How much for this dress?!? (or what I wish I could tell people)
Here’s the handmade dress that you asked me to make… and said that of course you’d pay me to sew it for you. I hope you like it. It’s custom fit to your measurements, using the fabric that you picked from my stash and the pattern that you provided to me (I’m so glad you found it for only 99 cents!).
So I thought you’d like a breakdown of the costs. Here you go:
First, my hourly pay. I do have a college degree, and although it’s not in the field of garment construction, I used to work in the field that my degree was for and I really enjoyed the challenge. But back to this, I also have over 30 years of experience sewing garments and other items (since I was about 6, yay!). Combine 30 years of experience with a college degree and boy, I should be asking for quite a lot of money! But since you are my friend I am only going to ask you for $15 an hour. I’m sure you won’t mind paying me this little bit since I am taking time away from my family to sew your dress, right?
And now I’m going to tell you how long it took me to sew it. Don’t worry, it was actually a quick sew.
I spent 1 hour coming to visit you and taking your measurements, discussing any changes you would like to the pattern, etc. Good thing you live so close – I won’t include my gas or wear and tear on my car.
Then I pre-washed your fabric and carefully dried it. I won’t charge you for this either because you are my friend, and I was making dinner for my family at the same time. 🙂
Next I spent 1 1/2 hours preparing the pattern pieces based on your measurements and the alterations you wanted, and cutting out the fabric. This could have taken much longer but like I said, your dress is an easy sew.
Actual construction of your dress only took me 6 hours – 3 sewing sessions while my kids watched movies, yay! Oh, well let’s add in an hour for unpicking and fixing a couple mistakes. I had never sewn this pattern before and I knew you’d expect me to make it perfect.
So 9 1/2 hours of my time at a friends-only rate of $15/hr equals $142.50.
The fabric that you picked from my stash cost me $12/yd. This fabric is now out of print and I was saving it for a dress for my daughter but you’re right, I will probably never get to that so I’ll sell it to you at my cost. $12 times the 3 1/2 yards I used for your dress equals $42.
And the interfacing, thread, and wear and tear on my cutting tools, sewing machine, and serger? Oh, don’t worry about that. We’re friends!
The dress looks beautiful on you! The bill? Only $184.50.
What? You were actually asking me to knock off a dress that you saw at Ross (it was sewn in a third world country and the seamstress made a few pennies that day) that would have cost you only $39.99?
What a great deal! Why didn’t you buy it?
This, my friends, is why I don’t sew for money. I sew mostly for the love of it. But I’ll gladly teach you to sew! Has anyone else had thoughts like these?
p.s. some of you have been asking about the pattern I used to make this dress. I blogged more about it here. Thanks for asking! 🙂
Disclosure: some of my posts contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through one of those links I may receive a small commission, so thank you for supporting SewCanShe when you shop! All of the opinions are my own and I only suggest products that I actually use. 🙂
How true, this wonderful craft must be done out of love – what a great, honest article!
Oh, I’m hearing ya!
I’m with you! Although the cheaper version probably would’t fit as well, yours will be better made and you are spending you money locally and that helps too.
All. The. Time. I sew, quilt, hand sew, and more. I have three degrees. A stash of fabrics that is too much for me to use it all. And have family members who want me to make something for them for cheap.
Great article! Sewing for love is so rewarding.
I used to sell train fabrics online and at train shows. I can’t tell you how many people wanted lined buttoned vests for $20, a seamstress at one of the other booths would tell them $60. Now this was a number of years ago and good quilt fabric was around $8 a yard. I learned about 20 years ago nobody wants to pay you for your time or materials. So now I quilt for me and whoever I want to give something to.
I want someone to teach me so I can make things for myself but people look at that time away from family and don’t want to teach 🙁 It is sad as I can remember sewing as a child but unfortunately my Gram moved and wasn’t able to continue teaching me. I have taken a a couple classes at a shop although it isn’t really that local and I have re-learned my basic skills and even some zipper techniques but I am still afraid to take on a pattern cutting out myself and such. I wish I knew a sewist who was willing to take me on and guide me.
Have you asked a sewist and offered a fair hourly or session wage? Or asked what they would charge? That might procure someone "willing". If you haven’t located anyone for any price ask at fabric stores or alteration businesses if the have referrals for teachers. If that fails, educated yourself via you tube. Incredible vids that teach by subject (hems, zippers, etc), check out sewing programs on public TV and visit those sewists websights. The often sell video series. Too spendy? Only if you were expecting a willing teacher to do it for you at no charge like grandma did. Check out Craftsy. Often has sales on classes.
websites stupid auto correct
oh man this is so true! how do I share this article on Facebook so those requesters can see this? lol
This wasn’t a sewing project, but a machine knitting project. A colleague asked me to knit an afghan for her father, a king size afghan. We agreed on a price and I made if for her. She and her father were pleased. Our mutual boss, when she asked what I charged, was horrified and said, "I thought you were giving her the friends’ rate." Thank heavens my colleague said, "This IS the friends’ rate." Just to be fair, the boss was a cheapskate. I am much happier making gifts for family and friends. I do sell my stuff, but I mostly steer clear of special orders. I would rather do a trade than take money. That way, the other person is equally dealing with the value of time, effort and supplies.
GREAT commentary!! I tried to pin it to my sewing page, but got this error : Oops!
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This is a great explanation of why "handmade" does not mean "a whole lot cheaper!"
Oh all the time
I have a few canned responses if someone asks my to sew them something. Usually telling them it takes _ hours, and that is enough to put them onto another subject.
AMEN! I bake cakes and cookies as a side job and if I charged my hourly rate plus cost I would never sell anything!
Yep, similar situation for knitting too. "Your sweater is lovely, can you make me one?"… ummm, no.
At even half minimum wage, that’s going to be around the £145 mark because it’s about 44 ish hours of solid work; I knit when I sit. And sometimes when I stand.
Plus yarn, now you probably want a superwash Merino as you’ve denounced acrylic/acrylic blends in the past, and I know you’ll want to machine wash it, so that’s 10 balls of the cheapest I can find, £42.50 (whereas mine is actually a fairly good quality chunky acrylic, bought using a giftcard I got for christmas and costing less than £10). Yes, it’s more if you choose cotton, cotton yarn isn’t the cheap alternative it was in 1989.
And the posh buttons, well mine came in a job lot from ebay, and I’ll need 40 of them for those owl eyes…. let’s say at least £8; that’s what mine cost.
Plus there’s wear and tear on my interchangeable wooden needles and the cables between, and my bamboo DPNs, but you’re a pal so I won’t mention that. Or the wear and tear on my hands lol.
so that nice hand made jumper? £195.50. I’ve not added the pattern cost, £5, just ‘cos i loves ya.
Did I mention that’s at half minimum wage? Because if you want to pay me full minimum wage that’s £336.50.
And no, you can’t find this in Primark.
oh… you’d like to talk about my rainbow scarf with the hidden skull lace edging? No. You don’t want to talk about that. There’s over 80 hours of work in that. Before I mention that it’s hand dyed, pure Estonian wool, again bought for me as a very very kind gift….
This is the reason I only make garments for my Family. Women do not appreciate custom one of a kind garments. I have over 32 years experience and found the alteration business piece work pay was the way to go in the sewing industry for me to make a good living doing what I loved. Sewing
Amen! Halalullia!!!and God Bless!!!!
My first response is I will teach you how to make it….
If that dose not work it goes to I’ll put it on the list and let you know when I can get to it.
Never garments. I learned! I make quilts I like, if you want it pay my price. If not, that’s OK. I’m not a flea market, I don’t haggle. Back when I owned a quilt shop, I had a quilt for sale that was hand appliqued, hand quilted, and had two best of show ribbons. A man wanted to buy it for a Christmas present. When I told him the price, he said it was WAY too much. I said, OK, buy the fabric from me and I will teach you how to make it for free. He said, "that would take way too much time." EXACTLY!!
