All ages. All skill levels. Everything I know, is possible to learn!
Gina Vincenza Van Epps
All ages. All skill levels. Everything I know, is possible to learn!
Gina Vincenza Van Epps
A lot of people use Craigslist to offer their sewing services, but what I’ve done has separated me from the crowd by offering mobile services. I get calls, all the time for last minute, emergency and urgent mobile sewing gigs. If you know how to sew, do laundry, iron, steam clothing and help people get dressed or quick change and you’re interested in making some extra cash, pack yourself a sewing “gig bag” and put an ad on Craigslist to offer mobile sewing services to take your show on the road!
Here’s How I did it:
By using a free Craigslist ad, I began posting in 2008, it helped me to consistently build my sewing business, to the point where I could quit my “day job”, sew for a living, set my own schedule and pick and choose my work. My Craigslist ad lead me to many amazing opportunities. I used the “creative services” category for all my posts and included photos of my best work, which I updated frequently and reposted as needed, when the old ads expired.
My Craigslist ad got me the “in” I needed, by being mobile and led me directly to my sewing work on A List Concert Tours, Broadway Theater Productions, working with Celebrities, Fashion Shows and even Weddings. I have acquired many private clients, built an impressive resume and created a photo portfolio of my sewing work, which I use all over social media.
Here’s what I carried in my mobile sewing kit; There are all kinds of divided containers, fishing tackle and craft boxes and rolling suitcases you can use to keep everything mobile and organized.
A list of items for a basic kit:
1. Reliable Portable Sewing Machine and Serger if needed. I use and old school Kenmore from the 70’s and a mid priced Singer Serger, which I usually leave in my car unless they request it. Computerized sewing machines tend to get fussy if you move them around too much, so I recommend a simple basic sewing machine with a straight and zig zag stitch. (I used to use a $200 Brother Project Runway Special Edition Sewing Machine for 3 years that I paid $50 for, on sale at Walmart!!)
2. Scissors for paper and fabric
3. Seam Rippers
4. An Assortment of Thread (I like the Geuterman box of 26 from Joann Fabrics http://www.joann.com/gutermann-26-spool-thread/9284811.html#close)
5. Elastic in black and white in various widths.
6. Notions including snaps in all sizes especially “whopper poppers” (the quarter size), hooks and eyes/bars in small to large sizes, buttons, etc
6. Velcro in at least black and white
7. Sewing Pins, Pin Cushion
8. Large Safety Pins
9. Tailor’s Chalk wheel or other marking devices for alterations
10. Hand Sewing Needle Assortment
11. Lint Roller
12. 120″ tape measure
13. Hem Gauge
14. Flashlight (in case you end up working backstage or quick change)
15. Sewing Apron, cargo shorts/pants or fanny pack bag for having supplies on you
Other items I’ve been known to carry:
1. Pattern Making Materials and Supplies
2. Small sizes of Laundry Supplies including an assortment of stain removing agents, baking soda, salt (for use with fabric dye) vinegar, Ivory Bar Soap, Hair Spray (removes ink), denture cleaner (removes dingy from whites), magic eraser, 90% alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, etc
3. Steamer, Iron, Spray Starch
4. Rubber gloves in case I have to dye fabric or deal with a smelly mess
5. Muslin, jersey, denim scraps
6. Double Stick Wardrobe Tape
Here’s a basic price list for mobile sewing services:
$16+ an hour for dressing and quick change assistance and general services like laundry, ironing and steaming clothing or costumes that don’t require you to bring anything with you. Just show up and work.
$25 an hour for sewing related and runner services, which can include picking up fabric, notions and other materials or supplies needed by the client. I usually include gas, tolls and mileage as long as it’s not excessive. Otherwise you can add those expenses.
$35 an hour to show up and sew, make patterns or do draping on their provided sewing equipment, etc.
$50 an hour to bring your own mobile sewing equipment and supplies to sew on their site or location.
Time and a half for over 8 hours is customary, however overtime pay after a 10 hour work day is the law.
“Florida law states that a legal day’s work for a manual laborer is 10 hours (FL Stat. Sec. 448.01). Unless there is a written contract that specifies otherwise, the employer is not permitted to require manual laborers to work a longer day without extra pay.
• At the end of a workweek, all overtime hours are credited as compensatory leave at the rate of 11/2 hours’ credit for each hour of overtime worked.”
Some clients ask for a day rate, but be careful with that. I’ve worked 40 hours in 3 days before on an emergency project and you don’t want to screw yourself by settling for less before you know what your getting into. A $1200 pay check vs $2500 pay check is a big difference when you just worked 3 days in a row with only 3-4 hours of sleep in between.
