The touchy topic of sewing for others comes up a lot for us sewists. Who hasn’t been approached by someone saying how much they love your work and would you make this tiny thing for her since you’re such good friends? Then you’re stuck making some elaborate gown for someone you barely know and when your hard work doesn’t meet her vision, you are toast.
I’ve been burned like that before, and when it happened, I locked myself away, vowing not to sew for anyone else for a long, long time. In my hobbit hole of a sewing room I’ve learned a lot, and I don’t regret taking time to learn with myself as the chief guinea pig in my experiments. As I’ve grown, I’ve wanted to sew again for others again, but with a different purpose.
When others approach us in “friendship” asking to make us something, we run a high risk being underpaid, misunderstood, or of the project failing to meet whatever absurd expectations this “friend” might have. Choosing to take on a job like that is a job–something that you WILL be paid for, and there’s social norms around a client/seamstress relationship that protect you from that weirdness.
When we CHOOSE to sew for others, we still retain creative control of our work. We make the rules, and the use of our skills is an extension of our love for that other person. I spend a lot of time in my sewing room, and choosing to sew for my boys is a way that they can feel a part of what I’m doing and remember that I haven’t forgotten about them while I’m topstitching 8 yards of denim.
From time to time now, when I’m in between projects, I do sew for them. When I was finishing my quilted jacket, my middle son went and found some caterpillar print fleece and asked me to make him some pajamas. I told him I would when I finished my jacket. For the next two days, he camped under my cutting table during naptimes and looked at that fleece. He measured it with a tape measure, he smoothed it out, he talked about how excited he was for it to be pajamas. Jacket completed, I quickly made up a pair of pajamas while he played and colored on the couch. We talked, he entertained me. I’m sure I broke up a fight or two between him and my oldest, but it was nice to have him around. As I finished, he put on the bright fleecy pajamas and capered around in his unique 3 year old way, laughing as he thanked me for his “cozy jamas.”
My oldest is getting to the point where he’s big enough to actually work the sewing machine. We’ve made a pillowcase and these stuffies* together so far. I’m finding that the sewing room is much like the kitchen. While my boys can’t handle hot and sharp things there yet, they can half peel a carrot or dip some french toast. So we work together, Noah working the foot pedal and driving the fabric through the machine with my hands there to keep him on track.
My middle son sits up by the machine watching it all go on. He wildly tears into a bag of stuffing and patiently and expertly stuffs stuffies with his tiny handfuls, pausing periodically for me to push the stuffing into the corners and pack everything down well.
It’s good to spend time together. It’s good to see what I enjoy to do as a vehicle for strengthening the love I have for my boys and they have for me. It’s good to see them have their own ideas about making things and try to find a way to realize them. There’s fewer rules here in the sewing room than the kitchen, so wild imagination can be realized here well without sacrificing quality. There are times that sewing for them feels like work, but these moments are not work at all, and I’m glad to do it.
What gets you to make something for someone else?
*I won these great tea towel animals in the top photo by Mibo last month in a giveaway by decor8. The animals are printed on organic cotton tea towels, then you cut them out and sew them up. They are a very easy, satisfying project with fantastic mod style. The tea towels are available at www.mibo.co.uk.