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Conversational Threads

Sewing as a full or part time busines…

thimble_ | Posted in The Archives on

dear friends,

I would love to hear from anyone who runs or is thinking of starting their own sewing business as well as anyone who uses dressmakers. I am a custom dressmaker/tailor/patterndrafter who has worked full time from home for the past two years and I LOVE IT!!! The freedom and the flexibilty as well as being able to be creative. I find I spend a lot of my spare time studying fashion, cutting new and radical patterns and drooling over fabric! I think it is important to have dressmakers and tailors, but I feel that with my generation much of this will be lost in North America as there is little appreciation for it! Please share your experiences….



  1. Cecile_Moore | | #1

    Hi again, Thimble!

    congrats on your career! I am just a hobby sewer, but I have 2 cents - I think people like you are going to have to market more. It just doesn't occur to people to have their own sewing done. I have a schoolteacher friend who was bemoaning the fact that all the teachers in her school show up in the same jumpers from Macy's every season. It had never occured to her to have some sewn, and it *would* never have occurred to her that it could be done for about what macy's would charge for RTW. It would be a terrible shame if bespoke dressmaking disappeared altogether. Good luck!

    1. lin_hendrix | | #2

      *Hi Thimble, Well now you've really hit a tough spot. I've been sewing/knitting since I was a little girl; I love fabric and working with textiles in general and especially garment creation. When I was going to school it was beyond me that I could make a good living in fashion design so I chose a career in electronics and integrated circuit design. When I took a year off in 1987, I attended FIDM in Los Angeles and was suprised to hear that the average fashion designer was making five years into their career what it took me ten years to do. I debated switching careers at that time and finally decided to stick with electronics because of: 1> Locations of heavy garment industry cities were not my top choice in living, 2> My seniority in my career would be hard to duplicate at my age ;), and 3> Self-confidence was lacking.However... I haven't given up toying with the idea of doing some sort of sewing/garment business entirely, although the idea of working more hours than I do now gives me the shudders. The web has certainly opened up a lot of possibilities that I'm considering like specialty fabric sales, custom drafted patterns, hard-to-find trims, sewing instruction, etc. I see a lot of sites that aren't even close to exploiting the potential of the web.My aversion to doing something like you do, Thimble, custom tailoring/dressmaking, is really just working with the public. I feel it would demand too many social skills that I (as a confirmed computer nerd) just don't have.How long have you been tailoring? How did you get into it and what made you decide to make it your vocation?thanks!--lin

      1. thimble_ | | #3

        *hello people....to answer your question lin...fashion just came my way by accident. I was all geared up to be a marketing genius, some kind of business guru...this was in Grade 11. One dayw hile sitting in Chemistry class I began to realize that I was bored stiff by all this drudgery of academics and I needed to be more creative...I dropped Chemistry and the only thing left to take that late in the semester was sewing. I looked into the class, i would be the only man amongst a classful of women, not hard to make that decision! I was an awful sewer, but I tried extremely hard and ended up just squeezing by with a passing grade! I did not stop there , i found I loved to sew, I sewed all through my summer and improved my skills tenfold...of course it helps having a grandmother who is a proffesional seamstress who started teaching dressmaking at her own school at the age of 16...so she taght me a lot! The following year I went back into sewing and believe it or not I won both the top student award and a scholarship to design school! the other girls in the class were miffed! Anyhow, onto design school i went...the next Giorgio Armani was I! yeah right! It seemed like to me the entire system of that school was geared towards turning you into a factory worker. Perhaps that is most practical in today's age but it certainly didn't help spread the art of ine dressmaking and tailoring! Which is REALLY what great designers are...dressmakers and tailors! not a bunch of snotty nosed kids with an artistic flair. The myth was that as long as you could draw or dream you could be a designer...no way, as I was soon to find out. I left school in the first year, just walked out. I went to work in a fabric store. 5 years went by and I was still at the fabric store..but i was learning new things everyday, all day long, about fabric, about sewing, about people and about my limitations. Itwas about this time Iwas approached by a company to become their head designer...I jumped at the opportunity, the fabric store had become mundane and boring, i needed something to challenge me...It was in this job that i realised I knew absolutely nothing, school had prepared me for nothing! AN alarming fact is that of an average 60 students that enter the course, 30 graduate and 7 years later on 6 or 7 remained in the fashion industry!!!! Anyways here began my journey into the wonderful world of pattern drafting. Realizing I had little experience, I began to search for books on pattern drafting. I bought entire curriculums of different schools...What a lot of crap these kids are learning, but the secret in learning lies in the teachings of tailors from the 30's to to the 60's...I have amassed a huge (enviable) collection over the past 3 years and I really for the first time ever I began to become really confident about what I was doing. I eventually left the design position to go back to the fabric store so i could continue my studying of pattern drafting, and it was about 2.5 years ago I broke out on my own. Since then I have been to London to research Saville Row tailoring and the cream of the crop in my trade. I was a little dissapointed, even on Saville Row there are few tailors and even a few of them are more RTW than bespoke...a sign of the times I suppose. Looking back at all that I think I am extremely lucky, someone is definitely watching over me. I mean I have no formal education, I have never advertised myself even once, as a matter of fact I have been out of business cards for over two months ! and I am booked solid for two maybe even three months. Word of mouth travels fast i guess!well i will stop now, I didn't realize how much I had written!byr for now!Thimble!

        1. Darlette | | #4

          *My 1st dream was to be a fashion designer. With a young son to support, I majored in Finance instead. Now my son's grown & my time is my own. I study sewing, patterndrafting, fabrics as a hobby. I am so "into" this! I just love it! I have discovered that I actually prefer the designing & fabric selection to sewing. Well, it's F'design, fab selection, p'drafting and then lastly sewing. With all the books & videos available to the home sewer, my sewing skills are the best of all those skills for now. But with formal design training, that could change. I'm studying different pattern drafting & draping books, a little at a time. But, kinda like Lin, my fear is that IF I choose the Fashion industry as my next vocation, dealing with the public will make me hate it. So I remain a passionate hobbyist for now. Just for kicks, I'd love to attend one of the Fashion design schools. Who knows... Also, my idea of the ULTIMATE birthday present is a fabric-buying excursion to Milan, Italy. Watch out, Giorgio!

