/ / The day a stranger showed up at my door holding a wedding dress for me to hem

The day a stranger showed up at my door holding a wedding dress for me to hem


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Sewing is a dying art. I’m sure you agree. I write this blog mostly to help people learn to sew and enjoy making beautiful things. But I also write it so I can have somewhere to express odd thoughts. Like the feeling of having skills that are needed but undervalued.

For example…

A few months ago before the school year ended for my kids I was home alone, working away in my studio, and the doorbell rang. That was strange.

Through the window I could see someone I didn’t know standing there. Even stranger.

And she was holding a wedding dress. The strangeness turned to dread.

When I opened the door, before I could even say anything, she blurted out:


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‘I’m friends with your neighbor. She told me that you sew. My daughter needs this wedding dress hemmed.’

Panic filled me. I’m sure that I didn’t respond in the way that I should have.

But you know me, I’m an introvert. We’ve lived in this house for over 2 years and I barely know my neighbors. I guess I should have asked ‘which neighbor?’

Or maybe I should have asked how much she was expecting to pay to have her daughter’s wedding dress hemmed.

What’s the going rate for that? I’m sure I have no idea.


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But with someone I’d never met before (and bunches of satin and lace) staring me in the face all I could do was panic. I love sewing but I have no time or desire to do other people’s alterations. Am I obligated to do something just because I can?

So as nicely as I could I informed her that I make quilts not formal wear, and there is an alterations shop next to the grocery store down the road.

‘Really?’ she asked.

‘Yes. Sorry!’ I replied.

She walked away and I closed the door.


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I felt so guilty. Maybe she was a desperate mom and I failed her. 

Or maybe she thought seamstresses are people you can show up to, toss dresses at, and pick them up a few days later for $20.

I guess I’ll never know because I panicked and didn’t find out.

What would you have done? Do you ever feel like your skills are needed but undervalued so you hesitate? Tell us in the comments! 

xoxo,


p.s. In case you were wondering: I didn’t take pictures of the lady, lol! That’s my daughter holding 2 dresses and a curtain – we were trying to ‘fake’ a wedding dress. 🙂

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102 Comments

  1. Sue Lawson says:

    I said yes. A bride to be, who was going to wear her sisters dress needed not only the hem taking up but something added to the neck of the dress to make it slightly different. I did it! When I took scissors to that first layer of silk I felt sick – the other six layers did not make me relax. But it turned out really well. Bride happy, brides mother happy. So yes. I’m a soft touch and can’t say no.

  2. Deb Schillerberg says:

    I would have done the same thing you did! 🙂

  3. Wow, what an awkward situation. I’m not sure I would have known what to respond with if that happened to me, so I think you responded really well!

  4. I think you did the right thing. Wedding dresses are usually of a special material that behaves quite differently than quilting cottons, linen, and canvas. Unless someone has a great deal of experience sewing with slippery fabrics, the dress can easily be ruined. Also, both the neighbour and the person with the wedding dress should have known that you don’t just approach random people to do things for you–you need to verify whether that person has an actual business doing what you need. What if you had owned a tailoring shop in town, did they expect that you’d still do it at your home?? The request was quite bizarre!

  5. Toni Macomb says:

    I would have done exactly what you did. I tell people "I quilt. I don’t sew" It has nothing to do with the value of my time, monetarily, it does have to do with wanting to do things I want with my time.

  6. I understand the panic. But that’s no excuse for her rudeness. You’re not obligated to kowtow to rudeness like that. I DO sew clothing at a near-professional level and I, too, know all about my talent being undervalued. I also know how much people love to make fun of my "old fashioned" hobby – – until they don’t want to pay $25 at the tailor for a new zipper. Then all of a sudden, I’m their best friend. Nope. My standard answer is, "I’d be happy to hem that dress for you. I charge $100 for a fitting and $10 per foot for hemming. Alterations are done at rate of $60/hour…." and by then they’ve lost interst. I have no idea if these are industry rates. ONce people realize I expect to be paid for my "old fashioned" skills, they walk away. NO shame in that at all!

  7. I agree with Janelle, you need experience and you did the right thing, I’m experienced and did this sort of thing for an income for awhile, and there is no way I would accept a client in those circumstances.
    It’s quite rude and intrusive. Your neighbour should have approached you first and checked that it was something you could do, and if you were interested passed your details on. I would clearly then state to the neighbour, if I was interested that I charge $50 (Australian) an hour plus any any extras for fittings etc, that I have a maximum of 3 fittings. One to establish the alteration, a second to ensure that alteration is acceptable to the Bride, generally they are NOT happy, Brides usually aren’t and the third fitting is when they pick it up. I insist on a half payment upfront at least and they do not get the garment back until they have paid in full.
    Only then will I accept a client, my time is precious and I’d rather quilt. Bridal sewing is very problematic, Brides are difficult and expect everything form nothing, I’ve had a bride come to me with a dress about 4 sizes too small that she bought online and wanted me to make fit her, that was fun (Not) .
    so i think you did exactly the right thing and you shouldn’t beat yourself up about this.
    much love.
    PS thanks for your post about depression and anxiety.

  8. Don’t kick yourself- you did the best you knew with the knowledge had at the time…it’s great to reach out & help a “stranger” sometimes- but it’s not always ours to do…& im sure u were nice about it! Have a good one!

