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Voluntary work in sewing environment

Balencia | Posted in General Discussion on

Anyone got any ideas of the best way to try and get into a sewing establishment to learn as a temp/voluntary person to pick up techniques by watching and helping at the same time for free!  thanks



thankfully – LG


  1. jjgg | | #1

    try a local theater group or ballet. They always need help with costuming.

  2. mainestitcher | | #2

    I'd second that suggestion.  The local schools may need help, too.  Drama departments, majorettes, maybe cheerleaders?

    Last week a young woman came into our place of business and did a sew test.  She had so very little experience that the alts sup decided not to take her on, even though her wages would be paid by an organization helping young people become employed.  The amount of supervising she would have needed would have exceeded any benefit to hiring her.  An arrangement of job shadowing without any pay would probably be illegal.

  3. stitchagain | | #3

    I am volunteering with a group associated with a reproduced Native American Plankhouse making matts.  I have no experience with basketry (unlike alot of the vol.) but I thought it would be interesting and is.

  4. ctirish | | #4

    I don't know if you are looking for construction techniques or for alterations.  If it is alterations, you can check with some local people that do alterations.  Another option is to check in at bridal salons - you may be able to help them and watch at the same time. The problem with being an apprentice is some of the OSHA regulations and workmen's Comp rules if something happened to you.

    I was speaking with a woman earlier this week who had an alterations shop for years and asked her why she never had an apprentice.  Her comment was that you can't go as fast if you are trying to show someone.  Her second comment made me laugh, she said they talk too much, if they want to watch, they should watch.  Later on,  I realized  this related to English being a second language and it was difficult to sew and think about the right words to answer questions at the same time.

    She is going to show me an easy way (she says) to take out a waist on RTW pants. I let you know how it goes...

    Good luck, jane

    1. User avater
      Balencia | | #5

      Hi Ctirish  you are lucky having a freind like that!  I could try wedding salons but would feel a bit shy of such a drastic step.  There seems to be such a lack of opportunity for people who love to sew and so I will have to carry on with my boring office job!  aah the self piteous never do get anywhere!  I love sewing but do make mistakes here and there - my faults are mainly to do with not getting all the right ingredients at hand before starting the project - I tend to like to borrow from here and there and use bits and bobs etc.  Always means get in a bit of a mess at times  - should research and plan twice then build once I think for complete success. I have even brought the book "figure drawing for Fashion Design! by the Pepin Press which I may find time to really study.  Time is the crucial element as a good job tends to take time don't ya think. I am going on a bit - don't have many people around who enjoy sewing - well there probably is but I am not one for chatting people up - just tend to indulge in my passion for making something!.   Nice to meet ya.  me - by the way do you know how to change message name (lgardener) as would like to make it something more interesting  but cannot seem to change it.  bye.

  5. Ocrafty1 | | #6

    You might also check with your county extension office. They are a federal gov't office that have an office in each county/parish. They usually have a home extension group of ladies/men that like to do sewing...and they compete at the county and state fairs. You should be able to find them in your local phone book.  They can also help you find recipes, gardening tips, lots of stuff....all extension offices are linked to a university/college in each individual state.  In IN, they are linked with Purdue.

    I was in 4-H for 10 yrs...took sewing all 10, where I learned the proper way to do sewing...to show some pride in my work. I made all but one of my HS formals. (Dad bought me one for my Sr. Prom.)I've been a leader, judge and superintendant for crafts in my county. They always can use adults to help 4-H members learn how to sew.  Too many of the younger generations use shortcut sewing.  Its a shame, as they don't learn the proper techniques. 

    Due to my  4-H experience, I was able to get a job in a high-end Bridal shop. The owner let me know in no uncertain terms that she wanted shortcuts used; to do alterations correctly "takes too much time."  We parted ways after 8 months. I made over $800/wk. for HER in alterations charges, (which she didn't turn in for tax purposes...it was an under the table operation, although as an employer, she took out taxes)... but she only wanted to pay me $180/wk.  This was for 40 hrs./wk. She was making at least $31K/yr off of me. I asked her to pay me on commission or give me a raise. She refused. I walked on a Wed.....leaving her to finish 4 gowns that were needed by the weekend...and she had to press them, too.  I walked in to another bridal shop and was hired on the spot.  I worked there until I made the brides uncomfortable. (I was 9 mos. pregnant, and crawling around on the floor measuring hems...LOL)  Oops...I reminisce...LOL

    Most bridal shops want references, or to see examples of your work.  They can't afford to have someone make mistakes on gowns; not because they don't mark up the costs of the gowns, but time wise. It can be difficult and expensive to have another gown ordered and shipped quickly...if they can even get the gown in that size. 

    BTW: Did you know that most veils are marked up over 300%!  That's one reason I began making them.  You can buy most of the same flowers,etc. at craft shops and if you get the tulle on sale, you can easily make a veil for less than $25.  I've copied several that have been in magazines. Of course, they weren't exactly copied....but they were close enough to please some very picky brides. 


    1. User avater
      Balencia | | #7

      You sound very accomplished Ocrafty1 I bow down to your experience - I am a bit of a closet sewer and feel that I am no where near bridal affair ability - it has to be very daintily accurate and I do not sew at mo with delicate fabrics much although have done some lingerie to get some experience and just finished a ballet suit for my little 4 year old Isabella - she loves covorting around in her ballet shoes and tutu suit! 