          1. Anastasi_ | | #5

            *This is interesting; I'm thinking of making the transition myself. After years in computer graphics, I'm finally giving in to my true love and studying pattern making at FIT in New York. I'm just in need of guidance as to how someone older like me can get into a youth-oriented industry, and how to turn it into an independent design business. I just wish I was less insecure

          2. lin_hendrix | | #6

            *Hi Anastasi, Boy talk about youth! When I took my year off to attend FIDM in Los Angeles I felt soooo old ( and I was only 34 at the time). Everyone was twenty! What made me feel ok while going to school in this sea of young things? First off I always looked "good" when I went to class, it's fashion design school right? Not dressed up per se; I wore something that I had designed and was unusual; students and instructors noticed, I got compliments and questions about how I did some detail; this gave me more confidence that I was doing the right thing and in the right place. Second thing: I knocked myself out on all of my projects. No halfway measures. Having spent years in my career in the IC/computer industry doing design and programming gave me confidence in my creativity; most youth just don't have that! So don't let the environment get you down. One of my assignments (I forget which class) was to go out and find a real fashion designer for an interview. I found my fashion designer, a woman designing for a small sportswear company; she had been in the business for about five years and was about 30 years old. I noticed that the first pattern makers/sample makers were noticibly grayer. The impression that I got was that age didn't matter but knowing your stuff did.When I was in school several of my instructors stressed that hard work and talent were important and that *over half* of the people in class would not last! Most of my instructors were in their 40's to 50's.Anyhoo, who designs children's clothes? I can't imagine twenty year olds doing this. Or "Women's" lines? Many of my instructors had small design houses on the side. Remember that ALL clothing is designed. As far as starting your own design business? If you get to California look into Loes Hinse boutique. She's the creator of Textile Studio patterns and is a marvelous example of an independent design business (she's not twenty either). Other good examples abound in nearly every issue of Threads (Lois Ericson, Linda Lee, Fred Bloebaum to name a few). Being in NY or LA really helps!Don't know if my ramblings contributed to you but I hope so and good luck!--lin

          3. Karin | | #7

            *Hello everyone, I'm new to this thread but I'm a dressmaker/ patternmaker here in Melbourne Australia. I have been running a home business for about 11 years now and have loved the freedom and flexability of working from home especially when my children were small. They are teenagers now and I am swamped with work and the best form of advertising is word of mouth. Always look professional and confidant even on the days when you may feel in doubt. Never let a client pick up on your doubts if you have any, with regards to any particular design or fabric. Just agree with them and panic after they've gone.

          4. AmyBlanche | | #8

            *I have been sewing full time for a few years now. I went to school for fashion design but being that I live in Cleveland, there is not much in that line of work so I do alterations and custom work. I have worked in dry cleaners and bridal shops. I just had an interview with The Cleveland San Jose Ballet for seamstress in the costume department. All you sewers keep your fingers crossed for me and say a prayer to the sewing gods that i get this job. AmyBlanche

          5. Bill_Stewart | | #9

            *Thimble, glad you have joined the ranks. I am a tailor/custom dress maker of 45 years experience, and I still find the thrill of a new idea, fabric,etc just as stimulating now as way back then. There will always be a need for us, as we don't all fit perfectly into those size 8's. As a man, I seem to odd man out nowadays. Men don't become tailors as they once did - my father was a tailor. My big regret is not having someone to pass all the practical experience along to. Just keep on trucking and enjoying the experience - it never gets old.

          6. thimble_ | | #10

            *HELLO PEOPLE, Thank you for your input. It seems a number of people really would like to pursue careers in the art of sewing in one avenue or another. I think that that is amazing. My friend who is a tailor is forever telling me that tailoring is a wonderful rewarding art, "You'll nevr be Rich" he says" but you'll never go hungry either!"That pretty much says it. Amy I wish you the best of luck in pursuing your new career...I hope you got the job!Well keep on sewing...Ravi!

          7. TAGR | | #11

            *It's very interesting how we sometimes "fall" into the designing/patternmaking business. My Mom taught me to sew when I was in early grade school and in high school I was helping the home ec teacher teach her sewing class. Then I went to college to earn a Home Ec Secondary ED degree but only got as far as the end of my sophomore year. (I married a guy in the Air Force and we went overseas.) The only classes I'd had towards sewing were a textile class and a costume design class. The latter was taking a basic store bought pattern and cutting it up to make our own designs. Later I worked in a fabric store for several years but wanted my own business. Because my husband was in the military (now retired), we weren't in one place long enough to really get anything started. After we retired,I tried advertising for sewing/aterations customers but they were few and far between. Then I got a call from a gal 120 miles away from a small town (I live in a city of 150,000) who has a small dress company and needed seamstresses. Since then, I've been using what little knowledge I got in college, a lot of research at the library and trial and error to make the patterns for her designs and grade them into the various sizes. It's been exciting and we have no idea how many rules we've broken, but we think we've got a gorgeous line. We've been working together for about 3 years. There have been some ups and downs, but we are planning on going to Paris with her designs one day! WOW!

          8. Sandra_M._Brown | | #12

            *Thimble and lin hendrix, you are both amazing. I loved both of your histories. They are very inspiring. When I graduated from high school in the '60s, I could not tell you the name of even one African-American fashion designer. In addition to not having any "role models", I, like lin, did not realize that one could make a good living with sewing! I started sewing in junior high school when all the girls were forced to study sewing and cooking regardless of their major or desire and all the boys took shop (am I dating myself?). For a long time, I thought of sewing as a nice hobby, but I never thought that I was good enough to do anything with it. Like you, I am mostly self taught. Many years removed from junior high school, I starting sewing again for my daughter and for myself. With encouragement and praise from friends, I began to realize that I was on to something but needed more training. Therefore, I started practicing and buying books. Despite making my share of duds, I could see that I was getting a lot better and, as a result, gained more confidence. In the last few years, it has gotten a lot easier because there are several good sewing and fashion shows on cable, I have been able to identify many more good books, and videos, of course, bring hard-to-describe techniques right into your sewing room where you can rewind, pause, and study them to your little heart is content. When I discovered Threads, that opened up a whole world of information.lin hendrix, I think you should go for it. I would love to do what thimble is doing and work full time at sewing. My goal is to try to move into that arena. I would appreciate hearing from other people who are sewing for others from their homes, either full time or part time. Since I currently live in an apartment, I would like to hear from anyone who has been able to start a sewing business from an apartment. It is a little harder than having your own house because you usually have less space and more restrictions.Thanks to all of you. I have learned so much from following these threads.

          9. thimble_ | | #13

            *dear Sandra,thank you for your kind words....I want to let you know that I DID start sewing from my small apartment. It was quite a riot. I would cut on my 40" round table...yes that was a nightmare! And I had a huge industrial machine set up in the dining room...I look back now and I see how spoilt I have become....I remember sewing pants and shirts, cutting them out on the hall way floor...sewing them together in the cramped confines of my laundry room!...now I have huge tables and a great workroom filled to the brim with neat stuff and equipment and I still have no room! Well Progress I guess.Thimble!

          10. Tanusa_ | | #14

            *Hello! I just wanted to thank everyone for such inspiring thoughts. After earning a degree in Journalism and working in corporate public relations for a few years, I'm making a career change into designing children's wear. Drastic, I know, but exactly what I need! Not living my dream was depressing. I think some people feel I've lost my mind (including myself at times). It's wonderful to read about so many people earning a living doing what they love. It just confirms the belief in my heart that I'm doing the right thing. I'm in the process of applying to FIT to study fashion design formally. Currently, I'm making children's clothes and selling through a gift shop. Anastasi, I was excited to read that you're attending FIT. I'm applying for the Spring semester -- wish me luck! Happy sewing everyone!

          11. Anastasi_ | | #15

            *Hi Tanusa, I guess I'll see you next semester. I have to save up a little for tuition since I'm an out-of-state resident. What I'd like to do in the meantime is: try to get my quilts sold. Has anyone had any luck with EBay? I need much more stock to work craft fairs, but I'm trying to find shops in the Northern NJ area.

