Tag Archives: sewing as a business

How I started a sewing business and lost my mojo

I have been happily sewing since I was 15 — almost 30 years. I thought I loved it enough to have my own home-based home dec sewing business.

Yeah, well, I was wrong.

Today, I’m sharing my experience as food for thought for others who are considering making the jump into sewing as a business. As always, feel free to use my life as a cautionary tale.

What worked

❦ I love home dec sewing, I’m good at it, and frankly not that many people know how to make a pinch-pleated drapery. I’d done enough projects for friends (and had enough pep talks from them) to be confident in my skills.

❦ I’m excellent with admin and paperwork, am very handy with a cordless drill, and love doing everything myself.

❦ Consulting with clients was fun. I got to go into their houses, hear their ideas and make them a reality. How cool is that?

❦ Seeing my custom designs installed in clients’ homes was thrilling.

❦ I had the opportunity do a wide variety of projects that I wouldn’t necessarily have done on my own.

Board-mounted valance

My favorite project from my sewing business — a board-mounted valance with sheer swags. Here it's resting on my dining room table prior to delivery and installation.

❦ I enjoyed the flexibility of having a home-based business. Sketching pillow designs while with the kids at the pool was a great way to work a second job.

❦ The business gave me a good excuse to upgrade from my 30-year-old Kenmore to the Fancy Damn Sewing Machine, which I LOVE.

What didn’t

❦ I tried to start my business while holding down a full-time job. I’m also a wife and mom. That was challenging, but not impossible. (Why yes, I do have a tendency to overcommit my time. Why do you ask?)

❦ I was required to file paperwork with the city, the county and a couple of state agencies so my very tiny business was 100 percent legal. (I live in California, a state that’s considered less than fully business-friendly.) I was drowning in paperwork before I ever sewed a stitch for a client, but I’m a rule-follower that way.

❦ I started my business about 18 months before the recession hit, so I had just enough time to start gaining some traction before the bottom fell out. I’m glad I didn’t have time to really get rolling. What if I had done so well that I quit my job THEN the bottom fell out?

❦ Having to perform to someone else’s expectations under deadline pressure is what I do at work every day. I THRIVE on it. But sewing under those same circumstances took most of the fun out of what had been my hobby.

❦ And the biggie: I felt bad about charging appropriate prices for my work, although I did it anyway; and I was not comfortable selling my service. Even if this were the only negative, it still would have been enough to sink my business. 

Why I don’t regret it

❦ I’ve always wanted to have my own business. I’m proud of myself for trying. So is my husband. He hates when people talk about things but never take action. He was 100 percent supportive, which was awesome.

❦ I loved, LOVED, being totally in charge of all aspects of the business, even if the business itself wasn’t the right fit.

❦ I made a little revenue (alas, not profit), which was really exciting!

Where I am now

A home-based home dec sewing business didn’t work out for me. This does not mean it’s not a viable business for someone. I just wasn’t that particular someone. Your results may vary.

I actually stopped sewing for a while after I ended my business. Lost my mojo a bit, you might say. But I came roaring back to garment sewing earlier this year. I do need to make some detours back into home dec soon because the master bedroom and bathroom need some love from my sewing machine, but at the moment I am totally groovin’ on making vintage-inspired clothes.

For now, I’m selfishly sewing ONLY for myself, blogging about it and loving every minute of it all. I’m back, Baby!

If you are considering starting a sewing business and have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask me via a comment or the contact page.

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