MomoMoments: The Biggest Sewing Commission Clapback in History
So two years ago I got a vague and unhelpful criticism about my devious plan to "steal from the poor hard-working class" by offering my 10 years of sewing expertise to make custom costumes. Apparently me pricing myself out of some people's budgets counts as theft. Who knew?
I laid out the ins and outs of running a self-employed commission business. At that time, taking commissions was my only income before moving on to other more stable sewing jobs. And I get it. I'm not in everyone's budget, and there's always someone willing to do more for less, but that does not obligate me to lower my value to be the accessible seamstress.
After my explanation to the Anonymous Voice From Nobody (A Fairly Odd Parents reference, for y'all), I got a much lengthier reply back- a whole novel, really! Full of all kinds of accusations of me "not being a real seamstress" or "not knowing what I was talking about", the more I look back at it the funnier it gets!
So let’s all have a good laugh together at why you should value YOUR time, skill, and experience based on your own standards, and not the advice of internet strangers who have zero idea what they are talking about. Be forewarned, this is a WHOLE journey, so you might wanna set aside some time to fully grasp the insanity of it all! Also, I apologize for their typos. I didn't really feel like correcting them on two different levels.
Also, if you enjoy my hot takes here, you'll really enjoy them on Twitter, so be sure to follow for more fun times in educating the world about why artists' skills are valuable <3
Anonymous Voice From Nobody: I’m sorry honey, but I sew, and even I know your not only over charging, but your full of shit. You say you have to spend a lot of money on fabric….what was it? $12 a yard, even if that was the case! Your buying 3 yards total for that shit! 5 at max for it to include the leotard! And even then all us who sew know you can get that shit for around $5 a yard on eBay. So that’s $15-$25 right there.
And that’s not counting the fact that your only using at most, ¼th of the yard for the skirt and cape!
Okay, here we goooo. First of all, the collar, or what you call cape, takes ½ a yard. MAYBE you could squeeze it onto ⅓ a yard. But there’s no way a quarter yard would ever work for any skirt that doesn’t show your booty cheeks. That’s NINE INCHES, or less than 23 cm for my metrics friends. (I'm jealous of you metrics people, by the way. Metrics system would be so much easier.)
The back of my OWN skirts that I wear generally run 12” long and are DANGEROUSLY SHORT as it is, so I usually add 2” more for commissions! And my good friend who is not much bigger than me but is blessed with a booty? She required 16”. That’s what it took at MINIMUM to cover her toosh, and she could still not bend over for fear of indecency. 9” would be underwear for her!
You’re way off base here in your math, my friend. My Sailor Moon skirts are at minimum 55” in total diameter. That’s well over a whole yard (a yard and a half is 54"). Hahaha, "¼th a yard for the skirt" my ass- literally! You could always download my pattern here and see for yourself, that there's no way you'll be making anything out of 9" of fabric unless it's just the front bow. XD
You want $15 and hour? Then spend an actual hour nonstop to make the shit
at ‘most’ it would take you 2-3 hours to make what your selling nonstop. Atleast, if your any good. It would take 5-6 hours if you weren’t
Oh sweet summer child... I charge much more an hour now, considering I work for more than that professionally. Hurray for fulltime opportunities! At this point I have worked in apparel manufacturing making custom apparel for companies like Facebook, Google, Nike, the American Suicide Prevention, and more. I’ve also been in a seamstress in theater costuming, and now work in a design house creating gowns that are worth hundreds of dollars.
Here they can finish some dresses in around two days- admittedly much faster than it takes me to finish my custom costumes, because SURPRISE, they have all the equipment, space, and teams necessary to work at breakneck speed, versus me cutting stuff out on my kitchen table. But it still takes time to make a perfect gown. We don't skimp on quality here. Also, for me working from home, just cutting the fabric takes 2-3 hours. I don't have a design room. I don't have an entire sewing team. When I was doing commissions, I lived in a one bedroom apartment. I could never eat at my kitchen table and work on commissions at the same time because I had to use my table to cut fabric out and work at. Not highly efficient, I'm aware, but you either pay for that extra time or my extra rent to buy more apartment space. ;P
Those ‘two weeks’ you bitch about? Is the two weeks your waiting for that shit from eBay to come in. Which fwi, is free shipping.
