How to price bespoke heirloom sewing

Sooo you are thinking about selling your sewing? Here are my two cents of advice over several years and experiences of lessons learned the hard way. I also have this in video format if you’d rather watch than read 😉

  1. Don’t sell yourself short. This not only hurts you (resentment, etc.) and also undercuts the market for others.
  2. Be upfront about pricing before any materials are ordered. I also take a deposit to cover the cost of the materials and I am VERY clear that that deposit is nonrefundable. Once materials are ordered, they cannot be returned. I collect these fees through square.com.
  3. I use a spreadsheet to come up with my pricing. This makes it very easy and takes the emotion out of the process.  The price simply is what it is.

    I explain the spreadsheet in this video: http://bit.ly/35a52QW. Alternatively, you can purchase the spreadsheet for $1.00 from my etsy site: https://etsy.me/2t0x5E5

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  4. I charge according to my spreadsheet or I completely gift a garment. There are no discounts for holidays, family members, close friends, etc. I work just as hard regardless of the time of year or who I am making the garment for 😉
  5. You are not completing with walmart and do not need to justify your pricing to anyone.
  6. Additionally, if someone thinks you are out to get them, you can kindly direct them to my YouTube channel (or another resource) so they can try to make their desired creation on their own. I don’t mean this as discouraging at all! But sometimes it just takes trying to do something with your own two hands to understand that a lot more goes into handmade items than may meet the eye. This may give them a better appreciation for your learned skill and the amount of time it goes into creating a bespoke piece of art.

my first bishop was a hot mess

I’ve been meaning to post this for a while, and I’m finally making the time. Smocked bishops are a staple in the world of sewing heirloom and classic garments for babies and toddlers. They are one of my favorite pieces to make and once you get the hang of them, they come together quite quickly (minus that smocking part). There are only a few construction steps to master, but mastering these steps can be tricky. There is a steep learning curve… my first bishop was a hot mess.

While it makes total sense to me now to force the pleats into a given length for the size of garment (aka blocking), I didn’t realize this was a critical part of the process with my first smocked bishop.

Instead, I took my smocked bishop and attached a bias band (one of those from a package… I know!)… just sandwiched the raw edge into the bias band and started sewing.

Naturally, the pleats stretched out and I was left with a huge turtle neck effect… just a huge mess.

I was a member of the Orlando SAGA group at the time (wonderful bunch!). We laughed over my mess of a bishop and they helped explain where I went wrong.

By that time, I was over.it. So I took up some pleats (yes, pleats on top of pleats), and slapped some bows on those new pleats.

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My next bishop was still not perfect, but the neckline was within reason. And the bishops kept getting better, although I can’t say that I’ve ever made a “perfect” bishop. I enjoy making them, and that’s the whole point. I have a video that goes into the details of my first bishop as well as the successors with close up images.

So the point of this post isn’t to talk poorly about myself, but instead share part of my sewing journey. Making mistakes is part of the process, but it’s not something that I consider to be a waste of time. Many people are fearful to begin a new project if they don’t know 100% of what it entails or how to do every single step.

Life isn’t always so straight-forward. Sometimes you just have to jump in, or at least dip a toe, and learn as you go. The mistakes are worthwhile and teach a lot of lessons. Plus, can you imagine how many lost opportunities have occurred because of fear? Life is too short for that, folks.

So my best advice for those who want to learn how to make a smocked bishop is to have realistic expectations, use some scrap fabric, and get some guidance if you wish. That guidance could be a more advanced sewing buddy, an online tutorial, an issue of Australian Smocking and Embroidery… the list goes on and on. But, like anything else in life, progress is only going to happen if you show up and put the puzzle together one piece at a time. You can do this! ❤

 

 

 

 

 

the shadow smocked dress.. you can do this, mama.

You know those lovely little handkerchiefs that you see at antique stores and such? Well, that feeling inspired this dress. I don’t normally brag about my sewing, but seriously, i.am.in.love.

 

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(yuppers… that is my bed.. whatevs)

 

Anywho so I got the idea to take those sort of antique feeling flowers and expand into a fluid design. The concept was to have two vertical(ish) sections on the bodice and then have those sections connect with the skirt design. Looking back, I should’ve put one vertical(ish) section on each bodice back and then I could’ve connected that to the skirt, too… and that would’ve left me with four sections on the skirt… oh well. I still am fairly happy with this.

So I have an embroidery file for the bodice as well as two files (sold together) for the skirt and I explain how I placed everything in this video.

I actually have a whole playlist that goes over how I constructed this dress. But I’d rather talk about the idea that you can still have an outlet and craft even if you are a parent.