If your going to give a day rate I would recommend you start with a quote of $400 for 8.5 hours of work (with a 30 minute lunch and 2 – 15 minute breaks, which is the law) and go up from there. If the client advises the project will be more like 10-12 or more hours give an hourly overtime rate of $75 (time and a half) for every hour after 8.5 hours.
Make sure you get decent breaks!!
Don’t put yourself in the bargain bin!!
You have a specialized skill that is worthy of a decent wage, especially when you’ve got mobile equipment and skills they need when they are in a bind.
You can download a free app called “Invoice ASAP” and make getting paid by cash or check at the end of the day, a condition of your services.
Another way to I used Craigslist ads was to offer Mobile Sewing Lessons.
I would offer the following services, but not post a price. That way people would have to contact me for the price. I would also take into account, where they were located. If they were farther away I’d charge a little extra.
I offered help in the clients home with everything from, how to:
1. Thread and use their machine
2. Go on field trips with them to pick out patterns, fabric and notions
3. Cut out their fabrics
4. Make patterns from their own existing clothes
5. Make patterns from scratch
6. Alter patterns
7. Sew their project
8. Alter clothing
9. Upcycle clothing
10. Repair clothing
11. Project Assistance
My clients included home school kids, teens, college students, fashion students, men and women of all ages.
I charged $100 (cash) for 4 hours minimum, which was usually plenty of time to complete a simple project or work on an ongoing one. Extra hours were $25 an hour
Some clients were one time only, while others became regular clients
I would bring all my own mobile materials and supplies, just in case they didn’t have everything we’d need.
I use a rolling suitcase that fits everything I need and put my sewing machine on top of that, making it easy to transport.
Sometimes clients would come to my house too, it just depended upon their needs.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me!
If you’re located in the Cental Florida area and would like to join my sewing group on Facebook I frequently post sewing jobs there, of all kinds and so can you!! It’s called “Florida Costume and Fashion Designers and Fabricators”
You can follow me on Facebook at Psycho Seamstress https://www.facebook.com/PsychoSeamstress
I am Psycho Seamstress on most social media platforms including Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Instructables, Tumblr, Google Plus, ProductionHub, Studio53, LinkedIn and Slated.
I am Gina Vincenza Van Epps aka Psycho Seamstress! Http://ginav8.wix.com/psychoseamstress/ Gina@PsychoSeamstress.com
Whether you are sewing for profit out of your home or you’re looking for wholesale fabrics and notions for a factory production run, here are some great resources on getting started and some of my favorite vendors:
For the last few years, I have been consulting with clients who are just beginning in fashion. They usually come to me with a pile of sketches or inspiration photos of garments they want to create and have no idea what journey they are about to embark upon to get from these humble beginnings to a finished product, ready to sell. The process can literally take months. (here is an outline of THAT process… How to Start a Fashion Line Realistically and Ethically) Although there are many steps that have to be complete before you can go into production, here are the steps to take once the design and prototype process has been completed. Doing this yourself is a big job, but here are some basic questions to ask when shopping for a factory to produce your clothing:
1. Are they a fair wage factory?
Chances are, if it’s in a foreign country they aren’t and won’t answer honestly. Nowadays people are asking more and more questions about where and how it’s made and are judging your line accordingly. People ARE willing to pay more to ensure they aren’t endorsing slavery. (Click this link to find out how many slaves work for you) ETHICAL production is available at an affordable price CAN be found if you contact Organizations like Fashion Hope. They can will assist you worldwide, in finding a production facility that doesn’t involve human trafficking, slavery, forced or child labor. Tell them I sent you or contact me for help with this.
2. Where are they located?
This factor is important for a number of reasons:
– Get shipping estimates to and from the factory, those expenses should be considered as part of your production cost in both directions.
– You will need to ship them patterns, prototypes and materials and they will be shipping you material samples, garment samples and finished products. – — Import fees should also be considered, estimated and added to your bottom line.
3. Can you affordably visit their facility?
I highly recommend you do so. Having a face to face with your factory and touring the facility is an important part of making a smart investment decision and maintaining a profitable relationship. Go with your gut. If anything seems sketchy it’s better to keep looking and write off the trip expenses than to invest thousands of dollars in a production house that doesn’t have their act together, too much could go wrong.
4. Do they have all the right sewing machines to make your garments?
If they have a website make sure they are currently making similar items. It’s unreasonable to expect one factory to sew your entire collection if you’ve got jeans, dresses, t shirts and swimwear. Each of those items uses different sewing machines and fabrics to construct. It’s better to find a factory that specializes in one type of garment for each item in your collection if they differ greatly in how they need to be constructed.
5. Can they send you samples of their work on similar garments?
Ask them to mail (even if you have to pay for them) you similar items and check the quality of their work inside and out.
– Look for dropped stitches or stitch defects that mean their equipment needs to be better maintained or that quality control might be an issue.