I love the article and the dress. In fact, if like to sew it for myself. Where DID you get the pattern?
I could NOT have said it better…..and EVERYONE expects you to do it NOW, drop everything amd get it done because they didn’t plan ahead…Grrrr…
Nicely said. Sewing for friends is a definite no no. Friends and the public just don’t get what goes into handmade sewing-one’s skill, materials, hours. Alterations, for instance hemming slacks is what sets me off. Don’t think we’ll ever get paid what an item is worth. Love your article.
Awesome awesome awesome. I put this on fb immediately. I refuse to make things for others. Unless it is a gift and I love that person VERY much. 😄
Awesome! Let’s share it everywhere! 🙂
This is a common problem. A couple of ways that get around the problem. First, I beg off the project with my friends and stay friends. I sew my own clothing and I really appreciate the work I do 😉 Finally, I Sew what I want, set my price and list it on Etsy. There will be someone that it fits and who appreciates the added value and quality of hand made American products.
Couldn’t agree more! I had a native american woman ask me to draft a pattern, measure and fit a pow-wow dress and shawl for her and she didn’t like the initial price, so I charged $40. Never got paid at all and see her once a week at church. (church?! What irony!) Never again! Great post:)
Wonderful post – people do not understand the time and skill that goes into making something.
Well said sister nobody appreciates all the efforts or the reality of business. That is why they loose on many counts without their knowledge ,selfishness and ignorance too.
I have a friend that sends pics from the internet and says "Can you make this?" That is what I get. a picture, regardless if it is something to sew, knit, crochet or whatever. Oh, and once I figure out how to do it, find the materials I think she may like, I then have to ship it as she is 900 miles away. I need to not be such a doormat. LOL
I laughed out loud reading this because it is SO TRUE! I have never gotten into the business of sewing for these very reasons. The last thing I want to do is ever diminish my love of sewing by taking on jobs I will just end up hating.
Great post! I’m more of a knitter than a sewist, and I get this a lot with my sweaters. A couple years ago I knit an aran cardigan and three or four acquaintances have asked, "Could you knit one for me?" When I tell them it would cost them at least $750, they look at me askance. Now my standard answer to anyone except my immediate family who asks, "Could you (knit/sew/mend) for me?" is "No, but I can show you how to do it yourself." So far, only one taker. 🙂
Yes, yes and YES! I’m a SAHM who does sew for money and end up running through this explanation with many a client. Most don’t understand it’s not as simple as "I want X. How much would it be?" After having done this for quite a while now, I’m very good at estimating up-front for people how long something will take, so they aren’t shocked with I give them a total.
My friend agreed to crochet a bedspread during her t.v. time for her neighbor. The neighbor bought cheap, bold, scratchy yarn in her college team’s colors. When my friend didn’t finish it quickly enough, the neighbor told her to just to keep the whole thing AND pay her for the offensive yarn. Because everyone needs a crocheted, queen size bedspread in Fighting Illini blue and orange.
Loved your story!
thank you! I don’t sew for hire for these same reasons.
OMG…I need to frame this….my words exactly. And talk about guilt. Until my daughter (who is an artist) helped me realize I was worth the cost for the time I put in and to disregard that was putting down my product and myself. I am finding I am getting so much more fun out of making donation items now.
Thanks for posting this.
Love it! love it—LOVE IT!!! <3 But you are way too generous with your time for your "friend’s rate"! Next time use the commercial rate and then see what they say-bet you won’t be doing much more at a reduced rate!!! You go, girl, and tell it like it should be! :0)
I cannot truly put into words how I feel about this post, so I will simply stand and applaud!
Love this…..I have family who lives near by and am always asked to make things for them. I love to sew and always tell them "If your not in a hurry for the item to be done then o.k. but you have to go buy the fabric, notions, pattern and anything else that you would want for the item and anything that is left over from the materials I keep, including the pattern." needless to say by the time they look into how much they will spend for everything they end up going to a discount store to find something else. LOL!!!!
While I was in design school (I had already been sewing for about 20 yrs. at that point) AND working a full time job, one of the executives (already very wealthy by marriage) was asking me to make maternity clothes for her. She gave me a denim jumper that belonged to one of her friends and asked me to copy it for her. When I told her how much I was going to charge her (and a LOT less than $10 per hour) she told me she could get it cheaper at Bloomingdale’s off the sale rack. I proceeded to tell her that maybe that would be a better option for her, picked up my things and walked out of her office and never looked back.
Thanks for this article. I think I’m going to print it out, frame it and hang it in my studio (and keep a copy in my sewing bag.)
Awesome, awesome article…this must be posted everywhere……I love teaching people to sew,,,but they pay for my time and buy own supplies…kids that learn on the "porch time" system have even told adults that admire their work must pay to be taught…I have a phd, so what that I only use it with family and friends…I make things for pleasure of the making and giving…if I wanted to make money I would hang up a shingle..that says…expensive but impressive…lol…this article is why I love reading your blog Caroline, you bring out our passion for creativity and bring others up to the real world…….
Spot on Caroline! Why do "friends" always expect something for nothing? 🙁
A couple of years ago I was in a fabric store and two women were buying fabric for dance costumes ( not to be made by themselves). One of the women said to her friend ," 0nly poor people sew.They’re too cheap to buy their clothes at the store." I really wanted to tell them off.They obviously don’t realize that the cost of the fabric may not have been that expensive, but the time prepping the fabric , laying and cutting the fabric, as well as sewing it together usually would cost way more than just buying it at the store.Having a blouse or dress that doesn’t look like an outfit that was mass produced is so much nicer than purchasing a readymade outfit any day of the week!
Great post. My niece sent me a pic of a baby quilt and wanted to know if I could make her a king size quilt that looked like that. I told her I could but then enumerated all of the same items you did for fabric, batting, and time with the added charge for a long-arm quilter as I don’t do that size on my domestic machine. Amazingly, she decided she’d go to the big box store instead.
Can you tell me what pattern this was in the picture. I love the drape of it.
All the time, I have thought like these. I knit and sew only for those who appreciate my efforts and for charities to which I want to contribute. I have a great family who treat their hand knit socks an seen clothing like gold.
I totally love this post!!! It’s soooo true!!!!
You have hit the nail exactly on the head!! I, too, have a college degree but not in sewing and I have been sewing since age 12 (I’m 62 now). I recently had to quilt my part time job at a local quilt shop due to breast cancer (my 2nd chemo was today and I’m feeling so much better than last time) and do outside sewing for people. I haven’t had requests for many garments made from scratch, mostly alterations, some cushion-covering type of upholstery, and the occasional "weird" request. When they ask how much, I tell them I charge $20 per hour because of my extensive experience and professional quality, and I try to estimate how long it might take me. But you have broken it down wonderfully. This is another thought I shared with my husband recently when a similar post was on Quiltville’s Open Studio on Facebook: it is my opinion that this current generation is either too busy/too disinterested to be self-sufficient. Therefore, unlike my generation (a post-war baby boomer) whose parents were raised during the Great Depression, a majority of the current generation cannot provide for themselves by their own hands, and look to those of us who took the time (sewing isn’t rocket science, after all!) to learn this skill to give them exactly what they want, perfect, and CHEAP! Sad but so true.
oh my I love your post and it is so true for all kinds of handmade items. How can anyone make a living from sewing when generally people don’t realise that it is actually our time they are paying for.
!• I Love It • I Love It • I Love It •! I want to post it on FaceBook … EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. 😂😂😂 ThankYou for so eloquently putting our angst onto ‘ink & paper’.
