Stitching It Up To The Big Time


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Do you make “Project Runway” one of your must-see TV shows? Do you always watch the DIY Network, or HG TV and think “I wish I could do that!” Well, you can. And what’s more, you can make a living at it.

First and foremost, you must know how to sew. If you don’t already have sewing skills, or they are rusty and outdated, find yourself a class. There are many sewing classes offered around the U. S. Fabric stores and quilt shops often have classes in-house, or can give you a list of offerings in the neighborhood. Local high schools offer adult education classes, another great place to find instruction. There are classes offered by sewing schools, where you travel to them for a week of instruction. On-line classes are also very big and a great option if you can learn by reading. The on-line classes, while mostly self-instructional, offer the opportunity to chat on-line with others taking the class and ask questions of the instructor. The only thing missing is the hands-on interaction with the teacher who can determine what you might be doing wrong, and correct you.

When looking for a class, consider the following:

* What is your skill level? Have you ever learned to sew or has it been years since you’ve sat at a sewing machine? You should probably find a beginner or a basic class. A beginner class should teach you how to use the machine, reading the pattern, cutting and sewing the fabric, and cover some basic sewing techniques (such as inserting a zipper).
* If you have some sewing experience and want to make garments, look for a class that teaches a specific article of clothing, like skirts, blouse, etc. These classes typically teach to a project, meaning that you will make the project during class time so the teacher can supervise and instruct you on each step.
* Are you interested in primarily learning how to decorate your home? A class on how to make pillows, curtains or other home dec items is what you want to find. Adult education classes are great for this.
* Finally, if you are looking for a career change, find as many classes as you can and take them all to build your learning and your skill level.

So now you know how to sew and are comfortable enough that you’re ready to spread your wings, so to speak. If you want to get started quickly earning money, consider taking on alterations. Nearly everyone has to have something altered or repaired at some point, whether they routinely have the same alterations done (like hems) or have lost/gained weight and need some changes made. Get some business cards printed and start handing them out to everyone you talk to. Once you start getting customers, word will spread like crazy.

If alterations are not your ideal way to spend your sewing time, you can make items such as pillows, baby clothes, bonnets, or other hand sewn items that can be sold at craft shows. Tables at these shows are reasonably priced. Try church bazaars, summer shows, etc. You’ll find you have to make quite a bit of product to exhibit (you wouldn’t want to run out!) and the downside is if your items don’t sell you’re stuck with them. Your items should be priced fairly but in keeping with the type of show where you are exhibiting. You can also sell your items on-line at places such as e-bay. One caution – you need to draft your own patterns for whatever items you are making to sell. Commercial sewing patterns are sold for home use only, which means you cannot make numerous items from one pattern and sell them commercially. This violates the copyright on that pattern.

Finally, consider professional dressmaking. A lot of people are hard to fit, and having their clothes made for them is more cost effective than buying something off the rack and having it altered. If you find that general dressmaking isn’t really needed in your area, you may need to find a specialty niche. Some specialty fields to consider include bridal and special occasion wear, specialty outdoor clothing, pet clothing, and children’s wear. Study the general economy of your area. Check out retail stores. Do you have a lot of upscale boutiques where you live? This indicates a clientele that may be willing to pay for custom clothing, while an area that is devoid of such higher priced clothing stores may be more in need of an alterations person.

Other jobs you can hold that are sewing related include working in a garment factory, the interior design field making curtains and draperies for a workroom, or doing the alterations for a large department store.

Even if you don’t make sewing your career, learning to sew is a great way to create one-of-a-kind garments for yourself and your family, decorate your house to suit your own taste and spend numerous creative hours at a relaxing and rewarding hobby that can save you a lot of money over a lifetime.

Susan Andriks has been sewing for over 35 years; the last 15 of them professionally. As The Fabricsmith, Susan creates one-of-a-kind bridal and special occasion wear at her studio in Canterbury, New Hampshire ( ). After teaching sewing classes for the past 8 years, Susan opened the New Hampshire Academy of Sewing. The school offers classes from beginner to professional level, focusing on garment making, fit, pattern drafting and design, and skill building. For more information on classes, visit the website at


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