I prefer not to but "shit from eBay", but okurrrrr. I buy directly from suppliers who can offer me swatches and swatch cards, and guarantees on their quality. I try to avoid sketchy pop-up shops that’ll disappear as soon as I order 5 yards of a fabric that'll fall apart at the seams- literally.
Where are you getting free shipping for fabric? Seriously, drop your sources, don’t leave us hanging like that! WE NEED TO KNOW, IT'S IMPORTANT, HELP A SISTER OUT!! Spandex House, which has one of my favorite qualities in spandex, runs $20 for shipping TWO YARDS OF FABRIC, at minimum. Spandex World is cheaper, but still a heavy tag of $13 for shipping. Frankly, shipping fabric comes at ridiculous costs, so again, I BEG of you, please divulge your secrets. <3
You spend at most $70 to make that shit.
In materials, maybe. Not time. Not skill. Not my degree. Not work experience. Not "shit". I don't make "shit", I make custom, quality, hand-made costumes. I'm not a factory, love. ;3
Most people who have a machine, have either go it as a gift, or inherited it. If you went and bought one? It’s $100. As for fixing it? It’s not only cheaper to buy a new one, but sewing machines are damn study, and you shouldn’t need to buy a new one! I’ve never had to fix it.
I’ve cleaned it, Ive oiled it, I’ve even had to tighten the lightbulb because it loosened from the vibrations. But I never had to actually take it to a repair shop.
Wow! Where do I even start with this part? How quaint that you've been able to inherit your machines! I only have one relative that sews, and she still uses her Singer. Regardless, it is SO OLD that it is incapable of doing a back stitch or anything besides a forward-moving straight stitch. I'll stick with my Bernina, thanks.
I have worked for and earned ALL of my machines, except for my serger which was a gift off of my Amazon wishlist from my father. How thoughtful of him! My Bernina Red that I won in a craftsmanship contest runs near $1000. Which again, I earned, it wasn't just gifted to me for free.
I’ve had a $100 sewing machine before, that's where I started- a Brother Project Runway. I love the show, but not the machine! It cost me $250 in repairs in HIGH SCHOOL, when I wasn’t even seriously sewing yet (like, didn't even know how to install a zipper level of sewing). It is my least favorite machine I've ever had the displeasure of working on.
You get what you pay for- what a familiar theme! Cheap machines mean cheap parts, and less power, which means likely to break, more frustration, more likely to botch a sewing job, and lots of eventual mechanical repairs. Also who just buys a new machine every time theirs breaks? Way to promote mindless consumerism. Just buy quality machines to begin with if you're gonna buy a new machine every time yours totals itself in repairs!
I later upgraded my Brother machine to a used Necchi, which was so obscure a model and brand that it was near impossible to find parts for, making repairing, replacing, or adding new gear highly expensive. It did well until the timing got off, which required professional help. I’m good with machines but I’m not THAT good. Congratulations on passing Intro to Machine Care, though. That's the bare minimum maintenance you should be doing as a machine owner, though, not really "repairs".
My mothers, is over 40 years old, I had to fix twice. (Mostly because she never oiled it) My grandmothers? Is even older then that and it still works. (Though the lightbulb is dead but that’s an easy fix). Wanna know why? Cause if you take care of it, it won’t break! It’s like a car, you have to maintain it, clean it and oil it to keep it running like new!
Of course I oil and clean my machine, you silly walnut. That's like washing your ass, not comparable to intensive repairs. It's what you SHOULD be doing. Meanwhile, I’ve set up and installed entire disassembled industrial machines and 6-thread coverstitch machines by myself without any provided training, manual, or instructions. You need not lecture me about machine care. ;3
That still doesn't mean I didn't need a mechanic's help when timing would get off, or the reverse stitch button would mysteriously get stuck, or motors needed replacing. I may be a highly knowledgeable seamstress that's clever with the YouTube and Google to perform some minor troubleshooting, but my expertise are not in all things mechanic.
You should never include the price of your machine into your commissions! Only time you do that? Is when you have to buy a new surger or embroidery machine, and you don’t charge the full price of it to your commissions!