BEST ARTICLE EVER!!!! This is how I lost my "sewjo" for a while 🙁
…amen, sister! I, too, don’t sew for money… just for love.
So true… I can totally relate! Even picking what I sew sometimes based on what I love and will be a quality piece for years…
This is so true of my friends and family too. There was a stage in my life where I hid my sewing and knitting abilities. I had been living with my new partner 10 years before I revealed my interest and abilities with yarn and materials. I was taught to knit by my mum and crochet by a lovely old lady when I was 7.
I taught myself to sew from books and patterns at 12.
Thank you Caroline for making me feel normal ☺
Oh the feelings when you realize (again) that because it’s "homemade" everyone assumes that it’s practically free to make, so you should feel pleased to make it for that person, occasion, or for whatever reason. I sew, knit, and crochet so I’m often asked to make something "because my work is so well made." Well, I began sewing at 4, crocheting at 26, knitting at 56 and I’m now 67. Have worked hard to become skilled at these things. When asked to make something I will usually tell them how much the fabric or yarn will cost me, and being on a fixed income it would be necessary for them to pay for the items used to make the dress for a special occasion or the baby layette for their best friend’s daughter. Suddenly their favorite box store is the perfect place to shop. It was just a thought to have something "handmade" and they are sure I really don’t have the time to make something right now. My daughter is getting married next fall and I have begun on a crocheted afghan–I have already spent almost $100 on the yarns and am beginning now just to be sure it will be completed with all of the intricacies that will be involved, including embroidery. I’m also in the process of making a quilt for one of my sons for Christmas–I bought the fabrics a little at the time. It’s no wonder we no longer wish to sew for others, just those that we wish to give to. The time, money and effort are totally worth it to us then, no matter what the cost! Sorry to get on my soap box this morning but you said all so well that it hit that nerve–no coffee yet.
I understand this very well! Mostly everyone wants you to make it for free? So frustrating. They actually think it is no big deal or "homemade" is not done as well. Funny since all garments were once homemade. I agree with your post and thanks so much for posting! Glad to see someone else has the same perspective as I have been sewing since I was 5 !
Bless you for letting me know it hasn’t just happened to me. I also called it quits. My new dilemma is sewing from my now 4yr granddaughter. She "loves" the clothes. She may wear it twice, then never seen again. She hasn’t outgrown it. I have learned after a couple years of this mystery, they are being sold as prime condition clothing for cash, or in trade for store credit of future purchases at her friends thrift shop. I had boys and have had fun making and planning cute girl cloths, but this discovery has put a heavy damper on the joy of it to make more. Am I being silly?
Let me see if I have this right. You use your skills, labor, and materials to make a gift for your granddaughter, something to make her happy. Her parents take it away from her in order to make money off it. No, you are absolutely NOT being silly. I’d never make anything for her again, at least not until she is old enough to protect her possessions from being stolen.
AMEN!! It is why I teach and no longer sew for profit. I LOVE teaching and find it more rewarding and less frustrating. It has also helped me in my own attitudes towards the price of handmade items and I will gladly pay what they are asking. 🙂
I have sewn and I have baked and decorated cakes all in the name of friendship, family, and church members; and you are so right on. One lady got mad at me because I could’nt make a 1\2 sheet decorated cake for a funeral at church- I did’nt have the money to buy the materials. Thank you for writing the article; this will help out next time a friend wants a favor.
Great post! So true!
I do have a college degree in sewing, costume design, and have been sewing since I was 11. So, my usual response when people ask me to make them something, "You can’t afford me."
Thanks for the post! I would love to share it on my blog, domestic360life.com. Would you mind? (I would include a link back, of course!)
Sounds like the same reason I quit sewing for the public. I made a custom pattern and pair of pants and was working on the custom jacket when I was told that the 550.00 I was expecting to be paid was way too much. I had over 30 hours in on this project. It was a skating costume for a man. His partner, I just refunded her money and told them both to go somewhere else. The both of them had the nerve to berate me for overcharging them. I made custom bridesmaids gowns and wedding gowns for several years and worked in bridal alterations for decades. I also made my living as a pattern maker for quite a while. I found that most people are quite willing to pay for alterations, but not for custom work. Now days I treat myself to a really wonderfully made piece instead of sewing for others.
Man, I am so glad someone else said this. But unlike most people leaving comments, I actually hate sewing. Instead, I think of myself as a Fashion Designer (yes I realize it’s handmade clothing often using a pattern I bought, but I still think of it as designing). I like taking a project, fabric, idea, and making something off it. Whereas for others, it is just plain old sewing, trying to to bring their idea to life, it just doesn’t interest me, especially if you consider my style leans more towards Victoria Beckham while my friends are more cutesy frilly girly. Money not-withstanding (I actually earn quite a decent salary), I do work over 50h a week, so TIME is the biggest factor for me. I don’t want to spend my weekend sewing something for someone else when I can instead be creating/designing something special for myself.
So in case you were wondering, NO, I will not shorten your jeans, or fix your hem, or sew your button back on, unless you are willing to pay me £45 an hour, and can magically give me back an hour of my time.
The last dress I made for someone else was met with I could have bought it for that. No more. I
am more than happy to answer questions but they have to do the work. I have been sewing or 70 years and would rather raise my chickens and garden that sew for for someone else. I love to make scrap quilts, yes I am a holdover from the depression era. Marlene
Why do people think that handmade items should actually cost less??? Thank you for reading my blog!
Bravo! Well said! I taught myself how to sew at 13 yrs old. With 30 years experience, I’ve sewn for myself and others most of those years. For the last 6 months I’ve been pondering how much to charge someone for an item they requested me to make. She understands this is not her gift, she has been gifted in other ways. However I still struggle, will others see it and say "That’s beautiful but I can’t afford that". We should charge what we are worth and not feel quilty, but what is that amount?
I started sewing early also; I even won a blue ribbon in the second grade for a knit evening dress for my doll. Last time I was asked I said: a mechanic without a degree makes $ 45.00 an hour to fix your car. I have 2 college degrees so I charge $ 45 per hour and you must buy ALL supplies, patterns, blades and all pay $ 1.00 an hour for use of machine and I keep all leftovers and patterns. Or you buy all supplies and I will teach you for $ 5.00 an hour and you can use your own machine. I find that this settles matters nicely and I still have both my friends and my good humor We all worked hard to acquire our skill; we earned our expertize. and if we do not value ourselves why should anyone else? There is no need to be ashamed of being paid fairly.
We all have choices of where to buy things, the size of our purse has nothing to do with its value.
Okay, so now that I have forwarded your wonderful article to all of my sewing friends, I can rest or sew or for me; sewing is resting… Here’s what I often do: when a friend asks me to sew or quilt for her, and she says "how much"? I’m thinking, you can’t pay me enough. Instead I say, make a donation to this fund or this charity and we are even. I have found that people are more generous this way. It’s a win/win.
That’s a great idea. Thanks for sharing my blog post with your friends. 🙂
thank you so much for this!!
H a! Has anyone had these thoughts…..naaahh!!! Seriously, heck yes! As I do sew for profit, this was so relatable. I just had this very cinversation with some sewing buddies. I will be sharing your post ! Well done!
Oh my gosh thank you! I have the same thoughts when I do hair, when I crochet blankets, hats, photo props, stuffed animals… I think it when I sew dolls, make wedding accessories, etc. etc.. And trying to manage a household with 7 kids. People think I’m just home "doing nothing anyway." 😂
Ha! I’m one of seven (now grown) children, and I used to get so angry when people would presume on my mom’s time as if since she stayed home, she had nothing to do!
I have only made quilts or clothes as gifts for family/friends or to donate to charity, never for money for the very reasons you mention. Due to lack of thanks or appreciation from family, I don’t sew for them any more, either.
That’s just The reason why my mother stopped sewing. She only asked for $40.00 and her work college never ever paid her.
