Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Sewing for My Sister, Kitty Grand

Friends, I present to you my sister, Kitty Grand.

Kitty can be seen here modeling the Mission Maxi pattern by Jamie Christina, created in the Heather Emerald Cotton Jersey via Girl Charlee.

I made View C because I LOVE the godet in the back.  Love it.  Kitty is tall, and tends to wear fabulous wedges, so I wanted her dress to have a little bit of drama.  She picked the fabric out, and calls this dress "Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds."

I only had one issue with this fabric, and that appeared after making an error in attaching the godet.  The fabric tore way too easily for my liking, so I did some hand-stitching to pull together the edges of the tiny hole.  It's bothersome to me, but I'm a perfectionist, and you have to be pretty close to see the error.

This pattern was so incredibly easy to put together that I immediately made one for myself.  I don't have any good pictures yet, but I've been wearing it constantly.  This pattern is a favorite, and I'll definitely be rocking more versions when summer rolls around again.

Kitty's second dress is Vintage Vogue 2961, made in a navy blue cotton with white polka dots.  This dress was her original request (a navy sundress), and we added the maxi dress on later.  (I didn't mind adding on the maxi dress because I'd been eyeing the pattern FOREVER.)

We made some adjustments to the Vogue pattern to make it something she would wear more often.  We eliminated the boning, and though we had some fitting issues in making the bodice tight enough so it would stay up, the dress does not have to be dry cleaned now.  Wearability wins the day!

We found the belt in Mom's closet two minutes before these photos.  Mom liked the look so much that she said Kitty could keep it. 

Bound buttonholes.  They look terrible, but they are there and I did them so I'm calling this a victory.

We shortened the dress by five inches, which allows it to have both modern and vintage elements and gives Kitty everything that she wanted in the dress.

Her major request was detachable straps.  The pattern calls for straps that are permanently attached, but we took two strips of fabric, made buttonholes in the end, put buttons above the side darts, and now she can tie them into a halter if she feels like it.

Yeah, this dress took at least 15 hours, but it's adorable as hell so I would say that it was worth it.  Kitty's boyfriend has also promised me that he would take her out and show her off in it.  I am pleased with this idea because it's nice to have your creations shown off, especially if you are proud of the end results (and I totally am).

I think it is an inevitable part of being a sewist or knitter that you will receive requests to make things for other people.  It is a rare thing (in my experience, at least) that the requesters will actually pay you for what your time is worth, if they think to pay you at all.  I find that I am 100% more likely to agree to making something for someone if I am being paid fairly (family does get a discount of sorts) OR if goods and services are being traded.  For instance, in exchange for listening to me gripe at work and always having Ibuprofen on hand, my coworker is getting his curtains made by me.  My friend, Mina, who took the amazing pictures from Promaballoona, gets a dress of her choosing made for her.  For C2E2 next year, Stephy is handling the latex, I am handling the costumes.  For these dresses, my sister paid me.  

I've come to realize that my time is precious, and my sewing time even more so.  When inspiration hits (especially after a dry spell), I want to run singing through my fabric closet and make something pretty.  In order to do that, I am learning to say No.  In situations where I felt pressured to say Yes at that moment, I am now going back and saying No.  I've already noticed my attitude improving, because there is nothing I resent more than feeling pressured to do something I don't want to do.  This is my hobby.  I cultivate my skill for me, because it's something I love to do.  If I offer to make something for someone, without being prompted, it is out of love and every stitch is made with love.  If I feel cornered into using my skill, well ... we'll just say that I turn into a child who is on the verge of throwing a tantrum behind closed doors.

So I am learning to say No, upfront and without guilt or anxiety. 

Friends, let me know your thoughts on completing sewing requests.  How do you handle saying No?

XOXO and much love to you all,


  1. they are adorable (and I think you are selling me on the mission maxi pattern)

    For saying no - I've found telling people I charge $100 an hour, and dresses typically take 15 hours shuts them up pretty fast. In fact, no one has taken me up on it, so I count that as a win for me.

  2. Oh I love Allison's comment about $100 and hour and average of 15 hours. Like you - I strongly dislike being 'forced' to make something for others. Lately - I've been cutting a dress for me and a skirt for one of my girls. They are old enough to appreciate it and they both have professional jobs so it's nice to do something nice for them.