  9. I think you totally made the right decision. I used to do a lot of garmet sewing. And I had a few times where someone wanted something unusual, like heming formal wear. I can tell you, slippery fabrics are awful to deal with. Something like a wedding dress definitely should be handled by someone who is experienced in that type of sewing. I only work with cottons now, and quilting primarily. Even though I used to make quilts on commission I don’t do that anymore either. I have some health issues, so I just tell anyone who asks, my sewing is now limited to gifts I make for friends and family. Then I refer them to another quilter who takes outside jobs, or an alterations specialist. It’s amazing how many people want you to "just hem something, or mend something". Don’t feel bad about this at all.

  10. S friend of mine, who I’ve known for most of my life, asked me if I’d make two dresses for a friend who lives out of town. Against my better judgement, I agreed. I ask them to travel to my home for a fitting. They agreed and then kept postponing the trip. Then she said that her friend asked if I can just make the dresses and her mother would do the alterations. I blew my top and told her I do custom made garments, not ready to wear and I don’t make garments sight unseen. Never heard from them again.

  11. Saersfina says:

    I would rewpond in the same way, so dont feel quilty

  12. Personally I’m a person whom likes to grow from a new experience. Being kind to a stranger in need is a nice place to start.
    If you consider how much courage it must have taken the lady to come to ask for help. It doesn’t sound like she was expecting it to be done for free. From experience I know it is difficult to discuss the subject of payment for the skill you acquired over time. Do I’ve learned to say: "I love to help but that I’m working for which I’m being paid and has a deadline. I can help, but I wouldn’t be able to do it for free".

    1. Sarah Lynn says:

      I like your answer. I agree it may have taken a lot for the lady to come to your door, so YES, be kind and friendly to her. Have a little chat and explain nicely how she’s better off going to someone who specializes in formal wear. Just taking the time to chat with a stranger on your doorstep can be a learning and growing experience.

    2. Melissa Shultz says:

      I completely agree with this. If I know how to do something and know I will have the time to do it, I do it. And I will do stuff for free for close friends and family if it is something that won’t take that long. We should love our neighbors and this is a perfect way to do it.

  13. I agree with case that the neighbor should have inquired and definitely not just sent the woman over. I’ve heard so many conversations with moms about getting prom dresses hemmed or altered and they can’t believe how much it costs. I always ask them how long do they think it takes? How many layers of fabric? Do they understand the steps to finish the fabric, deal with curves…. Don’t they think a seamstress should charge by the hour? If you don’t sew, you have no idea. Don’t feel bad about someone who imposes herself!

  14. Same thing. I would have given her the phone number for the lady who does my alterations and call it a day. I do not possess the skill or the desire to hem yards of lace and satin and am pretty sure she couldn’t afford me if I did!

  15. You did the right thing! To be clear, they weren’t trying to get to know you – they wanted your services – probably at a neighborly rate! I do things for family and friends that I would not do for others but I wouldn’t hem a wedding dress. A neighbor kind of asked about reworking a Hawaiian shirt he loved – nope – it’s not quilting and I don’t do it. I could, but I don’t. You would bring the stew ingredients to a neighbor who was a chef and ask to have a stew made, would you?

  16. Oh my gosh…similar “tailor” requests come my way. I hate that wave of dread that comes over me when I realize what they are going to ask. I feel terrible saying no because they are usually in a last-minute-pinch and at a loss of who else to turn to. At the same time I think it’s pretty lame that sewing as a craft is over-simplified. If I told someone I like to fish as a hobby, would they assume I can catch all types of fish and then ask me to catch them one quickly? 😂

  17. Ugh, I’m a knitter and I get the same thing. "I’m going to a retro stock hop, maybe I could commission you to make me socks." Hmm I’m a pretty fast knitter but my estimate is 10 to 12 hours for the pair. "How does. $200 sound?" With hand work, there isn’t awareness of the amount of labor it takes. There’s a reason I give away my knitted and crocheted items. No one can afford to buy them.

  18. I always tell people I can so but I’m not a tailor I do costuming quilting Avant-garde could tour but again I am not a tailor those skills are learned over many many years of doing the same thing over and over I have adapted myself to learning on the fly and I always say when they ask me could you him something I say bring it to me and I’ll see if my machine can handle it

  19. Julie Rockhold says:

    I JUST had my sister ask me this weekend if I could hem her friend’s pant suit she is getting married in!! Iive an hour away from my sister and the friend. I did it but when I finished, I asked her “you couldn’t get in anywhere?” She was confused. I told her “most dry cleaners has some one who can do hems.” It would have saved her a two hour drive.

  20. Wow, that’s a weird story!
    I am from Germany, and it seems that sewing is experiencing a renaissance. DIY has become a must, buying seems out of date. Fabric stores are popping up, the internet is crowded with online shops, you can buy sewing machines everywhere. Patterns for clothing are plenty and cheap to get, sometimes even sew-along videos. There is a big shop platform focusing on patterns and instructions, video courses and such (much like Craftsy), also on knitting and crocheting instructions, and cake making. It is amazing 🙂 And I love it 🙂
    Still, I would also rather turn a stranger away holding a wedding dress. I’d be too scared to ruin it, as I "only" hobby sew. I am not a professional. I hope my neighbors either don’t intend to marry, or have not yet found out I am sewing 😀
    Best
    Carolin

  21. You did the right thing! I do sewing and alterations…and get this type of thing at my fulltime job alot. Most recently…prom season..a co worker askked if i could alter her daughters dress, we agreed on a date to have the dress to me…she called 4 days before prom, ( not the 2 weeks before as agreed on)..sorry…dont have time now. She slammed me to co workers , all her facebook friends, and anyone who would listen. So, you toyally did the right thing. And relax…wedding dresses get easier in time…i have done lots, and made several from beginning to final stitch. Happy Sewing!!!