Everything you say is true as far as costs and time. I learned very quickly that it’s easier to tell people – go shopping, it will cost you less. The harder area is with alternations – the time to take out seams and refit and recut is about the same as the time to make a new garment most of the time. I switched to making custom slipcovers and home interior products. Much more fun for me.
I’ve been hesitant to publish a post like this. It’s harder to make it sound so nice when in reality, the more I see the more offended I get when people ask me to make them something they saw at target but was too expensive. Thanks for posting. Perhaps if I and others publish a post like this we can cause a movement and educate people about the quality of handmade.
YES!!!!!! You are my sewing hero for this article! I posted this on my Facebiok page and will share it among my sewing groups.
Oh how I love you for writing this post. There’s a reason I don’t sew for profit and this is largely it. I have enough issues with people thinking my jewelry work is too expensive.
This is BRILLIANT
My friend shared this on her Facebook wall and it’s absolutely brilliant! This is such a fantastically written piece to not only educate those "friends," but to keep the conversation going about the value of services rendered and being compensated for results. 🙂 I’ll be sharing this on my Facebook page. Women must heal their relationship with and beliefs about money. It’s a scarcity mindset that leads women to request something for nothing because of friendship, when in fact, the friendship should lead women to honor each other financially for their time, talent and expertise! Thank you for writing this post. 🙂
Exactly! Friends have asked me to make something for them; something they assure me will be quick and easy. Maybe they mean for them. I do hate that it’s hard to make a living sewing for people. Better to do alterations or couture bridal.
Great article! When people say I should sell my quilts or garments, my reply is always that they would be too expensive. Thanks for writing what we are all thinking!
I think this break-down dovetails nicely into why "fast fashion" (i.e. extremely inexpensive clothing sold by national retailers) is so damaging. It devalues the work of the craft or artisan sewist (sewer? Eh. You decide) as well as exploiting the workforce in underdeveloped countries by manufacturing, essentially, disposable clothing by paying workers pennies an hour.
Because of the expectation that all clothes made, regardless of how they’re made, have such low intrinsic value, I flat out refuse to sew for money.
everyone forgets the hours we spend. You would not work for free or do you? NO, well I would not want to work for free as well so I create something in like 6h, custom fit so get to a boutique and let us see what the prices are there… well here is a lovely dress… let us see the tag… say what 200 euro’s for this simple dress not even custom fit, where there are like dozens the same around, no thank you. I will make it myself. I need that patern and alter this and that look for a fabric that is totally me and here is the dress you want…you say that 184 is to much, ok then you can buy it at the store for 200
I occasionally sew for others. I have couple of close friends who I sew for and I love too. Recently I made a dress for a lady who was going to make it her self for her son’s wedding, but decided to ask someone else. I spent an hour or so sorting the pattern.mdid two fittings and made up the dress. It was a straight forward style and did sew up quickly. I charged more than I previously have, but still under charged.
Thank you for this blog. I had a friend who was always on at me to sell my quilts and bags to make money. I repeatedly explained how expensive they would be but it never registered. One time she asked me to make a quilt for her which I did gladly. She paid for all the materials (minus thread) which bought home that cost to her. When I handed over the quilt I have her a log I had had kept of all the hours I had put into making it and I calculated a hourly rate of £12ph. It came to a huge amount and she never suggested I sell my quilts again.
Yes! Thank you for sharing this Caroline. We all have thoughts like this. Personally, I get asked for custom things for my friends and family, and so far no one has taken me up on it, even for the friends and family hourly rate, which, like yours, is $15. I do gift things I make to the people I love all the time, but it’s whatever I feel like making that I think they’ll like, and I might take some requests in to account, but if I’m not being paid, I want to make something fun for me. I quilt, so unless I made a table topper or a placemat, it’s going to take me a while. I would charge market price for any fabric used, so if my friends or family want something made from OOP Tula stash, they’d better be ready to shell out for it. Bottom line is, you were incredibly generous with how you calculated the cost of this; I would have charged for notions and machine wear. Thank you again for sharing this. I see that it’s getting some traction on the pages I follow, which is great. Every little bit helps.
Hahaha. This I understand. I have to keep all of my Tula in an entirely separate stash location because I find people eyeing it all of the time.
I am a knitter, I get this all the time. "Oh I’d pay you abwhopping $15 for those socks!" "Really? Because at best it takes 40 hours to knit a pair, so at minimum wage plus cost of materials that’s gonna be $350. What? You don’t want them any more???"
Very well said. I have faced the same situation so many times and there is definitely a higher price tag on a good seamstress’ time and talent. But we do get caught up in facing those said friends and selling ourselves short. It is an art after all, and should very well be gratefully appreciated and paid for.
Friends and relatives ask me all the time if I would make a quilt, table runner, bag etc. for themselves or to give to someone. I always turn them down. They don’t want to know how much it all costs me to do it. They don’t understand. And it isn’t a labor of love. That is the way I sew, for the pure joy and love of it.
Love this post!!
It’s so true. I do dressmaking for a living and for the hours I put into each garment I make much much less than the minimum wage. I have had customers who think I can make things for less than they can buy them online or in the shops. I don’t know where the term "run up" originated but it certainly gives the impression that bespoke garments can be run up in an hour or two. It’s a term I can’t stand I hasten to add.
Oh ! I can so relate to this with my hand knitting, but like you I do it for the passion and adiction I have 🙂
I had a woman ask me to make her a hat just like the one I was knitting while my daughter was in music class. I told her I’d love to! I explained in a very friendly way that the materials were $84 (hand-dyed yarn) and it would take about a day and a half of solid knitting, so $175 for that, so $259 total and I’d have it for her next week (with a big smile, because obviously I was doing her a FAVOR since I had hats to knit for my own family in the queue, right?) She stood up and stormed away.
could not have said this any better!
So relate to this! I had a friend get upset that I wouldn’t make a 16th century gown for free.
Yeah I get you make me a 3 foot long chain maille necklace with trapped beads for free – right cost be a least 40$ in rings – more if you want silver or titanium.
I have similar issues with the jewelry I make. I have a university degree, additional training in jewelry making and over 25 years experience. I can make any piece 2,3,5,20 times more expensive by varying the material used – yes they wil look almost the same, but the real silver looks soooo much better. So how do I charge for this? I don’t usually. I give it away, mostly and the pieces I do sell barely cover costs of materials and shipping.
Yup buy elsewhere, the costume jewelry I see is inferior to the work I make in both materials an manufacture, but hey my pieces are hand made, unique and often customized – so yes mass produced will work, but my stuff is nicer – just saying 🙂
I make only wedding wear as price expectations are much higher. I start by telling costomers that a bespoke garment is NOT a cheap option. And yet everyone is happy to pay up for plumbers and other traditionally male trades. Skilled? Yes. Creative? Probably not.
Spot on! I really wish the value of handcrafted wasn’t lost of all the ages. Super quick & cheap seems to be the motto now.
Great blog, totally agree. I won’t make things for other people unless it is a present. I teach ladies to sew and whenever someone asks me to make them something I explain that they won’t pay my hourly rate, but I will teach them!
Every bloody day.
Oh so well said! I totally agree. Poeple don’t even imagine what it means to sew a dress or anything else… 😤
Whenever someone asks me I nip it in the bud by telling them about all the costs and that is generally enough to discourage followup discussion. People can be very short sighted.
Love this post!!! People who do not sew, who don’t normally buy the materials understand all the costs that go into a single garment. Thank you for this…I am bookmarking it, so I can share it when I need too. ♥
Every time I get "that look" when someone sees the price on one of my handmade bags (usually one featuring an original fabric design that I get custom printed), my heart breaks a little more. It’s an uphill battle educating people on the true value of handmade!!! Thanks for the blog post. I’m definitely sharing it!
