November 4, 2015

Custom Sewing - Strikes Dread into the Hearts of Many

Good grief. It all started with the word yes. Yes to a custom sewing job for a coworker. Now, I'm not saying that I dislike this coworker (quite the contrary) or that this project wasn't a worthy one (it was a good challenge). I'm saying it's me, not you and I'm so rotten when it comes to doling out my time for custom sewing. Man, I'm so bad.


It's a classic story. One that involves a mother-of-the-groom, a bride with a very specific color scheme and no getting out of a full-on peach dress. Add in the drama that not a lot of options come in this color as far as evening wear is concerned and we have a recipe for custom sewing. Ah yes. I've heard this story before - a lot. Especially when I owned a fabric shop. There are days when I think it would be marvelous to start a business based around this very problem - oh and the fact that older women get the shaft when it comes to clothing (apparently the media and society think we're all dead or should be after age 40).


This coworker asked me to do this dress and I do think it turned out pretty nice. She's petite and she can definitely pull off this cute style - looks totally her! But I was strapped for time (my own fault) and this dress was cranked out over my Halloween weekend and it would be nice if I allowed myself time off when I have time off (again, my own damn fault - no fault of anyone else's which is even worse!). Then again, it would be nice if my mouth could utter the word "no" with such sly cleverness that it felt like I was saying "yes" to the person I was talking to. Alas, such is the plight of the girl who just can't say "no."


There were things that made it worse too. After I said yes, I also said yes to chiffon, which is the overlay to the skirt portion of the dress. OK, actually I mentioned that the chiffon would be nice for texture (just call me dumb). Ugh. You know what I'm talking about. You know. If you're thinking this dress and jacket look like a one trick pony, think again - it's all polyester, which if I do say so myself, can be a bear to press. And I've never actually sewn a bolero jacket, which though not hard, is making me question a few of my construction choices right now.


It reminded me that when you sew, you do a lot of work. If you're sewing for yourself right now, you're probably forgetting that:

  • You had to select a style, which involved getting a pattern from somewhere

  • You had to select the fabric, which involved getting the fabric from somewhere

  • You needed notions for your project - thread, zipper, buttons, interfacing, again, all those coming from somewhere

  • You probably did a muslin/test garment to see where the fitting problems were

  • Then you had to fix your pattern, do fitting adjustments

  • Somewhere in here, you probably pre-treated your fabric

  • Next was cutting - which can be a two hour ordeal depending on the project

  • Construction takes a good long time, especially when you have to figure out how your going to line this or that and all of this requires forethought, experience and sometimes pattern manipulation and making new pattern pieces

  • Remember why you bought that serger? Not just to look pretty, that's for sure, to say nothing of the investment of both a serger and a decent sewing machine. PS ~ serger threads aren't cheap

  • Let's not forget pressing with a decent iron as we go

  • Oh and pressing tools. Oh my! Let's see, tailor's ham, seam roll, clapper, sleeve board, tailor board were all used in the making of this garment

  • Fitting as you sew - I know it's weird but the muslin doesn't fix everything!

Seems like an awful lot to me. I mean, when the project is for me, I LOVE it and it's so satisfying. And even when it's for loved ones - and I picked the pattern and fabric because well, I'm picky - then I love that too. But this was different. I'm glad this turned out well, I was paid and I'm so happy she liked it (yay!) but I have to admit, it's hard to dole out my time for this. I think my own personal frustration is that I completely forgot how much time it takes to sew this type of project, especially when you're keeping track of all the hours and I never do that when I sew for myself. Additionally, I have a hard time sewing items that don't have a likelihood of being worn more than once, twice or even a dozen times. I'm kind of hard core about constructing clothes you can wear in the everyday - it's like my daily mantra. There's also the worry that the customer won't end up liking the end result, even though they picked everything and you just made it up for them. Or even the fitting - I mean after the muslin I try on as I go and pin out here and there and I don't have the luxury of doing that when it's custom. Gosh, so much anxiety here! Just call me a ball of nerves.

I think the word no will start coming a lot easier and that part where I tell everyone I sew will start getting a lot quieter. What about you? Do you like custom sewing? How do you stomach it? How do you say no? I know there are lots of sewing enthusiasts out there who love custom. Are you one of them? Why do you like it?

Credits: Duchess Satin, Chiffon & Stretch Lining; BurdaStyle 7798 for the dress and Vogue 8957 for the jacket.
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