Yesterday in my belly dancing class we learned to hold the veil and work with it while dancing. Holding the veil hurt the claw part of my hand, because I’ve been handsewing more of late. The pain in my extremeties served a bittersweet reminder of my love and bondage; it spoke aloud of something that will be with me for the life I have, as long as I’m able:
Because I love sewing. Times one million.
I’ve been sewing since tempus immemoria, i.e. always. And over the years I’ve been annoyed by, to some extent large or small, the following:
1. The elitist, sizeist, racist, ableist, etc. buffet our current glut of craft books and websites are serving up. This needs so much unpacking I had to write up a separate post.
2. “You should / could sell those!” Really? Because I’ve never heard anyone say that before. Or no wait, I hear it all the time.
I understand this is delivered as a compliment 99.44% of the time. That’s cool. And it’s interesting that from the lips of so many springs the concept that the ultimate compliment is deigning my work fit for commoditization or earning potential. Huh.
A tip: those who sell things usually mass-produce them at some level. This is not for everyone. Some of us who sew shudder at the very thought of making two identical pillowcases (hello!), let alone churning out one after another diaper cover. Some sewists thrive on this sort of thing, sure. I personally know several. But when someone spies my crayon roll- up (genius!) and says you should sell those, they don’t seem to realize if I took their “advice” I’d be making a bunch of crayon roll-ups instead of other stuff, and the resultant item would be something that would either end up being more expensive than I could unload easily, or it would necessitate a whole wholesale fabric / factory-style construction / mailing center / production workshop. And me making the same thing over and over. And: no.
These days I simply smile and say, “If I sold them I wouldn’t have time to sew for my family.” Ralph says I’m getting good at this.
What I say to other crafters:
“Wow, that’s fantastic.”
“How long did that take you to make?”
“Do you sell those?”
“I’m impressed. How long have you been making those?”
3. “My mom/Granny/whomever used to make all our clothes.” Really? Did she do anything else, ever? Did she bonsai kitten you into a glass jar so you didn’t grow?
I have no doubt some moms (grandmothers, aunts, fathers, etc. etc.) did in fact make close to 100% of their progeny’s garments (though: socks? underwear? shoes? really?). However the number of times I hear this, I’m pretty sure many have exaggerated. Before I sewed a lot I used to say this about my own childhood wardrobe and I think I’ve even heard my mom say it. Until I look at the pictures in the photo album and yeah, I’m rockin’ some homemade digs but a lot of non-homemade stuff too. To the extent cheap labor and crappy enviro-pillage occurs it’s currently a bit cheaper to buy ready-made (although not necessarily quality) than the materials and time-effort going into homemade. This wasn’t always the case, though, and some people did used to sew quite a bit.
It annoys me to hear it because it’s all part of a conversation that cheapens the time and effort needed for high-quality, sturdy clothes. As if a half-hour a day thrown here or there could clothe a growing family.
What you could consider saying to crafters instead:
“My mom/Granny/whomever used to sew clothes for me. I loved (/hated) them!”
“How much time did it take to make that?”
“How much time do you spend sewing?”
“I seem to remember my mom made so much of our clothing. I wonder why so few do so now.”
4. “Will you make me one of those? I could pay you [ some incredibly small amount for your time and the materials ].”
These days I will do it for free or not at all. Because first off, again, my goals do not include earning currency. Secondly, if I charged someone a fair price it would be more than most people are willing to pay (trust me!). So the offer of $25 for a full dress and pintucked pinafore, including fabric costs, is insulting (true example!). But a request for a gift is flattering (I may not say yes, but it never hurts to ask).
5. “OMG I would love to sew but I just don’t have time.”
Right. I have loads of it to spare! Why don’t I come over and do the rest of your lifework so you can sew, if you’re not too busy!
OK, no more sarcasm, but: Hey guess what! I made all that time! I elbowed other things out of the way! It has been long, mostly joyous, occasionally hard, haul! It’s not like I just had time lying around!
6. “OMG, did you make that? That is so cool! I totally want to sew but I just can’t get past blah-blah, one time I made such-and-such, and everyone loved it blah-blah”
My sewing is All About You, so thank you!
7. “You need new curtains? Why don’t you just make them? You can sew anything!”
FUCK YOU*, I totally hate sewing lots of things, including home dec, duvets, cushion-covers, etc. Just because I can make things doesn’t mean it wouldn’t kill my soul to undertake the effort (recent potholder-fail, I am looking at you!).[ / asshattery, mine ]
* I don’t literally think “Fuck you” towards hardly anyone, it’s more like I think “fuck you” towards curtains.
Ugh, I think I might have commented some variation of #6 when really I meant to say, your sewing is so impressive and I know from experience that it’s no small thing to carve out that kind of time for yourself and to practice so much that you completely kick ass at something. Sew on, sister!
Oh these words ring true in my heart.
My husband suggested recently that I could sew curtains for our living room. Wonder how fast that will happen?