          12. Rita_Sue_Rouse | | #16

            *So you feel this is youth-oriented industry. Wellist's not. I am 45 and started back in my full time design business. For the last 12 years I have been a full time costumer for a University. I learned alot there but my health didn't hold up. Start at the community college level and learn what you will need to start your business out of your home. Get help from your local Small Business Groups and also consult a reputable tax person. I find this work the most rewarding and I have the house to myself most of the day and can do what I want to do. I also got the local Newspaper to run an editorial on me about the new business of sewing in my area. It was free advertising. Also talk to the American Sewing Guild in your area or members. Also if you are wanting business or getting back into sewing work part time for a Dry Cleaners. Hope this helps.Rita Sue

          13. e._m. | | #17

            *Hi,I have read with great interesst the "sewing as a business" post and wonder if anybody has a home dec sewing business (home based or otherwise)and how successful it is. If anybody has any tips or suggestions, I would sure appreciate that. I have sewn out of my home off and on for others for nine years. I've done dressmaking, alterations and home decorating items. I have found alterations and home dec least stressful and I want to narrow things down a bit more and specialize. I am basically self taught, with help from my mom and some classes and lots of books. Any ideas would be helpful.Thanks,e.m.

          14. Gayle_Condit | | #18

            *I design and make skating costumes. Most are one of a kind. I started out very small however things have been growing in leeps not bounds. I have to make a decision as to whether I stay small just me or get bigger. I live in a rural area of Mass. so the possibility of inexpensive good help is out. I am looking for someone interested in doing some pattern designing or pattern making for me. This is the area I am both the weakest in and haven't the time for any help would be great. Also always looking for anyone who has lycra for sale. Don't always need large yardage as I said most dresses are one of a kind.Gayle

          15. kdean | | #19

            *Thimble....you are truly a brave and resourceful soul. I too went to school in Fine Arts and you are right, you do not learn the real information in school, although my school tried with seminars about promotion and art photography etc and one professor led an independent study on putting together a show, press releases and all. I am a painter, potter, sculpter and seamstress...but make a living in the computer business as 'that is where the money is'. (Aren't parents wonderful?) My plan was always to give it 5 years...time to have all of my pensions and 401k vest....and then I launch myself out into the world of creativity. I think that I do have an advantage as I have been in the business world for awhile and that gives you a certain tempering that is valuable in the real world of creative whatevers. Lin I am like you a certified computer nerd with some limited social skills. I just want to tell you that there are classes out there for 'soft skills'. Obviously the continuing education that you would normally pursue, I presume, will not have these classes. But there are lots of places to find that information, which is what it is. Contact Fred Pryor Seminars or the National Seminar Group to acquire some of the social/people skills that you think that you lack and puruse them the way you would pursue new circuit designs.

          16. cguarducci | | #20

            *Dear Gayle, I too live in a rural area of Mass,in the Berkshires. Don't know if you are in this area or some other part of Mass, but if you have any great places or resources for fabrics, etc. please let me know. I have lived here 3 years and can't find the type of shops that I used to enjoy just going into, sometimes just because of the people. Best of luck in your endeavor! I am envious - how did you get the courage to try it and how did you start?Catherine

          17. Carol_F. | | #21

            *Catherine and Gayle--where are you in rural Masssachusetts? I'm a Berkshires native who is trying to relocate to that area by next year--I really miss it! However, I am currently living in an urban area on the west coast, and have at least a few places to buy good fabrics, so I'll miss that if I come back. You could travel to NYC and spend a day or so in the garment district--there's lots to look at and bargains to be had there if you take the time, especially in specialty items like lycras that are hard to find in more remote locations. Also, mail-order and online ordering might work for you. GOod luck! Hope to be back in your neck of the woods soon!

          18. Cal | | #22

            *Hi everyone, I would like to know if anyone out there that sews for "OTHERS" feels unappreciated at times. I live in a small town and I find myself always explaining why my prices are as they are. I am getting very discouraged and am seriously considering a Leave of Absence. My husband, children and former clients keep me going. Am I the only one out there feeling this way?

          19. Sarah_Kayla | | #23

            *I just had a pair cranky client here last night. I delt with them by telling them that it looked like they wanted something off the rack instead of getting custom work. I told them that they would save money if they went that route and that I had no hard feelings about it. BOY did they change their tune FAST!!. I even got a nice phone call from the mom on my machine today. If folks seem to be truly awful i tell them that the project will be too difficult to do or somehow beg off. A contractor pal told me to factor in the pain in the a** factor for certain clients. for some it can be even up to double your usual fee. With others it is better to give up the income because of the toll it takes on your guts. I beg off jobs that will be awful. I don't regret any of them. the one time I did not beg off a job i should have declined still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. I will never do t

          20. lin_hendrix | | #24

            *Hello Cal, I can understand your sentiments. In addition to sewing I knit "art" sweaters. I've had people stop me and demand that I knit them a copy of a sweater I'm wearing; they say they'll gladly pay $100 for it! This is a sweater where the yarn alone cost over $200. When I tell them this they always look at me like I'm trying to steal from them! And I don't even want to knit for some fool off the street. Sheesh! One suggestion might be to print up a simple, small fact sheet with an explanation of your charges... nothing defensive just factual like " It takes an average of two hours to hem pants, at $17 for this service you're getting labor cheaper than Burger King" or "My equipment needed to give you, my customers, professional results costs $x"Leave a small stack of these lying in a prominent place (on that little table near your business cards?) with a chair nearby. When meeting a customer make an excuse about having to leave the room and "Won't you please have a seat?" Take off just long enough for them to look at or pick up the flyer. If your charges still seem unreasonable to them then you *really* don't want their business.--lin

          21. Virginia_Crawford | | #25

            *Dear Cal, don't fret and don't feel bad. I think most of us come up against the same problem all the time. Lately I've found that I feel more indignant than upset by the people who baulk at my prices. They percieve dressmaking as being a hobby rather than a highly skilled, income generating business. They think that the garment will be 'home-made' and therefore cheaper than going to a 'designer' or even to a retail store. Because I care so much about my work, every time someone questions my prices I feel it as a personal attack. I immediately wonder if I'm doing everything wrong, and if I should discount the price just for them. This is an almost completely emotional reaction. To snap back into reality, I ask myself this question: "With what that person was willing to pay me, would I have been able to cover my overheads and feed and shelter myself for the number of hours it would've taken to make the dress?" Sometimes we just have to let those people go. Don't consider it a loss; if they were edgy about your price over the phone then they're liable to be difficult clients anyway, and may not even be able to pay on completion of the job. You'll know yourself if the service you provide is worth the cost, within the context of your local market. Mine is, but every now and then I still have to remind myself why. Think of your past achievements, and the time, effort and skill you put into your work. It will all be okay. You ARE worth it.V.

          22. silkscape_ | | #26

            *Thimble, I would be interested in hearing anything you'd like to share about your business. I have been in business for about 2 1/2 years. I started when my husband's boss asked me to alter suits for her(!) Now, I am into some designing of my own, especially for girls, occasional custom work, and some small production for boutiques. I've also taught a couple of classes. Right now, I really am going in too many directions and I know I need to narrow my focus, but I need more time to determine what to concentrate on. I enjoy creating my own designs best, but not mass producing them. I also enjoy teaching a lot because I am very passionate about sewing. I have no "official" training. I learned from friends and reading. since I have been purchasing more and better equipment, I haven't really made any money yet. But I love it, and I like being independent.I have a website (a grad school project of my brother's) at http://www.idsi.net/~ppeters I'll take any advice on the business you'd like to dish out. thanks!

