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Career Change — Sewing full time

pins13 | Posted in General Discussion on

I want to make a career change.

I am passionate about sewing and do it very well.

Does anyone know what is the average salary for someone that sews for a living?


Pins 13


  1. tweediebe | | #1

    Hello pins13 !  I am letting you know that sewing professionally is not the best thing in my opinion.  I have been a member of the "Motion Pictures Costumers Union" and was a sewer and apprentice for 3 years in the 80's.  Well, because of the union we had a decent wage, barely above poverty, and some benefits. Later I sewed for an independent designer and even though this was so much fun, the pay was awful and work was sporatic.  If you go into this as a business, you must be very hard working, and NEVER get tired of sewing.  I would burn-out sometimes, and not want to see a machine for months.  Now I work part-time for a great gift shop and when I get the urge I do fiber art purses and totes and they are sold at the shop.  Everything I sew seems to sell very well, but I am not under the pressure to PRODUCE when I don't want to.  This is the best way for me,  when I am inspired and have the desire.  Good luck in your endevor and I hope only the best for you.....

  2. HeartFire2 | | #2

    Do you want to sew from home or work for someone?I worked for the Ballet for a while, it's unionized, so the pay was $12.50/hr - and like the previous poster said, I didn't want to look at a sewing machine when I got home. But I really did enjoy working at the ballet, great people and lots of fun. as well as free tkts to the ballet!If you work for someone else - alterations or whatever, you will be working on industrial machines. Do you have any experience with them? very different from a home machine.If you work for yourself what sort of sewing will you do? Alterations? that makes good money, business suits? dressy stuff? will you do this as a real business and pay taxes or under the table?

    1. pins13 | | #5

      I want to sew from home as a business.

      I would prefer to do specialized sewing -- bridal, childrens clothing or costumes.

      No, I have not sewn on an industrial machine only home sewing machines.

      Speed is what I need --- and at the moment I am considering buying an industrial machine.

      So far I have gotten a double edge sword of advice on this career change -- it would be good to do something you enjoy but bad because to much of a good thing can burn you out and make you not enjoy it anymore.

      I think at the most what everyone is telling me is maybe do it part time.

      Thanks for the info ladies and I will consider it in making a decision.

      I know that this is reality -- but surely someone can tell me something positive.


      Pins 13

      1. HeartFire2 | | #6

        If this is really what you want, then you should look into joining PACC - Professional Association of Custom Clothiers
        You could get a lot of very realistic and helpful information from them

        1. pins13 | | #9

          Thanks -- I will take a look at this!

          Pins 13

      2. gogojojo | | #7

        Hi pins, I can say something positive about sewing as a career:  the best job I've ever had (and I've had a ton of jobs) was sewing for a sail loft/marine canvas shop in Mississippi.  We would go to the marina and custom fabricate boat awnings, covers, enclosures, etc.  We also repaired or restitched anything vinyl or canvas- pool covers, jeep tops, etc.  What a tremendous sense of satisfaction it is to create something professional looking for a customer.  I loved getting up in the morning and looked forward to work.  After two years, I wasn't even close to the "burn-out" that others spoke about here on this board.  And truthfully, the money was very good.  I can't speak for the garment industry, but boat/yacht owners tend to have plenty of money and will pay just about anything for custom work.

        I had to relocate to another state, and no longer have a sewing related job.  The job I have now is an office job and well paying, but I wish I was sewing for a living, even if it means a pay cut!  I am in the process of doing market research in order to start my own business here, and am determined to make it work.  I guess my point is, it can be done...you CAN make a living sewing.......and love it, too!

        1. pins13 | | #8

          Thank you so much for something positive!!!!

          You have given me an idea-- that maybe if I look for the not obvious sewing specialty, I could find a niche business and maybe that's a way to make a good living!

          Thanks again!

          Pins 13

          1. thimbles1260 | | #10

            I can't speak from my own experience but I have a friend who has done very well in the sewing business.  She began doing alterations in her home, moved into altering wedding dresses and formal wear and finally opened her own bridal shop.  She now has two alteration ladies working for her (I helped out part time one summer).  Their money wasn't so good, but she is doing fine.  I think the key was opening her own shop in a great location and hours and hours of customer service.