    Your sister's dresses - fab! g

  3. $100 per hour - genius! I usually thank people for their interest but then say one or more of the following phrases:
    1. I don't have time to take sewing orders
    2. I don't take sewing orders
    3. I charge $25 per hour for each part of the process, including washing, pressing, fitting, etc. so your garment would take at least x hours. You would also have to agree to having no deadline, as in still want it in a couple of years or longer
    4. Sewing is a personal hobby which I do for myself, so if I take 3 years to finish a dress it doesn't matter
    5. If I have time to sew, I will be using it for myself as I really need new clothes
    6. If you think it's a really easy project, it might be a good one to use to learn how to sew yourself (without being taught by me)

  4. Your sister looks gorgeous in your creations - good work! I esp. love the maxi dress :)

    I definitely have trouble saying no, but luckily people don't ask me too often. I have to say (and I don't know why) that I especially dislike when people ask me to hem their pants or do other alterations. Ok, I know why, so boring!!! Plus there are alteration specialists who can do it very quickly and better than me and for very cheap! Alright, I feel better now. ;)

  5. such good advice! thank you. and the dresses look wonderful!

  6. I love these dresses, your sister is adorable and she looks great in them. The detachable straps on the polka dot dress are awesome, what a great idea.

    It's difficult to say no, especially to friends. I typically state my price up front and make it high enough so that people will either change their mind or I'll make a bundle off of it. I made a bathing suit for a good friend this summer because she has lots of trouble finding ones that fit. She did pay me, but wow, it was a lot of work and quite a headache. Next time I'll quote $100/hour ;)

  7. I try to dissuade them first, by explaining the logistics of it. I also insist on payment if they persist, but I usually just say no (with an explanation of why!)

    1. Also, I'm terrible because I didn't tell you how fabulous I think that maxi dress is. Yes, yes, yes to a godet!

  8. I think being crafty/creative takes its toll sometimes. Dan and I do things for close friends and family because we love them and want to do nice things for them, but I find Dan then has friends of friends asking for services for free and it upsets him. He's had to become stern and let people know his time is worth something, as well as his skills. You can't get your lunch for free!
    I'm struggling right now because I have people WANTING to pay me but I don't feel my skills are worth much at this point. How do you come up with a price??

    Those dresses look fantastic and as always, I'm jealous of your sewing skills :)

  9. I'm a bitch so usually I just laugh and say no, this tends to work in most cases. I did some work recently for a friend against my better judgement after she carried out a bit of emotional manipulation on me, I was paid for my time but I didn't really have the time to give up - resulted in me being very stressed and ordered off the sewing machine at 11pm one night by my other half. I will sew for my immediate family quite willingly - it gives me the opportunity to make things I wouldn't ordinarily make.

    Your sister is a doll, she looks gorgoues in both of those dresses :)

  10. Love the dresses for your sister! I have a hard time saying "no" to sewing requests. a friend offered to pay me to do some sewing for her, but i didn't feel right taking money from a friend, so i told her she could bake me something in exchange. she's a great baker, so a few days later she showed up with all kinds of goodies =)

    another time a friend asked me to make her some pillows out of a specific fabric, and i told her if she bought the fabric, i'd sew them up for her. she never bought the fabric, so nothing came of it, until her birthday rolled around months and months later, so i ran out and bought a similar (better!)fabric and made her a pillow as a birthday gift. and she seemed really happy and said "you remembered!"

    but, i don't think i could run a business sewing for others because i'd need to charge so much for my time that my prices would be more than what people would want to pay!

  11. Beautiful dresses! And a big YES to the godet!

    I really haven't had anyone pressure me except for one person who would ask me to do RTW alterations. So I gave her the name and number of the seamstress I use to do alterations (seriously, I hate alterations) and explained that she charges much less than I do and works more quickly than I could. For my family and close friends, at this point everyone has a gift that was made by me, and none of them are pushy. So, I don't really have a problem like others do.

  12. Aaaw, Kitty is adorable and so are her makes! I've long admired the Mission Maxi, but fear it won't suit my muffin top figure. Can't wait to see your version, if it's half as cute as Kitty's then you're onto a winner! And the navy sundress is lush...every girl should have one just like it!

    In terms of sewing requests, I do get a fair few and I find saying 'no' really awkward. Luckily, I am selfish enough to do so, but it always comes out super apologetically and I go really red and the whole thing is messy :o(

  13. I so love the navy dress and twice as much with the halter - amazing! Hey, your bound buttonholes are great! It's something many of us wouldn't tackle!!!!

