A message to Well Meaning Friends

This is before I went blond, lol!

This is before I went blond, lol!

Dear Well-Meaning Friend,

I love to sew beautiful things using beautiful fabrics. I love making quilts, tote bags, clothes for my kids and for myself, all kinds of things, really. 


But there are some things that I don’t consider beautiful. Pants that need to be hemmed. Sleeves that need to be shortened. Your idea for a revolutionary new gadget that will keep a cast dry or a more functional eye patch.



Especially that knock off dress that you think will be cheaper if I sew it for you. (this is the story of how that will go…)


So when you ask me to sew for you I will probably say yes – the first time (unless it’s that dress).

But don’t think for a minute that you are doing me a favor by asking. You are not helping me to figure out what to sew next.

This image is yours to share! xoxo

This image is yours to share! xoxo

My ‘sew this next’ list is full already.

And there may even be something on it for you. 🙂 



P.S. Does it sound like I’m saying that I’m too busy to do everyone else’s mending, alterations, and custom sewing? Actually, I am – because someone’s mending takes away from time spent with my family and time spent at my business. I have a friend with her own housecleaning business. I would never call her up and ask her to clean my messy house simply because she could do it better – and then offer her $5 to cover supplies. But unfortunately, people don’t see what I do the same way. Maybe someday.

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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. 🙂

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  1. Oh yes, we ALL could have written this post. When my FIL was alive, he always wanted me to hem his jeans. JEANS!! PITA!! I will gladly alter pants for my grandson (21). He doesn’t wear jeans, lol. When my niece got engaged, she asked me to make her dress….nope. I DID offer to do her flowers. It has taken members of my husband’s family 40 years to realize they don’t need to bother to ask anymore.

  2. Heather Valentine says:

    Oh Caroline, I love this more than words!! For a long time people would ask me to hem their pants, alter a skirt or replace a broken zipper. After a nervous laugh, my reply was always the same- I don’t even hem my husbands pants. Then I would dig into my purse and hand them the business card of a local tailor.
    The conversation would continue and they would share why this fix would only take a me a hot minute to do and I would simply repeat my comment. The awkward pause & stare that follow always gets me. Why Oh WHY do people think we have limitless time to do chores? Personally, if they want to exchange chores than heck, let me grab my list because by the time I unpick that seam, press the fabric, prepare my machine to use and so many other details, that simple "quick fix" has taken a good chunk of my time. Time that I don’t have to give- meaning time away from my family & friends. I know that you get it and will keep my fingers crossed that one day others will too.
    Thanks a bunch for sharing!!

  3. Joy Cranfield says:

    Well said, dear lady!!

  4. Yes! A million times yes!

  5. while I DO agree with you, I love it when my 9 year old granddaughter brings me a nightgown with a rip or a shirt to adjust a little! and now my 4 year old grandson has some things for me to work on! I think it is cute to go to their house and them bring me a little pile of tiny clothes! I have to admit, I can get these things done much quicker than I can make the quilt they want to take home this afternoon! And I understand that mending for grands does not require the skill or time that slacks, jeans, or dresses do. I do believe my family knows better than to ask for anything fancy and time consuming. And Caroline, thank you for you open communication regarding anxiety! Have an amazing day!!!

    1. When my granddaughter was 8 and visiting from out of state with her father, she asked me to "fix" her blankie. This was a doll’s blanket that she had had since she was a baby. It only had about 3 inches of the binding left on it. I lovingly replaced the binding with a brand new one. After she returned home, I received a call from the mother. Mom had an agreement with her daughter that when the binding was all gone, the blankie would be discarded. Mom was not happy with my intervention. I explained that I would never say no to my granddaughter and mom just needed to understand that. Said blankie was finally "left" when granddaughter was in her teens.

  6. My daughter has a great way of taking care of situations like this. She mentally asks herself, "Would I rather be uncomfortable for a few minutes telling someone "no" or be uncomfortable, miserable, angry or resentful because I felt obligated to say "yes"." Works every time!

  7. What’s even worse is the project that goes terribly wrong! I was asked to take in the top of a prom dress. She never trued it on till prom night and it DIDNT fit!

  8. Sewing for others can be a problem. When a good friend of mine’s daughter got engaged, she planned to make the dress–her choice. Her daughter was overweight and not happy with the way she looked. I told my friend that she was crazy! I said that no matter what she sewed her daughter would not be happy with it and all would be uncomfortable. She took my advice and they went together to buy a dress. She has told me repeatedly that was the best advice anyone ever gave her!

