Tuesday, February 18, 2014

"do you sew"



Mini Rant On

Three times this week people have volunteered me to sew for them. Two of them I just met for the first time. Where do they get the nerve? I want to buy some. 

The conversation usually starts like this:

"you sew, right?"

"yes"

I know what's coming next, and I'm sure you do too. At this point my emotional response varies from suppressed rage to disbelief, depending on my blood sugar level.

"I should get you to make me a _______."
or 
"I should get some material and get you to make me a ________."

When someone uses the word material, it irritates the hell out of me. I have always managed to resist the urge to get them to elaborate on what kind of material they are referring to, reading material, insulation material, plastic material, absorbent material, roofing material etc. I refer you to the Merriam Webster Dictionary for details. The term is FABRIC or CLOTH. Let's all say it together, FABRIC OR CLOTH. 

Depending on how well I know the person, and how much I like them, my response varies. But one thing remains constant, I never ever ever say sorry or make any kind of apology. I don`t have to, it is my time and I own it.

"I don't have enough time to sew all the things I want to sew for myself"

or

"I don't sew for other people unless I am married to them or we have some shared DNA."

This one can take some time for some people to understand. Seriously. Sometimes you can actually smell smoke.

or

"I don't sew for other people, it makes me suffer from anxiety."

or 

I pretend I didn't hear them and ignore them, this is the easiest, but least satisfying.

or,  combined with one of the other responses 

"I will teach you to sew and you can make it yourself."

or

"sure, would love to, that will take me around 4 hours, I charge $20 per hour, the pattern will cost $15, and the fabric will cost anywhere from $10-$20 per meter and it will take 2 meters, for a total of over a $135 and it could be more depending on the pattern. When do you want to go shopping for the fabric?"

So far no one has taken me up on the two responses. Thank god.

Why do people always always assume sewing ability is something they should get for free? You wouldn't say to a carpenter, I should get some building material and get you to build me a house, or to a plumber, I should get some copper material and get you to upgrade my master bathroom, or to a mechanic, I should get you to fix my car, it's been making a funny sound. And assume that they would be happy to do it for nothing. Why is sewing so undervalued?

So far this year I have been asked four times to sew for other people. Actually that isn't accurate, it has been assumed by four people this year that I would sew for them. Assumed. My blood pressure is rising just thinking about it. 

How often are you asked to sew for someone else? 

How do you respond when people ask/demand/beg you to sew for them? I would love to know how other people deal with this issue. Tell me.




44 comments:

  1. brilliant.

    i don't have a stock answer, but i'm thinking that fourth paragraph from the end is going to be my answer from now on. you could flip it to whatever they do: yes, i sew. are you an accountant? i should have you do my taxes.

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    1. Thank you!

      I am ashamed that I had never thought of that! I can only assume that I never did because any of the people who assume I would be delighted to sew for them have no skills that I would be interested in abusing. Apparently I only know stupid talentless people. (only kidding)

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    2. I would totally trade sewing for taxes, or other shitty personal assistant-like chores that I have such difficulties keeping on top of.

      I had one friend, who upon learning that I made my coat (vancouver temperate weather coat, not kelowna winter coat!), was like, you could be the solution to [his wife's] coat problems! And I just laughed. And then was like, this coat took me a month (and talked about how coats are super good value items when you think of the various materials and skills that go into making them).

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  2. I generally have no problem deflecting strangers - I also use the "I'll teach you how to sew it yourself" response.

    BUT, my family is another story. If I have to fix one more ripped crotch or tattered hem for my sister, I will SCREAM!! Especially since family members approach me with arms full of garments for mending, or requests for apparel and say, "You're lucky that you have so much free time." - I am a stay at home mom, how does that translate to "slacker?" Argh!

    What about bartering? I had a lady give me a sewing table (nothing fancy) once in exchange for "some" pants hemming, and I ended up hemming more than a dozen pair of her pants. Pretty sure that she made out better on that deal. How do you determine equal worth in a barter situation? Or should we just avoid that too?

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    1. I am an only child so I don't have issues with siblings, and my husband has only 1 brother. I would gladly sew for my niece or nephew any time they asked.

      If I were you, I would use the passive aggressive approach to sewing for your sister. In other words, let the mending sit for a week or two or three or longer, explaining that you don't have the time, and if necessary detailing all the things that you had to do.

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    2. The one time one of my sisters came at me with a pile of mending (after she had lost weight) I calmly went through each piece and advised her one by one whether it was worth what a seamstress would likely charge to fix it and what she should tell them/ask for. She never did it again, so I assume that the message was received.

