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?


Sewbeit said...

I know exactly how you feel. My sister and I set up in business as dressmakers a few years ago as we both loved sewing and creating something from a mere length of fabric. Our efforts, while being appreciated by the clients, were at first, a labour of love and unfortunately the prices we charged never did reflect the hours we put into making them or sourcing the materials required. Having to work to a strict timetable and paying extra attention to detail took the joy out of a previously much loved pastime and hobby. It became work and a job that needed to be done rather than something we had previously enjoyed. When the joy went out of it, we stopped and didn't sew for years! We have started again, but only for ourselves and the odd charity donation and slowly the old remembered joy is coming back, but having to sew as a job instead as a hobby certainly cast a cloud over something I had previously enjoyed. People think homemade means they get something cheaper but in reality, it almost always costs more if we factor in the time we spend creating the item.

Sewing Directory said...

I totally agree with you Sewbeit and I think I would be the same. I don't want to sew as a job because it takes the fun out of it and you spend so much time sewing things for other people you have no time and energy left for your own sewing.

Pauline G said...

I know exactly where you are coming from! When I retired early I thought I could supplement my income with making quilts - how wrong I was! Like you something I had enjoyed became a chore and I found it difficult to motivate myself to finish jobs I had taken on for payment. Plus people, were totally unrealistic about the cost of fabric and other overheads and that was without the complication of charging for my time. Now I limit myself to only making for family and close friends and then only accept payment to cover the cost of materials if I am forced to.

Isisjem said...

I feel exactly as you do and I can related to this on so many levels. I remember years ago my sister in law wanted me to put a new lining in a skirt. She told me it was a really simple thing to do. I said maybe she should do it herself then. I didn't mean to be rude, but how can someone who can't sew a button tell me that the thing they want me to sew is going to be easy for me.

I have made a lot of bags in my time. The amount of people that have said I should do this for a living (along with making quilts.) I asked one of them admiring a bag and dropping hints as to how they'd buy one, what they'd be prepared to pay for it. They pulled a face at me and I explained how much the material, fastenings, interfacings etc would cost and how much time it would take me to cut out all the bits and sew the bag together. They clearly loved the bags but didn't want to pay handmade prices. I just would never be able to compete with mass production in China.

I also, like you, worry that the quality will go wrong some how. It doesn't matter how many times I put in a zip or something. If it's going to go wrong it will be for someone else not a project I'm doing where it won't matter.

Lastly - I just don't enjoy the mass production that would be required to sell. It's all the more disheartening when you realise that you're time is never going to be adequately recompensed.

So I sew for presents and that's it.

Archie the wonder dog said...

Well said!

Bossymamma said...

I don't like making things to sell. If anyone asks me to make something, I quote a very high price (which would still not equate to a decent hourly rate). That soon gets rid of them!

Lori K said...

I totally get it. If someone asks for something I have made, I will sell it but if they ask mostly it is no. It is a job - I want to sew because I enjoy it and it isn't my full time job!

Sewing Directory said...

thanks for your comments everyone, it's great to see I'm not the only one who feels this way.

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