Should You Charge A Minimum Fee For Alterations?

I get asked this question alot.

So, let’s take an example.

This morning, I found a bag on my front porch.

Inside was a pair of workout pants:

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The customer said there was a hole in the seam at the knee and would I stitch it up?

Certainly!

Here is a photo of the small hole:

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Here’s what it looked like on the inside:

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So, I switched the thread to black and put in a stretch needle and sewed it up:

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When I have a small job like this, I like to see if there’s anything else that needs stitching up or reinforcing..

I noticed that the other knee seam was coming apart too:

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So, I stitched it up as well.

That way, the customer is happy you went the extra mile for them.

Did I charge this customer?

Actually, no.

This customer is my niece!

Personally, I don’t charge my family members.

And there are others I don’t charge.

Sometimes, I just want to bless them.

I may not want to charge a person for a small item if they are a first time customer.

They always come back with more alterations the next time.

So, when do you charge a minimum fee?

The bottom line is, you have to figure this one out for yourself.

You have to do what seems right and best for you.

I ask myself…”Do I feel comfortable charging for this?”

If the answer is “yes”, then I charge.

If it is “no”, then I don’t.

Now you’re wondering what amount to charge, right?

Ask yourself these questions…

What would you want to be charged for such an alteration?”

“What is your time worth?”

“How much work was it to get the job done?”

Answering these questions, and any others that pop into your head, should give you a pretty good idea on whether or not to charge a minimum fee.

How To Alter a Top That’s Too Low Cut

Have you ever tried to alter a blouse that was lower at the neck than you were comfortable with?

To make this alteration, we are going to do two things: take up the front shoulder seam and take in the collar.

Generally, you don’t need to take up the back of the blouse, but have the customer try it on so you can see how the back fits.

If the back fits well, don’t touch it.

If it doesn’t, you could pull up the back and front at the same time.

This back of this blouse fit great, so it didn’t need to be altered.

The only seam on this collar was at the back:

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and I was glad because I didn’t want to mess with the “fluff” on the front.

The center back neck seam was stitched and then gathered to fit:

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Let me explain what we’re going to do and then we’ll get after it.

We are going to decrease the circumference of the neck at the middle back seam and when we do that, we’ll need to decrease the circumference of the top as well.

To begin, take a seam ripper and unstitch the stitches that hold the collar and the shoulder seam together:

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Take out the stitches from just past one shoulder seam, all around the back of the neck to just past the other shoulder seam like this:

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Next, you’ll want to open up the shoulder seam. This was a delicate knit and I had to be careful where I placed my seam ripper so as not to cut the knit, but just cut the stitch:

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I opened up the shoulder seam halfway:

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Once that was opened up, I was able to shorten the front of the blouse by pinning like this:

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Stitch that shoulder seam by sewing along the original back shoulder seamline and trim off the excess front fabric.

Next, you’ll need to take in the back neck seam on the collar. Can you see the excess collar material?

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Since I took one inch off of the front of the blouse on the left and the right for a total of 2″, I need to take up 2 total inches on the collar as well.

I took the seam apart and stitched up two inches of fabric and trimmed the seam.

I apologize that the photo is not real clear, but I hope you get the idea:

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Now, stitch the collar to the neck edge of the blouse:

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You can see the newly adjusted collar:

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You might want to re-serge or zigzag any uneven edges.

That’s all there is to it!

If you have a t-shirt type top, you may need to work with ribbing or a facing.

Use the same principle of taking up the shoulders and taking in the circumference of the top to the measurements you need.

This will work for tank tops too.

Unless you have a really long top, you may not be able to adjust more than a couple of inches before it affects the look of the blouse.

But this should help those tops that are just a little too low for your comfort level.

Sewing With Treadle Machines in Africa

My family and I just returned from an amazing, life changing trip to Zambia, Africa!

It is a trip we will never forget.

Our daughter, Michelle, works for an orphan ministry called Every Orphans Hope.

We wanted to go and see her working first hand and help where we could.

There are 11 orphan homes consisting of one mama and eight children.

The mamas are hoping to learn to sew so that they can run a business and make some money.

My part was to teach the mamas how to sew.

Last year, we raised money to buy each mama a machine:

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We had heard that some of the machines were not working correctly.

After looking at several of the machines, we realized that report was accurate.

Each one had different problems.

So, because of this, some were being used as a table:

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Kristin, a teammate of mine, learned how to use a treadle machine before we got to Africa.

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I watched Kristin use the fly wheel and her feet simultaneously.

As she explained, it’s sort of like working the clutch on a car…there’s a point when you know when to start with the feet.

