About 20+ years ago I met a talented seamstress/teacher/artist/tailor/lecturer at a seminar she was giving and felt an immediate bond. We had some similar issues with parental units, family and ex-husbands but by sewing together we could make all those things disappear for a while. We no longer live close enough to visit but still can sympathize with each other on the same issues. While I still crank out projects for clients she still lectures on sewing creatively and also works at an internet call center. This Christmas tale came from her today and I could not stop laughing with tears in my eyes imagining her with her back up against the wall. I’m calling her Wendy to protect her identity from co-workers and family. Here is her sad but funny story:
You will be amused, entertained and probably sympathetic to my latest project. Not sure if that is an apt description, but it will suffice. I will say that I felt trapped and no way out. Of course, during the hours I worked on this little project, I have succeeded in preparing myself for any future requests.
One of the managers at my work- not my current, but previous, asked if I still sewed. (My mistake right there was saying yes. I think there was a miscommunication- I still sew, but I sew whatever I damn well please is what I should have admitted to.) Set myself up for that one, I know. Well, she had taken her Spode place mats to a local dry cleaner and requested a little alteration (wanted to go from the rectangular shape to round) and was just horrified that the seamstress quoted her $8. apiece for the 4 place mats that she had. She said at that time that if she had to pay $32. that she would rather pay someone she knows… (Right there I should have said that sounds like a great deal! But no…) So she asks if she can bring them in and I could look at them? I am already not feeling too good about this, but only 4 and I think I can handle this little request. Well, the round shape would be a little smaller than she would like, so I offer (DUMB BLONDE that I apparently am…) that I could use my forest green moire taffeta (that would be the perfect color) to extend the edge of the circle 1-1/2-2″. She is THRILLED! I make a sample on a quarter circle and display it to her. YES that would be Perfect! I probably don’t even need to tell you how the rest of this goes…
So BEGRUDGINGLY (the whole time berating myself for falling for the trap) I transformed her 4 place mats (spent last Monday doing that…) into circular works of art with the forest green borders (bias cut. underlined with Thermore to approximate the thickness of the place mat, steamed endlessly to curve into circular borders, all top stitched and pressed nicely). I tried to just be gracious when I returned these little masterpieces to her. Sadly, she wasn’t alone in her office and it felt uncomfortable to ask for payment. So the next day she is just so tickled to have found 2 more of these place mats that need to be transformed into those same wonderful circular ones that look so fabulous on her holiday table…You can only imagine how tough it was to not scream…but please remember I am at work on a phone call with yet another treasured customer.
I have spent another couple hours completing these today. Gritting my teeth the whole time but have finished. There will be no more sewing like this. If I am asked, I WILL give them an estimate (cost and time when I would be able to fit them in) that will probably horrify the person asking and the should be the end of it. And refer them to a local seamstress that may have the time for their project.
In the end we seamstresses still have lessons to learn…oh so many.
Before I end the year with the last bride and last blog of 2011, I want to share a little project that came to me yesterday from another friend in the local American Sewing Guild. It seems her nephew needed his pockets repaired and the corduroy collar band replaced. It looked like lots of hand sewing so I said OK. One of the pockets had been ripped right off the leather inside flap and needed to have a piece attached before it could be repaired. Here is the piece I attached and tried to sew by machine and by hand.
The jacket itself is quite heavy with loads of zippers and flaps and snap and separate zip-out winter lining.
Yes, that will have to be totally sewn by hand with new corduroy but here is my issue – no matter what you pay for a leather jacket/coat the pockets are the first things to go. Pockets take so much abuse whether it be cold hands being jammed into them, gloved hands being jammed into them or other items with sharp edges ripping into tender seams and thin cotton fabric.
So the whole value and joy of wearing a leather garment can be brought down by a ripped pocket. Only a seamstress who gets to open the lining and fish around inside can assess and do the repairs properly.
Two other things that make me nuts after handling leather goods is the fact that NO ONE ever nourishes the skin…any middle-aged woman knows the value of moisturizer and this goes for jackets as well. Most leather garments are all cracked, color-worn off and scratched through constant neglect. The other thing is zippers…does anyone ever lubricate them either? One lube stick I have found is from Cleaner’s Supply. It glides so well over the zipper teeth but I keep mine in the egg compartment of my fridge so it does not melt.
Only one week left to shop for last minute presents and turkey and cranberry sauce. So flip through your closet, find your beloved leather garment and give it some love/leather balm.
For those of you have written and asked about the outcome of Wendy’s Whammy here is it:
A reply from Wendy herself: “Payment was actually a thank you card- no check or gift card enclosed.”
Tuesday morning, I brought in the finished additional 2 placemats. Imagine my surprise when there was a note on her bulletin board informing her team that she would be back on January 14th! FINE! The nerve! I had worked furiously to finish the little masterpieces that were so desperately needed for Christmas festivities- FOOL! Later in the day, with unabashed pleasure this manager walks by my desk to thank me! She had come in to the office just to pick up her placemats. How presumptuous! I had given no promise as to when the delivery date would be- she just showed up on my next day of work to retrieve her placemats! (I am so well trained and reliable- just like a performing dog!) I was able to manage a smile- all the while thinking NEVER AGAIN! If I want to donate my time and materials, there are much more deserving recipients and I will make my own choices.
So, there you have it fellow sewers…always set your price and if the client chooses the dry cleaner then that is one calamity you have avoided! Poor Wendy!