I stopped sewing for family when it became expected rather than appreciated. My work was even offered to their friends. What started as an act of love became drudgery. So…now I sew and knit what I like and gift it as I see fit. Much better!
I’m every seamstress’s dream client. I come to your workroom. I stand as still as my health issues permit while you measure and calculate. I ask for an estimate–or a full price if you think you can figure it then I give you 1/2 that amount.
I show up on time for fittings–as many as needed to get the dress right. I give you artistic license to decorate or trim or add embellishments if it will make the garment nicer.
I come for my final try on when the dress is done and I have a check in hand for the remainder of the amount.
I scold other clients if, in my opinion, they fail to appreciate what you are doing and the art involved, but I do it politely. I refer EVERYONE to you.
Why? Because I used to sew too. And now I can’t.
people no longer understand that the beautiful dress you made bespoke for them will last forever, and the $40 one they bought made in china will fall apart. I stopped doing made to measure a lllllloooong time ago – the stress is unbelievable and people won’t pay. I had a friend ask me to quote for her wedding dress so I halved what I would normally charge and she was freaked out! and yet people will easily drop $150 on a saturday night out
I agree wholeheartedly. But you know who are worst enemies are? Our fellow sewists, who continue to sell their goods and labor for $1 an hour because that’s all anyone is willing to pay. I’m with you. I do it for love and for fun, but I can’t be bought.
Is it just fellow sewists or is it the supply of cheap clothes from other parts of the world where working conditions, pay, and workers’ rights are so much worse?
I doubt anyone who’s selling their work for $1 is making as significant an impact as the normalisation of crazily low clothes prices.
Absolutely spot on! Right down to the love n joy I find in just sewing.
Spot on!!! Great post!!
Goodness! You read minds! I stopped sewing for others exactly because of this.
I used to make for others, wedding dresses, special occasions, something funky. Gave up. It simply wasn’t worth the effort. The dresses that I have made for myself have lasted at least 30 years. Good fabric, good craftsmanship, makes an enduring product. Unfortunately it’s become about the disposable dress in terrible fabrics, not class and enduring quality. Both myself, my daughter, and a number of her friends make fabulous clothes, fully lined, beautifully finished and tailored to perfection… and the response has so often been just as you cited.. ‘but I thought it would be cheaper!!!’ It’s a hard call being a craftsperson with exceptional skills that are undervalued.
Yes, I totally agreed
It’s very hard to make money sewing from scratch
I’ve tried to offer lessons but did get any $ interested
I think about this all the time, I knit, spin my own yarn, weave and sew too. All of these things take a lot of time and most of it I do for the love! People do ask me to knit for them sometimes, I explain about how many hours it may take to knit what they want, I tell people when they pick up a skein of handspun yarn how many hours it took me! I do t want to be a millionaire, just to make a small profit from something that I am passionate about!
I learned to sew so my daughters could have unique & stylish clothes. Then people found out I could sew & then I found out they weren’t willing to pay for my time & effort, so I quit sewing for the public. I taught my girls how to sew & now that they are grown up, they do excellent clothes for themselves.
I sew for living and every now and then I hear people complaining about the cost of my or any other hand made garments. It’s especially hurtful coming from a friend. Don’t they want me to make a decent living? And maybe be able to retire one day without being a burden on the society?
I blame the cheap mass production. 60 years ago clothes were still mostly made by a seamstress, to the client’s measurements, and they were made to last a generation. The irony is, that everyone is complaining how crappy the mass produced clothes are, but they’re still not willing to pay for better quality and still keep buying the poor ones.
I knit too, but as long as I do it all by hand, I will never knit by request, because no one would be willing to pay how much it would actually cost. If I ever get a knitting machine, I will consider doing it for the public.
I totally agree, which is why I only sew for me and my children. I used to get voluteered and only stopped when a sequin covered fabric wrecked my overlocker and I had to buy a new one. Cherise don’t think machine knitting is any better because it isn’t. I used to do that and people always compared prices with cheap imports. I now make jewellery, but only what I want to make as it is the same story there. People do not factor in the design time let alone the making time.
Yes, so true!!! I sew, spin and dye yarn as well as knit. I don’t like doing commissions for friends. Too personal. Now I make what I like. If you like it this is what it costs. Works way better.
I actually to sew for a living for my own business and another designer in town. It it SO hard to make sure that I’m making enough money but to continue to be competitive in pricing. My college degree taught me a lot about excel spreadsheets and I use this as a tool to make sure I’m getting not only a profit, but how much profit based on discounts I can find, how many hours it takes to make the product etc. It’s a job within itself.
When I do make things for close friends I either trade or I have them purchase the fabric and then give them a small discount on my hourly charge. This seems to break up the cost for them in a way that makes them happy.
It is possible to sew for money but it’s a business not just something that you can do for a hobby. It’s too time consuming and costly to not make money.
This is EXACTLY how I feel when people ask me to sew them a dress. They think it’s SO EASY and it doesn’t take any time for you to whip it together and call it good. I used to work as a costumer and we were always the lowest paid, sometimes less than minimum wage if you took your weekly flat rate that didn’t include overtime. When I recently told my cousin this he was shocked. He told me, "You mean you don’t get more than minimum wage with some companies? You have a degree in it and you have to have skills for it, so why wouldn’t you be paid more?" My thoughts exactly.
And THIS is why I pay full price for a seamstress to make items I want. People thought I was INSANE for purchasing a custom wedding gown from scratch. I was than told it was the most beautiful wedding gown ever seen, and it had to be shown in a museum.
I also purchased a custom Halloween costume sewn for my daughter (Little Red Riding Hood). In addition to winning contests, she wore it for TWO full years at multiple Halloween and other functions – we got at least six wearings of the outfit and three years out of the cape.
I don’t know how to sew yet. But I know good quality fabric and supplies I have yards of NOS 1940’s wool tweed put aside for my next custom purchase, a suit for myself. It will cost hundreds to make, no doubt. And worth every penny.
One of the largest vintage sewing pattern sites on the internet.
When sewing for friends or family I find it best to charge them for the materials and then give my labor as a gift. They can choose to gift me in return, if they wish. Remember, I can choose to accept a project or reject it if I am too busy with other client projects.
Dressmakers must educate potential clients. First thing is that I cannot compete with ready-to-wear prices. I explain the process to produce "investment" quality garments that fit. I tell them my hourly rate, $42.50 per hour (Twin Cities, MN). Then I give an estimate of time to complete their garment. I draft a work order and I do give an amount that the cost will not exceed, unless my client makes design changes after she has approved the design and fit on the test garment (toile). Not everyone can afford bespoke garments; dressmakers must be kind and gracious to potential clients who learn what they want is beyond what they feel comfortable spending.
Ahmen. It’s difficult to make people understand..
I never sew or knit for others except as gifts.
I can give wedding gifts that neither the bride nor I could afford. and they are ever so grateful.
This was PRICELESS. I used to sew. I don’t any more. Now I make cards. People think exactly the same thing about cardmaking. Oh, it’s a hand made card. Yeah, not quick. NOT inexpensive. So I loved this article ALOT.
I made two "two broke girls" dresses for Halloween costumes. They begged me to make them. They couldn’t find them yet online. They would pay anything they said. They gave me cheap fabric that puckered. I made those dresses perfect no puckers and the dresses fit like a glove. I even let one borrow a pair of boots and the other a blonde wig. $150 each I said. They still owe me $75 the wig and the boots. That was two years ago. People just don’t understand the time it takes to custom sew!
My goodness, yes. All of this. Any time someone asks me to sew for them, I tell them they can’t afford it.
That was awesome! Thank you somuch for writing that. My sentiments EXACTLY.