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  3. It's the same with knitters. I've been asked many times over the years to knit things for others. I usually go the route of "You buy the yarn, you pay for the pattern, I'll keep track of my hours and, btw, minimum wage is $10/hr and I won't make less than minimum wage." If they agree, I'll knit for them. Only one person has ever taken me up on it; I made her wedding dress.

    When you tell someone that a "simple" pair of handknit socks could cost them around $70, they're more than a little shocked and go running to Walmart.

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    1. Knitters too! I would never have expected that! It doesn't surprise me about the value of a hand knit pair of socks. I can only imagine the time involved. Knitting is beyond my abilities.

      And OMG you knitted a wedding dress!

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  4. An annoying variant on this problem is when someone assumes that because you have a sewing machine, you will lend it to them. Not. Ever.

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    1. I have never been asked. It would never ever happen. I don't even like anyone else using it at my house.

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  5. I have been asked to make tents, motorcycle covers and sleeping bags because I have a sewing machine. It really doesn't matter that my business card and website say Bridal...stupid people find you no matter. I have been told that it will be simple to whip up traditional Filipino man's shirts with embroidery, traditional Sammi wool jackets from Finland and last year I was told it would be simple to whip up a traditional Catholic priest's long black wool cassock with all the pockets and buttons. Once I tell them the basic price of $36 an hour for regular clothes, they never call back. Now family is another story, they can bring over as much shit as they want and never offer as much as a cookie for payment. I once lent out a portable basic sewing machine, Janome Jem, and it was never the same again.

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    1. Ah, Mrs. Mole. Stupid me. I thought because you are a professional you wouldn't get the "oh it's so easy" comments. I should have known better.

      Tents, sleeping bags and motorcycle covers? Really? Don't these people know that they can buy them almost everywhere? How much would a couture quality tent or sleeping bag cost? I wonder if Riri makes zippers long enough?

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    2. Obviously these people think having a "custom" something would make them the envy of the neighborhood. Most think they will save money in the case of the motorcycle guy...wanted a Harley logo but didn't want to pay for it...duh. I have fallen into the trap of making some pretty weird shit like platform drapes for above ground hexagonal cage fighting shape...then I found a sail/awning maker for the customer to switch from me to a business with way bigger machines. You can buy zippers on a roll from Wawak and I couldn't believe that they didn't want to visit a WalMart for the rest. You can't make up these stupid requests can you? All you can do is share and give us all a good laugh...thanks!!!

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    3. Ooooh, I would be SOOOO tempted to sew a tent! But I would demand creative freedom and, regardless of whatever it was they wanted, what they would end up getting is a Big Top style circus tent! I would even knit stuffed circus animals to go with it. Then I would charge them $100/hr so that they wouldn't want it and I could keep it for myself. ;-)

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    4. Mistress Clio, you have me concerned for your mental health. 8-D

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    5. Ha! So I guess it would really alarm you if I said I would use either M5827 or KS0145. (Make that Ring Mistress Clio!)

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  6. I absolutely would barter if someone had a real skill that I don't. I would negotiate based on number of hours anticipated to do the job.

    Aside from that, my rate is $50/hr because sewing and knitting are skills. (And that makes my local seamstress a much better option).

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  7. Ha! Good answers. I've not really been asked by anybody directly like that, it's more of a universal plea, for example, 'hand sewn mittens' will be on a christmas list or 'Wyatt (my nephew) really loves his vest but it is too small for him now". And, yup, I bought a vest pattern. Oh, and also, I am with you on the 'fabric' thing and I call it fabric, but, depending on your first language, 'fabric' may more easily translate to 'material' although the translated word does mean 'fabric' in that language. Both my mum and my grandma (when she was alive) called it material. And, my grandma actually used to smock dresses with Liberty cotton for a dress company, so she definitely knew what fabric was.

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    1. That is amazing that you have never been asked directly to sew for someone. I get asked regularly. The material versus fabric thing is just a pet peeve of mine.

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  8. This made me giggle. Luckily, people have mostly asked me to make skating costumes (cuz I do) and don't bat an eye when I tell them how much it is going to cost. I have had a few friends ask me to make costumes for them (but they are good friends, so I don't mind), and my sister pretty much just tells me to make her stuff. Which I do, but, then again, she is my sister. And buys me cool stuff when she goes places. So, well, it works out I guess.

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    1. I think skaters have a lot more appreciation for custom made outfits, and since you can't buy a skating costume at Walmart they expect to pay a reasonable price. Sisters fall into the shared DNA category, and it sounds like there is a good give and take relationship there too.