I’m not going to lie, there are days where it feels completely overwhelming. My husband works a lot. We’re self-employed, and super grateful for the work, but that means I’m home with the kiddos without any help most days. We live away from family and I don’t have anyone that can give me a break.

Don’t get me wrong, I love being a mother, but the idea of having a consistent break each week sounds lovely. But that’s okay… there are worst things in life and I am not alone. There are plenty other mamas who are in this same boat. And we can do this.

Our society’s structure has changed so much since our parents were taking care of little ones. Many of us have moved a great distance away from family for job opportunities. And most of us don’t have the support system of a neighborhood anymore. I remember being watched by neighbors quite a bit growing up… and I don’t think that’s very common anymore. Instead we turn to creative outlets (ie sewing) and online support communities.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you are in a similar boat, you are not alone. Yes, it is hard. And yes, you were a person first before you became a mother. But, you can still have creative outlets and hobbies. The logistics are a bit different, but it’s possible.

There should be no pressure (heck, motherhood is hard enough without unnecessary pressure), but if you want to sew, then sew. You can do it.

One stitch at a time, one seam at a time, it will get done… trust me. turtle wins the race.

Let them be little

**this post has been in my draft section for almost a year now #mamaneedsababysitter**

 

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So Audrey turned two years old this past June. And I just love celebrating my babies’ birthdays.

Audrey loves tea — both cold and hot warm. She loves everything about it from picking out her tea bag to drinking from a tea cup. So it only seemed fit to give her a tea party themed birthday.

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So I designed a dress fit for a tea party, ordered some wonderfully fancy fabric from Farmhouse, and got to sewing. I’ve been wanting to learn cutwork for a while, so I came up with this design for the bodice.

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Then I had to figure out how to do cutwork. Despite searching, I didn’t find a lot of information online. So I figured it was kinda like a hand embroidered eyelet on steroids and that method seemed to work.

I completed the cutwork while nurse-rocking Henry during Audrey’s afternoon nap for the next few weeks. And yes, nurse-rocking is what it sounds like… you nurse your baby to sleep in a rocking chair and they take a (hopefully) long nap between the nursing and rocking.

I didn’t keep track of hour many hours it took to do the cutwork, but I’d guess around 40 hours. Then I completed the dress.

 

Before I knew it, her birthday party had arrived and was in full swing. There was plenty of food and everyone seemed to be having a good time. I looked up from talking to a friend to see my precious two-year old in her pretty cutwork dress covered in chocolate. 

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My first reaction? no biggie.

Honestly, I am grateful to have this sweet girl, and she turns two-year old once. I also want her to keep wearing the garments I make for as long as possible.. so I don’t want her to associate me yelling over a chocolate mess with Mama’s sewing clothes, you know?

We whipped up the wet chocolate and enjoyed the rest of the party. Once all the guests had left, we took the dress off and soaked it in some warm water with a little bit of drift and the chocolate came right out – no sweat 🙂

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Enjoy the sewing process for what it is and let them be little.

back to blogging

heyyy I’m back. I hope.

I know, it’s been a hot minute since my last blog post. I’ve missed this side of things and am going to make it more of a priority.

So what’s new? Well… my sewing room has moved twice since last year. Our 1200 square foot house feels more like a shoe box everyday for our family of four, and I’m not complaining, just constantly moving things around trying to accommodate for everyone’s changing needs.

 

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And that brings me to some exciting news – we bought a piece of property last Fall and are finalizing plans to build our family house. I am so beyond excited. My future sewing space is my ultimate dream. Can you say 1400 square feet with a door that locks?? omg. i just can’t.

So for now we’re making do in this little house and enjoying life as best we can.

Anywho, hey everyone, I am going to (hopefully) blog regularly again! yay! missed y’all! ❤

10 toddler play dresses for under $100

Soo I got this idea to break down a beginner’s project (and make it very affordable) thanks to some comments I’ve gotten throughout the past two years of doing online tutorials.

For some, the idea of starting a new hobby while having little ones running around is incredibly intimidating.

Meanwhile we recently enrolled Audrey into a half-day little school program, so I made her ten play/school dresses and am using the opportunity to (hopefully) encourage other Mamas of youngsters to sew if that’s what they want to do.

Sooo here goes… ten dresses for under $100 dollars.

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I used Children’s Corner Patterns Lucy. It’s a super easy pattern to follow – no sleeves, no gathering, no pleats, no hemming – well, you get the drift. Here is a video tutorial on how I made these jumpers.

I made everything out of imperial broadcloth. Imperial means that it’s a mixed material of polyester and cotton. The polyester resists wrinkles and stains. Also, Farmhouse Fabrics sell imperial broadcloth for $7.25/yard of 60″ wide, making this a very affordable option.