You absolutely can and SHOULD include the cost of your machine in your overhead. If you don't budget for overhead, you're one botched commission, missed week of work, or broken down machine away from financial failure. No successful business would ever fail to take into account their overhead and asset depreciation costs.
Obviously I don't just straight up charge one person a few hundred for a brand new machine, but the cost of my equipment and their ongoing depreciation costs do get taken into account in my operational costs, so that I can value my work in a way that I don't end up with a negative ledger. Take a basic accounting class, my friend, and you'll see and learn for yourself. ;D
Plus, most people don’t use those machines anyways!
Surgers are hard to use, and the spools are expensive, and if you don’t know what your doing, you waste more then anything else, and if your making Sailor fukus, you only need it for the skirt and leotard, and embroidery machines? Unless they’re making designs like a Pokémon characters face on it, it’s not on your top list to get or have for that matter.
Oh dear... you claim to know a lot about sewing but don't know about the MAGIC OF SERGERS. They are the best, I never do a project without one! Sergers can be expensive, but my favorite serger runs as low as $180 new, which is not expensive compared to your $100 sewing machine.
I’ve never had an overlocked stitch fail on me, but plenty of straight stitches fail because they can't handle as much tension and strain. Again, maybe you’re not at that level yet, but a serger has ALWAYS been an essential part of every sewing room I’ve been in.
Second of all, cone spools are NOT EXPENSIVE. Spools of thread are expensive! They cost around $1.29 for about 300 yards of thread. Cone spools cost me around $2 "If you get it on sale", in your words, which I do. Sure you may need 3-4 cones to serge, but cone spools have 3000-4000 OR MORE YARDS. Which do you really think is the better bang for your buck here?
Embroidery machines do more than draw Pokemon faces onto fabric. They are also highly useful for applying lace and other elements. Once more. You’re not at that level yet, so fair that you wouldn’t know. I don't use them in my Sailor Moon costumes, but I did make use of it for other commissions. But you’re right about one thing at least! I do use the sergers only on the skirt and leotard. But hey, broken clocks are right twice a day, right?
Now as for supplies? Are you kidding me? That shit is cheap, and if you wait for the lowest sales of the season like the most of us, most of it is practically free.
“Practically free”. You mean... like what you work for? Practically free? Sorry but my supplies aren’t free, and thus neither am I. “Lowest sales of the season”. Soooo, you expect me to not wait for fabric to ship in, but wait for the lowest sales of the season? MMMMkay.
Plus the fact that you act like this is your full time job, is insulting, it’s obviously not.
Cause it if was, you would be making hundreads of cosplays a week. Not one every two weeks.
Okay this sentence is my favorite for a multitude of reasons: you claim that I should be able to make the costume in just a few hours, perhaps even as little as an hour. You also claim if it was my full time job (sewing and apparel design in general IS my full time job) that I should be making “hundreds a week” as a sole seamstress.
So let’s backtrack to that idea I could make a costume in as little as an hour. Even IF that were possible, and IF I could inhumanly work 12 hours a day (WITH NO BREAKS WHATSOEVER, NOT EVEN LUNCH) for 7 days a week, THAT’S ONLY 84 COSTUMES A WEEK.
“Hundreds”??? Are you being hyperbolic in this whole thing? Is this an attempt at trolling? If so, wrong place to be hyperbolic my friend, you might want to save that for a time where you’re not trying to sound like you know more than someone else by “owning them” with logic and numbers. You’re entirely off your rocker and WAY outta pocket on that estimate. Even in a highly stressful, streamlined, and established manufacturing plant, the only thing we could make “hundreds of” a week attaching patches to hats, tags to t-shirts, or installing custom hoodliners into hoodies. Let’s take a closer look at a breakdown for that hoodliners, just to show everyone how numbers actually work when used right.
We were open at the factory for 5 days a week, with 8 hour shifts and two 15 minute breaks. The recommended time in the SOPs allotted 9 minutes per liner. That's including cutting, sewing, installing, thread trimming. Not including folding and packing or the time that the print team spent printing designs on the hoodliner, or support team unboxing, counting, quality checking, and stacking fabric to be printed. We’re strictly talking sewing team here.