    As for sewing for others - No. And remembering that "NO" does not require an explanation. I usually just say no and that's the end of the conversation. If someone persists, I explain to them that I have precious little time to sew and like to use it for myself. If they say they'll pay me, well I explain the cost -as in- that pair of pants I made? Yeah, that was about 8 hours of work. Would you like to pay hundreds of dollars for an item? I didn't think so.

  14. Umm, can you please come be my sister and make me clothes. I know you're questioning sewing for others but common, we're both redheads? Can't you be biased towards me :)

  15. nice work! both dresses look fab!

    I do sew for money, from time to time. I have a BS in Clothing & Textiles, so I feel justified in asking what I'm worth. For the most part, I've found that counting up the pattern pieces (double that if there is lining), and add one, this is usually the actual number of hours it takes to complete the item. I charge a reasonable hourly rate for that, give them the quote up front, and if they don't like it, I don't have to sew. More folks than you'd think are willing to pay it, so from time to time, I sew for money. I NEVER buy the fabric or pattern - that's on them.
    Mostly, people want me to alter or fix something. I do find it less boring/irritating to replace someone else's zipper, but still, I quote a price, and if they don't like it, I don't have to do it.

  16. I pray my sister does not stumble upon this post and try to use is as leverage in her argument for me to sew for her.... Because, I'm totally not as nice as you are, but I too struggle with saying, "NO!". That maxi dress is amazing. I shouldn't buy any more patterns, but I could make an exception for that one.

  17. Both dresses are fab - I'd buy the Mission Maxi if I hadn't had to put myself on a pattern diet! I'm pretty pants at saying no historically, but I have learnt to be better at it, for my own sanity. Refusing to be held to any timescale does put people off! And I loathe fixing things - even for me, why would I want to mend a blouse somebody else will wear? Anyway, I sew/crochet/make cards for love only, and to my own timetable - I am so short of time anything else becomes a chore. :)

  18. I am completely selfish and really only sew for my daughter and myself. I get so wound up about a garment turning out perfectly for someone else that I rarely get started at all!

  19. Kitty looks AMAZING here in both dresses but that green one is to die for! I'm GREEN with envy! WOW xoxo

  20. Wow, Kitty looks amazing in both dresses! They're so gorgeous! I sew for my sisters and other immediate family members, but I'm trying not to make them anything that has a deadline because I ALWAYS end up pulling an all-nighter in order to finish on time. Other than that, I don't sew for anyone else because I just couldn't get it done in a timely fashion. I always tell people, "You can't afford me!" with a wink, and that's usually enough to shut them down. I sew as gifts or not at all since I'd have to run my own sweatshop to make a garment at a price that others would want to pay!

  21. I never knew the Mission Maxi had a version with a godet in the back! I love it! I think I might have to make myself one.
    About sewing requests, I think it's important that sewing is enjoyable, it's your hobby and how you choose to spend your free time so you should be able to choose when and what you sew. I love sewing for other people when it's my choice too rather than a request but even then I get a bit stressed! I don't want to be stressed when I sew!

  22. Both dresses look great, but that green one is super cool! I'm terrible at saying no.... lessons yet to learn, I suppose.

  23. Wow, that's two very beautiful dresses! I couldn't even decide which I like more, and that's saying something! :D
    Good on you for learning to say "no". I usually make people sit next to me, entertaining me and bringing me drinks when I sew them something (for now it's only been stuff like mending and altering, for very good friends).

  24. I love these two green and blue dresses! They are so beautiful and pretty! Come here to see some beautiful gray and pink bridesmaid dresses!

  25. Your sister? You don't say? I'd never have guessed ;) Both dresses look gorgeous on her and now I want a knit maxi dress for our impending summer. You've done a lovely job. As for saying no, if it's a dear friend (and I know they'd help me out in a jam) then I'll help them but otherwise I just laugh and say "nah, not my thing". It mostly works.

  26. Lately, I haven't had much of a problem telling people no. I generally say something like, "I have to be inspired to knit something, so I don't really knit to order." I have had to casually mention that if I charged hourly for my hand knit socks, they would be about $300. Consequently, I have people who now refer to my socks in progress as my $300 socks. (I do not regret reading the book, "when I say no, I feel guilty" by Manuel J. Smith) Good for you that you're taking charge of your happiness with regard to your hobby! :-) (I do not yet really sew......I plan to learn before too long. 2014 is feeling lucky :) )