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Here are the broadcloth colors I chose along with each dresses embellishment, but by all means, you pick whatever colors and embellishments that speak to you. They have a huge selection of novelty buttons. And depending on your embellishments, your cost could be in the $50s.

CC Lucy Planning Spreadsheet: 

This spreadsheet may be helpful in your planning process.

 

  1. Imperial Broadcloth #575 Red Baron
    Creamy White Pear-buttons
    Antique white rick-rack
  2. Imperial Broadcloth #515 Lemon Ice
    Small, stitched heart buttons
    Piping Pink #503
  3. Imperial Broadcloth #587 Pink Sparkle
    Cream MOP Heart Shaped Buttons (3)
    Blue/Black/White Tartan Pima Cotton Piping
  4. Imperial Broadcloth #561 Skipper Blue
    Strawberry Buttons
  5. Imperial Broadcloth #534 Banner Blue
  6. Imperial Broadcloth #503 Pink
    Cream MOP Heart Shaped Buttons (3)
    Piping #509 Watercolor Blue
  7. Imperial Broadcloth #588 Sonic Green
    Red Heart Buttons (3)
    Polka Dot Piping, White and Red
  8. Imperial Broadcloth #563 Purple
    Cream MOP Heart Shaped Buttons (3)
    Gingham Pastel Plaid Pima Cotton Piping
  9. Imperial Broadcloth #524 Wisteria
    Cream MOP Heart Shaped Buttons (3)
    Light Pink Stripped Piping
  10. Imperial Broadcloth #501 White
    Porcelain Coated Pink Heart Buttons
    Piping #504 Pink Crocus

Below the buttons used for embellishments are laid down while the buttons in the bags were used at the shoulder straps. I also secured some of the straps using snapsetter snaps instead of buttons since my machine buttonhole was giving me issues.

Then all the piping/rick-rack is shown… and to be fair, Farmhouse wraps these into a neat little figure-eight, but this is what a bunch of piping/rick-rack looks like after a toddler gets a hold of it. #childisamess

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So I cut all of my fabric out and in order to get away with only ordering 3/4 of a yard, I cut one front and back piece out on the fold while the lining front and back pieces were cut out on the raw edge, adding 1/2″ for the seam allowance. So each lining piece has a seam down the center front/back, which doesn’t bother me a bit. It saves half the required fabric!

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From there I made my assembly line and got to sewing.

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When you have little ones, sometimes it’s easiest to wait until after bedtime and sew while they are sleeping. Other good options are to baby-wear while sewing, allow your little one to play on the floor within eyesight, put them in the high chair with some food to play with (again, within eyesight), give them some crayons (and paper – ha!)… you get the drift. Trust me, you can make it work.

 

Remember, garments are sewn one seam at a time.

No one said all the seams had to be sewn at the same sewing session.

 

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Then I had ten play/school dresses 🙂 Admittedly, some of the embellishments got moved around from my initial plans as you can see below.

And while I’m really looking forward to making Audrey school clothing to her specifications one day (hey, a Mama can dream…), the kinda uniform has helped distinguish school vs non-school days. She picks her school dress from one that is hanging in her closet and she knows she’s going to school. It gets her in the mood, if you will.

As we head into Fall and Winter, there is plenty of room to put long-sleeved shirts underneath the jumper as well as leggings/pants.

She’ll be able to wear these jumpers for a few years since they aren’t fitted through the body.

Can you believe we have ourselves a little school girl? She comes home singing her ABCs and I just can’t deal. When did this happen? Her toddler face has pretty well transformed into one of a little girl’s.

 

August’s Viewer Photos

Well helloooo there sewing friends 🙂

I can just imagine all of you out there spending quality time with your loved ones, working on your tans, sipping on some pretty cocktails since it seems like very little sewing has gotten done this past month.

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In all seriousness, I am thrilled that y’all are taking advantage of the summer time and making memories with your little ones.

 

I did get one beautiful bishop from a lovely woman named Gill from Australia – how cool is that? Australia. And look at that flat, well-rounded collar. And there are no gaps between the smocking and bias band on that neckline. Gill, you did a fabulous job.

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This is Gill’s first smocked garment and is being included in the “birthing pack” for the Gold Coast Smocking Group. Basically, the idea of the birthing pack is to encourage native women to come into the town to deliver their babies safely and recieve post-natal care as well. The little smocked gowns are designed to be colorful since these native women don’t have access to modern washing machines. How neat of a program is that? I love how there is so much more to sewing than the actual sewing. It brings people together.  I just love that.