          23. silkscape_ | | #27

            *Virginia, I really enjoyed, and appreciate your pricing pep talk. I find the same attitudes with my handmade garments and accessories. However, the few who do appreciate the quality and workmanship make up for the rest. Also, Thimble, you said that dressmaking may be a dying art. I am optimistic, though. I sense that some clients that come to me for alterations do so because they on some level value the personal service and "old-fashioned" relationship between women that must have developed and centered around the creating of clothes for eachother. I often say "I can't compete with Walmart". But perhaps a better attitude is "I don't want to compete with Walmart. what I offer is in no way related to what can be had at walmart, or any other chain store for that matter" Gosh, it feels good to vent this. I just spent the day at the only craft fair I do each year, watching people admire things then look at the price and disappear! Best wishes to you both.

          24. Chris_Knoblock | | #28

            *Hi Thimble and everybody. I got out of custom dressmaking because I got fed up with having to educate my clients all the time. I now work for a bridal shop. We do alterations and custom. But because I have a boss between me and my clients, this works best for me. I love the creating involved in dressmaking--just not the clients.Chris.

          25. Virginia_Crawford | | #29

            *Hey everybody! Dawn, you're absolutely right - the 20% make up for the 80%. I do costume work as well as ordinary made-to-measure, and I find that the more adventurous and experimental clients are the ones that make the job fun. I think your 'Walmart' example shows a really good way of looking at our business. Your situation sounds quite similar to mine - self-taught, building up equipment and resources, and the inclination towards teaching. What courses have you run? I haven't started doing that yet, although I'd like to in the future. At the moment I'm concentrating on bringing my business up to full-time status, which is taking quite alot of energy. Choosing exactly what to focus on and how was difficult, but gave me a better, more income-generating business structure. I focus mainly on women's formalwear (bridal, evening, etc) with some costume and daywear. Cheap clothing imports from places like China have had a huge effect on the spending habits of most New Zealanders, making them turn their noses up at dressmaking prices more than they used to. Ah, well. I look forward to hearing from you again, V.

          26. Stacey_Smith | | #30

            *I am thinking of starting a sewing business in my home.I have had some work that was sub-contracted to me but am really looking for some tips about how to go about starting a sewing business. I saw that several of you ladies have a lot of experience in this area. Is there any advice you would give me? I live in Eastern TN as a contrast to many of you who appear to live in the Northeast. Do any of you live near here?I would love to have anything any of you would be willing to share.Stacey

          27. silkscape_ | | #31

            *Virginia,Hi! I enjoyed your message. I'm always glad to know someone else is doing it without having spent years at F.I.T.! I have taught two classes so far. One, a basic fashion sewing class, which I enjoyed immensely. We used McCalls 9093, which is a simple, very loosely fitted, nightshirt with no buttons, zippers, etc... It has a patch pocket, facings, machine-stitched hems and dropped shoulder sleeves put in "on the flat". I found that students had to be walked through layout and cutting, and that grain was hard for them to understand at first. I incorporated a couple of simple techniques not included with the pattern, like seam finishing with zigzag or 3-step zigzag, and understitching. The students really appreciated those tips, especially those that had struggled with patterns before. The nightshirts ended up fitting, and they were all pleased with results. I had 4 students, and I'd say 2 more would be max because they all went at different paces. I also did a champagne bottle bag course that was fun. I concentrated on buttonholes. It was short, though, and I liked working with the fashion sewing more. I highly recommend THE BUSINESS OF TEACHING SEWING by Marcy Miller and Pati Palmer. I* think I ordered mine from Clotilde. Also, I made student folders with intro letters, supply lists, tips for selecting fabrics, prewashing, and tips for beginners. I mailed samples of these folders to several local dealers and shops and they liked the professionalism. I also give students handouts during class to add to their folders. Its hard to remember what the teacher says without that written reminder.You are right, finding a direction is hard, but I am taking my time and have already eliminated a couple of aspects, like men's alterations/tailoring, and bridal. I think in the future I would like to concentrate on making one-of-a-kind things and finding a way to sell them for what they're worth (ahhh...that is the tricky part.)I'm sure I'll meet up with you again on the site...dawn

          28. silkscape_ | | #32

            *Stacey, My business is about 3 years old and I still don't make very much money. However, I have bought a lot of equipment, including a serger and computerized sewing machine. I started when people began asking me to do alterations. I was nervous at first but bought a book on altering women's ready to wear and worked very slowly. I have raised my fees 3 times. I tried advertising in the church bulletin with no results. Most of my business has been word of mouth. I do craft fairs once in awhile mostly to show my work and make contacts. If I give out 1 or 2 business cards I think its worth the table fee, because they will tell their friends, etc... I have been "bootstrapping", starting with family money here and there, and putting all income back into the business. But now I try to keep the family and business money completely separate. I have found that my clients really savor "old-fashioned" personal service. I also do a newsletter with little tips about finding quality clothes, how to press velvet, info on ready-to-wear sizing, etc...Another policy of mine...if I can't afford to replace something, I don't take on the project. I also don't do bridal (too emotional and high stress and space consuming), men's (I am not comfortable with men coming to the house during the day), leather, or fur. If I can help you in any way, I will. I think we (dresmakers) will make a comeback if we support eachother, and educate people about the difference between us and walmart. People want something different and unique, too. Is there any industry in TN you can tap into? How about embroidery of horse peoples' apparel and accessories? Buy as many sewing as a business book as you can, each one has something different to offer. Good luck and let us all know how you are doing.dawn

          29. Betty_Kershner | | #33

            *I started by volunteering for school plays and making costumes at a nearby garden museum. As people saw my work they called. I live in a very small village. There aren't many here that want alterations so I'm it. I don't make a living but it supports my bad habit of spending :)

          30. thimble_ | | #34

            *hey cal,here is a good story for you. A young lady came to see me last week desperately in need of an outfit for her Xmas party in a week's time. First of all she shows up with a picture of a model who looks nothing like her...then she goes on to tell me she is using a very expensive 4 way stretch(no problem), and that she has no pattern(no problem either...just more work..and fittings..which she has very little time for). So i have to copy a garment from a size 6 model and make it fit a size 12 using a very slinky stretch fabric that has to be cut just so, so that we see things that aren't there and don't see things that are...capice...and remember only one fitting if I am lucky! So I quote her $200 maybe a little more (top and pants by the way)...here's the kicker...she tells me it is way too much and that she already has a woman who is willing to do it for $100. What the $%$#^% is she wasting my time for?Why am I telling you this? Well I was very discouraged when she left, not because I lost an order but because some hack out there who obviously has no appreciation or love for her own work and time is making a mockery out of me and my work and everyone like me...people who like what we do and doo it well becasue we love it! I felt bad but at the end of the day it is about pride. I have pride in my work and in who I am because of it...if it means that this month I drink cheap wine then so be it...I am better for it. But I think of myself as a better person now doing what I love than the person I was before, making money in a situation where my heart was absent.