      I thank you for your highly regarded advice and am up for any ideas about making extra cash doing what I love - how do you actually sell the veils? and are they easy to make?  I would be willing to give it a try  - I will research.  Am going to a craft/sewing show tomorrow will look around. Yours with thanks.

      1. Ocrafty1 | | #8

        I've had lots of practice with sewing for my daughters. I made my first formals for myself in high school (a LONG time ago) A lot of it was learning from the mistakes I made. The first time I cut into a piece of lace that was over $40/yd I was terrified.  I did just fine.  I was smart and made a muslin mock up first; that way I wouldn't ruin the fashion fabric. I learned that lesson when I ruined a gown for one daughter and the fabric was much less expensive.  That time it wasn't so bad to have to purchase the fabric again, but I sure don't want to have to do it on the pricey stuff. I always do a muslin for clients now.  

        Veils are easy to make. Best way to learn is to go to a Bridal shop and look at some to see how they are made. Buy some tulle on sale and play with them. There are patterns for making veils also. I bought one when I first started.  Be inventive. I've used iron on adhesive to put ribbon on the edges of one and the ribbon was about 1/16 in. wide.  I had to trim the adhesive down. The ribbon was too thin to sew through. I've used "Jewel-tone" to add seed pearls and beads to the illusion; thread would have shown up too much.

        You can ask to put up flyers at local churches. Many of them have "First Communion," where the little girls wear fancy white dresses and veils.  The veils are hard to find and usually expensive. Brides (and their mothers) will see them and at least consider hiring you.  Work of mouth works wonders.  Good luck!


        1. User avater
          Balencia | | #9

          thanks for the information Ocrafty1 -  will bear-in-mind.  What sort of project are you involved in at the moment. I went to a sewing exhibition yesterday all day at the NEC, Birmingham, England and brought loads of material which was quite cheap.  I brought lovely colours and textures, had a great time.  Wanted to buy one of those lovely clip on lamps  but bottled out and thought must curb my spending energy!  Do you indulge in buying accessories for your sewing hobby or have you got all you need!   

          1. Ocrafty1 | | #10

            I've not done too much sewing lately.  I had surgery 2 wks ago, and am just getting to where I feel up to doing much of anything.

            I made a couple of bridal veils and did some alterations to wedding gowns before I started feeling bad.  My latest 'big' project was an heirloom Christening gown that I made for a family member. I had over 200 hrs. in it, but I absolutely loved doing it...lots of tiny details...I used entredeaux for the first time, and used some new techniques.

            The hardest part was having to take it to my sister-in-law to have the embroidery done. She does a little sewing, but nothing too involved...very basic. Yet she has this top of the line Janome sewing machine. I am sooo jealous! She does a good job with the embroidery, but I had to help her figure out how to do what I wanted done....then when she was trimming the stabilizer...she snipped into the fabric and made a hole in the slip.  I showed her that we could fix it by embroidering a tiny heart over the hole.  I still have the old Kenmore that I got in 1975.  I really want HER machine...LOL..but I've got to save the $$ to buy me one...DH thinks since I've used the same one for so long..and it still works, I don't need a new one,especially since they are so expensive.

            I decided to get back into a custom sewing business out of my home. I went back to college and graduated almost 3 yrs. ago with a BS in Elem. Edu.  There are no positions for teachers here, and since we've lived here for 20 yrs. and our grandkids live near, we don't want to move. We live in an old farm house, with about 7 acres, and it is paid for. I want to do something to earn some $$. DH has a good job, but he's one of those guys that thinks I should earn my own $$ if I want something.(but he can go out and buy any 'toys' he wants...like the new Harley he'll pick up tomorrow. Grrrrrrrrrr! Yep, I'm venting...LOL)

            I'm going to have a booth at a craft show tomorrow...my first. I've made a photo portfolio of the bridal gowns, veils, and formals that I have made, as well as some fancy dresses that I did for my daughters when they were little...and some costumes I made when I was asst. wardrobe mistress for the Peru Amateur Circus.  I'm also taking some of the formals that my daughters wore and a couple of other garments I've made. It will be some exposure and I'll get my name out.

            This circus is really neat! 35 yrs. ago some retired circus performers decided to start this circus and trained county youth to do the acts. Peru, IN was a winter grounds for many circus companies, including Barnum & Bailey. They have since retired but the kids they trained are now the trainers. One of my daughters was in it for several yrs. Kids can join at age 6 and must 'retire' when they are 21. These kids do the same acts as the professionals and they learn it all within 4 months. Of course, they work their way up as they learn the skills. They have competed/performed in Europe several times with their high-wire act and flying trapeze. We usually have 100+ kids in the circus, and no one can be in more than 3 acts. We have about 280 costumes that we create and repair during that time. I haven't worked with them for about 4 yrs., but I may get back into it this yr. It takes a lot of time...4 evenings a week for that 4 month period, and 12 hr. days during the 10 days they have performances in July.

            Right now, I'm crocheting some doilies. Something I can do just sitting down. I also like to do counted cross stitch...the tinier and more intricate..the better. I'm gonna make a couple of spring dresses for my 2 granddaughters...just haven't figured out what I want to make yet. They are 3 and 6 yrs. old.  Just young enough to like to wear dresses, still.  I'm also toying with the idea of making some 'dress up' things, using the leftover fabric and tulle I have from the gowns I made their mother and aunt.  I think that would be so much fun for them, and they love to dress up.


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