I love making vintage style 1950’s outfits, and friends have been sugesting for ages that i sell some of these – either at markets or through eBay. I’m starting to think of doing this – really just as a hobby to earn a bit of cash so I can afford to support my fabric habit!

I guess my biggest concern about selling garments I’ve made is the question of quality. I am an amateur dressmaker – I’ve done some lessons, but nothing professional. Whilst my garments look good and are well finished, if you look closely you can tell that they are ‘home-made’ rather than factory or professionally made – eg, despite my best efforts, sometimes seams are slightly crooked; I might have had to restitch a section of a seam; I might have a ‘snarl’ of thread at the beginning or end of a seam etc etc. I’m worried that the quality might not be “good enough” – even though I would certainly be letting people know they are home made items.

What do others think? Does anyone else sell garments they make?

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  • 970316_10201865009255816_2084508514_n_large

    Dec 7, 2010, 07.14 AMby lclausewitz

    Ask yourself one question: do most buyers really examine their clothes in such detail? In my experience, the answer is no—and as long as the clothes hold up well to normal use (or abuse) most people simply don’t have the knowledge or experience to be picky about such details.

    2 Replies
    • 985f0154fdefdf284531d76b36fbffee7a42548e_large

      Dec 7, 2010, 08.07 AMby katexxxxxx

      I do, especially if I am buying a hand made item with a premium price. An awful lot of ‘home made’ looking stuff doesn’t sell for just the reasons stated. You can get a much better result if you up your game just a little, spend more time on finishing, and make sue seam are straight. It isn’t hard, but it does take practice.

      For straight seam, get yourself a seam guide, or make your chosen seam guide line on the machine bed more visible, and spend an hour or so each day just making practice seams in all sorts of scrap fabric until they are true and straight , you have perfect curves, and you princess style seams are without a pucker. Practice seam need to be about 18" long.

      If you don’t have an overlocker/serger, also practice seam neatening like bound edges and Hong Kong finishes for unlined jackets and trousers, felled seams and French seams.

      Other things you need to have perfect are zip insertions, darts, collars and hems, buttonholes, and cuff, pockets and pleats!

      Make sure also that you are only selling things made from patterns you have drafted yourself or that are open source and copyright free.

      Something you need to consider is what it costs to make the garments, in both materials and time.

    • 970316_10201865009255816_2084508514_n_large

      Dec 7, 2010, 08.04 PMby lclausewitz

      But you’re one of Us, so you’d notice those things!

      On a more serious note, I actually agree with Kate here. It’s just good and sensible practice to do the work to a higher standard than what the prospective customer would normally expect. We have to be prepared when they don’t really notice the extra (read: obsessive) effort we put into making our garment better, though—and be ready to educate them

      One thing worth noticing is Kate’s automatic assumption that handmade/homemade equals premium price. This is often a good yardstick—homemade productions usually can’t compete economically with factory-made garment at the typical levels of quality, so in order to compensate we normally have to give our stuff more added value in the form of higher-than-normal quality, though on the upside it also allows us to charge higher prices.

  • Psheadshot_large

    Dec 7, 2010, 02.45 PMby oonaballoona

    i’m a little bit of column a & b here. since i started sewing, i’ve been examining my previous store bought goods, and there are a lot of imperfections that would cause me grief had i made it myself. but, i bought those items without noticing. that said, i would look closely at a handmade piece, mostly because i’d be excited to see how it was made…

    i think you don’t have to be machine perfect, but you do have to be proud of it :)

  • Sewing_machine_large

    Dec 7, 2010, 03.33 PMby bjr99

    Just remember the old line. “You never get a second chance to make a first impression”.

    If you are asking a premium price for a garment then they should receive premium work. Sewing, like anything else takes practice. Kate has some excellent suggestions for practicing seams etc. Last night I heard an interview on with a violinist. When asked how long he practices every day he said 2-8 hours, whatever it takes to get it right. How is sewing any different?

    So practice the basic skills, keep an eye on detail and you will have a perfect looking garment.

  • 985f0154fdefdf284531d76b36fbffee7a42548e_large

    Dec 8, 2010, 11.28 AMby katexxxxxx

    Something touched on here that I need to expand on is the economy of scale…

    It isn’t just that manufacturers are BUYING materials (and that covers everything form the fashion fabric through to zips, buttons and threads!) in huge quantities and making a great saving there, it’s also things like machinery… The stuff is made in factories, where there are machines set up differently for every part of the process: so there are seaming machines, dedicated hemming machines, machines that do nothing but buttonholes, zip inserting machines… and an on-site engineer to fix things when they go wrong. Little stuff like threads breaking, needles breaking and going blunt, and tangles are fixed by the operator, but anything major is done b the engineer. Also, there’s usually some spare capacity: the whole factory doesn’t grind to a halt for three weeks while you wait for a machine to be fixed! Needles and bobbins and oil are bought in bulk…

    And then there are the operators… People don’t make a whole garment in a factory. There are machine operators who do nothing for eight hours a day except sew the outside leg seams of jeans, for example, or do nothing but welt pockets on jacket… Only when you have done that single process for a shift a day for months will you be that good and slick at that process on that machine.

    And this doesn’t begin to cover the cutters! fabrics are layered up 10-20 INCHES thick and hundreds of pieces the same size and shape are cut with laser-guided cutters – in moments!

    However cute and pretty our stuff is, we cannot compete on price with stuff like this, some of which is very good indeed. We’re not comparing our stuff with the £3 Tesco T shirt here: even Jaeger and Dax are made this way! In order to have a market, we have to be unique. Either our stuff has to be so beautifully crafted and finished that the folk out there are willing to pay the premium price, or we are going to run ourselves into the ground trying to compete.

    If you are going to sell stuff that looks and is finished in a ‘made by grandma’ home-made (rather than individually crafted) manner, with possibly not perfect seams, buttonholes and hems, you are only going to be able to charge what the ‘cheap crap from China’ stuff costs BECAUSE PEOPLE CAN GET SOMETHING SIMILAR CHEAPER AND MADE BETTER ELSEWHERE! Probably in a factory in China.

    I’m not being cruel here: just realistic. I have stuff I need to ship out of my storage: sample and experimental garments. They are made to the same standard as customer garments, with the same levels of hand finishing and the same quality of materials. They are made to test processes and experiment on. I could sell it on Etsy, for probably not a lot more than the cost of the materials. I’ll never see a return for the hours of work and the skill that went into them – except in the abstract, as my bespoke customers benefit from better made garments in more interesting and difficult fabrics. I also have a heap of stuff that I used to make for local craft fairs. Most of it didn’t sell, as even to cover my fabric costs and with no payback for my time and skill, these things were ‘too expensive’!

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