I sew, knit, crochet and quilt. I also do alterations. A customer will come to me with a 7.99 pair of pants from the clearance rack and think that because they were cheap, hemming or tapering them should be cheap too. Often I get asked to alter a wedding gown or bridesmaid dress because the fees at the wedding shop are outrageous. That’s because the shop measures up just to get the alteration job. Several of my friends take advantage of me too for a simple alteration job and reward me with a "gift" or should I say "regift." I can’t count the number of hours I’ve spent working for people who just don’t get it.
I probably will never sew for money. I generally only sew something if I am making an item that is original. its simply too expensive and time consuming to sew everyday garments. it doesn’t make sense to do so even if I have the know how.
I’ve sewn something for pay once, and it went pretty well. I told her that she’d have to provide fabric and the zipper (though I did end up providing the lining, some really inexpensive stuff in my stash), which she did. I wasn’t so sure about how it would work out, since it was my first time sewing clothing for someone else, even though I’d sewn the pattern before, I just told her to pay me what she felt okay with. She paid me a hundred bucks plus a gift card. I’d definitely sew something for her again.
Great article! And a topic that I’m dealing with on a daily basis. I make made to measure flamenco dance costumes and had to learn the hard way how to charge enough to stay in business and not lose my love for sewing. I’m sharing the lessons learnt in a free eCourse https://sewingenious.co Check it out if you like. Happy sewing!
Perfect! I know the costs of handmade having tried to make a living at selling jewelry on Etsy and at art shows. It ruined my love of jewelry making. I now sew for myself and for an extremely select group of family and friends. I do it for fun and have no interest in attempting to do it for money. This is great.
I agree. I don’t like to sew for money, it takes the fun out of it. I worry someone won’t think it’s work the cost of the item. If you can make a living out of a hobby, that’s great, but for me, I don’t want my hobby to be work.
As a sister of a seamstress/designer and as a degree-holding musician (also married to a degree-holding musician), I sympathize completely with this! People expect you to "donate your talents" as if you came by them magically instead of dedicating the better part of your life to acquiring them. (Not to mention the actual costs to you of working on the project/performance).
Well like every sewer before me ..totally spot on the button here.. I do make for other but customised eg wrestling gear and dance .. when someone has a passion /interest they then generally appreciate the finished article
I do sew, alterations and fixies mostly and for these people are happy to pay a fair amount. Got burned with a dress once though and now they’re back for leggings. Not this time.
Yes, exactly! I made a first communion dress for a friend’s daughter, with hand beading….the works! If I had charged here for all the time I put in that dress it would have cost a few hundred dollars, but I just charged here a minimum hourly fee. She got a deal! I agree, what I make are gifts, because I love to sew and I sew for those who appreciate the art!
i love that line: I don’t sew for money. I sew mostly for the love of it. But I’ll gladly teach you to sew!
for ‘sew’, read knit/crochet/spin/weave, etc.
Folks don’t really understand that it all takes lots of time and thought. Well said.
People just don’t get it, you put your time and soul into your craft and they want it for pennies. I made something’s and it took me about a month to get my money, so now it’s money up front. No family or friend discounts.
This goes for any kind of sewing. I do quilting and costs add up quickly! And that is not even anything for time. Enjoyed your post! I can relate also.
During an extremely tight financial time in my life, I tried doing alterations and gave up after 3 clients. Despite a detailed estimate with my hourly rate (below the market rate to get started) in black and white and a detailed final bill, two clients wen balastic and badmouthed me to everyone they could talk to. Needless to say, I gave it up very quickly and have refused many requests over the years to sew for friends and neighbors. The requests come in after they see my daughter in a special occassion outfit.
I now only sew for myself and family, which includes by dearest friend from high school. I just finished making her cushion covers for her outdoor furniture with Sunbrella. She paid for the fabric and the extras (thread, pilow forms, etc.) and I would do it again. Project drove me nuts, but the friendship has already paid me many times over before I made the pillows.
I can relate. I make quilts and people see something I’ve made, usually for family or as a gift and say "Oh can you make me one??" I am honest with them and say I don’t have much time for sewing, even for the things I want to do for my family but if they would like to pick a quilt pattern and tell me what size they want I will quote them a price.
Usually these "friends" then don’t say more and usually stop talking to me for a while since I guess I should just make every person I know a quilt, no matter how close I am to them? Of those who actually go so far as to choose a pattern and get a price quoted they usually decide it isn’t worth it to them since I refuse to use cheap fabric that won’t stand the test of time and washing and I expect to be paid for my time even though I love to sew.
I had someone tell me they would buy the fabric and everything and say they would pay me $50 to make a queen sized quilt since that is what they could buy one for but they wanted specific colors. Needless to say I told them I charge $12.50 an hour and the pattern they wanted would take me much more than 5 hours to cut, piece, sandwich and quilt. They were not happy. In some situations I’ve said to people that I know own a sewing maching that they are free to come over or I will go to them and teach them all they need to know to get started but no one has really taken me up on that either.
My thoughts exactly. I sew for fun. I like to try out new patterns and add my own touches at times. I usually sell just to get rid of some items so I’ll have room and money for more. You’re right. Everybody wants what you make but nobody wants to pay what it’s worth. We can’t compete with China’s prices but our quality out does theirs by far. I never have any trouble finding someone to buy items and I always make a little money.
EXACTLY! My friends always ask me why I don’t go into business for myself. This is exactly why. People won’t pay what it actually costs.
My dear friend’s mom, whom I had not yet met, altered my wedding gown for me. She works third shift at the post office and still had it done weeks before I required it. I expected to pay her $150 (I had been quoted that with a timeline that wouldn’t work), but She refused pay! I sew at a painfully imperfect, slow rate, but I add-on familiar with the time and effort it takes. I am forever grateful to her!
The next year, I threw my dear friend’s bridal shower and wouldn’t take pay from her mom for my time or material. I catered it and provided a photo booth and games. I still think I owe her mom, lol!
I’m with you. I sew for love and as an act of service to my friends and my community. I work as an Engineer for money. Therefore, I do not want to fix your daughters broken backpack. Buy a new one, but bring me a cup of coffee and some clothes that need to be altered or repaired, and stay and chat with me while I do it.
I completely agree! I just finished a blouse and skirt for a friend’s mom…she’ll have no idea how much goes into the final product. I copied and drafted the patterns from one she already had, in addition to prepping and cutting the fabric and actually sewing the garments. Then there was the extra trip to the fabric store for lining when she decided that the fabric might be too thin for the skirt without it. So her "quick skirt and blouse" for her mom has wound up to be about a 10 hour investment. I am lucky to get that much time at the machine in a month for myself. I am going to gift my time to her, but ask her to help me in the future by not asking for any more favours, because I have an extremely hard time saying no when asked. I just don’t have that much time to sew for other people and myself. I get cranky if I can’t get my selfish sewing in. 🙂
YES. For a friend’s birthday once, I told her that I’d like to make her a dress from a pattern I knew she liked. I told her to order some fabric, and I would sew it. So I knew going in that this would be a gift of time, and I was totally okay with it. (Obviously.) But then when she sent me links to fabric she was contemplating, she added, "So I was thinking three dresses." I was so taken aback that I didn’t say no right away, but later I just had to be frank and say I can’t make her three dresses and can commit only to one. It went to show me that people (even close friends) really don’t get what goes into making a garment.
I love at you wrote. Soooo true! Even people who do sew – or craft – still don’t like how much something "home made" really can cost. I can quilt up a blanket over a weekend – yeah, that’s great for 2.5 fays of work – but that’s all I do for those days – I take a break to pee and eat – I don’t spend the time with my hubs, I don’t visit – I am a slave to my sewing. Sad …. Hoping more people will realize the true value of "home made" – 🙂
See this in our family as mom was a professional seamstress and did a lot of movie, theater, and pageant work and she will tear into those people who scoff at what real clothing costs, not that fast fashion garbage made by poor people in slave labor conditions.