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  9. I will admit to being rather passive-aggressive about this. Mostly the because the people that usually ask me to sew are church family. I would mind being asked to hem a skirt once in a while, it's when I'm handed a bag with 7 or 8 skirts and told. "I would really like to wear such-ans-such skirt next week." Guess what? It rarely happens

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    1. Yeah, I would be very passive aggressive too, if that happened to me. I can guarantee it would never happen according to their schedule.

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  10. My spelling isn't up to par today. I wouldn't mind... Such-and-such....

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  11. It happens with knitters and cross stitchers too. It seems that women's arts are undervalued. They should have to sit next to us and see how many stitches go into a sweater. I used to agree to make items from scratch for people who asked, no mending. I don't even like mending for myself. But I learned to refuse after making the world's ugliest prom dress for a co-worker's daughter. She picked the pattern and fabric and it was awful. The dress turned out perfectly except that it was so ugly I couldn't look at it. I hoped she didn't tell anyone who made it. By the way, she loved it. Yuck!

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    1. I can't knit and I have so much respect for people who manage to make fabric out of ball of yarn. I would never presume to ask them for anything. And anyone who does cross stitch knows that it is extremely undervalued.

      I will have you know I had the ugliest prom dress. I must have been smoking some of the wacky tobaccy when I bought it back in the day.

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  12. To a certain extent it does happen with other things---my father-in-law was a mechanic and people were always asking him to look at their cars, and my husband has issues with the whole family expecting him to fix every conceivable computer problem. But damn is it annoying! Most of the people at my work are at least polite enough to ask IF I do alterations and stuff, to which I say "Not really, I don't have time." I like the "I'll teach you to sew" line... because I actually WOULD like to teach people to sew. Much more than I'd like to sew for money. Anyway. Elle, you have the best rants.

    Oh, and I totally want to party in Clio's circus tent.

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    1. Interesting about the mechanic and computer geek (term meant in the best possible way) being expected to perform repair and maintenance duties too. I wouldn't have expected that. Maybe the computer guy, a little. But I still wouldn't do it. Oh wait, I have, but I bartered home made bread and home made jam for a couple of computer issues. I think we all were happy with the trade.

      I reiterate, I am concerned about Mistress Clio.

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  13. Haha, I LOVE Oonaballoona's idea! I think I'm gonna adopt that one :D
    I have some advice to you: NEVER offer to teach someone else to sew. They invariably hit on the brilliant idea that you can teach their small children how to sew, while they head off to have some "me-time" naturally; hello, free babysitting!!!
    Seriously though I wouldn't mind teaching an (adult) friend how to sew, actually that might be fun :)

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    1. Oonaballoona's brilliance knows no limits.

      Anyone who knows me well would never leave a small child in my care. Dogs yes, children no. I would love to have a sewing/fitting buddy, and yes, I would be willing to teach/bribe someone to be my sewing/fitting partner.

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  14. Ugh. I've heard that too many times to count. When I was younger I was foolish enough to say yes, even when I didn't want too. I had four kids and a full time job, but people assumed that because I could sew I would be thrilled to do their mending, or just wip up a garment for them in an evening. Of course it was never a simple tee shirt they were after, it was a vogue suit, or bridesmaid dresses. I was once cornered into making 6 bridesmaid dresses and two flower girl dresses in two weeks, only to be grudgingly offered $100 for the work. She even thought I would pay for the fabric! I have finally learned that I have to just say no. If they argue that it will 'only take a minute or two' I ask why they don't do it if it's that easy. I have had to be almost rude at times because someone insists I sew for them. My time and craft are valuable, and I don't plan to squander either of them on anyone who just wants something done for free. I know I sound awful for saying that, but I have been pressured into sewing for others so many times (and have had them criticize it afterwards)that I had to 'harden my heart' so to speak. The strangest thing I was asked to make? A car interior. Thanks for posting this Elle, as you can see it is a pet peeve of mine! lol

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    1. Six bridesmaid and two flower girl dresses! I think you win the award for selfless sewing, and you have filled your lifetime quota! Oh my goodness, you are far too nice and obliging. Something I would never be accused of!

      Seriously, you don't need to feel bad, that you want to decide how to spend your time. No apologies!

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  15. I love your rants, they make me smile - in solidarity! I'm so stealing some of your lines and the other great options your commenters (that makes it sounds like you own them, doesn't it?) are bringing up. Don't think I'd go as far as Clio, though...

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    1. I do own MY commenters. All of them. You included.

      If it will help you, please steal my lines. My favourite is Oonaballoona's idea, although that does only work if the person asking/requesting/demanding has a useful skill besides manipulating people.

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  16. You know I don't often get asked, unless it's my husband and that falls into your married/DNA caveat. But I sew for myself infrequently enough, I wouldn't take on other people's sewing without very good reasons.