  22. The last time someone (from church) asked me about alterations I mentioned that I have been sewing over 40 years and like any experienced professional I charge $400 per hour (I may have mentioned trial lawyers!). Then I mentioned that there is an alterations shop next to Nordstroms that doesn’t charge as much. I’ve never been asked again.

  23. Julia Mitchell says:

    I’m a seamstress in an area where I seem to be the only one! There are quilters everywhere, but I am the one they send these people to. I even had business cards made for them to hand out. Don’t feel guilty, the alterations shop was happy to get the business. Most people are willing to pay extra for last minute jobs.

  24. April Lopez says:

    As a fellow introvert I totally and completely understand. I’ve kicked myself many times because I was too fearful to do things I’ve been asked to do. And the feelings sometimes last years "What if…?" What if I did it. Where would I be now. But fear of the unknown hangs on. As for cost?, she probably wouldn’t pay what your time is worth.

  25. I have sewed over 50 years and made two wedding dresses! Don’t plan on making another until granddaughter marries. As my granddad always said too much sugar, not enough cents! Adding lace and rhinestones by hand was a chore of love but there’s not enough money for me to repeat the experience! Next time, for granddaughter, I’ll try a special glue or something!! You did the right thing turning her away!!

  26. I am 72 and I sew nearly all of my clothes. I live in an active community and when I am in a group of people and someone comments on something I am wearing others will say, "Oh, she made that!", and the first person invariably asks if I sew for others. Right then I firmly say something like, "I’m sorry but I am not comfortable sewing for people other than immediate family. It seems that others always want to repay me and I just don’t want to get into that situation. But thank you so much for the compliment!" Seriously, I could if I wanted, be sewing for others every single day here, NO WAY! NOT FUN!

  27. Shirley Soellner says:

    I would have done the same as you. I had a man (delivering a new washer/dryer) see my sewing machine. He was so happy because I sew – and he had pants the needed hemmed. I politely told him my machine didn’t know how to do pants, it made quilts. He had a stunned look on his face when he left. lol

  28. My brother’s wife bought a lovely wedding dress at a discount store. It needed hemming so Mom and I suggested a professional alterations shop in our town which performed the work. Day of wedding Mom delivered the dress to wedding location in bride’s town. Bride gets dressed and … Oh No!! Seamstress hemmed dress using a side front panel as center panel so hem is off kilter! I hadn’t left home so I get this panicked call from Mom requesting sewing supplies but no explanation. With the help of bridesmaids, both with managing the dress and removing the bride from the area, we got the dress rehemmed and ironed with the ceremony delayed about a half hour. Ugliest huge stitches on the inside you ever saw but the hem held for the entire day! Marriage didn’t last but that hem did.

  29. Maxine R. says:

    I’m an introvert like you are and I would have stammered my way through it–just as you did. I think we introverts choose hobbies that make us comfortable where we can work alone and enjoy the peace that comes from not having to make conversation–although we don’t mind talking to other women about quilts, that’s for sure. I once had an experience with my insurance agent. He wanted a queen size quilt made for an old college friend where I would design the quilt based on their college emblem—AND—he be willing to pay $200. I told him that it costs more than $200 in just the supplies to make that kind of quilt. So not only did he expect me to make the quilt, but he wanted an original design also. I was shocked at his audacity and I guess he was shocked at my negative response. He’s out of the insurance business now and I’m still happily quilting in my little nest.

  30. Rosemary B says:

    You did the right thing. I always act surprised when people ask me to do garment repair or hemming. I tell them I know how to make quilts and stuff, but I "do not know anything about hemming" (I do of course, been sewing for 40 years) and I might add, my hand sewing skills are terrible.
    It is a great idea to recommend the dry cleaner now that I have read the comments here. Excellent advice.

  31. When my daughters were in high school, I hemmed and altered many formal dresses for their friends. Never charged them but I did require that when they brought the dress, they tried it on, we agreed what could be done and they stayed while I completed the project, so I could have them try it on as I went. However, I’d never do this for a stranger. Alterations are not fun for me, I’d rather create from scratch. And I no longer do that for pay, for me it’s just takes the fun out of the project. Hopefully you won’t have any other strangers visit with such requests!

  32. I have altered several wedding gowns in the past and made my daughter-in-law’s dress. Recently I made a baby quilt for a baby shower for a church member (never got a thank you) We all did self addressed envelopes. Everyone loved the quilt. I was asked to sew another themed quilt. When I worked up the estimate, the person said they would have to think about it. Yes, people do undervalue our sewing skills. I have been sewing for almost 60 years.

  33. I would have invited her in and at least looked at what she wanted done and the time frame. You can always say "i’d really like to help you, but this is not something I’m comfortable doing. Yes, I sew, but this is way to of an important project and I’d hate to mess it up. Let me give you a number (or name) of somebody who maybe could help you." Kindness and effort to help goes a long ways.

  34. I would have done the same thing. Sewing on satin/silk/lace is a skill. When people hit me up for sewing projects I say "It’s a skill set I don’t have. You can try…."

  35. Gay Ferland says:

    You did the right thing, you enforced your boundaries!! Family and friends assume I am going to do alterations, I don’t and the way I handle it was to start charging more money. Sure they got upset, I’m not doing it for nothing!!!!
    Thank you for sharing your story!! 😊

  36. Maribess Powell says:

    You did the right thing by not hemming the wedding dress. I even turned down a granddaughter’s hint that I hem her VOLUMINOUS gown and I’ve never regretted not making that sacrifice of time, talent and heartache. I’ve made dresses but wedding dresses are a different story. I did fix one wedding dress that was purchased too small with the intent of losing weight which not surprisingly did not happen. I remembered that my daughter had a Maggie Sotero dress that laced up the back and it occurred to me that maybe I could do that to this girl’s dress. I looked online and sure enough found a place that sold the panel for the back for around $40! I took out the zipper and sewed in the panel and it worked wonderfully.