          31. thimble_ | | #35

            *I 'd like to say....don't run your business like I run mine...that is to say don't go on holiday for a year right when you are growing the most...that is what i did...I am better for it though...or so I keep telling myself!thimble

          32. Virginia_Crawford | | #36

            *Hi Stacey! Apparently a message I posted a while ago has gone AWOL, and this is the only part of it I remember - for marketing and general business ideas you can't go past the Guerrilla Group books. "Guerrilla Marketing", "Guerrilla Marketing Attack" and "Guerrilla Negotiating" are three I've read, and there's a website too - do a search for 'guerrillagroup' (and make sure you spell it right!) They give all sorts of cheap but effective ideas for advertising to your target market. Tell us how you're doing. V.

          33. Ocrafty1 | | #46


            I think you're great...I've read a lot of your posts and they are always helpful.  I too am starting my sewing business from my home, again.  Please don't be too hard on the semstress that undercut your quote.  Perhaps, he/she is just starting and hasn't figured out what to charge just yet.  I am still trying to figure out what the market will bear in my small town.  I recently made a gorgeous wedding dress (see pix in 'knife pleats' http://forums.taunton.com/tp-gatherings/messages/?msg=8911.23) for way below what it was worth, and I did it for 2 reasons: I wasn't really sure what to charge, and I wanted to get my name out.  I gave the bride a discount to pass out my cards to everyone she knew in her Latino community.  It is really hard to get started in a small community without funds to advertise.  I recently got a call from an advertiser who wanted to charge me over $1K to advertise in 3 area phone books. What a bargain!  LOL 

            I have a price list made up, but I find it hard to stick to it.  I am a softie for wanting to help people to have the garment that they want if I know that I can do it for them. I also re made a wedding gown this yr. for a gal that brought me a size 20 gown and needed the bodice adjusted for a 68" bust.  I did that one cheaply also.  I know I should have charged more...but she really didn't have much $$ and every bride deserves to have a wedding gown.  Maybe I'm in the wrong business....but I feel like 'what goes around, comes around' and maybe something will 'come around' back to me, one way or another.


          34. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #47

            Deb, I am with you on what goes around comes around.  What you need to remember about word of mouth is that you want the right word.  When you do a "favour" for a client, make sure she understands the favour is for her "only."  The expectation is that her word of mouth is your quality of work.  There is nothing wrong with doing pro bono work for service to the community.  Lawyers do it all the time.  We can do it too.  A client on the downside now can become a loyal client on the upside later.  Cathy

          35. maggiecoops | | #48

            Hi Cal, I only just found this thread, and have been reading all the letters with interest. I had a home dressmaking business for a few years, I pattern drafted, designed, but no alterations, too time consuming. Those who felt I should be happy with a few pennies pin money were politely shown the door. If they asked why, I would explain their need was not mine, I had the skills they lacked and  my prices were as stated. They were welcome to go elsewhere. Unfortunately I grew to detest sewing, partly because I could no longer deal with those clients who thought new deoderant on old made up for not showering. Then explaining to those who arrived with cheap fabrics why they couldnt have the little strapless number with the built in foundation garments using the fabric they had picked up in a bargain bin. It was a good decade after I decided to stop before I started garment  construction again. This time for pleasure.

            Besides garment construction, I did artwork to commision, having done fine arts training in the late 50s early 60s. I specialised in printmaking using etching as my chosen media. Because I didnt have a studio, some clients would try the , little houswife dabbling in art routine, I'd point out they were soliciting my skills, and I would decide if they fitted my criteria as suitable clients. I had learnt very early on if you were in any way diffident or hesitant when asked for a price, clients would try browbeating you. But if you have confidence in your own skills and know the quality of your work is high, speak up and give your price in a confident manner. If they protest, ask them to leave, those are your prices and there is no negotiating discounts etc. You have the skills they lack, they need you so don't let bolshy clients upset you. Have a mind set change Cal, you are the one with the skills, other wise why do they come in the first place. Poor souls don't have your expertise, so don't undersell  that expertise.

          36. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #50

            Bravo Maggie!  I love the way you state your case.  You are absolutely correct.  Cathy

          37. rsew | | #51

            I totally agree with you Maggie.  I have a custom sewing/alteration business in my home and have found that many of my customers are more than willing to pay my prices just to have items they can wear comfortably.  Some customers come to me with items to be altered which have been purchased at yard sales or the local Goodwill Stores, I still charge my going rates.  Some customers will raise an eyebrow and comment "but I only paid $1.00 for these jeans."  I then explain that I still have the same amount of time and effort put into altering as I do items purchased at full price retail.  These customers are few but they do come back.



          38. damascusannie | | #52

            WELL SAID!

          39. maggiecoops | | #53

            I used to get very angry over the attitude of "you work from home so should be cheap" WHY, I still had overheads, lighting, heating, phone calls,  and my prices were calculated to cover all those incidentals clients would "forget" in the hopes you would throw in a zip, thread, stay tape, interfacings etc. Pattern drafting materials weren't free neither was the stiff card for the clients block. I had an order book which clearly recorded the clients requirements, they were entitled to 3 fittings as part of the cost and any alterations these fittings might require. Any deviation from the original specification incurred alteration costs. If the client had "forgotten" to purchase the zips, threads etc, they were given the opportunity to do so before I began the design. If they wanted me to furnish the items, the cost of my travel, purchases and time were added to the quote to be agreed before I would accept the commision. Payment had to be made at the final fitting, or the garment would not be released untill paid for. I had checked with a solicitor if I was allowed to sell the garment if payment wasn't made within a specified time. I was, so it was written in the contract. I made certain every i was dotted and every t crossed before taking on the commision. If later the client insisted they had asked for a cowl neckline not jewel, I would open my order book and point to the tyle points indicated by the client at the time of the order, and their signature . I might have worked from home, but I was a darn sight more switched on then some of my clients who thought I was just earning pin money. I knew my worth, and was not prepared to compromise for clients who wanted Haute Couture at bargain basement prices. After a while I stopped feeling anger and started feeling sorry for clients who had such a blinkered viewpoint. I have always felt, and still do, a good craftsman is worth their weight in gold, I never question the cost of quality workmanship, only the stupidly inflated prices for junk that now gets paraded as design or hand crafted.



          40. starzoe | | #54

            I think that this posting of yours should be kept on file and used as a reply to anyone who wants to start their own business working with clients (it would be good advice for any business). Well done.

          41. damascusannie | | #55

            My primary at-home business has been quilting and I have operated in much the same way that you did. If we want to be taken seriously as businesswomen, then we have to take it seriously, too. I get so angry when a person does a big job for a friend or neighbor and then doesn't even charge enough to cover their expenses. "Oh, but it's JUST quilting. I've been doing it for years." Yes, and you should get PAID for all that experience. No offense to any of the more mature women who might read this, but little old ladies are the worst. They simply will not realize that they have skills and abilities that most women don't, not to mention decades of experience, and that they are craftsmen, not "just" quilters, or knitters, or seamstresses.

