Remember the ten rows of wedding bunting I said I’d make? They were up in style during my day at Oxfordshire. Two lovely people are married.
I’m very proud of the completed bunting and thought this exercise would be a great opportunity for us all to analysis that most common sewing predicament: people asking us to make stuff for them.
I don’t know about you, but people invite me to sew items for them on a fairly regular basis. On a fairly regular basis, I feel absolutely no compunction about politely declining. This is for a number of reasons:
- I prefer to make things for myself.
- Fitting is often a nightmare. It will be more of a nightmare when the person dreaming of a perfect dress lives in another county.
- People rarely stop to consider what it is they’re actually asking you to do ie sacrifice hours and hours of your free time. This isn’t because friends are selfish or inconsiderate – quite the opposite. It’s simply that unless they’ve sat down at a sewing machine they can’t conceive of how many hours go into even the simplest dress.
- Again, ignorance rules. People still equate home made with cheap. We all know it often isn’t. Asking a friend to make you a dress is no short cut to bargain basement style. But can you tell someone this? No, because they probably won’t ever admit that they’re choosing you to make something for them so that they can save money.
- I don’t want to see the look of disappointment on a person’s face when it all goes wrong. Either the item doesn’t fit or they just don’t like it.
Ooh, I sound like a real grump, don’t I? I don’t mean to, but I think we owe it to our friends to be realistic about what we’re taking on when we say ‘yes’ to a request for something to be made. No one wants to be let down when you fail to meet a deadline and they certainly don’t want to be made to feel guilty when you learn to hate the WIP.
So my two pieces of advice are:
- Eight times out of ten say ‘no’.
- The two times out of ten that you say ‘yes’, say it for all the right reasons: because you care about this person, because the project intrigues you and because you are genuinely happy to give up your weekends on this. If you can’t tick all of these boxes, you know what to do.
So once you have said ‘yes’, what should you bear in mind?
Having worked with schedules for more years than I care to remember, I know that the most important part of any schedule is the FUF. Or to translate, the F**k Up Factor. I always, always allow time for this. You’re going to get a cold. Or sleep in. You’ll forget about the weekend away you planned or there’ll be the day when you just want to tear someone’s head off if they even mention ‘sewing machine’ to you. These days will happen, and you’d better have factored them in. When making the wedding bunting, I first contacted the bride in March to start talking about colours. That was four months before the wedding. Think I was mad? That still had me working a solid Saturday to finish the bunting on time. You can never start early enough.
Don’t underestimate this. I assumed it would be really easy picking out fabric for bunting. I mean, what’s to think about? But I actually really appreciated the time to pick fabrics out on whim as I saw them. You can’t go on whim if you’re up against it. Creativity needs room to breathe.
At the eleventh hour I decided to add embroidery to some of the bunting. It was a gorgeously personal touch, but added another two hours to my schedule.
All three of the above points really come back to the same thing: Give Yourself Lots Of Time!
Finally, would you ever consider doing this as a business enterprise? I kept an eye on cost and time to make ten pieces of bunting. It breaks down thus:
Paying myself the UK minimum wage of £5.93 an hour, plus costing for supplies and postage, I’d have to invoice £180.32. (That’s not factoring in VAT or any desire to earn more than the minimum wage.) Would someone be willing to pay £180.32 for wedding bunting? Even bespoke wedding bunting, made to order and with touches that are unique to a special day? Hmmmm. This is my big reservation about turning crafting into business: I can’t see how it pays. People often say to me, ‘You should sell your stuff!’ I tell them, ‘It isn’t worth my time.’ Except this wedding bunting was worth my time: just imagining a good friend’s pleasure on her big day was worth every moment.
I hope this helps. It’s a thorny topic that I think needs tackling. I’ve certainly found it useful. Do you have other tips or advice to give? I bet you have!
Oh, I forgot to mention. I’ve just agreed to make a dress for a friend. Do as I say, not as I do.