  37. Erin Stevenson says:

    My EX husband volunteered me to alter a bridesmaid dress. I have never done alterations. It was a strapless dress with 3 layers of fabric. The girl wanted it shortened, and straps added, oh and by the way "I have one shoulder 2 inches lower than the other". The dress also had a ruffle down one side. It was a nightmare! I did the work and I received $20 and a bottle of wine. And the husband got a stern warning about volunteering me for things.

  38. It’s so hard to say no! I have done some crazy favours with terrible slippery material that I am pretty sure I ruined! I should have been brave enough to just say no. I once agreed and then took it to the local alterations place and paid someone else to do it, I couldn’t be bothered spending hours hemming!

  39. You said exactly the right thing!

  40. Yes sewing skills and many more “old “ skills are under valued. It was considered woman’s work so is not really work ,but don’t get me started. I was once volunteered to do a dress for the local queen pageant. What a disaster. The girls had no idea the use of correct bras or under things shoes or the like. ALike you I now pass all such delicate things on to a professional. My sewing skills are up to the challenge. I just want to do my own thing. Getting to old for problems with ungrateful people. No one has ever offer money for what I have done. You did good

  41. I have hemmed pants for friends and family but usually I tell tpeople that I will teach them how to do it themselves. So far no one has taken me up on the offer. One person told me that she couldn’t get her machine to sew on the grandson’s pant fabric and when I tried to hem them, I needed to change to a microtex needle. After explaining the different sewing machine needles to her, she went out, bought them, and happily finished the hemming herself. (and no longer thought she needed a new sewing machine).

  42. You did entirely the right thing, and you handled it well. The woman was presumptuous and rude. She didn’t introduce herself properly, ask whether she was interrupting anything, or inquire whether you do alterations. In response her abruptness, you calmly replied that you don’t do alterations, and you were even kind enough to direct her to a place where alterations are done. Cheers to you for certainly being more polite and considerate than this "stranger at your door."

  43. I, too, only sew for certain people. I have made clergy vestments for friends and my priest. When I tried doing it for money, it just felt wrong. Came out beautiful, but I felt funny about it.

    I also knit and agree with the comment that nobody would pay for socks I’ve made because I’d have to charge for my time. 10 to 15 hours sounds about right for a basic sock. Add in lace or other design elements and it could be closer to 25 hours. Like knitting, for me sewing is a labor of love. I have turned down requests for making clothing for others. Nope. Wasn’t even as nice as you were. Just no, I don’t make clothing for others. Unless it is small children I’m related to…

    1. Amber Zona says:

      I wore my first pair of hand-knit socks to a gathering. A woman there who I’d never met was saying how much she’d love to have a pair, I could tell she wanted me to offer to knit some. I bet she’d have been shocked that the yarn alone cost $20! I told her that I would have to charge $500 because of how long it took me to make them. She lost interest!

  44. You are not alone! A few weeks ago my neighbor came across to me with a bunch of her father-in-laws underpants. He was going into a care home and needed name labels stitched in each and every pair. I didn’t do it! – #sorrynotsorry

  45. Oh, yes—the "dreaded" question. You definitely did the right thing. You gave her advice on how to get it done but didn’t give-in to that "guilt feeling". Most people who don’t sew think it is so easy to "whip something up". They have absolutely no idea how much time and talent goes into making something that looks professional. After a few stressful experiences, I’m getting better at saying "no". I can never take money from a friend (especially when I’m not sure how successful my effort will be) and I figure my time is "priceless" anyway. I’ve been sewing craft items as a fundraiser for a cancer team I’m on and I find that it is hard to sell anything for what it is really worth (time & materials)—a little frustrating when all of the money earned is going to charity. I’m so glad you shared this story—it really "hit home" and will help me deal with future requests. Thanks.

  46. Iraida Nieves says:

    I’m a seamstress and I would have done the same thing. I do make dresses for weddings but I do have months to accomplish what is needed.

  47. Zanymouse says:

    Oh my goodness, I am continually shocked at the way people feel comfortable taking advantage of others. Thanks to my obsession with quilting, saying no to alterations is getting easier. That said, I have in the past hemmed prom dresses, made curtains, and crocheted three afghans all for the same friend, and for the price of materials (purchased on sale and with my coupons) and a cup of coffee. I had to put to a stop to it. Honestly, I don’t think my friend had any idea how many hours I spent, or how many projects I had to put on hold to do her things. After the last one, I told her how much I would have charged a regular person, and said I couldn’t do anymore of her things for free. It went well, and we are still friends.

  48. Diane Rae says:

    My daughter bought a beautiful winter wedding dress on sale or her summer wedding……and said, “Oh, Mom can fix it!” Long story short…. I removed the long sleeves and used the lace cuffs to make cap sleeves and hemmed the whole thing about 4 inches! Never again! But it was my daughter not a stranger. You did the right thing for sure. It was so stressful doing it for my daughter! I really understand!