          42. maggiecoops | | #56

            Hey watch it kid, I'm a little old lady LOL. I'm afraid my generation and the ones before me, were brought up to believe it was not a skill to knit, sew, crochet, make clothes, etc but a requirement for the future when they married. Such an unkind and untruthful philophosy, they weren't even seen as creative crafts. Another much misused and misunderstood word. Craft, no it doesnt mean making cards or painting glass, or any of the lets dabble our toe in the vast lake of creative crafts but don't lets learn the how or why that goes with it. I've seen people sneer at my description of myself, a Craftswoman. Oh you mean Arty and all that stuff. No I mean a Craftswoman, someone who has taken the time to learn the principles and techniques of my craft, just like a goldsmith, silversmith, cabinet maker, sculptor, bricklayer, plumber electrician.My grandmother learnt her craft from her mother and Aunts, but she knew how to knit and crochet everything and anything. I trained as an Artist, we learnt to dig up minerals and pound into dust to mix with a medium and create paints. How to make rag paper properly, how to make and bind books and tool leather, not for fun but as part of a 5 year apprenticeship that led to a two year proving or probation period, and then your masters decided if you had reached the grade required to use the title Craftswoman. I had to master draughtsmanship, calligraphy, lithography, etching, water colours, oils, pastels, carve stone, make pottery and also learn the physics that accomponied my trade, an Arts and Design Craftswoman.  My peers who had to leave school and join the ranks of the factory belt, learnt theirs, skilful knitters, garment sewing, softfurnishing, but they didnt see it as acquiring Craft skills, just womens things. So don't be too harsh with my generation, feel angered by those who exploit them, I do and am extremely voluble about it. I've  shamed many a cheapskate into repaying in kind, for the services they got for nothing. 

          43. damascusannie | | #57

            I understand why women have traditionally down-graded their contributions to the craft world. My grandmother was a very gifted artist, with almost no training, but my grandfather was easily able to squelch this in her, and she completely abandoned her drawings and paintings after hearing his negative comments. He never saw her contributions to his comfort as anything more than his due and so she never valued them, either. It is sad to know that he effectively took away any pride or joy she might have had in her gifts. I'm so thankful that my own husband is completely supportive of my quilting and knitting and encourages me to learn and grow as a fiber artist. I can't tell you how much I envy you the opportunity that you had to become a Craftswoman, with a captial "C". We really don't have anything like this in place in the U.S. although individual arts/crafts guilds do sometimes have programs for accreditation.Interestingly, I'm seeing a huge paradigm shift in society here in the U.S. because my generation largely went to work, rather than staying home, and as a result they didn't pass on basic home-making skills to their sons and daughters. My daughters are unique in their generation because they know how to cook, sew, knit...Most girls their age (early to mid 20s) seem proud of the fact that they don't know how to boil water or sew on a button. With even basic survival skills becoming a thing of the past, I've noticed that these young women are awestruck by a knitted mitten, a well-cooked meal, or a quilt. As these women learn that there's more to life than work, I think that we will see a renewed interest in traditional skills and crafts and that those who can do these things will finally be given the respect that they truly deserve.

          44. maggiecoops | | #58

            Just a few years after I finished my training, the whole scheme was abandoned as Archaic, it had followed the traditional Master and Apprentice route that Michelangelo went through, in fact all Artist Craftspeople till the mid 60s. It was replaced with a rather wishy washy course which has now degenerated into an arts media course over 2 or 3 years, such a shame. They don't even learn the principle of basic draughtmanship.  The camera replaced the paintbrush and sketch book, and the computer replaced the calligraphy pen and drawing skills. I'm not saying the kids that do the courses arent gifted or skilled, but they aren't being taught the underlaying basic principles of Art and Design, or Craftsmanship. They learn those in the work place, if others are willing to pass on their expertise and knowledge. I look at the brilliant work the Singer ladies did with a straight stitch treadle mahine and training, no one has matched them since, no one teaches those skills now, instead folks buy auto digitising software. Explain to my generation their contributions to their family and sublimating their intellect and creativety was a cruel misrepresentation of their value to society as a whole, and they think you are mad. Try to explain to a woman of slightly more mature shape, if she wants to appear trim she needs to wear structured clothing, and she looks at you as if you've lost your mind. Why, because pattern cutters aren't going through the long grinding apprenticeships they used to, consequently off the peg clothing is off the shoulder hip and bum. Shapeless, unflattering and absolutely no design elements in them at all. we are led to believe size 2 is desirable, B**S** Venus DiMilo was corpulent, beautifully plump and sexy. How can one of those androgenous stick size 2 females be attractive or womanly. No bosom, no nicely rounded belly, no scars that womanhood creates, no nicely shaped hips, and those legs, they resemble streaky bacon flapping in the wind. That's not a womans shape or sexy, just scrawny.  I do feel we were foolish to abandon all the skill sets we used to own. and those who do have them as you say, are so uncertain of their own worth, feel unable to pass them on.

            Edited 12/2/2008 5:32 pm ET by maggiecoops

          45. damascusannie | | #59

            Maggie wrote: " I look at the brilliant work the Singer ladies did with a straight stitch treadle mahine and training, no one has matched them since, no one teaches those skills now,"~~I do all my free-motion quiltng on a Singer treadle--no digitizing, usually no pre-drawn patterns, just me and my sewing machine. It's still being done in third world countries. I've seen beautifully stitched baby clothes from Peru, with hand-guided embroidery. I haven't used an electric sewing machine, except to repair someone else's, in about 15 years.It's a shame that the Craftsman program has been changed so much--that sounds much like what's happened here, too. Now a "graphic artist" spends 90% of his or her time on the computer. It's a shame, because to me, there's nothing like a pen or pencil in my hand. I don't even use computer quilt design programs because I much prefer the satisfaction of drawing out my own patterns and designs.

          46. Ocrafty1 | | #60

            I thoroughly agree with your statement that Crafts Women aren't given the same respect that Crafts men are. My DH is a journeyman carpenter and earns well over $30/hr. at Delphi, PLUS benefits..which ends up at around $50/hr.  Even when he was working out of the local union hall he was earning around $25/hr plus benefits.  When he does side work, his clients don't balk at paying the same (without benefits of course)....because he is a wonderful craftsman and his work shows it.  But if I try to charge the same for my sewing, clients scream that I am charging too much.  Of course, it doesn't help that a local sewing/alterations business only pays their seamstresses $7/hr.

            In our local economy the 'powers that be' consider $10/hr. to be a high wage. Anyone who earns more than that is part of the 'boys' club.'  After reading the posts here, I've decided to stick to my guns and raise my prices.  DH has repeatedly told me that I have the same quality of skills that he does, and should charge accordingly....but then he calls my sewing business 'your little hobby.'  I think it is because I don't make much $$.  I've never advertised because I've had several health problems this yr. and couldn't take on too many clients.  Now, with the economy in the shape it is in, I'm not sure many clients would be able to afford to have quality clothing made.  It is much easier to go to WalMart and purchase cheap, ill made clothing.  But I'm not gonna give up!

            Per teaching the next generation:  I have really tried to pass on my knowledge and expertise..such as it is.  I learned to sew through 4-H, back when it was an organization that taught young people the value of quality.  In 1st yr.; sewing straight was the goal: we made a simple drawstring apron. The judge used a seam gauge to measure the straightness of our seams. If they were off at any point, even 1/8", there were deductions. Quality and perfection were rewarded with blue ribbons or better: getting to represent your county at the State Fair. If we didn't do quality work, we got what we deserved: a white ribbon or even a green participation ribbon. We knew how well we had done and if we had just completed the project to 'get it done.' We were always encouraged to try to improve when we made our next project.

