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Suggestions on starting Home Sewing …

mylissa_horrocks | Posted in The Archives on

I am interested in starting a small design company from my home. I don’t sew from patterns, but I need suggestions on making my own. I have also been asked to write a freelance article on this topic, and any information or suggestions would be helpful! Please let me know if you are interested in being interviewed for the project. Thanks!


  1. Ginna | | #1

    What type of patterns are you considering designing? If fashion patterns, what size range, what type of garment? Classics, dressy, casual, items to be embellished? So many questions . "Need more input!" (I feel like a computer .

    1. matina | | #2

      *what kind of customers are you trying to sell to?

      1. thimble_ | | #3

        *hello, i run a succesful design company from my home, I would love to answer any questions you have...I am a custom tailor/dressmaker, who also uses my skill as a sewer to make drapes, and cushions...And I learnt alot about fitting the human body , by making...slipcovers!

        1. Joni_Redding | | #4

          *Thimble: I saw your message about your home sewing business and I am curious to know how you got started. I am going to have my first baby in July and want to find something to do at home, so I don't have to go to work. I love to sew and I just bought an embroidery machine. I guess my biggest question is "How do I get started?" We're moving to a new town right after the baby is born so I want to try to get things going! Thanks!Joni Redding in Waco, Texas

          1. thimble_ | | #5

            *Dear Joni (and others)Hi there. About starting my own business.... It was very difficult for me at first, mostly because my skill level was sub-par, I thought i was the greatest sewer in the world, until I actually had to make something I had never tried! I have worked in a few fabric stores and was able to generate a loyal clientelle through there! Now that I am on my own I still get over 50% of my referrals from the stores. I have always found word of mouth to be the absolute best tool for advertising. But it does take a while to build up a client base that way. My biggest asset is my personality though, and because you are selling all day long you need to be very personable. And one more thing...DO NOT BE AFRAID OF MAKING A MISTAKE. if you are unsure about something, ask someone who might know. Or insist that your client have a muslin fitting firts...whatever it takes. I am a VERY accomplished sewer, and I specialize in pattern technology, and fitting the human body from a scientific approach, and I make errors all day long! But it is from my mistakes that I learn not from my successes, so I am happy to find error, because it will point me in the right direction the next time. I was trained by my grandmother who has been a dressmaker for many many years, even she will make the odd mistake. It is a myth that there are people out there who sew perfect garments, it is all in the way you look at them! I think that once you begin to sew for more and more people you will begin to see major improvements in your work, and find your self reflecting back to a time when you felt your skills were at a high, but now find that you were just taking kiddie steps. The reason I empahsize this so much is that it is in this single step that most sewing businesses either fail or make it. many sewers will get frustrated and quit...but wait! there is a beautiful light at the end of the tunnel, and with this kind of discussion available, it is easy to find assistance on any thing you need. So I will stop now...GOOD LUCK...and remember...have fun, because at the end of the day it is only dressmaking, nothing worth losing hair over!Thimble!

          2. carrie | | #6

            *Joni, I would definitely agree with Thimble that your local fabric stores is the best place to start for getting your name out there. Also, if you are interested in home decor sewing, start contacting your local interior decorators. This is where I have always received most of my business. I have done bridal/formal wear and normal dressmaking in the past, but have now mostly switched to drapes and home decor. I have found it is much easier, and less stressful.

          3. Pam_Brown | | #7

            *Joni, Check with your local county Extension office for information (free!) on starting a home based business. There's more to consider such as, how will you handle child care when clients come to your home, where will you locate the business in the home, insurance (most home owner policies do not cover home based business), someone has already asked about marketing...moving to a new area will require you to do a lot of networking before starting the business and continuing afterward, who's your competition, will you need additional financing? Just some questions to ponder.

          4. Pam_Brown | | #8

            *For those who sew as a business, how do you decide on a price for your services? Thanks

          5. Sarah_Kayla | | #9

            *This is how I decided how to price my work. When I began a more experienced craftsperson told me the formula for pricing. Each item has to cost materials + time x 2. This way all of your incedental costs, thread, lights etc will get factored in. There are many formulas, but this one works for my feeble math skills.As for the hourly fee, I started out at a bit more than what our sitter charged me. When our bathroom was retiled I asked the tile guy what he charged hourly. I thought that my work was equivalent, skilled crafts work ($15/hr). Aftera couple of years my work improved to the point where i wascharging $20/hr. I recenty read in a book that studio quilting time should be charged at $30/hr. I am slowly raising my prices. I explain my pricing structure to my clients and i have yet to receive a complaint. I live in NYC where price of living is high. I assume you need to look at what other comparable skilled craftspeople charge and take your cue from that and from an honest assesment of your work and its quality. I have charged more as the quality of my work

          6. thimble_ | | #10

            *Pricing is a tough one. I find a lot of people just aren't willing to pay for sewing because they always seem to think they can buy it cheaper...then why do they come to us?

