Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Putting a value on home sewn

I have been reading alot lately about people learning to sew. If you have the inclination and some basic tools then you can sew. It's just like most things in life, if you learn some basic skills, you can build on them as much as or as little as you like. I did read somewhere though, and I can't remember where, that people who sew aren't talented! This was suggesting that although skills were developed over time, you do not require talent to become a sewer.

Whilst it is true that the only requirement is a determination to learn, it is also possible to be a talented seamstress. The notion that home sewing is 'talentless' under rates an already under valued craft/skill/art. Anyone can stitch fabric together, just as well as anyone can put paint on a brush and place that brush to paper, but not anyone has the ability to match silhouette, texture and colour to create something that is truly beautiful do they? You can swap beautiful for wearable if you like in that last bit!

It's not just home sewing that is under valued either. That is why we are surrounded by cheap clothes on the high street. Having worked in a high street buying office it seems that consumers expect alot for their money in this throw away society and are very reluctant to pay more for it.

For me it is an issue that I have yet to come to terms with, but I have learnt that when someone asks me to make them something (who is not family) it is best to decline politely. Bit of an employment history today, but I used to be a curtain maker long ago and more recently, when working in a web design agency was asked if I could alter some net curtains for a co-worker. I reluctantly said yes and shortened them as requested and he didn't even offer me any money for it. Can you believe that? I couldn't even ask as I was so embarassed and it's not like I had bags of free time then as I was working alot of over time.

 Anyway, what was the purpose of this post again? I don't really know! Is this a rant or is this just something in my head that I needed to get out there? I was disappointed about the net curtains, but I got over it and always say no to people these days (shame really!).

Just remember that there is lots of sewing 'talent' out there and that all textiles are an investment of time and skill and should be valued as such at all times! Maybe it's because there is soo much talent out there that it has been belittled!!!!


Joy said...

Interesting post, Marilla. It's interesting to think about the distinction between natural talent and skill that comes from practice - for instance some people have a great eye for aesthetics, and some don't, but how much of that can be made up for by time reading up on color theory, design, and similar topics. One can easily be mistaken for another - you can bet the first time a "talented violinist" picked up an instrument, beautiful music didn't come out :) I feel sometimes bringing up 'natural talent' devalues the actual time people have taken to learn and develop their skills.

I do agree that crafts are massively undervalued - I think some people get the wrong idea that because it's something you do in your free time, then the time spent doing it is its own reward and any compensation is just gravy?! The same is thought about a lot of creative pursuits, people expect others to work for nothing or for peanuts. It's such a shame.

Marilla Walker said...

You are totally right of course. 'Natural talent' certainly does not take anything away from the time and effort gone into making something regardless. All handmade items are beautiful in their own right because of the hand that made them. I certainly wouldn't dispute that!

Anonymous said...

Great post. Honestly, I think the vast majority of people have no idea what kind of time, money, and yes, talent (!) go into making a quality piece of clothing. I also think most people don't even know what a quality piece of clothing is. And that's ok! Many people are perfectly happy buying inexpensive and/or poorly made clothing. Whatever floats your boat. :)

What isn't ok, as you mentioned, is asking someone to put in so much time and energy without any form of compensation. I couldn't imagine asking someone to spend 10 hours on a project for me, totally for free! Who does that??

Anyway, lots to think about here. Glad you brought up this topic.

JustSew Jenna said...

Really thought provoking post. I do get asked to sew things for other people and I haven't yet learnt to say no politely. Mostly it's adjustments which I hate doing for myself anyway. Also, there never seems to be a good enough reason for me to say no so I don't like to. I don't mind really, I suppose if I really did I would say no, but it does take me 4 times as long to sew stuff for other people than it does for me to sew for me or my daughter (unless I have chosen to make something of my own accord rather than being asked). Maybe people will stop asking if I take really long doing it!!

Marilla Walker said...

It sounds mean doesn't it saying no? I just get no enjoyment from alterations or requests and actually quite a lot of anxiety about getting the details right. I personally find the blanket 'no' to all easier to handle. I like sewing for other people out of choice, but that's different isn't it? Much more exciting when you get an idea for something that you hope someone will love! Sewing gifts are within my capabilities most definitely!

Nancy said...

I have come up with a solution and response for the many people who ask me to sew for them. I respond that I barely have time to sew for myself but I do have a friend who sews for a living. This quickly puts things back into a service for cash exchange. My sewing friend has been able to grow her business as a result. Win-win-win.

Brooke said...

Good post and thoughts. I've ranted a bit about some of these things myself. =)

I sew for a living for film/tv/theatre and even the professionals I work with outside the costuming department tend to think that costumes "just happen". So much of what we have to do to make sure that actors are dressed and clothes fit well happens away from the view of others. There is a tendency for non-costumers to think that anyone can costume because everyone gets up in the morning and dresses themselves.

All this parallels so much of the assumptions made about sewing. (And btw, not all costumers can sew!)

Because sewing is often a hobby, it is usually thought of as simply "fun" and not actual work. Thus the logic is "how can someone charge money for doing something fun/recreational?" (Alterations are the least fun kind of sewing!)

It's sad that artistic talent is not thought of in the same way as a physical labor skill. People are willing to pay large amounts of money for things like plumbing services when they have an emergency, but no one is really desperate for clothing. Often people think art and creative talent should be shared for free because they are not necessities for living.

I think if clothing were not so cheaply and readily available today, the labor hours that go into sewing something would be more apparent and appreciated. When I'm asked to sew (outside of work) I tell people I charge by the hour and they usually nod as if that's reasonable - until I give them a quote of how many hours a project will take.

Marilla Walker said...

I like the 'hourly quote' idea Brooke!

Caroline said...

Hi Marilla, I have nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award (although I wasn’t really sure if you may already have a nomination). I am a recent reader of your super blog and love your arty style and approach to life!
Read my reasons for nominating you on my blog: http://carolinejoynson.blogspot.co.uk/

Louise Perry said...

Great post very thought provoking. I have been asked lots of times to do repairs, so up curtains and hem trousers skirts etc. They ask as if they are doing me a favour to ask as I LOVE sewing!!

Marilla Walker said...

Hi Louise, I love that assumption that you'll enjoy doing the jobs for people that they can't be bothered to do themselves!