Admittedly #6 and #5 are my lowest on my personal annoyance factor given they’re mostly just people getting excited about the subject.
Oh and in case it wasn’t abundantly clear, my snarky-assyness here is the result of YEARS of comments from MANY. There was no one person or couple people sticking out in my mind. No one needs feel shame-faced or picked-on or singled-out!
Yeah, can you get on that please. I mean go purchase $50 worth of fabric, agonizing over the choices for an hour in the shop, then go home and spend, oh I dunno, anywhere from two to six hours washing, drying, pressing, laying out, cutting, pinning, and hemming.
Or go to Walmart or Target and find something for $25 and take a half hour of your time.
(Of course I know some people LURVE to sew curtains, and good for them!). I likely will enjoy it to when I own my house as opposed to renting.)
My mom moved from sewing clothes to making hand stitched quilts to baskets (still does those) and now she’s taken up spinning her own wool. It’s very exciting for her and I love that she does it. She will not sell anything either. Sometimes she’ll trade stuff, but she can’t/won’t imagine putting a price on her devotion and care and I am totally with her on that one. I just love that I have baskets coming out my ears and not a single person has one just like mine!
Oh man, basket-weaving and wool-spinning. What lovely enterprises. I’d love to see pictures of your mum’s baskets. I do indeed like a good basket. And I mean that both in the literal way re: crafting and the really pervy innuendo way.
Hehe. I’ll take a few pictures when I get home. Dax sleeps in one.
I identify with so many parts of this post that I don’t know where to begin. People definitely do say many offpissing things about sewing and sewists, usually quite unintentionally. What many people don’t realize is that somebody who sews doesn’t simply enjoy OPERATING A SEWING MACHINE. I can’t understand it when people offer to let me do their mending (or make their curtains!) as if they were offering to let me lick their ice cream.
And, “You should sell that,” or “Could you make me five of those?” Nooooo! Mass production does exist for a reason. For the individual sewist, it’s hard to get excited about doing the same project over and over again. Not all parts of sewing are equally fun. There’s design (woo hoo!) and there’s execution. And, actually, I adore the mechanical/technical/tactile side of things…the first time. I actually do get a thrill out of a perfect buttonhole or a straight hem. I could write a prose poem to a welt pocket. But there’s a law of diminishing returns, where it’s hard to get excited about doing the same project well the fifth time that you’ve already done well four other times. Yuck. And if people suggest that you sell something, they never EVER offer a reasonable price (ah, the continuing degradation of the homemade thing…), and what’s even worse is when they ask YOU to suggest a price that “you see fit.” Because sometimes that offer is on the level, and sometimes it really means, “I mean, if you’d actually go ahead and charge me for it, which you shouldn’t, because sewing is fun for you, isn’t it?”
Let me tell you a sewing-comment story that I really did find touching, though. My late mother-in-law was so happy the first time I smocked a dress for her granddaughter, my niece. I loved that she loved it. But she also said, to my chagrin, “You could sell these.” (This dress, by the way, took me TWO WEEKS to make. As you can see, this would NOT be a very profitable enterprise.)
But then… THEN… her best friend, Mary, said to her, “You could never buy this dress in any store. Let me show you why not.” And then, to my surprise, she flipped it inside out and put it right back on the hanger. “Look. It’s fully lined. The hem is done by hand. The armholes are bias-bound. There’s not a single raw edge. This is craftsmanship; you can tell as much by the inside of the garment as by the outside of it.”
I was thrilled, and I asked, “Do you sew, Mary?”
She said, “No, but my mother did. And she did it very well. And she prided herself on details like this. And she never let anyone sell her short.”
I’m soooo there with you on the way that people react to handmade things. When I made Gwyn and Maeve their Feliz dresses last spring the ballet teacher asked me if I could make one for her daughter and how much would I charge. I told her I’d do it for $75 dollars if I provided the fabric, $50 if she did. She never asked again.
I also get tired of people wanting me to do alterations for them. There are 2 moms whose daughters are in Maeve’s Girl Scout troop and who keep asking me if I’ll do alterations for them. Like, hemming 10 pairs of pants or taking in a bunch of stuff because they lost weight. So I quoted them $15/pair for the hemming and one of them said, “Really? The tailor shop only charges $11!” After I got over my shock and picked my jaw up off the floor my response was, “Well the tailor does this as a job. I don’t – I’d have to take time out of my day and my free time to do it for you, so I charge accordingly. Feel free to take them to the tailor.”
And fwiw: I read the post about the craft blogs etc. and I have to say that you were reading my mind because I was about to post about that exact topic (especially the sponsored blogs!) on my blog.
Hi, first time commenter but long time reader. I just had to comment on this post because I agree with you about it all. I love to make things but hate the pressure of making stuff for money. Seriously, once I feel like I “have” to make somethng then all the fun goes out of it and I spend all my time wishing I was working on something else. Anymore if people offer to pay me to make something I either direct them towards the pattern/ website / ect so they can make it themselves or I ask them when their birthday is. But what I really hate are people who think i should have an Esty store and man, are they adament about it. They don’t seem to understand that I have a limited amount of time and I’d rather spend it making stuff for the people I like vs. strangers.