  49. I am not an introvert, but my daughter and husband both are. I totally understand your anxiety. However, let’s address how incredibly rude the neighbor was in giving out your information, as well as her friend for just showing up at the door!! I made a diaper bag for my daughter’s best friend, and during the shower (!) a woman came over to me, requesting one just like it! I politely informed her that the supplies alone for the bag were $65, so there would be no way I could make it for her for anything less than 2-3 times that amount! She was no longer interested, to say the least! Why people think that just because we can sew means we are going to do everything for free just amazes me! (By the way, the request for free alterations is such a common request, that I have seen tee-shirts that say: "Yes, I sew. Yes, I made this. No, I won’t hem your pants!) LOL!

  50. linda wilmoth says:

    You did the right thing! There is no sign on your home telling people you sew or do repairs on clothes. The entitlement these days is unexcusable, not to mention past rude. You shouldn’t feel guilty, you have no idea who the neighbor is or this odd ball that showed up at your door. Personally, I wouldn’t have been as nice, I would of helped her off the doorstep.

  51. Juanita Mullins says:

    My gut reaction would depend on her demeanor. If she seemed upset and panicked, my extroverted nurturer would jump in front and ask her in to see what could be done. As soon as she got in and my nurturer self had done it’s part, my introverted crafter would take over and I would panic and wonder what I had done. Then I would have the more difficult task of explaining that I don’t do sewing for others outside family and, as you did, guide her to a professional. Being both extroverted and introverted, is a real problem. Maybe it isn’t extroverted so much as impulsive.

    I have a dear friend who sewed for other people for many years and they would bring a handful of patterns and bolts of fabric at a time. She charged very little so they were getting a very good deal and they knew it. She is also my sister’s mother-in-law so I was pretty young when I saw this and knew I would never do that.

    Regardless of mine or anyone else’s reaction, I think you did the right thing.

  52. OMG, it doesn’t sound like she even asked if you could do it, it’s almost like she assumed you would say yes! I would have done the same thing. And I bet she was shocked when she went down the road and found out how much she would be charged by the alterations shop. Or, maybe she had already been there and that’s why she turned to you, thinking she might get a better deal!!

  53. Oh Caroline, You definitely did the right thing. I hemmed my daughters wedding dress…what a nightmare! When I delivered it to her all I got was a "Thanks Mom." It had a very long train.
    When my husband and I were first married 38 years ago I did alterations and sewing to help make ends meet. The ones that were always hard for me to understand were when people would bring me clothing that was four sizes to small and ask me to "let it out" so they could wear them again. Even though it was a business and they knew they were paying afterwards I would have often get arguments that it couldn’t have taken that much time it was just a little seam. I did it for a year and a half and stopped except for two clients who were "nice" people.
    After we moved to a new state and started having our family I kept myself quite happily content sewing for my two little ones. I especially enjoyed making them matching smocked outfits. It provided for my outlet of sewing and hand-sewing! One Sunday in church the woman in front of us turned around and said she had been admiring the clothing my children were always wearing, I made them right? I affirmed this. This was her audacious proposal…her daughter was in dance and her dance costumes were pricey. She would LET me make them and GIVE me ten dollars a costume. My mouth must have hit the floor. The Lycra and sequins and spangles and ruffles and then she would do me the favor of ten bucks. My husband just held me back in the pew. Then he answered that I was way to busy sewing for our own children to think about sewing for anyone else. It made me think of something highly ironic though. The second time my future husband contacted me back 40 years ago was to ask if I would hem a pair of pants he had just bought that were to long. I did do that as I had stars in my eyes. lol

    1. So true! Especially about the dance costumes, lol! It seems the consensus is that special people get things sewn for them. Everyone else should pay, he he.

  54. I’m constantly approached to fix, hem, make something. Currently I’m making 14 bags for the Kindergarten class at church. Did I want to, no, but it’s church, what am I going to say. So I’m putting the things I want to do to do this. I have made for a hefty profit a t-shirt quilt and I’m going to make another one as well. But I really just want to sew for my family and I.

    I would have done the same thing though (or given it to my mom, who make her wedding dress and mine, lol)

  55. If I had a dollar for every time that someone asked me to do alterations or repairs on something I’d be sitting pretty right about now. It drives me nuts! Just because I make quilts everyone thinks I can (or want) to do all other kinds of sewing. Ugh. I used to give in and attempt to fix things for people and then stress myself and my family out big time because I don’t have a clue how to do. No more! I’ve learned how to politely and kindly say, "No."

  56. Seeds to Sew - Owner Valerie says:

    I would have wanted:
    1. more information
    2. tell her to make an appointment with me
    3. Bring her daughter and the shoes she will be wearing
    4. Give her an free estimate

    Yes, I would help her out. But then again, I am a seamstress/alterations/quilter/sewing teacher/ mix media artist , who likes dropping Jesus seeds to see the God’s trees grow. 😉

  57. Oh I know this feeling. I am not a quilter. I dabble but there is just too much exact measuring for me. In the past I would have taken it and white knuckled through it. Now I am direct. I pretend they already know I charge. I also explore their expectations. I repeat I am not a professional but I’m pretty good. You should never agree if your not comfortable doing it.

  58. Stephanie says:

    I would have done exactly the same as you! That would have been a huge responsibility that I would not have been comfortable taking. Your response was perfect👍

  59. I too was asked to hem a wedding dress for a soon to be niece. I too am an introvert and like to keep my sewing skills selfishly to myself. I however reluctantly said yes and I as well had never hemmed a wedding dress. The dress came and I had about a month or so to get the dreaded job done. I hung it on the door and for a couple of weeks after the soon to be bride had tried it on…more than once…I dove in head first. That first cut was as painful as childbirth!!! Long story short I hemmed that beautiful wedding dress entirely by hand. I was reluctant to gather the miles of material into my machine…it took me days. I altered it as well and bustled the train after watching a youtube video. It turned out amazing…the bride was charged only the favor of hanging a new fan in my bedroom by my nephew. We both won and even though I will never, ever hem another wedding or bridesmaid dress…another story…I gained a since of self confidence and a beautiful niece that looked amazing on her special day.