          2. mainestitcher | | #11

            Most of the work that put food on my table for the last 30 years was sewing. The pay wasn't princely, but enough to satisfy me.I started in an alterations shop. I performed alterations in a chain clothing store, a department store (Jordan Marsh) and sixteen years in a local mens' specialty clothing store. The local specialty store paid best. I think the seamstress still there makes somewhere near the median hourly wage for our state ($14 an hour). I've worked for two local bridal shops and one of the chain bridal stores. The chain store actually had the best working conditions, and the lowest pay of the three, (i think it was about $11 an hour this summer) I don't have a lot of business accumen. I do sew out of my home, but I've never seen enough business to allow me to quit my day job. I'm currently doing alts for a dry-cleaner. A younger woman who worked with me years ago does now have her own bridal and special occasion dress business, and one other woman who started out with one of the local bridal shops has a business re-styling, or drastically altering, special occasion and bridal dresses. There are lots of women supplimenting their income working out of their homes,and have the freeom to do what they love, and the security to turn down jobs that aren't interesting. My boss recently had a talk with me about what is a reasonable output of work by the seamstresses. Currently, the average seamstress wage is 60-80 per cent of the billing for her work. The seamstresses are unhappy with their pay. This is not enough for the business, as a whole, to make a profit. He is considering raising prices, or requiring a certain productivity level. Googling "median wage 2005" with the name of my state produced an interesting web site for wages of many professions.

            Edited 12/6/2006 8:12 pm ET by mainestitcher

          3. pins13 | | #12

            Thanks for the great feedback!

            It has been a very good discussion.

            Lots of things to consider -- pros and cons-- part time or full time -- solo or working for someone.


            Pins 13

          4. suesew | | #13

            See if your library has or can get you a copy of "Sew up a Storm: all the way to the bank" How to Succeed in a Sewing Related Business by Karen L. Maslowski. It is very informative and will give you lots of insight to the many ways people can sew for a living. It really helps to have a spouse who actually makes a living and has benefits. That is how I manage to keep sewing - whatever comes in the door and doing alterations for a local shop and costumes for a local theatre. In a small rural city, if I didn't diversify, I would have a lot of time on my hands. I do have an industrial machine, but I use my trusty Viking for most of my work. I also have a serger and a blind hemmer.

          5. KathleenFasanella | | #14

            If you were interested in making samples, prototypes and duplicates, you'd stay very busy. All the designers I know are always looking for good sample makers. The least you'd make is $10 an hour but I think 12-15 is more typical. Of course, if you had years of experience making samples, you could get $25 an hour. But then, if you did, you wouldn't be posting here :). If you're interested in getting into that, see if there are any pattern makers in your area, call and introduce yourself, arrange to bring over a sample. We're the ones most likely to hook you up or hire you ourselves (subcontracting). If you know how to check a pattern and can speak up about it, that'd make you even more valuable. I dread even looking for someone. I've had some bad experiences.

  3. Alexandra | | #3

    I used to sew home dec but made the career change BACK to office work.  Firstly, the pay is more, paid sick leave, paid vacation, paid stats, paid breaks.  I suppose you could make loads of money if you were able to sew 15 - 18 hour days, 6 - 7 days a week.  I wasn't able to commit to that much.  Also, you make a mistake you have to replace the fabric on your dime.  Some of the stuff I was sewing was mucho dinero.  I love sewing and learned lots with my business but wouldn't go back to it unless all I wanted was pocket money.  Now I sew what I want, when I want, no pressure, more fun.

    Good luck

    1. pins13 | | #4

      Good information.


