and have it handy the next time I'm asked.

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  60. I use handmade since handmade items are a premium. I grew up on homemade clothing and didn't realize how lucky I was til I got to high school. I just tell people they couldn't afford my hourly rate!! I only make things for LOVE!!

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  61. "But most importantly you see cheap and I see you Devalueing my work."

    Best line ever!

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  62. I ask the person why they think having a garment custom made for them would save them money. People get confused.
    The person who made the remark to you is not only confused but apparently jealous as well.

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  63. Yes, you have hit a nerve here. Yes, I do alterations for other, very rarely do I do custom work from scratch for others. There is a big difference. When I do I always give them the "starting quote", say $100 for a dress, and that goes up depending on style, annoying fabric choices, how many fittings and how fussy the client gets. They don't know about that last one, but I do get paid for my trouble if you know what I mean. Usually the really high price tag keeps them away. Most people are clueless when it comes to the pay of a skilled laborer.

    Recently, I've been saying "no" more often, and have been very particular about how many pieces I currently have to work on, giving myself "days off" and just not accepting work until a specific date. That gives me time to sew for me and to do nothing if I feel like it!

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  64. I enjoyed your post! Sewing for others is quite the pickle. Non-sewers don't understand the time and concentration required to "whip up" a "simple" skirt (or whatever).
    I am at a stage in life, though, where I am short on money and short on "mommy time". I have given some thought to perhaps trading my sewing skills ("whipping up simple skirts") in exchange for babysitting. My main problem with this thought??? It takes me so long to sew anything because I literally sew in 10 minute increments. (the approx. length of the attention spans around here). To add payment for my frustration in actually sewing the skirt, whoever it is would have to keep my children for at least two days!!!!

    So, right now, I'm with you (and the rest of the sewists) and saying "nah."

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  65. I hear those words A LOT. You are so right, I couldn't have said it better.

    (Other than those words I get a lot of "can you email me that pattern" in my blog, mainly from Brazilian readers. I'm really getting tired of this, sigh... And it's draining out my sewing blogging mojo. Some people think that we exist only to serve them...

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  66. I couldn't agree with you more!! It's one thing if I want to dedicate the time and energy to make something as a gift, but the random requests for clothing from folks irks me to no end. Sewing takes time, a lot of it and I can about guarantee that they don't want to pay my going rate for labor. :P

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  67. You are so right - I"m glad I"m not the only one that feels this way! It's not that I begrudge my friends at all, especially the ones I hold most dear - but I don't think they understand how many hours it takes to make something.

    I made a cape for myself this winter just gone, and some of my friends came round on evening while it was on my mannequin. They all coo-ed over it (which was lovely I admit) but then the requests started rolling. When they asked how much it would cost, I was honest about materials, but also added that 'if you had one made by hand it would cost you several hours labour too'. I didn't mention myself and if pressed I think I would have made one for them, but I think this helps to show that the cost of making something by hand isn't always obvious.

    Besides the fact, I use my sewing projects as a way to relax, and as a challenge - and I don't get quite the same kick out of making the same garment over and over. So making another garment for someone else, well, it's just not as good a way to spend my time as on a new project, for me or someone else.

    We could all learn a good lesson from the Selfish Seamstress here!

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  68. I agree. I think sewing your own clothes is very cool. It just shows how talented you are and how good you are in sewing. I really wanted to sew but I just don't have a talent for it.

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  69. Thanks!
    Last week, as I am doing the Me-Made-May challenge, I was showing a dress I'd made and someone said : "you made this? could you mend some stuff for me?" I said : "No!" which made everybody laugh. I don't mend my own stuff, I don't even do alterations, if I can't wear it off the rack, I won't buy it because it'll sit there for years! My UFO's are all stuff to mend...
    My ready made answer for these situations is that I work too slow and that would cost too much!
    Great blog thanks.

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  70. Carolyn, could she have meant that you got off 'cheaply for clothes that have been made exactly for you and with perfect fit and gorgeous fabric that make you look like a million dollars and would have cost your firstborn child from a seamstress who has the expertise you have'?

    Nothing off the rack is ever going to look as wonderful and fit so well as something made by a first rate sewist! Maybe it was an awkward way of acknowledging that?

    Having said this, this is perhaps a little optimistic an explanation when I have had non knitters offer me 20 dollars for a handknit cardigan.

    Can't wait to see to see the SWAG photos!

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