          7. Sarah_Kayla | | #11

            *I think that it is really important to be honest with our clients. Telling tham when it would be cheaper to buy off the rack, or makes more sense to. There are times when folks have to, or need to use custom sewing. Then they will pay whatever you ask willingly. I have told clients not to waste money using me when their needs could be met better (and cheaper) buying off the rack. People appreciate my honesty and then I don't get stuck with stupid jobs that i hate. I have never had an issue of nonpayment or a problem with payment or resentment about pricing. I am very clear about explaining the structure and reasoning behind my pricing. I have told folks that what they want will cost too much for what it is and refused to do it. Often I leave price tags on fabrics so folks can see exactly what is going on in terms of pricing.If people know up front what is involved they tend not to get cranky.sarah

          8. sysop_ | | #12

            *mylissa,perhaps this week's feture from ThreadsMagazine.com can help:Sewing Business Resources

          9. PLR | | #13

            *Ahhhhh! This line of conversation is like a drink of fresh lemonade! Yay! Ooooh, watch out folks, this is my first time posting at Threads Online!!! I’m SO glad I found this or at the very least am able to access the site! I Love Threads and what it offers to me as a sewing enthusiast, a home based sewing business owner, and a (in my honest opinion) very creative person. Dare I say…”budding fashion designer”?? (Knock on wood or whatever, some say my head, BUT…) Just like I’ve read in some of these posts, I too have learned through the school of trial and error. I started my home business with alterations, YIKES! It was scary. I quit my “regular job”. Took that leap during the month of December, in retrospect, a horrible month to have done this. (What was I thinking? I was cocky, thought I knew EVERYTHING tee hee, little did I know!) Going on six years later, I continually say there is nothing better than being your own boss. Especially when it involves something YOU LOVE! In this (dying art form) business, you need to know what you’re capable of. Not only what you can DO RIGHT NOW, but also what you know you can learn to do in the future (you want to make it a business, right?). Expect to make mistakes and some that may even cost you, time, effort, and sometimes even money. No, always money, because your skills, the time it takes to get an order out and the effort you put into getting that order together is all “money”. But you should always learn from your mistakes. (I know someone has already mentioned that-it’s true.) It’s the way to survive, to perfect your skills, learning what not to do next time around. I found clientele in a number of ways. For the most part it was word of mouth. Mostly my mouth. I went to shops, answered classified ads even the ones from stores who were looking for “employees” I just convinced them that they would rather have me doing their work from my home. The jobs I got from stores ended up burning me out. I’d have to be there for fittings for all the custom work I was doing. It was formalwear, egads…prom girls, and brides maids. But I learned a lot of “industry shortcuts” by also having to do some of the alterations on the ready to wear the shops carried. I was charging ten dollars an hour at the time. (the formula mentioned cost=materials + time x2 is a good starting point) It was decent money for my area of the country (unfortunately still is), but I learned I needed something “more”. I found “higher end” shops. Places where the customers are particular about the clothing they buy. Where they would rather pay more for something of quality. I didn’t know what I was getting into then either, but I’m so happy I took the challenge to become an even better seamstress than I thought I already was. Over the past five years I’ve progressively gone, according to my skill level, from charging 10/hr to 25/hr. (It’s good to know your competition, their skill levels and what they charge. Ask around, it’s easy to find out – I regularly give my speil over the phone to whoever calls. Being honest about my prices, the quality of work, and whether the client would be better off looking elsewhere.) I Have also learned from the many people I have had to communicate with through the years. Other seamstresses, tailors, clothing designers, shop owners, their customers and my clients. Yes, I refer prospective clients to others. I’ll even do that for some of my clients if I can’t seem to fit them into my schedule soon enough. (Make sure you build a solid network of people who can support your efforts in one way or another and keep in touch) I keep very busy. This IS a dying art form and there are a lot of people who will pay for good skills. I’ve been searching for HELP that meets my standards for over a year. I’m more than willing to pay well for work done well. The hardest thing to find is someone who KNOWS how to put together a well constructed garment. Everyone I know who can do this, already has their own business. I know it’s the frustration and possibly people giving up too early to get really good at what they do that keeps the pickings slim for me. Believe me, YOU DO get better through experience. You can make a great living while doing something you enjoy, from your home where you can set your hours, take care of your children, BE THERE for them when they need you. You do have to be business minded (taxes, spreadsheets yuck!) You have to be self motivated (Work until the wee hours of the morning to get an order out on deadline.) You have to be able to learn (What could I do to make this faster and still keep the quality of the garment?) But you can still be a parent too (Being a single parent I chose to be available to my child. Working parents don’t often have this choice.)

          10. Janice_E._Woods | | #14

            *1. I am looking for information on how to set up an efficient sewing room.2. I am looking for a resource for button findings. I would like to make my own buttons and need the buy the shank backs.Thanks

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