We try to talk and explain quality versus quantity is why we price things the way we do but too many people are used to cheap and need a dose of reality.
Ahhhh yes….. Being a quilter, I was (of course) asked to alter a full blown, full skirted, strapless wedding dress with train that the person had worn at their wedding some 20 years prior. Why? They were heading to Reno to celebrate and she wanted to surprise her hubby and rekindle their love life…..
TOTALLY agree! I used to make hats for people. Proper hats, blocked, stiffened and hours of work and then they wanted me to charge what they could get it at a chain store for! WELL, I very quickly suggested to them that if they wanted a budget hat, please go ahead and buy from a chain store. BUT, if they wanted a….one of a kind, specially made to go with a special outfit, hat….then they would have to pay for it. However, I still could not charge for all the hours spent on it and away from my children. Definitely a labour of love…
I saw a website for a woman who sewed grief quilts from loved ones’ clothes. She charged $2000 for a queen sized quilt and you provide all of the materials! When I told my mom, a lifelong quilter, she was also shocked. Then we started talking about how much it really costs to sew a quilt and how no one really appreciates the work in one…. That’s when we realized that the quilter was charging an honest price. Good for her.
Good story. I work to earn money, I see as a hobby. I’ll make gifts for family and close friends who appreciate the time and effort taken. All of my family received hand made gifts this year including 3 quilts. If anyone asks me to make them something I tell them they can’t afford me. If I earn $60/hr at work why should I ‘work’ at home for free?
Handmade custom stuff should naturally cost a lot more than ready made. Because. It’s HANDMADE.
U r absolutely right. If some one ask me to make clothing, I tell them that I will teach u to sew it. Plus I get a great friend and they do things foe me. I got a pedicure and a new ironed and a house sitter for my dogs when I went on vacation. So, there’s that. Loved, read ur blog.
This is what I’ve been saying for years! Thanks for sharing this!! Just like you, I offer to teach people to sew when they ask me to make them a custom garment. Many of them respond that they don’t have the patience. So since I do have the patience, I expect to earn what I’m worth for my years of experience. My next suggestion to them is to buy what they want because they will pay significantly. Unless clients are willing to pay for it and appreciate all the work that goes into making a custom garment, I usually decline the job. Like you, I usually sew for the love of it.
I love this post! I actually don’t like for people to know that I can sew. When people want me to sew for them I tell them I really can’t do it anymore because of my RA hands. I do have RA hands, but that isn’t what keeps me sewing for them.It’s the unreal expectations they have. Mostly they want to give me a pattern and some fabric (seldom any notions) and think I should do the actual sewing for FREE LOL
I love to sew for friends and family. I have offered to sew things for people but it’s out of love. For instance, I used to be a caregiver for a lady with dementia. She recently died and I offered to make teddy bears for her grandkids. I will not accept any payment as I want to do something nice for her family. The daughter wants me to make a simple quilt out of her mom’s clothes, and I won’t charge her as much either. But I wouldn’t do that for just anybody. My sister-in-law had me sew up some cloth diapers for my nephew. I told her if she bought the fabric and paid me a little, I would do it. We agreed and it was fine.
Thank you so much for this! What a great way to sum up the seamstress struggle, ha.
I’ve learned that I HATE doing alterations, and sewing custom is next to impossible. I typically find it helpful to tell people, "Oh, you know, I really don’t normally do alterations" when they ask me to fix something, because they are more likely to agree to my rate if they feel that they’ve "talked me into" their project. I usually straight up tell them that the dry cleaner will do it for half the price and they still want me to do it, lol.
Wow! You’re a lot cheaper than I am, but this is the reason I specialize in formal wear, bridal and after-five. Folks seem to be better with those clothes costing more even though they take the same amount of time if it were a summer cotton dress!
But there’s one thing about your dress you didn’t figure into the cost. Your "hand made" dress will last for years if not a decade or beyond, while the dress from the local cheap/fast fashion store will only last through a number of washings. To make that $39.99 dress last for a decade it would cost a lot more. But a lot more sounds kinda vague. Say it last through 2½ months and after that it doesn’t look so hot, lost its shape and most of its appeal. So that’s 4.8 dresses per year, and your hand made dress will last for on the conservative side say 5 years. That’s 24 dresses @ $40/ea – so that’s about $960.
But wait, the company that carried those dresses, no longer carries them after about 8 weeks, so you have to go shopping around to find a dress that’s close to that, and the $960 doesn’t include your time (which is a much more precious commodity than you $$$) gas and wear an tear on your car. So it’s more like an addition $5 to the $40 dress costing not really $960 but more over $1000.
Hey, I mean if others want to spend $1000 on a dress that’s fine with me. Personally I’d rather spend $150 and get a dress that lasts for a long time, and save my time being creative and sewing (which is like lots of problem solving which is one of the top ways to prevent dementia and delay the onset of Alzheimer’s!)
I mean Amancio Ortega ain’t the 4th richest person in the world for his looks!!! How did he get all that money?
I have an honest question. Is an item sewn by someone on a machine in North America really better quality than an item sewn by someone on a machine in China? Assuming both are made of the same materials. And if the answer is no, then why pay for an item that’s handmade when an equally good dress could cost a fraction of the price?
This is something that a lot of people forget when it’s not brought to the forefront of the news- and it’s something that’s underreported. There are a few reasons why we pay so little for imports compared to handmade:
~ They buy their materials in bulk from other companies – a few hundred metres of anything is going to cost you a lot less than a couple of metres from a retailer, especially when you’re doing something bespoke.
~ The time constraints aren’t so drastic when you’re working like this- most of the clothes made in places like China, Bangladesh, India, etc.- have very little time to do these pieces. I can’t count how many times I’ve gone into a decent-level store and the hem has parts missing because they just don’t have time. People aren’t going to dillydally around on purpose when they’re making things at home, but they aren’t scared of taking a few minutes longer if they need to.
~ They also cut the cost by not paying the people properly- $15/h isn’t even a living wage, so think about how much the people (a lot of which are children) are being paid. It’s definitely less than $15/h. Just think about the wages people get over there, highlighted in an article about Bangladeshi workers from SCMP in March of this year.
‘A survey of Bangladeshi factories supplying Marks & Spencer carried out last summer found that workers’ average basic monthly pay was 6,500 taka (HK$630) and their average take-home pay, including an average two hours a day of overtime, was 8,000 taka. Although this is more than many in the industry get, the average estimate of what workers consider is enough to live on and support their families is 15,000 taka a month – about twice their actual pay.’
~ The working conditions are horrible as well- I’m sure most remember the reports of the Rana Plaza (in Dhaka) tragedy that killed workers. We were horrified by the conditions they worked in, and the safety breaches that wouldn’t be stood for in most developed countries.
~ Not to mention slave labour, and child labour, used by many brands.
All of this turns into savings for that company are then passed on to the consumer.
So yeah, the handmade route costs more- a lot more than you’d pay in certain places, but you’re mostly paying for ethics. We demand cheap clothing, therefore we get cheap clothing. At the price of the safety, health, and dignity of the workers who make it.
I’d recommend watching this 17 minute segment from the HBO show ‘Last Week Tonight with John Oliver’ about the fashion industry and costs related to it.
It is the fabrics that I think are generally cheaper and the sizes are usually smaller. Sometimes you find good fabrics but I find a lot that have a chemical after smell, are very thin, and fall apart/stretch out quickly. For some items no problem but I would not want to go to a work meeting in a lot of what I find. Saturday at a burger shop? Great for that!
You always have that option! The issue at hand is that everyone (most people) doesn’t take into consideration the time and effort it takes one person to create a garment that it takes minutes for a whole factory with staff to create. They expect you to recreate items for bargain prices or worse for less!