  60. Yes. I understand. It has happened to my mother and myself. People expect services for free when they are broke. When they
    can afford it, they go to a shop but our skills are just as good, we just do not carry the overhead.
    I state my prices upfront so there is no misunderstanding.

  61. People who don’t sew have not a clue about what is involved in making or altering anything fabric related. I teach sewing/quilting at JoAnn and I enjoy passing on the skill of sewing. Once the education coordinator called me and said a customer fell in love with a rag quilt that was a sample for a class and wondered if I would sell it to her. When I told her the price she seemed insulted that it was so "high"; I told her she could take the class and learn to make it herself. She couldn’t possibly do that, she told me. So I presume she bought a cheap Chinese made quilt that falls apart when it is touched! I do sew for people, alterations and all, but I make sure they know how much my time is worth.

  62. You did the right thing in suggesting that she see the person down the street that does that work. I would be the person who they would see. Nothing is worse than getting something that someone else has messed up. My absolute worst experience was trying to repair a hem that was so badly done that I could not get it straight without it being way too short (the other person had kept and thrown away what she had cut off) so the girl had to get special permission to wear it for the pageant and then wasn’t considered in the competition.

  63. In the main I don’t enjoy doing alterations, but I happily do them for family. Strangers – NO!!! Not even for friends. You did the right thing.

  64. I read this as I look at the wedding dress on the dress form beside me that is giving me nightmares. My daughter’s bff has no one to help her with wedding. I take her dress shopping, I see price tag. I see her sad face as she realizes no way. I stick my foot in my mouth and say, We can make this. Omg , when this dress is none no one will ever know I know how to sew or even own a sewing machine. I am so tired and so unbelievably stressed. I mean it is the center piece, her best day ever. Why didn’t some one slap me and say , fool what are you thinking?

  65. I’ve been asked to make quilts for people I barely know. Politely declined, saying I really only quilt for my family and as gifts. I have to really really love someone for them to get one of my quilts. (tho I do charity quilts for QOV and pregnancy help centers–on my own time table). I even had a niece, whom I’d made a quilt for her baby, ask me if I would make a twins size one for her. That was a tough one–I just didn’t have the time or desire, and really doubted that she wanted to pay for quilt shop fabric, batting, and my time. So I let her down as easily as I could. I even turned down our church when they asked if I could put together a bunch of fabric squares that kids had puff painted on—it would have been a nightmare! I did make 6 bean bags for a Sunday school class. You did the right thing in turning down this stranger. We need to be prepared, because it will happen.

  66. Barbara T. says:

    I had a "friend" ask me to hem the dress she was going to wear for her daughter’s wedding – a slippery acetate with a sheer organza overskirt. I said I was concerned that I would ruin it – my sewing skills are adequate, but I’m no seamstress. I suggested that she take it to the tailor at the dry cleaner’s – she said they wanted $85 to hem it. So let’s see – you want me to hem your dress for free because you don’t want to pay someone else what their time and skill is worth? No, thanks. I politely refused and have no regrets.

  67. I am not fond of alterations of any kind, just ask my daughters. On the other hand, I have sucker written across my forehead in big letters that are plainly visible. I have a really hard time saying no because I like making people happy and am usually sorry that I have said yes. I also have trouble taking the money. At the age of 70, I am finally learning how to say no! I’m proud of you!

  68. Do not feel guilty. I do wedding dresses all the time and have for many years. I started quilting about 5 years ago. They are very different kinds of sewing.Some people do pay well for alterations. When people think it is to much money I will tell them that I than would need to get a job at McDonald’s to make a living. We do not have to do everything others ask us to do. Someones procrastination is not your emergency to fix..

  69. You did the right thing. I do alterations for my family and one man friend. He and I have a barter system. I hem his jeans and long-sleeve golf shirts. In return, he build me a sewing table to my specifications (complete with ruler drawer), for no cost except materials (I tried to pay him but he would not take anything). He also made one of my bedroom’s wardrobe/closet into my fabric cupboard. My dh is not handy. This man friend is a carpenter.

  70. Phyllis Woodell says:

    Caroline, you absolutely delight me! I have often been treated like my love for creating and sewing obligates me to become an indentured servant to demanding friends/family that don’t buy clothing that fit or expect free alterations and/or hem adjustments. I would never ask a friend who enjoys baking to make a wedding cake for free, or a friend that crochets to make an afghan! I offer and volunteer to sew for charities or people that I love and don’t expect anything from in return.

    I have learned in my 25 years of sewing that, "No, thank you" is a complete sentence and I do not need to explain why I do not feel like helping them. I am not taking precious time from my loved ones or more importantly, myself. It is unkind, ungracious, and just plain rude to expect my sewing services for free or little. I have paid quite a lot of money for materials, tools, equipment, and education. My hairdresser charges my $50 for a half hour haircut, and I would bet that we are equal as far as money invested in learning and perfecting that skill. Just because it isn’t corporate or formal, it makes it no less valuable.

    I am a people pleaser myself, and I would lose precious time and energy feeling guilty or obsessing about how I should have reacted. If you would never treat someone else like that, then don’t spend one minute worrying about the situation…men would never obsess about situations like we do, so forget about it. And thank you so much for sharing.

