The Sewing Lady

by Lynn King

imagesKate sewed. She loved sewing.

She made sweat pants for the six month to two year age group.

She sewed up her samples and took orders from her friends and a small order from local kids clothing shop.

It was small potatoes but she kept going. She enjoyed working with her hands.

Kate was retired and had the time to give to her sewing. She only sat at her machine in the day and only when the light was good. She started sewing at 10am and worked until 3pm each day from Monday to Friday.

At first she sewed in the colour and with the cloth she liked. As time went on she took orders for ten blue and ten red sweat pants. these were the popular colours for the pants.

The sweet spot

By buying the cloth in bulk (and getting a little discount from the draper), and making ten blue and red size small, all in one sitting she reached her sweet spot where she could not be any more efficient.

At this stage she could make 19 pants a week. This was not that many really but more than she made as a hobby.

This was how her production was; cutting out on Monday, sewing the main seams on Tuesday, finishing off the garments on Wednesday, pressing the pants on Thursday and packaging and posting her finished items on Friday.

Week in and week out.

It was a case of no work and no pay.

Full production

Now whilst this is good in the short term (six months) there comes a time when you can’t keep up with the orders.

The kid’s shop that took ten a week had a branch in another city and wanted ten for that shop as well.

What to do?

If Kate got sick she couldn’t sew.

She was turning over $40 and making $160 each week at full tilt.

But 19 was all she could make. She could only make nineteen sweatpants a week. If she took a day off she made less money.

Time and money

The realization eventually came to her that she could never make more money – only make less.

That no matter how hard she tried there was a physical limit to how much she could do each week and it all depended on her doing it.

With no one else to help and no more time she could do no more and earn no more money.

And, the sweat pants kept her so busy she couldn’t do the creative wrk that had drawn her to sewing in the first place.

The challenge

It is a challenge faced by many crafters between earning some money, which is important, and being creative and enjoying what you do.

This is known as piece work when you are paid by the item. If there are no items to sell there is no pay for you.

But piecework is an entry into having an independent micro business and this is what attracts many people every year – freedom.

Piecework has its place and can be sustained indefinitely. It is what I recommend to crafters to get them going. Take the plunge and put you crafts out there.


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