Here’s an example of what a stitch defect looks like… it can eventually unravel and cause problems with the construction of your garment, making it open up at the seam.
Wash the item(s) if you can to see how it holds up. If they aren’t cutting the pattern out properly it can ruin an entire production run.
I have a friend who had a 3 piece outfit made in China. They cut one piece wrong and it couldn’t be salvaged. The whole outfit had to be scratched for that season even though the other two pieces were fine. That was about a $5k loss.
6. Can they provide fabric and notions sourced locally or do they have adequate storage for you to send them the fabrics and notions you’ve sourced for production?
Get samples of what they have access to before you have anything made in their fabrics. Get swatches and samples of their fabrics, notions, buttons, garment tags, even elastics.
Send them reference photos or swatches and samples of what fabrics and notions that you want to use and see what they come up with locally. I know one designer who had everything specified to the China factory on her swimwear collection and even sent them a sample of swimwear elastic. When they constructed her swimwear they substituted her swimwear elastic with what was essentially a “rubber band” type of elastic. It caused a fit issue with her collection and was a cheap and substandard elastic. She didn’t even know it had happened until her pattern maker took apart on of her factory made swimsuits on a redesign.
7. How much do they charge for a factory sample?
This price can vary depending on the complexity of the garment.
If it’s a pretty basic pattern block that is common in fashion then it could be $20 or less.
If it’s an original design they should be able to give you a ballpark estimate from a photo or drawing and description by email.
The average price that I’ve found for a factory sample seems to be right around $80. Standard Proceedure is to send them a pattern and prototype and they will send you a factory made garment.
8. What is their average turn around time on an order?
Planning ahead and allowing for all of the standard turn around time is a huge factor if you have seasonal items.
9. What other services do they offer?
Do you need anything else done to your garment that could be done at the factory? This can include screen printing, custom garment tags (vs the cheap plastic looking ones that scream low budget production!!) distressing, adding riveted buttons, zippers and so on can frequently be outsourced locally by the factory.
10. What is their policy on orders that are made wrong or what happens if you don’t get what you reasonably expected?
If you’re saying to your self, “damn, this seems a lot more complicated, expensive and time consuming, than I thought!” You’re right. It is a long and drawn out process, but it can be done. Contact me and I can help you through the process. Managing this yourself, as I said earlier is a big job and can result in huge losses if you don’t ask all the right questions or skip a step in an attempt to get your items made quickly.
Join my Clothing Designer Resources Group on Facebook for more information on how to go to market with your designs.
A few times a week I get calls and emails from people who want me to help them create a fashion garment or clothing line. Many of them admittedly know nothing about what it actually takes to make that happen…
If you think you can call up a pattern maker or seamstress and have them create a garment you can turn around and sell for $25 with a profit in it for you, let me nicely advise “you’re trippin!”
Sorry to burst your bubble, but allow me to enlighten you…
Soooooo, unless you’ve got that kind of cash laying around, don’t quit your day job AND let’s hope “they” cut, sew and assemble everything correctly or it could be a total loss (I’ve seen it happen with a friends’ fashion line!!)
In order for me to help you understand what it takes to realistically bring your concepts to creation, Here is a step by step outline of the process for taking a garment into factory production and the reasonable expenses involved.
First of all you’ve got to have a general idea of what you want to create, one garment at a time. Even if you start with one design, define the details with photos or rough sketches. I meet with a lot of clients who start with a collage of photos we combine their favorite elements of each into the one garment they want to create. ie this neckline, that sleeve, this front, that back, etc. (For the record, you can not simply knock off someone else’s garment with the exact same fabrics, notions and details or you could get sued. You have to change the original garment by design, fabric, notions and/or stitching details by at least 25%!!!)
Now make a list of all the features you want your garment to have such as seam finishes, pockets, top stitching details, hem finishes, fabrics, zippers, buttons, notions, etc. Take photos of details you want from your own clothing or a stores clothing line for reference.
Second thing you need to do is create a fashion illustration or “flat” taking all of the inspiration photos and combine them into a functional image of what you want your end product to look like. This step isn’t absolutely necessary, but it will help the pattern maker get all of the details right the first time. A good fashion illustrator will charge about $50-100 per hour to draw everything in detail.
Next, you will need to have a pattern made. This averages about $150 and up, per garment. Pattern making is an art that requires precise knowledge of fit, body curves and other techniques. Sometimes you can use a store bought home sewing pattern as a base and alter it to your specification. This can still take a few hours to do.
“Grading” the pattern into different sizes, comes later and will be an additional expense. Grading by hand usually starts at $50 per each additional size depending upon the number of pattern pieces, but it can go much higher. I recommend, if you’re serious about launching a fashion line, you find a pattern maker who knows how to use Gerber, which is an autocad program for fashion. There are expenses involved in translating your paper patterns into the autocad system, (from $25 per design and up) but it will greatly reduce the turn around time and expense to grade ($15 per size vs $50+ by hand), alter and transmit your designs to the factory in the long run. Add these figures in your budget if your item is not one size fits all.