    Ps…I have sewn two bridal gowns and you saved yourself quite a headache in more ways than one. Bridal sewing should be an expression of love, because you would never be compensated fairly for the difficult job. Congrats for saying no, give yourself a hug and a pat on the back, poor a glass of wine, and enjoy what you love.

  71. Hollie McNeely says:

    This is such a tough one. I have a neighbor who has done this to me multiple times. Shorten jeans. I did it and gave them back to her. She brought another pair over same thing. This time she actually said it gold thread I used did not match. I redid them. No thank you not nothing. Just recently her husband brought me their sons T-shirt that she chopped and I mean chopped off because it was too long. Before he brought it I asked was it cotton or jersey. He said cotton. He wanted it hemmed. Said I did try. It was jersey. I didn’t the best I could by hand stitching g a rolled hem. I still have the shirt. He never came back. I am not a seamstress. I failed Home Economics. Wish I could. I did make my own blouses. People just assume you can sew and it’s ok.

  72. $225 is the going rate to hem a wedding dress. I know because I’m a sewist who owns a craft shop, Robot Inside Crafting Company, in beautiful downtown Reading, Ohio better know as the “Bridal District”. The Knot has headquarters here and brides fly in from all over the globe. I am asked daily to do alterations. I price myself higher than the actual bridal alterations places because I hate doing alterations. If I don’t want to do it, I just say no. I used to teach lessons out of my house and your story reminds me of the steady flow of folks asking for custom made. It was pretty overwhelming until I started charging $25 plus materials for custom work and actually paying myself what I was worth. I do a lot of custom work nowadays, but all at full price. None of my customers bat an eye at my prices because they understand the cost of handmade. My non customers are always appalled and that’s why they aren’t my demographic 🙂 good for you for maintaining boundaries- I should add it has taken me years to learn how to say no after many horrible experiences where I was guilted into saying yes! Stay strong, sewing friends! If you don’t love Making It, don’t make it. It steals the joy from someone who actually WOULD love making it ❤️

    1. Thanks for your insight! We all deserve to be appreciated and paid what our time is worth. As for me, my wedding dress hemming rate will be twice that for strangers, but probably free for people related to me, lol. Hugs!

  73. Jo Culver says:

    Your post reminded me of the mending that has been in my sewing room for more months than I can count. I am now a quilter only, but in another life I made all my clothes, curtains, kids’ clothes, mended everything in sight. This particular piece is a pair of pants belonging to my ex. He split the crotch out. And wanted me to fix them. I did get as far as pinning the crotch back together before I started to laugh. But, now, every time I look at the pants, I find myself trying to find a way to mend them, but leave the pins in place.

  74. Anne Daws-Lazar says:

    I dread these situations. The truth is I will do some of this kind of stuff for certain friends. But I want to pick the person and time! I think it’s amazingly rude to show up on your doorstep with the dress! I don’t have the skill to do that kind of work – but I HAVE hemmed pants on a mother of the grooms pants once she assured me she was never going to wear them again and didn’t care what they looked like. She did pay me $15. Then another friend who I DID resent – asked me to hem curtains. it really wasn’t a big deal – I just didnt’ want to do it. She said ‘I’ll buy you lunch some day!’ No respect!!

  75. Annie Schuenemann says:

    I would have said yes immediately.. then regretted it later.. because it would take lots of time I just don’t have.. cost? That always stumps me.. I usually wind up undercharging.. & then be annoyed with myself.. Undervalued?? Most Definitely!

  76. Becky Stancill says:

    You did the correct thing. In all my years as a seamstress I have "seen it all."

    I do not sew for weddings nor wedding parties! Too much anxiety from them for me.

    I quit putting my phone number on my business cards. Some people think because you work from home that it is okay to call at 9:30 pm with "an emergency." It’s strictly e-mail until we are ready to set up at get together.

  77. Good for you! A neighbor called me several years ago saying she heard I sewed. I said yes but I didn’t really sew garments. I can’t remember what it was she was looking for but I got the impression that she wanted me to say yes. Just what I wanted to do since I only worked full-time, had two kids in grade school, a husband and a house to take care of! LOL I indicated to her that maybe she should try the sales people working at Joann’s. I had done that in 1989 when I wanted a couple maternity dresses made. My fault was not asking about the cost first. I had to call a few times to see if the work was getting done. It ended up costing me more for those two dresses than if I’d bought them at the store and she couldn’t find my pattern!

  78. Pamela Coughlin says:

    Well, for you that would have been very hard. I feel for you thinking about that wedding dress.
    For me, a seamstress for over 30 years, that answer would have been "yes". We are a dying breed. I sew pretty much 7 days a week to keep up with my customers, especially during wedding season.
    I love to quilt, but do not have much time to do so. Soon, a little under 3 years to retirement and the rest of that will go away except for those very good customers of mine.
    Continue on with your wonderful quilting!
    But that will be my time, to quilt, grandkids, and traveling with my wonderful husband of 42+ years.

  79. OMG!! You handled it perfectly!

  80. I sew. I have made my clothes, since junior high and am 67 years old. I’ve made mine, my mother’s, daughters’ and granddaughters’ clothing and some for my husband. I have been taken advantage of more than once through the years by friends and neighbors. I think you did just fine. 5 years ago I let the bridal shop hem my daughters wedding dress with a very full chiffon skirt. Was the best $150 I ever spent! To this day I would rather make a dozen new garments than alter or re-hem one garment!

  81. Oh my, that was so rude on her part.
    I used to get the same "I heard you do this, so you like it, so you will always want to do it – even for strangers" in photography.
    Yes, I love photography, but that doesn’t mean I have to take weddings, baptisms and events (usually for free, because you love this, right?)