(I watched a You Tube video before I left and thought it looked easy, but it was something I never got the hang of.)

The machine Kristin learned on here in the states was a SInger and she was taught to turn the fly wheel away from you as you start.

We finally figured out that, with these machines, you need to turn the fly wheel toward you as you start.

There were many dissimilarities like this that we needed to work through.

After about three days of trying to get them to work, we realized we needed to visit the sewing machine dealer where they were purchased last year.

The owner assured us that he would fix them all.

What a relief!

He also let us know that these machines can be altered from treadle to hand crank.

Hand crank machines means you crank an added piece on the fly wheel while you sew with your left hand.

The mama in the middle, uses her own hand crank machine:

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She made this bag on my shoulder last year and my daughter bought it as a gift for me!

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The owner at the sewing machine shop also explained that we could buy a kit that would convert the treadle machines to electric for about $15 US dollars!

This would be great for the mamas that live in the city, who have some electric power daily.

At the Every Orphan’s Hope office, we worked with a Zambian volunteer, Agatha, to show her how to make a simple tote bag.

Agatha is a tailor in Zambia, but I’m not sure if she had made a bag before.

Here is the finished product:

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We saw Agatha at one of the homes the next day.

She was hemming a chitenge, which is a 2 yard piece of fabric that the women of Zambia drape around themselves as a skirt.

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As you can see, she is using an electric machine.

It amazed me that these women can sew without a table and while sitting on the floor!

As soon as we left, we saw the mamas moving into this house ready to take a lesson on making tote bags.

What joy to see the ladies taking something they learned and teaching those around them.

It is our hope that they will be able to practice and soon start their own businesses.

The mama who made the tote bag for me is already selling her bags.

You can find them on this page of the Every Orphan website.

Check them out.

You could start your Christmas shopping early and help a mama in Zambia at the same time!

Teaching the Mamas How to Sew

Hi everyone,

I just wanted to let you know that I will be in Zambia, Africa, for the next two weeks!

Last summer, as many of you helped raise money to buy the mamas there each a sewing machine, God was impressing on my heart that I should be the one to go and teach them how to sew.

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And sew (so!), that’s where I am headed!

I am getting excited!

I’ve gotten all my shots and the bags are packed.

A friend of mine challenged me to help her sew dresses and skirts for each of the orphan girls. We had so much fun that we ended up making 62 when we only needed 42!

Most of them are tiered skirts, but we made a few dresses like these:

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I’m sure we’ll find plenty of extra girls to give them to.

My friend even started making boy’s pajamas as well.

The ladies in my Bible study donated so many things for the kids: toys of all kinds and personal items. I was really touched by their generosity:

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What I am really excited about is that I get to help my daughter and son-in-law in the ministry called Every Orphan’s Hope!

This ministry is doing amazing things to help the orphans and widows in the country of Zambia.

And if your heart is moved, go ahead and sponsor one of the orphan’s!

It only takes $27 per month to sponsor one of these kids who have lost their parents to the AIDS/HIV crisis.

Several of the children have tested positive as well.

But your money goes to give them food, water, medicine, clothing and an education and the ability to live in a home with 7 other children and a mama who loves on them with extra special love. Most of the mamas are widows.

I can’t wait to meet them all!

And teach them how to sew.

There is another lady joining me on this adventure, whom I will meet in Zambia, who is willing to help me teach them.

I’m so grateful for her.

We hope to make great progress with these mamas so that they can learn to make purses or bags and sell them as a small business for themselves.

One of the mamas is already doing this and her bags are on this page of the  Every Orphan website.

If bags are not your bag, there are other ways of helping the ministry, like buying real live chicks for the orphans and mamas to raise.

Check out the website by clicking on any link above or on the photo in the right sidebar.

I can’t wait to come back home and share all kinds of incredible stories with you!

Until then, I won’t be able to respond to your questions daily like usual.

Internet will be spotty there.

But, I’ll respond as fast as I can.

In the meantime,  if you have a question about something, type the subject (like hems or side seams or wedding dress) into the search box on any page of my website and find articles and other seamstresses comments that will guide you through your sewing dilemma. Remember that there may be several pages of posts with the answer!

I would appreciate your prayers as I embark on several long flights and for good health and that I might be helpful and show the love of Jesus wherever I go.

Thank you soooo much.

I’ll be back soon!

How to Alter a Top With an Elastic Hem

You’ve seen these blouses everywhere:

ImageThey’ve got elastic running around the bottom edge.

Many women complain that they don’t like how they look when they wear them and pass up the idea of buying them.

Altering them is an easy fix.

