Monday, November 16, 2009

You Scratch My Back...

... or, How to Barter.

A while back I thought about selling on etsy. I had (have) a store on hyena cart but I am not great at self-promotion and, so, it has never taken off. I have made a bit of money selling custom-made dresses locally. With that, most of the time someone will see Alice, drool over whatever she's wearing and ask if I can reproduce it for their daughter / granddaughter / niece / etc. Sewing for money is okay, but what I love to do is to barter. I have exchanged sewing for other crafts, professional massage, childcare, music lessons for Alice, and rehearsal time with a pianist. Bartering is awesome because it allows me to do things that I otherwise could not afford in exchange for doing something that I love to do.

Over the few years that I've been bartering I've developed a pretty good system for making sure both parties come out feeling like they've gotten a good deal.

First we define specifically what they want me to sew. Curtains for one room? Lined or unlined? A little girls dress? Smocked? Monogrammed? Are we using my material or are they providing material?

Then I assign an hourly wage to my sewing. This is not always the same. For example, I charge more per hour for projects I detest, like home dec, and people who are good friends get a reduced rate. I don't have a good formula for figuring out my wage, it basically boils down to how much makes it worth it to me to take on the project.

Once I've figured out how much I want to be paid per hour, I estimate how many hours it will take me to complete a task. This is important for exchanges that might take place before I've finished sewing, such as for childcare.

Then I ask how much the person I'm bartering with charges for their good or service and we figure out what the exchange will be: 10 hours of home dec sewing for 4 hour long massages, 20 hours of clothing sewing for 20 hours of child care, 10 hours of home dec sewing for an original piece of art, etc. When I sew, I keep track of my hours. I have a project notebook for this where I keep all the details of each project along with any expenses I incur and the hours I spend working.

Sometimes I will temporarily suspend a barter if the exchange of services is not happening at an equitable rate. For example, right now I am bartering sewing a wedding dress for childcare. So far I've spent about 3 hours sewing but I've already received about 10 hours of childcare. Since I'm upside-down in the deal (and because Christmas is coming and everyone needs the extra cash) I'm going to propose to pay the bride to babysit until after Christmas when I'll be more caught up.

If you are new to bartering, my advice is to start small. My first barter was actually a simple swap. A friend was sewing purses, which I've never really done, and I was sewing children's clothing, which she had never really done. We swapped a purse for an outfit for her daughter. A good first swap could be for Christmas gifts. If you are making a bunch of the same thing to give and a friend is making a bunch of a different thing to give, it's not so hard for each to make one or two extra and trade. Kind of like a cookie swap, only on a bigger scale.

I have found that most people are pretty excited at the prospect of trading services. I've also always been the first to suggest a swap, so if you want to try bartering, don't be shy about it.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Making a Muslin

For this dress I am making a "muslin" which basically means I will be making the wedding dress twice, once out of the "real" fabric and once out of super cheap muslin. Making a muslin allows you to adjust things to get a perfect fit before you cut and sew on your expensive fabric. Since I'm re-drafting the neckline and there are so many things to fit with this dress (and since I'm not paying for the $$$ fabric!) a muslin is a must.

Here's my task list for the muslin:
* copy pattern onto butcher paper DONE!
* re-draft bodice pieces to sweetheart neckline DONE!
* cut pattern out of muslin DONE!
* sew bodice
* sew skirt
* attach bodice to skirt
* insert zipper
* fitting #1!
* adjust muslin to reflect fitting changes, redraft pattern as necessary.
* fitting #2! Check for fit and finalize style elements
* adjust muslin again if needed
* fitting #3 if needed!

Wedding dress!

I am doing something I swore I would never do.

I'm making a wedding dress for someone. Now, I've wanted to make a wedding dress for awhile, the problem is that a lot of women morph into crazed bridezillas the moment the ring hits their finger. I have dealt with enough crazies through playing for weddings. If people get psycho about their music I don't want to witness the insanity that comes with the dress.

So, I had pretty much resolved myself to not ever sewing a wedding dress. I mean, I guess I could have made one for myself out of black for concerts and gigs, but somehow I don't think the symphony fashion police would appreciate a cathedral length train and black veil.... Then I found out that a new friend was engaged. The thing that tipped me off that she might be "the one" was that she was seriously looking for wedding dresses at Goodwill. I offered to barter sewing for childcare. She took me up on it, so now I get to make a wedding dress! (yay!) AND I get some babysitting! (double yay!)

Here is the pattern we picked:

I'm going to modify the neckline to make it a sweetheart neckline. Also, the bride is unsure of her final fabric choice. Not sure if we're going with the lace or not. The wedding is in May, so there is plenty of time to decide.