If it was the same quality it still costs more to make one garment at a time. That’s why when you are ordering custom made items one keychain costs $3.00 but 5000 cost $1.50 each. The same goes for sewing materials, I may pay $12/yd for the same fabric that Ross’ can buy in bulk for $6/yd.
So there is nothing wrong with buying anything at store because you can get it cheaper. Just don’t expect or ask someone to hand make the same item for the same price or less.
Love this! The struggle is real 😁
Thank you everybody for the eye-opener. I appreciate this page. 40 years ago when I was just starting out myself,I was a seamstress and I loved it and still do. Sewing then it wasn’t too bad, I never realize that the prices have increased so much. I didn’t think about the cost of a dress off the rack to one that is custom-made . Now that I’m retired I had thought about going back to being a seamstress but after reading some of the things that you have say I think it would be better if I just start teaching sewing. Thank you again for all the input, this is helping me to make some new decisions in my retirement years. Thank you seamstresses .
I’m finally getting the courage to tell people that I only sew for my family. I’ve been told by too many aggressive people, "I’m going to get you to make…" or "I’m going to bring over my shirt for you to take in." Sign on my sewing room wall, "PANT HEMMING $1,349 (per leg)"
Just now. I made an evening gown and a lace bolero for a colleague and she offered me $50. It took me 1 whole season of NCIS and 3 other movies, including the "Sound of Music," to put it together. Not to mention, the time to meet at the fabric store and then prepare the pattern/material. I would rather do it out of the goodness of my heart than to feel that my time was cheapened by a less than adequate offer.
I have copied and pasted your website page onto mine and my Facebook account. So many people ask me to make them a child’s dress thinking about a $10 charge. They have no idea!
Thank you for your support and sharing! xoxo
I was very happy when a tailoring shop opened in our town. I took a picture of her business card and keep it on my phone. Now when people ask my to sew for them I send them her card
I am entirely in agreement with you here specially for non clothing items. Though here in Indonesia good seamstreses are highly valued and they can take liberty with their fees.
I love it. Some people just don’t think. I’m new at sewing and crocheting so I spend a lot of time experimenting at making different things. Some I’m proud of, some not "sew" much. Ha! But I do get the occasional, oh, make one for me please. While I enjoy my hobbies (like I said, hobbies), it feels like work and stress when I try to duplicate something. I prefer to make my projects, then gift them if it’s something someone likes and something I can part with. Do I sound like I have commitment issues? No, I just don’t want to turn my fun hobbies into work. I retired a long time ago and would like to keep it like that.
Oh my gosh, YES. 🙁 Like 5 bridesmaids dresses, Neon Orange, satin, and 2 of the girls will be pregnant !! Yikes.. I Declined, especially when it took 2 months for her to return a text message, I’d sent her about details. Eekkk
I love your blog post. It’s so relatable, I will be forwarding it all my "friends".
So true! I made 4 very nice "changing mats" for my granddaughter’s baby shower. Embroidered name, etc. The baby’s other grandmother (not my daughter) told my granddaughter a little later that she needed covers for her outside chairs, that I oculd do it and that she would provide the material. Even my granddaughter was insulted by it when she gave me the message. My response : "Tell her she can’t afford me."
I just love the breakdown of the sewing project. You are absolutely correct. People just don’t realize how much time it cost to give them exactly what they want which is so difficult when they get the exact fit, colour, and pattern they gawk at the final cost -really. This is the exact reason why I don’t sew for anyone other than my immediate family- daughter, son, grandchildren and maybe my sisters and nieces.
Yes! I had a side-line sewing business and closed it because people aren’t willing to pay what the item actually costs in time and supplies and expertise. When I closed my business, my close friend told me that she was glad that I had closed my sweat shop!
I make custom drapery, reupholstery and custom embroidery. I get so many different responses. People first of all do not appreciate the time it takes. I am honest with them when they ask me about some simple panels for their home. I first ask them how much they want to spend, based on the answer and it is low, I send them to the discount stores. I tell them they can find panels cheaper than the fabric. Now I have clients that never ask a price but they understand Custom. I had a lady ask me to make 20 panels out of thin fabric, for an old house she was remodeling. I think I was charging around $35 each. She said "can’t you do them for $20? It’s just sewing 4 seams. I’m like no ma’am, if that’s all it takes then Walmart sells cheap machines.
That is so right Caroline. I sew for friends and family because I love the process. Sometimes if an acquaintance wants something, I’ll charge for supplies or have them buy the supplies. I won’t charge for labor. I saw a quote on FB recently that said, "My prices reflect my talent, not your budget". Which for me, says it all.
Yup, not so much with clothing because I very rarely do that for others, but with quilts. You know the ones who say – "But I can buy a queen-sized quilt from Walmart for $50"…….and when they do I tell them to go ahead and buy it.
Absolutely spot on! I fully respect the copyright of your written comments, but this has got to go up on a billboard!
I can identify. Actually been stuck on things like this!
"Oh, my child is in a play, can you make the costume, and I know nothing about fabric, so can you just pick out what you think will work? Shouldn’t be more than 10 or 12 dollars for fabric to make a fairy costume. I’ll pay you when I pick it up. Oh, she wears a size 6 jeans, so that should help fit her.
You won’t make this? I thought you were my friend!"
Well, I used to be your friend, and I will be again, but I’m not sewing for you. Just for my pleasure.
I’ve had people tell me the same thing. “You should sell these!” They have no idea! Just for the materials, my profit already went to the factory, the fabric store, etc. Then, to be able to sell, I’d have to do it for poverty wages. No, when I sew for someone, it’s a labor of love! And for fun! It’s probably why people used to have only 2 or 3 outfits, unless they were wealthy.
Wow, thanks for putting all our thoughts out there!
I’ve started taking commissions and I like to keep my clients very updated about the costs, crossreferencing the costs of fabrics and things so they know that such and such is $x and that I will need 2m of it, do you want to go for something cheaper to keep overall costs down or would you like to keep this one since it’s the exact shade you wanted and would feel gorgeous…. and it’s surprising how much more willing people are to take that extra expense! I sometimes worry if I should be charging by hour, instead of doubling material costs (+ extra if it’s super difficult), but I think that since most projects keep teaching me new things, I take great joy out of it and I prewarn that it will take me longer than might be expected since I am also studying as my main occupation as are most people I interact with/commission for, I can afford to let that extra profit slide.
I can definitely relate to your not sewing for money. I have been sewing all my life, and have frequently been asked to sew clothing by friends. I have always declined. Most people do not value handmade clothing.
I love to sew for my family. My children, and now my grandchildren, have always loved and appreciated the items that I sew for them. I use the best quality I can afford for all of my materials, as I do not want to put my time and effort into cheap supplies. If I wanted to save money, I would just buy the items in a store.
I have used your mask patterns to make masks for all the people in my life, from my husband, children and grandchildren, right down to my UPS man. People have asked me if I would sell the masks, but when using good quality Quilter’s Cotton, along with all the other supplies, such as Filti, I have always said no. There is no way to compete with $2.99 masks from Walmart.
Sewing has been a source of pride for me for over 55 years. I still love to try and learn about new products, techniques, etc. Sewing for me is absolutely a labor of love!!
You just hit it 💖😀
You tube! I love you tube anything I don’t know I look up on you tube and I have learned a ton! Good luck and have fun!
And that is why I quit sewing clothing! I only sew for fun, especially quilts.
My family, friends, and coworkers know that I like to sew. So they think that since I like to sew I would just leap at the chance to do their mending. UMMMM, NO! I do not live to resize jeans, replace jeans zippers or hem them. Buy a pair that fits. I hear they make them in all sizes now.
Thanks for the article. The comments have been very interesting as well.