Sunday, 18 October 2015

Why I don't sew for money

Like many of you I sew as a hobby, although I run a sewing related business I don't offer sewing services.  However, there are a lot of people out there who think that because I sew for myself, or make things as gifts that I would be happy to sew for money and make things for them.

One of my recent finishes, my Tula Pink City Sampler quilt

In the beginning it was friends who needed 'little jobs' doing, trousers taken in, straps adjusted, skirt shortened etc.  In their eyes it was a quick and simple job so surely I'd do it for them.

Then as I share more photos of what I've made for myself on social media the bigger requests started coming through.  One job I was asked to do was to sew a bespoke large bag for sports equipment requiring several metres of fabric plus zips, strap, buckles etc the costs would be over £50 before I even picked up a needle. Then I'd have to draft it (I'm not a pattern drafter) and then I'd have to spend several hours making it.  Even if I only charged costs and my time at a basic hourly rate it would be well over £100 and they would think I was ripping them off.  Also the person who asked was an acquaintance that I barely knew and had only spoken to a few times.

Bag I've made recently for a swap

Another person spotted somethings I'd made on social media and asked me to make the same for them. I ended up saying yes, because to be honest I wasn't too sure how to say no without sounding rude.  They were fairly simple items, just a couple hours to make and under £10 of supplies.  The first time I just gave it as a gift, then a few weeks later they asked again so I just charged the cost of the fabric because I felt uncomfortable charging a friend, and the true cost would have been much higher than they expected.  However I didn't want to get into the routine of making things for free on demand either which is why I charged for materials.  I'm not a dressmaker so I don't get my fabric and habby wholesale, when you are paying full retail price for supplies it makes the finished item expensive.

Handbag I made a couple months ago

As soon as I said yes to making the smaller items a strange thing happened... Despite having enjoyed making them for myself I really didn't want to make them.  I kept putting them off and making tons of other things but not the ones they wanted.  The minute someone wants me to make it for them it becomes a chore and then I no longer want to do it.  Sewing to me is fun and relaxing, I can make whatever I want whenever I want.  When I feel that I have to make something it losses all the fun aspects and just becomes another job that I have to do.  It's 4-5 hours of my time that I wanted to spend doing something I wanted, not something I felt like I had to do.

I've been hooked on making these owls lately

The other thing is when you are making for someone else, especially if they have offered to pay, you have to sew to a high standard.  If they are paying for it they expect perfection just as if they bought it in the shop.  My sewing isn't bad but it's in no way perfect and quite often I'll do things the quick and easy way which may not be the neatest, but I'm happy with the finished item so that's all that matters when sewing for myself.

Visible stitches when closing a hole

For example the picture above shows the bottom of one of the owls shown in the picture before.  These are the fabulous Owl You Need Sewing Buddies - free pattern on Craftsy by Shanni Loves.  

If I was making these to sell I would use an invisible ladder stitch to make sure the closure isn't at all visible.  However I'd not great at this stitch and given that the owl sits on it's bottom you don't see the stitching so I do the stitch above to close the gap quickly.   So If I was to make this in exchange for payment I'd have to change the way I sew it.

Owl with top of his wing sticking out

Plus if one of them didn't turn out perfect, just like the owl above who has the top of his wing poking out I'd either have to unpick and do it again or I'd have to remake it.  

Sewing for money, or even just for someone else at no charge makes the sewing process much more stressful for me.  Apart from the fact that I feel like I have to do it within a certain timescale, I feel like I have to do it perfectly, adding to the pressure.

Don't get me wrong I'm happy to sew for friends and family as gifts, for a special occasion, because I want to sew it for them.  But it's being asked to do it when I had no intention of doing so before that point that I find stressful. 

So the next time someone asks me to sew something for them, paid or not I'll be referring them to this blog post!

What about you, are you happy to sew things on demand for friends, family, random acquaintance?

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