            I volunteered as a consultant to help teach techniques. I was also a judge for local counties.  What an eye opener that was!  One of the counties had only a few kids that had taken sewing as a project.  In 4th yr. there was only 1 girl who had completed her project.  The seams were crooked, not pressed, was not on the straight of grain; it was a very poorly made dress.  First, I pointed out the good things that the girl had done, then talked to her about the things she could improve upon, and gave her suggestions.  I explained to her why I was giving her a red ribbon. (It should have been white, but I didn't want to completely discourage her.)  When it came time to announce who was going to represent the county at State Fair at each level, I only named the ones that had exhibited exceptional work and diligence. That meant that out of 10 levels, I only was sending 6 to State.  The crowd was insensed!  I knew the rules: I was not required to send anyone that didn't meet the requirements.  I refused to send one 13 yr. old girl who confessed that her mother had done a difficult portion of her garment, although it was impecably done.

            The county extension agent in charge called me off to the side, and politely told me that in that county every division would send an entry to State; and if I didn't choose them, she would.  That was the last time I judged for 4-H. I was furious!  Not that she had imposed her authority, but that she had diminished the value of the 4-H motto: "I pledge my heart, my head, my hands, and my health for my club, my community and my country." This mantra requires that the member give the best of what he/she has to give in all things...not just a feeble attempt at getting something done in order to move to the next level.  It requires integrity and commitment, giving back to the community; striving to be the best person you can be. For an adult, who is supposed to uphold those principles, to revile and repeal those values; to disregard them in order to appease the children and their parents was, to me at least, an abhoration of the whole 4-H concept.  Why even have a 4-H program if we are not going to teach, expect, and demand EXCELLENCE?!!!  The extension agent had to choose the ones to go to State..I refused to send anyone who had not done their best.  Yes, I sent a couple which weren't the best quality, but by talking to the exhibitor, I knew how much effort they had put into their garment and if they had learned anything from that effort. I didn't expect an 11 yr. old to have the same capabilities that a 17 yr. old should; but I did expect a 17 yr. old to have some pride in what she had done, and be able to tell me how/why she had done certain things. 

            I remember one incident when I was 17. I had worked very hard on my corduroy suit. We didn't have a lot of $$ to buy excellent quality fabric, and my mother didn't sew, so my 4-H leader had guided me through the process.  I competed against her daughter during all of my 4-H career.  When the day of judging arrived, her daughter had made a gorgeous suit out of a beautiful wool plaid.  The judge went back and forth, between her garment and mine, trying to decide which would go to State.  I was very disappointed when she chose the other girl, but knew that she had more expertise to draw upon and accepted that she had probably done a better job....until the judge called the girl up to her and told her that before going to State, she needed to reverse her hook and eye closure.  She had put them on backwards and she would not get very far if she had not mastered a 2nd level requirement.  According to the 4-H guidelines, NOTHING can be changed after county judging before it goes on to State. It must go exactly as it was at the primary judging. Everyone in the room knew that she had put it on backwards, as the judge had pointed that out...with a laugh...during the judging process.

            I guess that was a turning point in my life. I realized that life isn't fair...even when it is supposed to be.  I vowed, WAY BACK THEN, (over 30 yrs.ago) that I would NEVER compromise those values...especially when it involves kids. It gives the wrong impression to young people who have seen enough of this kind of thing; from teachers, coaches, and especially our government officials.  I think they deserve to have at least 1 place where they are given a fair chance, no matter what/who their parents are; where they are judged on their merits alone.  It is so tragic that this institution has come to this.  Why would they want to do their best, when the playing field isn't level.  No wonder kids don't want to be in 4-H anymore...Why try to do something difficult and do it well, when just squeeking by will do? 

            I know I've been on a soapbox, but what values are we teaching our kids?!!! And what incentive do they have to learn the sewing and other skills that are going by the wayside?  I'm very optimistic that TV programs like Project Runway will inspire young people to want to learn how to sew expertly again.  It is becoming a lost art.  My daughters both know how to sew...not expertly by any means, but they have the basic techniques.  I didn't even like sewing, until I had my daughters and wanted them dressed like little dolls.  One of my daughters has 3 sons; she has started making outfits for her neices...LOL  And she was the one who "hated" me for making her take 5 yrs. of sewing in  4-H!  Its up to parents to inspire their kids...no, to require their kids to learn how to do basic living skills. Yes, doing clothing shopping well is a basic living skill, but knowing how to recognize quality is part of that skill; and the only way to do that is to know how that quality is accomplished...by doing it.

            OK, I'm off my soapbox...gotta go finish a 'gown/costume' for a client...she wants to pick it up today....Gotta finish the hems, and add the fake fur....LOL


          47. pc3 | | #61

            I worked in a design house in Florida as a seamstress and worked all day repairing the shotty workmanship on cloths they sold for hundreds of dollars. Sometimes this required taking a garment completely apart and starting from scratch. I am also a self taught embroidery designer and had been digitizing my own designs for about 5 years. One day they fired the head embroidery designer, and were desperate for someone to do there spring designs. I offered to help them out and was told because I didn't go to school, was self taught, and just a seamstress I was not qualified for the job and he hired someone who was a great artest but couldn't begin to do embroidery designs. It took him months to learn how to do the designs, there line was stalled, and I decided at that time that these people had no appreciation for my skills, and I quit and started my own business creating designs. My designs are now sold by Nancy's Notions, and other well known retailers. I am no longer fixing crappy clothing for a boss who had no respect for the talent he had working for him. And I am doing something I love to do. I also make as much and more money sitting at home in my jammys playing with my sewing machine and creating designs for people that love doing what I do. It was a great move for me.

            Pam Caldwell

            Pam's 3D Designs



          48. Susan -homedecsewing | | #62

            Hi Pam, I checked out your site and its amazing. Congrats on going out on your own. I own a Viking Rose, and am wondering if you make designs that are compatible with my machine ? I don't use it to embroider much , but have been asked to do some work for a designer , that would involve embroidery on jeans. Can you help me? I also have a home based sewing business. http://www.homedecsewing.com . Unfortunately the market has pretty much halted my biz, so I'm looking to work with another company to keep afloat. My problem is I am not very computer smart. Did you build your own website? My daughter in law built mine, but with 2 babies she is done for a while.  Susan

          49. pc3 | | #63

            What format do you use for your machine? I can convert to allmost all formats and have someone to convert to ART for me.  I was sick the year the site was built. I had surgery, and they found Ovarian Cancer, and I had just quit my job about a month before. My daughter has a friend who built sites and he did mine for me without charge. But I have just about rebuilt it myself cause there were things that needed to be fixed. It has taken 3 years but I can do almost anything on there now. But lots of trial and error and even a few tears. But I love a challange. 

            I might be able to help you with your designs. If you want you can e-mail me privetly at [email protected]  Let me know if I can help.



          50. Ceeayche | | #74

            thanks for sharing your work.  your window treatments are beautiful.  I wish you luck with your business.


          51. Ceeayche | | #64


            Darn it, I was just coming in to do quick triage and then go back to some housework I need to finish.  Your site is too-too yummy!  I'm going to have to get a glass of wine and tarry for a while.  My house will look cluttered another day, but I appreciate the diversion!  Thanks for sharing the link.