      Pins 13


  4. alotofstitches | | #15

    I formerly was a member of PACC and I still have my business.  It cost big $ to go to the conferences plus time away from your business/work.  I was never able to go for both reasons.  It didn't meet my need for referrals either although I did learn a great deal from fellow members in online discussions.  I started my business by having business cards printed and distributed by fabric stores and dry cleaners.  I also wore my work and gained business that way--all word of mouth.  Starting out I worked minimum wage and long hours to establish my business and steadily increased my hourly rate as business increased.  We have ONE fabric store locally so I am forced to shop online to meet my customers'needs.  I'd much prefer to buy locally but chain stores sell home/dec and quilt.  I encourage clients to purchase quality natural fibers because they are making an investment in my labor charges--the clothing needs to last a long time.  So far I'm still hanging on and stay busy and getting my desired wage.  Lately I've had several calls for "womens' fancy dresses" to be made for men and some men wanting fancy suits.  I'm not set up and don't want to be set up for that because I work out of my home but it does seem to be a growing need.  Alterations is needed--I could do that all day long, every day but I'd be foul tempered too, so I limit it to bridal and formal wear only.  The Home/dec business is booming and they do make the money.  Email me directly and I can give you mmore info.

  5. jaeng | | #16

    I was a sample maker for awhile in NYC.
    They paid me $13/ hour but that was years
    ago (evening-wear which made of Chiffon & delicate fabrics)
    I worked a few days at designer's store
    and worked at home a few days... I just love
    sewing, they can pay me anything, he he he.Check also at website (mostly jobs in NYC- scroll down to
    almost bottom for sample maker)
    http://www.wwd.com/classifiedsGood Luck, I envy your passion.

    1. pins13 | | #17

      Thanks I will check it out.

      Contract sewing may be a good gig!


      Pins 13

    2. KathleenFasanella | | #18

      At $13 an hour, I believe it when you say it was years ago! One of my designers claims he pays about $200 a dress. He's using a small contractor, obviously a bridge line, highly specialized. I couldn't believe the pricing but he says that the rents are so high (no rent control for businesses).

      1. jaeng | | #19

        I couldn't even remember when I started the job but I was still
        there at 9/11... I didn't feel I was underpaid, may be because
        I love sewing job so much. But things got complicated a last.
        My boss fired everyone in the company except me then I have to
        do everything such as getting fabrics from garment district,
        getting her dry cleaning clothes,taking fabric to dye, do her
        banking, etc. Finally I have no time to sew!

  6. mjjudas | | #20

    Hi Pins:  I just saw a link in another discussion that may be worth checking out too:


    Apparently, this place was mentioned in a Time magazine article and her goal is

    "First Samples sewing studio is here to give you the opportunity to go from ideas and dreams to reality. It is a place to uncover the secrets of the sewn world around you and a place to learn the art and craft of garment making. First Samples is growing with you. We are trying to attract the best talent this little town has to offer and serve it up to you on a plate. So dig in! "  

    This is a quote from her website.  Now you may not be near Austin but you may get some ideas. 

    You also may not be interested in designing and creating your first sample BUT I saw under her :links/news", then textiles... there was a small design company's guide to wholesale fabrics.  At the bottom were other resources that may have some additional information that could  help you research a career change, including "fashion for profit".

    I hope you succeed - I would love to sew for profit too.  Just on my terms!!  LOL!


    Edited 12/15/2006 1:40 pm ET by mjjudas

    1. pins13 | | #21

      Thanks so much for the advice and the web sites info!

      I have gotten some great feedback -- pro and con

      Armed with all this information will make the research easier.


      Pins 13

      1. user-202358 | | #22

        I would encourage to go to your local ASG group or look for a local Professional group.  I have local group called Professional Dressmakers Association which is really good for support and help when you get in a bind.  In the past I have helped out colleages when they had an emergency and illness.   I have also had a business for 18 years and been a member of PACC for 8 years.  I am sewing smarter and making more money because of what I learn from PACC Conferences and networking with other business women around the country.  Conference cost is minimal compared to any other business (approx. $400).  I have always found it to be rejuvenating and encouraging to receive information to better my business.  As with anything -- the more you put in, the more you can get out;  conference, business or personal.  If you don't like to learn then sewing is not for you.  This is a constantly evolving business and you need to keep up with new fabrics and all those notions!

        Having your own business, being your own boss does have its disadvantages but it also has many rewards.  I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have. 

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