I also agree with the curtin and home dec stuff. Nothing can make my skin crawl more than having to sew a giant piece of fabric (oddly enough quilts don’t count…maybe because they were tiny pieces to begin with).
Just had to say I whole heartedly agree with you and that you make beautiful stuff.
Man. I want a Mary around. It’s kind of not the same if the creatress herself flips the dress inside out and gives the craftsmanship lecture. But perhaps I should anyway! Great story.
Something about me and my vibe, I don’t get too many “why don’t you tailor/alter this for us” stuff. I used to. I think my disinterest comes off me in huge, douchey waves of indifference. I also know it only takes a couple times of saying, “No thanks, I don’t do alterations. The tailor does if far cheaper and more efficiently than I would.” or whatever.
I’d love to see your daughter’s Feliz dresses! I can’t wait to make one for Suse and maybe Nels (if he wants one).
Hello and thanks for commenting! You bring up a good point about the internal pressure to make everything. Some sewists live with that. Add that the pressure to always save money while sewing, and you’ve got a great recipe to suck the soul out of something that should be for the most part enjoyable.
Some sewists do love having piles and piles of inexpensive / thrifted fabrics bunched in a closet and pulling it out to make just about all the home dec stuff they need. I just bridle at the assumption that we ALL do!
Seriously, once I feel like I â€œhaveâ€ to make somethng then all the fun goes out of it and I spend all my time wishing I was working on something else. Anymore if people offer to pay me to make something I either direct them towards the pattern/ website / ect so they can make it themselves or I ask them when their birthday is. But what I really hate are people who think i should have an Esty store and man, are they adament about it. They donâ€™t seem to understand that I have a limited amount of time and Iâ€™d rather spend it making stuff for the people I like vs. strangers.
Um, yup. Times one thousand. Well-said.
I like the point your friend k8 made about TRADING sewing favours. Now that’s fun. When my husband and I got married, I made a dress for a friend who could design me an invitation, and a dress for a friend who could bake me a fancy cake, etc. etc. We called it, “the wedding that sewing built.” Also I used to hem as many pairs of my roommate’s pants as she wanted because, rather than pay me in cash, she’d take me out to dinner. Then I got a lovely, social evening out of it. Fab.
Kelly, the Feliz dresses are on my Flickr page:
You’ll have to look for them but there are three dresses with several views of each: sort of matching ones for Gwyn and Maeve from last Easter complete with the ruffles on the back and then a very simple, unadorned one that I made for Maeve’s birthday last August. I thought it didn’t need ruffles with that fantastic huge flower print for the apron/overdress.
I did a search: very nice. I am thinking my daughter will love it when I get to Feliz in my Farbenmix book. I just cut the Brooklyn tank top and am going to reverse applique it, then assemble. Should be done soon!
“And I mean that both in the literal way re: crafting and the really pervy innuendo way.”
It’s amazing how only a few words can capture my imagination for more than a few (hundred) seconds. Thanks for the smiles and the imagery. You always know just what to say to improve my day.
While I’m at it, I will commit #6 and make this all about me.
Although I would never directly compare my meager computer technician skills to your excellent craftsmanship, I have experienced similar encounters with friends, family and strangers asking me to fix their computers. Once, a friend of my brother explained that his PC wouldn’t turn on and asked if I would fix it. Based on his description I was convinced that the power supply needed to be replaced and told him that he could pick one up at the store for about $40 and that it was an easy install. He insisted that I do it, so I told him $100 plus parts. I was amazed that he agreed. I earned $100 for 15 minutes worth of work and a little bit of driving.
My point is, as much as I hate doing the work, I can always use extra cash for doing the easy stuff (if the timing is right). It’s clear that sewing takes much longer…
…ok…I have no idea why I rambled on with that story. Just trying to fit in I guess. 🙂
Oh no, what you’re saying makes total sense, as my husband is a computer guy and gets requests all the time. In fact a few years ago one under-the-table client (who was pretty well-off) insisted on paying my husband $40/hour to do some computer stuff, yes, but also hook up the VCR and the stereo and stuff. Here’s the thing: for that price this client assured that it would be done and be done right. For those who don’t want to go shopping for the power supply and take the responsibility to install it, efforts and expertise like yours/my husband’s are worth a good price. That all seems as it should be, since you are free to say Yay or Nay as your schedule permits.
I would say computer work is different than sewing not b/c of the time it takes but b/c there isn’t a comparable computer jack-of-all-trades local service that delivers things at bargain-basement prices; whereas with clothing, there definitely is. Does that make sense?
True. I hadn’t looked at it that way. The way things are going, I think PC’s will be disposable soon and cheaper to replace than repair. At that point, only custom (homemade systems) will be worth the premium price.