Monday, August 6, 2012

Pet Peeves from a Professional

I enjoy sewing. Usually. Well, mainly for myself and for fun. I've gotten away from sewing for clients. That, for me, is far less fun and tends to take the joy out of designing and sewing clothing. I used to design and make custom bridesmaid dresses as well as alter wedding gowns. I also made several articles of clothing for a member of an up and coming (and truly talented) band. I got a little worn out from it all.

I take pride in my work. I have custom tags that get sewn into each article of clothing I create. I make and alter patterns. I know how to work with colors and various types of fabrics. I understand fashion and trends. And I can mend, alter, and fix just about any problem with any article of clothing anyone gives me. So when everyday people refuse the ideas and recommendations from a trained fashion designer and seamstress, it really frustrates me.

 The thing that really gets on my nerves most is when people come to me for work and say they just need something simple done, and after I agree to do it, they suddenly unload some difficult specifications for me to make sure and meet.

For example, recently I was asked to make a couple of simple vests for a formal dinner. She had the pattern and fabric already. No sweat! Plus I could really use the added cash.

Then came the extra "tidbits" that didn't seem important to let me know about before I agreed...
This is exactly why I rarely take on work as a fashion designer, seamstress, or alterations specialist anymore.

So if you're going to have a professional make and/or design anything for you (I'm talking about a real professional--not the sweet old lady at church who sews all of her own mu-mus and makes doilies for every flat surface in her house), please, keep these five things in mind:

1. Don't give me an article of clothing to base my measurements off of. Especially don't bring me something you've done a mediocre-to-poor job of altering yourself and expect me to be able to get accurate measurements from it.

2. Don't offer to take the measurements yourself unless you actually know what you're doing. If you're going to have me make something for you, you should be ready to bring people for to me so that I can be sure to get accurate measurements. That's the appropriate thing to do.

3. Don't give me a pattern that's the wrong size. If you don't know what size you need, let me buy the pattern, or be prepared to pay extra for me to do major alterations on it or make it myself.

4. Don't give me a pattern and then request something that is not part of that pattern. For example, if a pattern is for some basic formal vests, and you want a tuxedo vest, I need a pattern for a tuxedo vest. Deconstructed, it is very, very different from your basic four-buttoned-down piece.

5. Either follow the pattern when choosing fabric or ask me. Don't just get whatever you like and assume that all fabrics are created equal. They are not! Some woven fabrics are quite difficult to work with, and you can rarely use knits and wovens interchangeably. The same goes for notions: thread, buttons, interfacing, etc. Please, please, please don't get 2 inch buttons if 5/8 inch buttons are called for. It's really hard to make you not look like a clown if I use those.

It's also a little rude to offer to pay a set amount before unloading your difficult specifications. Please, tell me all the details and then we can talk about price.


Now, before I sound completely arrogant and ungrateful, I can be fair and understanding too. Maybe she didn't know I'm a professional. Maybe she hasn't ever taken a sewing class and doesn't understand even that basic skills necessary to do what she's asking. I get that--many people these days have no idea about these things. And she was thankful for the finished product. She liked them too.

(And I can't believe I forgot to get a picture of them! *facepalm*)

But if you've read this, you have no excuse now! So please, don't frustrate or belittle the next seamstress or alterations specialist you go to when you need your wedding gown altered or bridesmaid dresses made.

Remember that she/he is doing something you can't do, otherwise you would be doing it yourself.

Before being what you may consider "helpful" and taking care of lots of things on your own, find out what is actually needed from you.

Listen to what they say and don't assume that you know what to do or how their business works.

Thanks, and I hope you learned something from my rant.

Ending on a happy note, my husband loves to play with our son, and it cracks me up.


  1. Well said. I have only had two dresses altered...ever and they were prom dresses. I just stood there with my arms out and didn't breathe so I wouldn't get poked with a pin ;) Did you ever express the need for this information during consultations? It would seem that this person or these people were very ignorant to the whole process. I'm sorry you have not had the best experiences...I hope it is an obstacle that can be overcome. This would be a very lucrative business if you ever got into it.

    1. Well, the problem comes when people at church or friends of friends just know that I sew really well. I usually will take easy projects. It's when those easy projects become complicated that I get frustrated and rants like this happen. I should just always say no from now on... Unless I start up the business officially again.

    2. If you have to deal with that crap every time I don't blame you. But if it equals to a little extra $$ then I would just lay out the rules to them first and then if they don't like it they can take their business elsewhere. That is where knowing the person or being a friend of a friend can make things so complicated because you don't want to offend anyone.

    3. It's true. I worried about posting this in case she runs across it...

      And at least I can find humor in the frustrating moments after a short while. I look back at those silly vests and already I just laugh a and shake my head. The whole thing was truly a funny situation and would make for a great sitcom episode. ;)

  2. Janae. I loved this post. I am not a professional seamstress but I have watched people do that before. I think it is true across multiple creative platforms. Don't agree on something and then change it up after. Or if you willing to pay extra for the differences.

  3. I can't stop laughing at the last picture on this post. Your husband is something else. Oh, this cracks me up!