Choosing fabrics for your prototype can be done a number of ways. Many times we create the prototype out of muslin, canvas, duck, spandex or other cheap fabric that behaves similar to the final fabric, mainly so the fit can be defined without cutting into more expensive final fabric. Prototypes usually start at $150 each or up to $50 an hour or more, to cut and sew. If someone charges less make sure they have the skills to do all of these things.
To give you an example of a real life situation and it’s numbers, I had a client with 14 items in her collection. Between pattern making and 3 phases of prototypes it costed about $7000.00 in labor. This did not include materials, which ranged from $25-180 PER YARD. Her fabrics were very delicate, high end and her garments had couture details.
Sourcing of final fabrics and notions is an important part of creating a fashion line. There are many factors to consider. There are a series of fabric show around the country by DG Expo which are free to attend and invaluable to finding everything you need to create a successful clothing line.
What kind of trims will it need? Lace, Bias Tape, Piping, etc, those will need to be sourced and purchased in volume.
What kind of zippers, buttons, snaps, hooks do you want to use for closures? Will they need to be custom made with your logo on them? All this will need to be budgeted, sourced and purchased for production.
What kind of labels are required by law?
You could have your entire run rejected if it is not labeled properly. Many garments are required to be labeled with the fiber contents of the fabrics, where the item was made and any safety related information.
You should have one label with care instructions and one that has your logo, brand, size of the garment and can also contain its inventory item number, web address, etc. These can be one in the same, screen printed onto the fabric or made to order tags that have been printed, woven, embroidered and could be made of fabric or other synthetic materials.
Choosing a production facility.
Here are some samples of what those documents look like. You will need to hire a professional to put these together in most cases.
It can take several weeks to turn around a factory sample and can cost a anywhere from $100-1000 to get everything together for the factory.
Another thing to consider is any language barrier. If you can’t communicate easily and frequently with this factory by email or they take days to respond to a simple request that should be taken into consideration as a red flag.
If you choose this factory you should also be prepared to fly to this county to visit the factory, meet with its staff and inspect it for yourself. If your planing on investing several thousand dollars, the expense is worth it.
Another thing to consider is to hire a liaison from that area to go to the factory unannounced to check on the quality and progress of your run. I had a friend who did all of the above and still lost several thousand dollars due to quality issues and unapproved fabric swapping that cost her about $10k in losses. She ordered a three piece outfit, which became unusable because they messed up one piece in production on the entire run.
Sound overwhelming? There is a lot involved in taking a fashion line into production. If you don’t want all these headaches it is best to hire someone to manage your project who has a background in overseas fashion production.
What’s the alternative? Get real! Unless you are Walmart, you need to return to earth and start on a smaller scale. Here are a few ideas that have worked for some of my clients. In order to make money, you need to have a realistic price point that includes a reasonable cost for materials and labor.
Here’s how to figure that out:
Once you have some orders flowing in, have created a following and your local seamstress or short run production house becomes too busy to handle your orders, here is a great way to get factory quality and quantity at a fair and ethical price…
Fashion Hope is an international organization, founded by a friend of mine, Marc Palmer.
To learn more about Fashion Hope and become a part of the growing movement to produce Fashion ethically, you can find Marc Palmer’s Fashion Hope page at Fashion Hope on Facebook or email Marc@FashionHope.org
I am on a mission to create an Orlando Fashion District, if you would like to become part of this movement, please like my Facebook Page for all of the latest info and share your local favorites!!
Thanks for tuning in!
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Check out some of my fashion client and film work at House of Vincenza
Gina Vincenza Van Epps is aka Psycho Seamstress
A List Wardrobe Seamstress, Designer and Costume Fabrication Specialist, Key Wardrobe
As a Seamstress, I’ve done this a million times without thinking any harm could come of it. Boy, was I wrong!!!
When I started working in the Costume Fabrication Department at Universal Theme Parks I noticed an article that had been printed out an posted to the double doors as you left the sewing department. I passed by it a few times until one day I found myself having a few extra minutes before I needed to clock in and took the time to read it.
I see people do this all the time at work and ever since I read this article that follows I haven’t been able to stick a pin in my mouth again!!
I’ve actually become the “pin in your mouth” police when I see friends doing it, I tell them about the story I read in this article.
I am so glad I found it online.
PLEASE READ IT!!
Love you guys!!
Gina Vincenza Van Epps
A List Wardrobe Seamstress &
Costume Fabrication Specialist
Don’t you HATE it when that happens?
I found a few great links on how to UNSHRINK Clothes! ENJOY!!!
3 Ways to UNSHRINK Clothes including JEANS!!