Assuming NO bathroom breaks, set up or tear down time, machine hiccups, or other pauses, that gives you 7.5 hours of working time, or 450 minutes a day. A hood liner that takes 9 minutes to cut, sew, install, trim threads, and throw in a bin? That’s 50 hoodies a day, or 250 a week in completely ideal conditions. Barely even enough to qualify as “hundreds”, but I suppose it counts. So if you wanna talk about what sort of production numbers a professional seamstress should be pulling off, you might want to have a realistic grasp on them.
And you would work with a customer no matter how much of an asshole they were. Because you need that money to keep your business going. No, this is a hobby your trying to cash in on, without actually knowing the actual logistics of sewing. I would *not* work with any customer if they are "an asshole". I’m not desperate and I actually respect and value myself. I 100% am in a position to fire clients or turn away business, and do it as necessary. When you get to my position, you have a lot more bargaining power!
Cosplay is my hobby. Sewing is my profession. I "cash in on" sewing everyday, and managed an entire production schedule for a sewing department. I have a pretty good grasp on my logistics.
Sure. Don’t get me wrong, You know the logistics of a business…but those logistics you used, aren’t for commission based projects you make from home, it’s for those who run an actual business, in an actual building, which requires spending a fuck ton of money on shipping and handling, products, rent, utilities, and paying their workers. Hmmm are all those things not…. things I do at home? Pay rent? Pay utilities? Ship items? Or am I supposed to sew on the streets or in my mom’s rent-free basement, while magically transporting cosutmes places? I don’t currently have employees, but even if I did HELLO EMPLOYMENT TAXES, which would come out of the customer’s same pocket. Must be nice to live in a world where water and light just magically comes out of the wall and not your bank account!
So please stop giving commissioners and real seamstresses a bad name, your not designing and making clothes for a fucking runway show or a celebrity… your making it for regular people, who have regular shit paying jobs, and a limited budget.
Honey, I don’t have to worry too much about giving anyone a bad name when you’re over here saying 9” is enough for a skirt and that a reasonable output is "hundreds of costumes a week". Oh man. I can’t tell you how many seamstresses I’ve told that to that had them ROLLING.
Also, I’ve had “regular shit paying jobs”, and guess what? I couldn’t afford to commission anyone either! I’m not a public servant, I'm not a seamstress for “regular people”. I’m a skilled craftsman for customers looking for a quality, custom-made, luxury item.
None of us need to cosplay. Cosplay is a luxury hobby, flat out. All of it. Even the thrifting costumes together is a luxury that some cannot afford. Nobody needs a costume in their exact measurements. Going to a con pretty much IS our runway!
My costumes are art, not necessities. In the same way you could pay $25 for a used couch, $250 for a cheap clearanced couch, or $2500 for a custom designer couch, you have options available to you for costumes. I am not the used option, I am not the cheap option, I am the custom designer option. Uh, not that I'd usually run in the thousands, but costumes tend to be smaller than couches, haha. ;P
People don't ever need my service, they either want it or don't. If I'm not in their budget, that's okay! They have the freedom to look elsewhere and I don't judge them for that. Free market, baby!
And sorry if I sound harsh and mean, but I could smell your bullshit a mile away, and I just can’t stand the smell of it.
Are you sure you didn't accidentally step in your own on the way over here to put that foot in your mouth? Hit the shower, my friend. Maybe we can properly discuss this again when you've cleaned up your act.
The level that we are at in our sewing experience is clearly different. And that’s fine! I don't intend to talk down to you, but to make you aware of who you're talking down to. You could honestly value your time at $2.50 an hour for all I care. There’s plenty of work for me at my skill level, so it's not a threat to me! But you will undercut the market for other commissioners looking to make a living, so please PLEASE I surely hope you value your time and skill as you grow, or you’ll be eating fabric scraps and inherited machines for dinner.
I told y'all that would be a WHOLE journey! If you've made it this far, hats off to you. It took me a full two years to process a response to this ridiculous saga from another self-proclaimed seamster and commissioner, but I found it extremely cathartic to finally put into words what my poor brain couldn't begin to fathom. I don't have much else to add at this point except.... never price yourself based on the advice of cranky internet strangers, who frankly, offer terrible advice. Stay sweet, everyone!
May you always be paid what you're worth, and continue to be unapologetic for it!
Photo by Koji