Sample Gifts – a sewing odyssey

Sewing for others can alternately be a joy and fraught with terror. I received a call from a friend two weeks back. She’s a designer for a fashion house in California. The next week was Market Week in New York City. Market Week, for those who aren’t familiar, is the week when different fashion centers and showrooms display all their samples for the coming season. It’s a huge deal in the industry. Buyers come from all over and place their orders. It’s tense and exciting: the quickened pulse of the of the industry in a way.

So that weekend, I received a call from my designer friend. One of her sample makers was unable to do two dresses because of a conflict. Was there any way I could help her out? Of course! I love this lady, and I admire her deeply, and besides, I love to sew, and I really love to get paid to sew! I would only have time, however, to do one dress. No problem, she sent me the line drawings and the pattern, and she had actually cut the pattern pieces for me. All I had to do (yeah, right!) was sew up the dress and make it look spectacular. No pressure right? The problem with sewing for others is that I cast a much more jaundiced eye on the piece than I ever do for my own things. I know, Kenneth King, my hero, says, “I don’t try for perfection, I strive for the illusion of perfection.” He also has a pithy saying to the effect that, if they are examining your clothing closer than three feet away, you have every right to slap them!

But when it’s a piece that is professional, for a friend in need, it’s a different story. Buyers are not only going to be closer than 3 feet, you’re definitely not allowed to slap them, regardless of how much they may deserve it. They’re kind of like Brothers-in-law that way. I started in on the dress, and I had a similar, but not exact, style to kind of emulate the finishing and get the feel for the placement of boning and lining. Of course, I had a lot of questions for my friend, and I called her up. I’ve done tons and tons of sewing for myself and for private clients. But I am not an industrial seamstress, and I wanted to check a few things before I started.

“So, just to make sure, are the seam allowances 5/8 of an inch?” That’s the standard for home sewing patterns BTW.
(long pause)
“Noooo. In industry, the seams are 1/2 inch, and facings are 1/4 inch.”

This was said in a thoughtful manner, not in any way to make me feel stupid. It didn’t help. I felt pretty damned stupid anyway. As an aside, why do pattern companies use a different standard than the garment industry? It seems like the industry has some good ideas – there’s less wasted fabric, and you don’t need to trim. Whazzup? Most homesewers I know aren’t dumb. They could figure out different seam allowances. Grrrrr…..

So I sewed up the dress. It went together beautifully. But there was the hem. It was a knife-edged narrow hem. No big deal. I made it up, But when I looked at it the next day, the thing looked crooked! So I took out my measuring tape. Nope, the measurements from all angles showed that the hem was exactly the same length all around the skirt. What the…? I let it hang on the mannequin overnight to see if it stretched out any and would need re-hemming. The next morning, nothing had changed. It was still measuring all the right lengths from the waist, but the durned thing looked wonky! My DH came in, looked at it and said, “Looks fine to me.” So I packed it up, sent it off, and let my friend know she would have the dress first thing Monday morning. She was happy with it, and I believe the collection was a success.

The moral of the story is, project fatigue can make you crazy. I’d only had the dress for 4 days, but by the end, I couldn’t see it for itself. All I could concentrate on were perceived faults that weren’t actually there. When that happens, get someone else, even someone who doesn’t know about sewing, to take a look at it. The second set of eyes can give you an unbiased opinion. DH is astute enough after 21 years of marriage to notice if a hem is off. He didn’t see it, so I figured I’d just go with it. And it worked!

Happy sewing!

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4 thoughts on “Sample Gifts – a sewing odyssey”

  1. You are such a great friend!good of your husband to give you a hint, that the dress was fine…. I always ask myself if I’m sewing for others “will he/she likes it?” and I’m a lot more skeptical! Plus I tend to alter to death….

  2. Ain’t it the truth! How often have I hung something in the closet, disappointed, only to pull it out weeks later and look at it and wonder why I was unhappy…’Course, sometimes it works the other way, too, and discover that some minor flaw that I basically ignored at the time looms larger and larger every time I put on that garment….

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