            Edited 12/7/2008 5:52 pm ET by CHL

          52. mainestitcher | | #66

            "we are led to believe size 2 is desirable, B**S** Venus DiMilo was corpulent, beautifully plump and sexy. How can one of those androgynous stick size 2 females be attractive or womanly. No bosom, no nicely rounded belly, no scars that womanhood creates, no nicely shaped hips, and those legs, they resemble streaky bacon flapping in the wind."Overheard in a fitting room, convo between two actual women-shaped women:Woman one: "Size two? size zero? What do you call a size zero?"Woman two: "B*tch."

          53. pc3 | | #67

            From someone definately not a size 0. I love it.


          54. maggiecoops | | #68

            That made me laugh out loud, thank you,

          55. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #69

            Ahhhhahahahah!  Thank you!  You just gave me my belly laugh for today!  Cathy

          56. Ocrafty1 | | #71

            LOL, That was good!  But I must say some of us who are smaller sizes do have a shape.  I have a 34DD bust, although I literally lost my rear when I lost 60 lbs. and got down to a size 4 jeans!  I'm only 5'2, so my 'bacon' legs don't go up to my neck. I got up to a size 16 pant before.  I wanted to loose a few pounds...to about a size 12...but it just kept going.  Dr. says it is wonderful for my health, and it is fun to wear skinny jeans again, but all of the clothes are made for girls, not women...and I'm over 50. 

            BTW: Sorry my last post was so long, but I get really upset over how the skills of our grandmothers are being lost and PUT DOWN by those who don't appreciate them.  I'll try not to be so verbose from now on.

          57. Ceeayche | | #73

            No need to apologize. You raised very good points.

          58. Ceeayche | | #65

            Your insights were very thoughtful and helpful!

          59. Ocrafty1 | | #38

            I just found this post....I know its been a while...but do you have a link to your business?  I've been doing custom sewing for a long time. I live near a REALLY small town in Indiana...talk about few clients!!! I've never studied pattern drafting, but I can/have made gowns from putting a VCR on pause and sketching the gown (the red one Julia Roberts wore in Pretty Woman, for my daughter's prom)  I recently got my degree in Elem. Ed., but there are no jobs in this area and the prospects are getting worse.  The nearest 'big' town has a Delphi and Chrysler plant that are laying off people by the thousands.  Any suggestions that you have will be greatly appreciated.

            BTW, I'm no spring chicken either.  I'm over 50.

          60. swannart | | #39

            I am over 50. I started a sewing business in my home over 3 years ago. The majority of my customers need clothing altered not custom made. I live in a small town in Michigan. Michigan has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation. I get a steady stream of customers. I advertise in the newspaper. Recently I tried the radio station. Most of my business come from word of mouth. Many of the customer say it is hard to find someone who sews and they dislike going to the dry cleaners. I offer fast service. I try to do simple jobs while the people wait. They like that and they don't have to wait for days. My most common alterations are zipper repair, hemming jeans and wedding and prom dress hemming. I also sew small home decor items like pillows and curtains. I make about $1000 a month most of the time sometimes more. I only work at it about 25 to 30 hours a week. My hours are 11am -6pm Tues thru Friday. You can also take in clothing alteration from near by retail stores because most of them do not have alteration department any more.
            I hope that helps! Good luck with whatever your decide to do.

          61. rsew | | #40

            Good morning.

            If you don't mind can I ask what you charge for your alterations. Do you charge

            by the hour or by the job?  I also have a sewing/alteration business in my home

            in Illinois. 

            Thank you!



          62. sewchris703 | | #41

            I do alterations in San Diego county. I charge $10 an hour for mending (resewing a seam, replacing buttons, patches, etc.) with a minimum charge of $10. Scouts and other kid groups, I charge 50 cents a patch or $10 an hour, depending on what's cheaper. For alterations, I base my prices on $20 an hour. My clients are mostly low to middle class so I keep my prices on alterations and mending low. My custom dressmaking is based on $40 an hour. I have always kept track of my time no matter what I'm sewing (even when I'm sewing for myself and family) so I always have an idea of how long it takes. My clients don't get the hourly information. They get an estimated cost up front and my final price is always within that even if I go over. I feel that it's my fault if I under estimate. On things that I'm not sure how much time it will take, I'll up my estimate.Chris

          63. rsew | | #42


            Thank you for this information.  I often feel that I am undercharging for alterations & mending.  So you have given me some food for thought.  I often encounter customers who have lost weight and purchase clothing from discount retailers but do not like the style of a jacket ,skirt,pants etc.  I feel that i'm very often changing the whole look and doing a complete redesign. 

            thanks for your time.


          64. sewchris703 | | #43

            For redesign or restyle, I charge the same as for custom--$20 an hour. The work is the same if not more difficult and time consuming than making something from scratch. Ripping out the old, creating a paper foundation, making pattern pieces for new collar, sleeves, etc. all take time and a different set of skills.Chris

          65. rsew | | #44


            Thanks for all of you insight.


          66. swannart | | #45

            I charge $25 an hour. Most alterations I know how long it takes so I set up prices based on a time study. If I get an alteration and it looks complex I give the customer an estimate price range so I am not committed to a single price. The key to alterations is: sewing accuracy and speed.

            Edited 11/24/2008 10:46 pm ET by swannart

          67. drm3218 | | #49

            I consider myself an accomplished seamstress, not a GREAT seamstress, however the thought of doing alterations for others seems very intimidating.  Where do you start?  I have been sewing toddler clothing, christening(basic) gowns, kids clothing for 39yrs. but would like to EARN a little cash for what I can do that others can't.  Where do you suggest I start?

  2. PattyS | | #37

    Hi Thimble,

     I am new to the Threads message boards, but not new to Threads! I have read every issue for years! I am a custom dressmaker, and have been for 25 years. I have loved my career choice, and like some other writers here have always thought that dressmaking should be considered more frequently as a career. I have had a large business in Florida, with up to eight seamstresses working. I did virtually no sewing; just fitting, and managing the work room. Now I have moved back to my home town in Minnesota, and I am working by myself for the first time in many years. I have really enjoyed getting back to "hands on"! Recently, I have found an apprentice, or rather she found me. She comes to my shop two days a week, to watch, and learn! She is so enthusiastic, and it gives me an energy boost to share my knowledge with her. Life as a dressmaker affords all sorts of benefits. My work is interesting, creative,  and lucrative. I also have formed lovely relationships with many of my clients. I feel lucky that  my hobby has become a good business, after all isn't life wonderful when we can charge for something we would do for nothing if we could afford it!   


  3. mablelenesfashion | | #70


    I also love fashion designing....I wish I could do it full time, I work full time and on my way to starting a business ....so when I retire I can go straight into full time doing what I love.    I have a webpage mablelenefashions.com ..check it out.  Any information regarding starting a business will be appreciated.   I go crazy in fabric store...plan to shop in NY in the near future.  

    talk soon!

    1. Ceeayche | | #72

      Good luck with your new business.  I think your plan is admirable.  I need to be more forward thinking-- rather than fearing the layoffs to come.  You've blessed me today with a wake up call!

  4. smartsewing | | #75

    Hi thimble I know exactly what you mean, I am the same. These days I teach sewing but still do dressmaking and repairs. I live in Ireland but the story is the same. I feel the art of sewing is going to be lost to our youngsters unless we do something. That is why I started teaching. I am happy to say that both the kids and adults classes are having fun while they learn. That is very important to enjoy what they do, so far everyone wants to come back for more, so that cant be bad.

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