OMG, I have been sewing for 2 weeks straight, I can hardly string 2 words together. Yesterday I entered the dungeon at 7.30 am and  it was grey outside. When I came up at 2pm it was sunny and I was shitty that my daylight hours had been spent subterranean.

Where are those damned elves when you need them? I left chocolate, but all I got was white ants (termites) – true story we have termites. Its a bit like having a communicable disease actually, I feel embarrassed to tell the new neighbours!

We completely gutted our house to the bare concrete bones nearly 3 years ago. We made jokes about how in this house, there was nothing for termites to eat because the walls are double brick, and the ceilings and floors are cast concrete. WRONG. It started with the skirting showing a little bit of a crack, then a ‘fault line’ in the parquetry.

I called the builder. Not the one who built our house, who is such a *&^!, but the nice new builder guy who is a gem, a veritable ‘undies on the outside’ super builder. He wondered about damp in the cavity and easily poked his key through the skirting. It rained and mud oozed through the holes.

This is the downside of living in the “land of milk and honey”. Thats the advertising expression my Mum told me brought my parents to Australia form England! Our weather is so not extreme here in Sydney, the bugs just multiply happily, unabated. Its extreme cold weather that keeps bugs in check apparently.

Just as well the pest guy is a sweetie, cos we’ll be seeing him every 2 weeks for 6 months – we have taken out a contract on the white ants. Pest guy opened up a hole in the skirting and #1 son and I were on our hands and knees, fascinated at the little bastards eating the skirting. Pest guy seemed proudly paternalistic toward the things he was about to poison! Bloody white ants plague us. Our holiday shack is completely eaten out too, that house is only held together with paint. The footings are non existent and when it rains the doors may or may not close depending on whether the footings have shifted – the house needs replacing.

So tomorrow we are meeting with architects. But having recently spent weeks in the dungeon sewing up fabulousness for another, I got thinking. When one engages an expert, how much power should said expert have over the finished product? I mean, they ARE the expert and you have entrusted your precious whatever to them, so doesn’t the expert know best?

When I make something for another, shouldn’t they just step back and say – “go for it Lesley”, “I trust you know what you’re doing taking into consideration the stakeholders and KPIs, I know you can deliver and I’m going to hand over total decision making power to you”.

Thats what I’d like to happen, but in truth, I’m not sure I could hand over total control to another either. What if the builder’s idea of heaven is a hollow core door? Though I wouldn’t have chosen that particular builder. What if he likes shadow lines and I’m a deep cornice (coving in the UK) kinda gal? What if I want artisan ally quirky and he wants in/out spec built.

What if I suggest weight in the hem but the other wants plain, plain, plain? It pains me to say so, but possibly I am merely the conduit for the creation. Bespoke is so different to walking into a shop where you wouldn’t even pick up a garment that didn’t appeal. With bespoke you engage the expert with some sort of idea of what you want the final product to be – usually. Then if it doesn’t live up to expectations – God knows my own creations for me rarely do, then who is to blame?

This is, I believe, why sewing for others is so difficult. I have all these ideas that I’m sure the other would enjoy, but then they say “no” and I’m thwarted. Its a really tricky path to tread and I’m unsure how to navigate it.

How do you negotiate ‘sewing for others’? Do you receive payment or payment in kind? Is it even possible to price it?

A very quick mend
A very quick mend – added a button to this hand me down crocheted bracelet.



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  1. Horror story! Hope you sort it – it sounds expensive. We’ve found a trusted builder who is a perfectionist (which means he works slowly, and that’s when he actually turns up) but though we value the benefit of his experience, we always cringe inwardly when he offers style advice!

    My experience of sewing for others is to do the planning with the client and advise them on design limitations of their particular chosen fabric, eg. zips on chiffon. If however the client insists on a metal zipper with a tana lawn dress, let her have it… I’d be cautious of advising a client what does or doesn’t suit her in case of causing offence ! but it’s a good start to ask them to go through their wardrobe and pick items that they think are flattering and go from there.

    I really think you can build a reputation for yourself by acting as a designer/consultant rather than just a seamstress. I personally would start by charging minimum wage for the estimated hours or work then work towards charging more per hour as I gain more confidence and work faster.

    I would love a bracelet like that in a dark colour like blue or purple! Maybe my daughter can crochet!

    • I’m a reluctant advisor! #1 daughter doesn’t mind a bit of flesh and I’m always trying to cover it up! Is this how you work – consult on design? I hadn’t thought of it that way before. I dislike being thought of as a seamstress/odd jobber, its so ‘alteration shop’ – though I think thats about my level of expertise!

  2. You’re so entertaining, even in misery! 🙂 I don’t know how I missed this entry. So sorry for the issues you are having. My parents had a problem with carpenter ants I think it was in their old log cabin home a few years ago. It was a disaster. They’ve also had skunks nesting in houses in the past, etc. They’re like me and like “old” things. My boyfriend laughs because his apartment in Italy is made of giant stone blocks and is five hundred years old. Then again, there was a restaurant on the main level of his building that had diverted water from the building condominium corporation and owed something like 40,000 Euro that the building was supposed to be responsible for. In Italy, sorting something like that out will take you until you are in a retirement home. Good luck to you in getting this sorted out!!

    I have to admit that the idea of sewing for others is not so appealing to me, but maybe I should try it sometime. I have been knitting for others for a long time, but perhaps that’s easier because there is a limited range of things to do. My best “client” is my mother, who doesn’t like wool of all things. I’ve recently convinced her to wear wool and just wear something underneath it!! I think I would be less able to persuade other people in the same way. My mother of course will like anything I make for her in the end anyhow. 🙂 Marianna seems to have some good suggestions in regard to this

    • Carpenter ants! If only one could cajole them into building instead of demolishing, we could have a new kitchen overnight!
      Have you ever tried alpaca? It’s so soft, no one could find that scratchy! X

  3. Gah I hope you can get rid those pesky termites! In a way you sort of relinquisn control to hairdressers? You can show a picture and say what you want but in the end the hairdresser decides. As for sewing for others, the people who want only a button stitched on offer to pay me (i refuse their offer) but those who want a bloody ballgown say “you like sewing I don’t need to pay you right?”. I just tend to refuse those ballgown types altogether.

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