I’m a sewist (not a seamstress – that’s generally considered a step above what I can do). I make the majority of my new clothes and I attempt to mend/alter anything I already have so I can continue wearing it.
There are A LOT of sewists and seamstresses out there and even more casual sewers who could more than likely muster up the wherewithal needed to do the things I do. I’m not special or unique in this hobby that I’ve developed and it seems like we all share a pretty common ailment: people asking us to do their mending/make them something/make a knockoff of a RTW (ready to wear) or boutique style they saw on Pinterest and aren’t willing to pay full price for.
Now, hear me out. I REALLY don’t mind making/mending something for someone if it’s a one-off, they’re in an emergency and I KNOW they would never try to exploit their friends, or if they’re willing to pay me for both materials and my time. That’s totally fine by me (and it sounds like most sewists/seamstresses don’t mind either). My issue comes from people randomly finding some fabric online and decided they want XXXXXX made from it in their precise size and they will pay me $20 for it. -_-
Most of the time handmade clothes are going to cost more than similar items you’d find at Saks or Nordstrom depending on the brand/designer. Why? A simple look into the world of textiles will show you.
- I have a full time job which I really like. This job is also totally ok with me doing overtime so long as there’s work to be done. Any overtime hours I get will absolutely pay me more than what I could possibly charge for my time sewing something for someone.
- Decent fabric is EXPENSIVE. Sure you can find some decent stuff at Joann’s or Fabric.com but most of the fabrics found at big stores like that are made from underpaid labor overseas. One of the big reasons I started sewing was because I truly felt guilty that there are women and children working their asses off for pennies an hour so that I can have a nice shirt. It just isn’t fair. Those same women and children are working their same asses off making fabric to sell to stores, clothing designers, and fast fashion carriers (which is a whole separate blight).
- Patterns aren’t cheap and big pattern companies (McCall’s, Vogue, etc.) do not allow you to make a garment from their pattern to sell. Most indie pattern makers do the same. Go ahead and factor in an extra $15 – $20 if you’re going to ask someone to make something for you so that they can “buy you” a copy of the pattern – ESPECIALLY if it’s an indie designer. They literally make their money off of their very hard work creating unique patterns and grading them to different sizes. It takes month of effort and testing to get these out to consumers and they need to be compensated too. It’s a pretty big issue in the indie sewing pattern world where big and small clothing companies will purchase an indie pattern and just make it and sell it. These designers don’t have the resources to go after those companies so they just lose out on A TON of money. It sucks.
- I don’t believe in fast fashion. I just don’t. Most of my clothes have either been made by me or I purchased them years ago and I still wear them (with the exception of a pair of Madewell jeans I bought RIGHT before the pandemic started). A lot of the people (friends of friends usually who don’t know this about me) who ask me about making them something want it for a one-off event or family pictures and have no intention of wearing it past that one time. Regardless of whether it’s handmade or RTW that’s really bad for the planet. Don’t do that. I get that you want your family to match in pictures but choose something that you know your kids will wear past that one time. You can even find a “grow with me” pattern that extends or expands with your kids!
In short – if you ask someone to make something for you, even if it isn’t from a seamstress or sewist, please make sure you aren’t stiffing them. Being good at a craft is hard. It takes time, effort, and money for supplies to try things out on. A lot of the time these people have other jobs and/or families as well and you need to compensate them for the time they’re forfeiting to make you the item you want.