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How to set sewing prices

Kbrane | Posted in General Discussion on

Hello All,

I’ve done quite a bit of sewing (creating/altering patterns) and altering ready to wear for myself and my family, but I have recently taken on a project to make a lady a costume….I get good results, but do so very slowly. How would you recommend I set my prices so I don’t charge her a ridiculous fee, but I am compensated for my time? I don’t want to put in 50 hours of work for nothing, but neither do I want to overcharge her.

Thanks for your suggestions!


  1. starzoe | | #1

    There have been multiple postings about setting a price for sewing. Use the search on this site to find it, or maybe someone has it at their fingertips.Rule 1 seems to be to set the price before you accept the job.

  2. mainestitcher | | #2

    Please don't surprise her with the price.Last summer, a woman I know made a wedding dress for a customer, and set a price at the beginning of the process. The bride made change after change, and the seamstress agreed to the changes in design. This seamstress always talks of herself as the consummate professional.It finally came down to the week of the wedding. Colleague came in with picture of the dress, and asked, "Do you think 'Y' is a fair price for this?" AHRGGGG! She had never discussed the price of backtracking and changing the design of the dress already partly sewn, or the many new details the bride wanted to include!I don't know what she eventually charged. If she went with the original price, she probably made less than minimum wage. If she tried to charge what the dress should have sold for...the bride and her mom likely would have felt ripped off, and likely pointed out this had never been discussed. Either way, I suspect she ended up looking like "the lady down the street who sews" instead of a professional.If you think this might lead to more work, and you want to give her a reduced rate and tell her this outright, explain you consider it advertising.Mind you, you might consider $10-12 an hour a fair wage, but heating and cooling your room, burning your lights, powering your iron, wear and tear on your machine, will significantly cut into your profit.

  3. beo | | #3


    I too, do alterations and custom sewing and have the same problem regarding setting prices.  I am a perfectionsist and probably spend too much time trying to make things just right.  The best tactic I can recommend is to give a pretty wide estimate of  what the finale price will price be (nerver give a quote over the phone) and watch very carefully the client's reaction.  If she registers mild surprise, explain simply, that there is more involved than what the sees.  If see seems shocked, suggest that the highest priced retail store in your area might be just the place to shop. 

    1. terijo | | #4

      I have watched this discussion with great interest. - I empathize so well with yours and other comments. I used to constantly undersell my expertise, as if I was grateful for the attention, then shocked at generosity or miserliness! I started to consider the other things involved in my work beside the money. The pride, self-esteem, joy in helping or pleasing others, etc. and decided that what I really want is an ethical business transaction, wherein both of us benefit. I'm finding it works! When approached with a new project, after discussing the details of the work, I simply say that when the job is complete, I trust they will treat me fairly. At that time, I certainly have the opportunity to back out, but I never, ever have. I've found folks who shy away from the uncertainty, cannot afford (or aren't even aware of) an appropriate price, but always, I have found magic! I've been shown much more generosity than ever expected, experience enormous pride in my work and in my contribution to a more ethical marketplace. Yes, we all need to make a living. We all should be paid fairly for work performed, and we all deserve respect and acknowledgement for our knowledge and talent. However, we are all just as responsible for respectful financial transaction, which is so sorely lacking in the American marketplace today. I am just saying, it all comes naturally if we go with our instincts and do the right thing.

      1. beo | | #5

        Thank you.  Apart from training myself to truely appreciate the service I render, come the first of the year, when a long time seamstress retires (she will be refering her customers to me), I will have to re-train her customers regarding prices because I know she charges a bare minimum.  Also, I am considering hiring a casual helper...someone to do basic alteration and repair tasks.  How should I go about paying this person?

        1. jjgg | | #6

          I think the very first thing you need to look at when considering hiring someone to work for you is the state and local tax laws, IRS laws about hiring an employee, tax withholdings etc. Also, what about your business insurance, will it cover a garment if this person destroys it? is this person working at your place or at their home? It can get very complicated in hiring an employee.

      2. jjgg | | #7

        wow, I wish my electrician and plumber would work this way!

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