  9. Sheila Perl says:

    I was always being asked to sew for people and I found it hard to say no, until my last sewing favour when I announced to everyone that I was no longer doing repairs, hemming etc, and I followed through by saying no to everyone who asked me. My children caught on quickly but my friends took a little longer! On friend was so appalled by how much the tailor was going to charge her to make a “bargain” jacket a whole 2 sizes smaller, she beseeched me to do it, No, I said and explained just what was involved in “taking it in a little” and how much I would charge “if I still did repairs, which I don’t”! 😊

  10. Barbara Gilbert says:

    I shortened and hemmed a wedding gown, measuring carefully while the bride wore heels. When she walked down the aisle, she chose to wear sneakers instead, and the gown was of course far too long! The dress was meant to be worn over its tulle underskirt, too, and she had ripped it out, and that made it longer still. She took a perfectly beautiful gown and ruined it completely. I vowed to never, ever do alterations for anybody again. That was 20 years ago, and I have kept that promise to myself. Just because we like to sew does NOT mean we necessarily like to do alterations or make clothing for other people! I have told people that, but I think I’ll make a little sign for my sewing room……. 🙂

  11. Love this post!! I got a text the other night from a fellow mom from the school – not even someone I consider a friend. The text went like this …"I have a runner I painted for a friend and it needs to be hemmed. I’m working tomorrow so I’ll can’t drop it off until tomorrow night." WHAT??? That was it, no "please" or "could you/would you," just a demand. Nope!!!

  12. Thank you for saying what’s on my mind! I was just asked to sew "a few" hanger covers with a zip pocket for a friend who seems to think it would be cheaper for her if I make them instead of her ordering them! She wants them as Christmas gifts. I don’t think so.

  13. haha…! i had to chuckle, i thought i was the only one that felt this.. you worded it so diplomatically, you sweet sewer you… may the "force" be with us all to have the power to say, NO, thank you, i’ve got too much on my table to take that on,,, it’ll be next year before i get it to you!!! LOL

  14. To help my sister I gave her some of my teenage daughter’s clothing to sell in her garage sale. Later that day at my home, two teenage girls showed up with some of the same clothing for me to alter for them. My sister had sent them. That ENDED family or friend sewing unless I wanted to do it.

  15. Tracy Walker says:

    I was recently asked to embroider a friend’s daughter’s name on her backpack. It took me three days to find software (mine was lost in a move), load it, figure it out, arrange and resize the name and floral, mount, and embroider it. They admired the result and said (thinking it was a compliment) that it added $20 to the value of the backpack. A month later, he asked if I’d embroider a custom slogan on his dog’s coat. I said "this time I’ll charge you. I don’t love your dog like I love your daughter." He didn’t believe me for a second, but he dropped the request when he realized I was serious. I should add this is a friend I have done and will do favors for, and he has and will do favors for me. It’s just that he doesn’t "get" how much time is involved, especially for someone like me who rarely uses the embroidery feature. I think it had been four years since I embroidered anything. But it’s like he thinks I just push a button.

  16. I wish I would have learned this a few years ago but I’ll definitely take the advice now. Also, I absolutely adore the hart/love quilt at the top of your post. Is there a pattern somewhere for this?

  17. Exactly! The worst part is, when I have a project I don’t want to do (like altering a dress for someone) I will procrastinate it like crazy, but I feel guilty working on other projects while its sitting there….so I don’t sew at all. I’m getting better at saying no, unless its someone in genuine need who can’t pay anyone to do it. Unfortunately I have lots of poor friends LOL 🙂

  18. SusanfromKentucky says:

    haha! Ran across your article on Bloglovin’. This is SO TRUE! Just because I was starting to make quilts, my mother decided I should hem the pants she bought. Sometimes sending 4-5 pair at a time. Hemming pants is not fun. I did it, but asked her to slow down on buying them. 😉

  19. I certainly can understand this post. I have a horror story about this. My Mom has been sewing garments all her life. At one time someone asked her to make a dress. After the dress was completed her client (not even a friend) decided that she didn’t care for it. What happened is that she refused to pay for it and ended up leaving with the dress since my Mom had no use for it. She was seen wearing it at a later date. After that she hasn’t done anything like that again. She sews only for herself, family and close friends. At her convenience and at no charge. In this case, I have learned from her mistake and will not duplicate. I am asked to mend all the time and politely decline, by saying I don’t even mend my own clothes I only quilt. That may be a small fib, but it seems to work.