Speaking of, I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone for their sweet messages and emails this past month. Long story short, if you haven’t heard, my husband and I were starting a business with my parents. Yes, I know, “don’t go into business with family.” It turned into a huge mess, and we announced this past month that it’s not going to work out and we’ve gone our separate ways. Life can be a mess sometimes, but I’m trying to focus on finding my joy, like seeing my babies in handmade garments that I got to make for them. Seriously, sewing is so much more than sewing. I received so many lovely messages from you guys. Messages of support and love. I love our sewing community… like I said, it’s so much more than sewing. I am so grateful for each and every one of you. I love you all and can’t express how much your encouragement has meant to me over this difficult time.

Much love,

Sarah

Heirloom Sewing Documetation Project

How many of us have some sort of family heirloom and have no idea of its origin? Who made it? What is it made out of? What makes it special? I know I do.

This sparked an idea to document my creations. I started doing this about two years ago, although I’m slightly behind.. ha! I think I’ve only done about twelves garments. Life with little ones leaves very limited time, as y’all know, for all of these projects.

Luckily I take enough pictures and keep decent notes so one day I can go back and catch up. You know… when I have middle schoolers or something… gosh, that seems soo far away.

Anywho, here is the idea.

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  1. Play artist: I’m by no means an artist, but I do a rough and light outline of the garment with pencil before using some forgiving watercolors to color it in. It’s not perfect, and it’s not something to stress over 🙂

    I went to my (at the time) local Blink Art in Savannah, GA to pick up the acid-free watercolor paper along with these watercolor pencils and a watercolor palette (not pictured). I bought the brushes from Amazon, and looking back, I probably could’ve gotten all of these supplies off Amazon.

  2. Title the garment: I got these fancy pens to write with so my handwriting was as pretty as I could get it — it needs all the help it can get.

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  3. Write what makes it special to you. What is the fabric? What do you love about the garment? Who wore it and when?

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I’m not sure if I’m going to bound each child a book of their childhood garments – maybe? I haven’t thought that far ahead, but I love the idea that each garment has a memory card so future generations will know the special details that go along with each piece.

I hope this inspires you — I’d love for y’all to take this idea and run with it.

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Pickin Blueberries

I know I’ve been slacking on in the blogging department. Blah, y’all know how life can get in the way of itself from time to time. We all get tossed those bumps in the road. Luckily, things are slowing down and we’ve got some exciting adventures ahead.

Anywho, we were fortunate enough to get to visit with our Gigi (or properly Grandma Gail) a few weeks ago. It was a lovely visit and I’m so glad we got to connect with her and her boyfriend.

One of the things we did was pick blueberries – such fun!

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Audrey wore her overalls with a bishop dress shirt (size 6 months, but the girl is a tall drink of water). The bishop is made out of this imperial batiste and resists wrinkles beautifully. Henry wore this darling bubble of Creations by Michie in this featherwale corduroy.

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Both of these outfits were fairly easy and inexpensive to make, so if some blueberry stains had happened, that wouldn’t have ruffled my feathers at all. The way I look at it is that I had my fun getting to create the garment and I’d rather be able to put it on a beautiful baby and risk a stain then have it hang perfectly clean, unworn, in a closet forever.

Anywho, look at how much fun she had 🙂

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I love living in the mountains where we can pick blueberries in July without melting from the heat.

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Happy pickin y’all 🙂

 

 

July’s Viewer Photos

Welcome to July, everyone! I hope Summer is treating everyone well and y’all are staying cool with some fun activities. Our little Audrey starts swimmie lessons for the second time in about a week. She took them last year at WNC College and we loved them so much, we’re doing them again this year.

 

So with all the fun that summer brings, it seems people have taken a break from their sewing machines, which is fine, but here are the garments shared with me for July.

 

Melinda is a long-time follower from Texas and I’m thrilled she shared some creations for my monthly blog post. Everything she shared was so darling and smocked.

How adorable is this little bubble? It looks like Children’s Corner Jamie to me and here is my full sewing tutorial. I love the smocking on it.

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Melinda also shared these two numbers. The bishop is so pretty and I just adore the smocking – the middle rows are quite unusual. The romper looks like Children’s Corner Johnny or it could be Creations by Michie #120. I have a tutorial for Johnny here and one for Michie’s #120 here.

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Thank you, Melinda for sharing. I loved seeing these sweet garments from you.

 

Then I got the most hilarious email from Debora of North Carolina who made the below sun dress using Creations by Michie #120, an unused men’s buttondown shirt, and a bed sheet — talk about being resourceful 🙂

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I can tell that Debora is a hoot and a holler – I’d love to meet you one day. Thanks for sharing, Debora.

 

And then the lovely smocking guild of the Memphis, TN area shared this darling number inspired by my 4th of July outfits.

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How precious?? They shared it on their instagram page. Thank you, thank you 🙂

 

I hope everyone enjoys their summer activities and vacations, and I look forward to seeing the creations for August. Man, this year is flying by folks.

 

Happy sewing,

Sarah