    My mom on the other hand... she has a business sewing so some questions make sense and they are generally willing to pay. The problem being:
    a. They don't pay enough. In part because she doesn't value her time herself. She made a crib set for a friend of mine a few years ago and charged $5 an hour - not even close to minimum wage here. And then she decided that it was taking too long to be affordable and charged them fewer hours than it took.
    Face to palm.
    She is getting better on that front. She makes triangular bandages for some people who do first aid training and want triangulars that will be washable and last through multiple classes. They usually order them in 25 bandage increments. She charges them something that seems cheap but fair, it is St John's Ambulance and all. But when a union called and asked for a discount, she asked if they would be okay with any of their union members earning less than minimum wage. I was so proud of her.
    b. Bizarre things she doesn't want to sew. She hates doing curtains so I'm quite pleased that she will flat out say no to curtains now. I just keep trying to empower her to only take work she wants. She doesn't need business she doesn't enjoy.

    At my wedding, my dad said that it wasn't like "losing a daughter", it was gaining an IT man. Mr. Lina gets all kinds of IT questions, even Skype questions. We can't even get it to work properly at our house half the time but somehow he's the expert my aunt and uncle turn to.

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    1. Oh and I remembered this trade.
      My husbands aunt won a serger in a Fabricland draw. I think the extent of her sewing is more crafting than sewing, the serger was cool but she didn't think she would use it. She offered to give it to my MIL (her sister) in exchange for my MIL recovering her RV cushions. My MIL did not exactly rush to do the recovering. I am fairly sure she was talking about needing to start/finish/just one more cushion for two if not three visits.

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    2. Your mom sounds like a lovely person. I really like her turning down the union for a discount. Generally speaking, unions aren't hurting for money, they can afford it.

      I don't blame your MIL, home dec sewing is sooooo boring. It is hard enough to force me to do for myself, let alone someone else.

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    3. Jeez you sure hit a nerve here, it's a lot of comments to read.

      My mom is certainly a people pleaser and one who is quite often a push over. Not the best of combos, but she's getting better at trusting her gut when people ask her for something silly.

      I'm with you on home dec sewing. This is the other thing that leads to stupid "can you do..." questions. People don't understand that craft-sewers don't always sew clothing, and clothing sewers don't always sew home dec, home dec sewers don't always quilt, etc, etc, etc. Yes, the skill is all around the same machine but it's not really the same kind of passion.

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  17. I've been guilty of calling fabric material, I'll try to watch that in the future lol! ,I'm just learning how to line things & already I'm getting oh you can make me..... lol!
    Helen

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    1. I forgive you for referring to fabric as material. Only you.

      If you are starting to get requests for free sewing jobs, starting practicing your refusals now, it might save you a ton of time.

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  18. When I first started my job at the Horrible Consulting Place With The Asshole Managers, my boss (the worst of the aforementioned Managers) found out that I sewed and said point blank that she'd bring her husband and a pair of too-long pants in the next day and get me to hem them.

    I kind of stared at her in disbelief and stuttered out that I don't sew for other people, and the last time I agreed to sew a button on someone's shorts, they got them a year later. (Really glad to be able to tell people that - makes them back off pretty quickly.) And then I told her about a tailor just down the street that would probably do them for about $20.

    And then I had to repeat the convo a few weeks later when the safety person said she'd bring in her winter coat for me to replace the zipper.

    I don't understand why so many people think that I'm willing to do their dirty work for them - for free yet! Uh no, if you can't do it yourself, you pay someone to do it for you, and I don't have the time to waste on mending your crap - I can't even get my own done! There's a tailor just down the street, don't assume that because I can sew, that I will sew for you.

    *deep breath* Okaayy, guess that rant was unknowingly simmering below the surface. Thanks for the chance to release it! lol

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    1. The Horrible Consulting place sounds like a delightfully toxic place to work. I am so glad you refused to do their mending, can you imagine what they would have have had you doing if you had said yes. Scares me just to think about it.

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  19. This just happened to me, so I feel I can chime in.
    Someone asked for a custom made surfboard cover for his custom surfboard and I looked at the material needed and the price of the zipper alone was the price of the China made surfboard cover he could buy at the local shop. So I sent him there.
    I don't even feel bad about it, I can't compete, plain and simple.

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  20. This happened to me more time than I care to remember. I now respond with "yes I do sew but not for other people." I found that I had to be quick with the response otherwise people try to take advantage of my equipment and time. And if they offer to pay me for my work it is a token amount that is an insult to the amount of work I put into a project. For the amount of money people want to pay me, they can just turn around and go shopping for some cheaply made fast-fashion. Because that is all their insult is worth.

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