  20. Yes, I will make these. You may make the purchase at the church (where) craft sale(date and time). They and I will benefit and you will have presents ready. We thank you for your business. God Bless. Linda

  21. I absolutely love this! I do have a sewing business and people are always saying, that much? I am a professional and yes it is.
    Thank you for sharing your heart!!

  22. Tatiana Moller says:

    Where can I give you a high five! Perfectly stated!

  23. Sew nicely stated. My pet peeve is the justa alteration. As in justa hem justa simple dress etc.

  24. Sew true! I am sick of people who constantly are "letting me do their alterations" because that would honor me! I recently altered a flower girl dress because the bridal shop refuses to alter anything. Now I see why! It had five layers in the skirt part, beaded and sequined bodice and lace sleeves. I wotjed on it for a week and it came out perfect. I delivered the dress to their home and
    had the little girl try it on. It fit
    great but the mommy said it looked a little too loose on the neck. She "thanked me for my efforts, did not pay me and grumbled as I left. She later posted the little princess who was adorned with the dress online. Right after the post, the little girl backed up into a table of pizza and smeared the dress with pizza sauce. Oh dear…..now THAT’S what I would call "imperfect!" I would rather sew clothing from scratch. Thanks for letting me vent.

  25. JoanneEcho says:

    I once knew a woman who was an excellent seamstress and made a gorgeous wedding gown for a young woman from a fairly affluent family in town, she did many fittings and alterations. Upon delivery of said gown they refused to pay her as afterall "they bought the fabric"! I quit sewing for others after hearing that story and now only sew for people I love. Do you guys ever hear "you could sell those"? I always wonder if they would pay what the effort is truly worth.

  26. Folks knowing you sew is both a blessing and a curse!

  27. TerriSue Borden says:

    So well stated Caroline. My ex-DIL used to give me her ironing. "You enjoy ironing Mom, so will you iron this basket of clothes…" The fact is that I do enjoy ironing. It is also extremely hard on my back. I do it in little pieces. I iron one thing and then sit down, repeat. Thus I have a huge back-load of ironing to do. I tried to tell her this and she said she didn’t know how to iron as her mother had never owned one. I said I would teach her and buy her an iron and an ironing board. She said she didn’t have the time. She didn’t work. I can say being a stay at home wife and mother for 38 years that she did not work outside of the home but she really didn’t work. Nothing at home either. She just played video games all waking hours. I still got her Ironing put on my ironing board with her walking away from it expecting to come back to it being done. People seem to think if you enjoy doing something you will enjoy doing that in whatever form they choose. Alterations are much, much different than quilting. It’s a different animal. Stick to your guns. I wish I had.

  28. Love the new photo of you. Time to update your blog photo?

  29. I understand you perfectly. I did a computer college and every home I go to they call me to check the computer. Or the cell phone. Or the wireless. And I’m not a computer technician, I’m a software engineer. =|

  30. Thank you, Caroline. Your words are well said and kindly meant. I love the graphic and we can post it on FB if we need to share that message.

  31. Yes!!! The final straw for me was 30+ hours altering a double breasted blazer for a friend’s son. After all, he had a presentation to make in his engineering class at university, and it was way too complex for her limited sewing skills. Yup. Stiffed.

  32. Love your post. Straight to the point
    Thank you very much.

  33. My first thought was "are you kidding me?" But then i remember how many times that happened to me when i made and decorated cakes.
    I love all the things you do. Not all are for me (thank goodness). But i am so appreciative of all the work.
    Thank you soooo much.

  34. How many times have I heard, "Oh you are so good this (whatever it is) would take you maybe 30 minutes max. Do you think you could run me up a couple. Or the comment is while waiting for an appt. or child at practice and I am knitting or doing some hand stitching. I wish I had time to do things like that. All the while they are playing on their phone.

  35. Thank you for so eloquently voicing what is in my head 🙂

  36. Very true 🙂 I have a sign outside my door saying "sewing club". So people think they can drop in with all their mending and just pick it up again a couple of days later. I explain them time and again that I will not do the mending for them, but that I am willing to learn them how to do it during sewing club night. My father-in-law’s mending is the only I accept, and it goes on the heap with the rest and he has to wait until I get to it, first in, first out. It can take a couple of months though. And I refuse mending clothes that have lived a long and happy life and are now ready to be sent to the "kingdom of dusting cloths".

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