    Don’t feel guilty at all. She should at least have asked if you did this for other people and the price.

  82. I think you did the right thing for you to do. I sew for my family and sometimes friends. I hate to do alterations! This is another skill entirely. I’m pretty good at doing them, I just don’t want to. Recently my daughter asked if I could help a friend of hers. She needed measurements taken so she could order her wedding dress from Amazon. Amazon?? I didn’t even know they sold wedding dresses. The woman had lost both hands in an industrial accident about 15 years ago and her mother passed away a few years ago. I helped her and when it came in it needed some alterations in the bust area so I did those. She offered to pay but I know she doesn’t have much so I told her no. When I know people are in a pinch I try to help them out. I never charge, I’m not a professional and I am perfectionist so I have had to learn to just let it go. I do the alteration and they always think it’s perfect. I sew little girls dresses and give them away to people I know just because I love to sew them and I only have 2 granddaughters, they can only wear so many dresses! Don’t ever feel bad for telling someone no.

  83. I think you did the right thing. I too make quilts. I have NO interest in doing alterations and/or mending for others. I may do so bartering only with close friends and family. I have done what you have done, turned away alterations. With some level of guilt. BUT… I would rather feel a bit guilty than to feel the anger, dread and overall "I could kick myself" feelings for taking on a project I do not enjoy, nor have the time to do. There are businesses that do alteration. There are wedding shops that will alter/hem wedding dresses. Sometimes when people come to you to "fix" their sewing dilemma they come with pity as if you are going to do them a favor and not charge them. I have a friend that buys her clothes from thrift stores and yard sales, I have no problem with that I too buy some of my clothes that way. In the past she has expected me to hem, take in, mend, fix the zipper…..as a favor. Really!!!! My sewing is my business that pays my mortgage. I can’t give it away. So I looked up the costs an alterations shop would charge and told her I would have to charge her comparable costs, which made those alterations/mending needs costs many times more than what she paid for the clothes. Needless to say I didn’t have to do her a "favor". The guilt will pass as you peacefully work on your quilts.

  84. Your visitor at the door could have inquired more politely if this is the type of sewing you do rather than assuming it is, as it is not like you are advertising sewing services. I would not think of taking a recipe and ingredients over to a neighbor who I know liked to bake (if I didn’t) and ask them to make my pie for Sunday dinner regardless of whether I was willing to pay them. You sent her in the right direction so in my humble opinion you did the right thing. I am often asked to hem pants and decline politely with a simple, "I’m sorry but that is not the type of sewing I enjoy doing". Again just because I cook dinner every night doesn’t mean I want to cook everyone else’s dinner, my free time is precious and I choose to sew quilts, bags and gifts items for charities and people I love.

  85. You definitely did the right thing. I said yes once to my neighbours and since then have had a never ending pile of stuff to repair; even small projects like replacing a button (I’ve had innumerable excuses as to why they can’t do this themselves or teach their kids to do this!!). And I always feel frustrated as will do their stuff first then feel angry as I’ve not spent my precious little time doing my own sewing projects. Ive now a new baby so time is even more precious and sewing feels like a whistful dream. Say no… in fact I’m going to return their repair jobs!

  86. You said ‘no’ kindly, and that’s all you need do. You do not need to feel guilty, though most of us do.
    I did want to make a comment though – so many of those writing comments talk about being angry because they were taken advantage of…. MOST CASES – you are only taken advantage of if you let it happen! If you don’t want to do alterations, or make something for someone – then don’t. It’s taken me decades to be able to say no without feeling guilty. For years I would grumble while working on a project because I felt I had to take on that project when I really didn’t want to. They didn’t take advantage of me – they ASKED if I would do it – it was my own fault in the first place by saying, "yes."

  87. Alterations are a skill of their own–and no one wants to pay what they are worth. Then there is the added stress of ruining someone’s wedding dress! I did alterations for awhile, and vowed to never do them again for $$. Everyone thinks it is just so easy, but they don’t know how to do it themselves. Most of us sew because we like the creative outlet, there is nothing creative in hemming a dress with yards and yards of fabric! That’s just work. You did the right thing, this person needed someone to help–and you did, you directed them to someone who WANTS to do alterations, who has a business.

  88. I feel that you made a lot of negative assumptions in this case. People who do not sew on any level have next to no appreciation of what is involved in creating and making. When confronted with this request, you are right, questions need to be asked to clarify the need. At times I have felt immense satisfaction with one off requests that have saved the day, so to speak.depending the situation, payment may be in order, and always discussed before the work begins, allowing each of you to decide whether you will proceed. Often it’s an eye opener to the one requesting and can be a new appreciation of your skill set so carefully honed through time and experience. So, I would say, maybe a tweek on first impressions and renewed confidence in your abilities and realization that often people have no idea what’s involved with “just a hem that needs to be done”.

  89. I think you did the right thing, too. I do alterations and I have seen enough dresses come to me that need to be redone or repaired because someone took on more than they should have. Last spring a girl brought me her prom dress that someone else had altered first. Hacked up is more like it! I ended up having to rebuild the back bodice of the dress with new fabric. It would have been better for the person who did the work and for the girl if she had said it was something she wasn’t comfortable working with. Just because you sew doesn’t mean you know how to alter clothing any more than because I do know how to alter clothing doesn’t mean I know how to quilt. They are two completely different things. People who don’t sew at all don’t know that, though!

  90. ‘If you would never ask Picasso to paint the garage, please do not ask me to do your repairs..’

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