Just trim off the elastic close to the edge:

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I use sharp small scissors to accomplish this task:

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Next, turn the hem up and press if necessary.

I hand baste the hem as well so that the knit doesn’t slip around.

If you have a woven fabric, you should press the hem up as well.

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In addition, if you are sewing on a woven cloth, be sure and finish the edge with a serger or a zig zag stitch first.

Next, look for a thread to match:

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On this top, I will sew a double row of stitching on the hem.

This means I’ll need two spools of thread.

If I don’t have two spools of matching thread, or they are very close in color, I will wind two bobbins.

One bobbin will be used in the bobbin case and the other bobbin will be used as the second spool of thread.

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Then, get yourself a double stretch needle. They look like this:

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Put the spool of thread on the first spool pin and a bobbin on the second spool pin.

To thread your machine with two threads, treat them as one thread and thread through until you get to the needle area:

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Then, thread one thread through each needle:

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Stitch the hem, keeping the right side of the shirt facing up so you can watch to make sure you are doing a good job.

As you can see, if you flip it over, the bottom threads form sort of a zig zag stitch:

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As you can see, it doesn’t take long to convert your top and the hem looks great!:

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How to Avoid Ruining a Garment

Here’s  another good question from a reader…

Judy wrote:  My question regards mistakes.  I’ve never destroyed anyone’s item (thank goodness!) but I’ve always been afraid of messing something up, especially an expensive item, like a prom or wedding dress.  Have any of you ever made an error like this?  If so, what did you do?

Here’s my answer:

Yes, I’ve made two errors in the last 13 years. First, I ruined a man’s shirt once when I accidentally serged part of the shirt in a seam and it got cut off by the serger blade. There was no way to fix it, so I gave him the money to buy him a new one, along with a huge apology, of course. I simply asked him how much he had spent on his shirt and gave him the money. He was thrilled that I would pay for a new one. By giving him the cash, I didn’t have to go shopping and find him a new one. Win-win. (The second error is explained below).

There are two things I do before I begin working on a garment.

First, I pray before I start each alteration asking that God would help me pay attention and do my best work and keep me from making any irretrievable mistakes. By His grace, that hasn’t happened since.  Now, I realize that that could have happened with a wedding gown or something else that was expensive, but I determined in my mind that if that were to ever happen, I would make it right. In other words, I would pay for a new garment or pay to have it fixed if it was possible.

Second, I always examine each garment well before the customer leaves my presence. That way, I can point out any flaw, defect, stain or problem the article of clothing has and that covers my back so that the customer knows it was not something I had done, while it was in my care.

Once, when I had finished a wedding gown and had my customer try it on, I noticed a pencil mark on the front of the gown. Knowing that I had checked the gown over very well before she left it in my care, I knew it had happened on my watch. So, I pointed it out to her and told her I would get the dress cleaned for her at the cleaner of her choice.

The pencil mark came out of the gown and it cost me $50, but it was a good lesson for me and I’m just so thankful it didn’t cost more than that to fix it.

I think the bottom line is to have confidence when you take a garment in. Have faith in your ability. Take your time (haste makes waste) and be careful. Mistakes happen when you’re tired, distracted, and/or in a hurry. You’re human. You will make mistakes, but the more alterations you do, the more confident you will feel sewing on different fabrics and garments. If you can, go to the fabric store and get a swatch of a fabric that is close to the one you’ll be working on and practice on that first. The more you do, the better you’ll get.

Now, let’s hear from you.

What do you do to minimize costly situations?

 

 

 

 

 

Oh Mama!

I thought you might like to see what some readers to this blog contributed to last summer.

If you missed the original posts, you’ll find the first one here and the second one here.

Our daughter works for an orphan ministry in Texas called Every Orphan’s Hope.

There are 11 orphan homes with 8 children in each home and that mamas who raise these children are mostly widows.

Last summer, we learned that the widows had a long standing dream to have sewing machines.

So, I put out the word here on the blog and to my friends at church and we raised enough money to buy each mama a machine.

When our daughter got to Zambia, she and one of the Zambian staff women went to a sewing machine dealer and purchased the machines.

Most of them are treadle machines because the electricity in Zambia is intermittent.

This post is to show you what that process looked like and share with you the excitement and joy of the mamas.

Many of you also donated sewing supplies.

One lady even made dolls for the children!

So, without further adieu, here are some of the photos chronicling the exciting event.

In this photo, the machines are being delivered:Image

Here is one of the mamas reacting to her gift:

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And another group of ladies receiving other gifts:

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Thank you to all of you who contributed to making their dreams come true.

This was huge for them and your generosity was huge for me!

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