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Can you turn a sewing passion into a business?

Advice and examples of sewing entrepreneurship

Many of us have from time to time wondered if our sewing passion could lead us on the greater things – most notably being able to give up the day job, or at least earn a little extra from our number one pastime.

The simple fact is that hundreds of people have succeeded in realising this potentially exciting ambition. Temper this however, with the thought that in all probability many more have failed.

So we spent some time having a rummage about in an attempt to highlight some initial hints and tips that might just encourage you to do some research – and find out whether you can turn your passion into an income generator.

You’ll notice by the way that we never use the word “hobby” when it comes to describing sewing – it’s much too important for that!

Start small and work your way up

The excellent LoveSewing website really hits the nail on the head with an article “How to make money from sewing…”

“Even if you haven’t mastered all the more advanced techniques you can start by sewing up simple purses, bags, pin cushions or little soft toys. Spend some time creating unique designs.

“You can sell these little gifts and accessories at craft fairs or on a handmade marketplace like…” 

What makes a good “sew to sell” project?

An excellent question – well answered by the So Sew Easy website. Stephanie Woodson from from Swoodson Says has compiled a really good list of considerations, including

“Shipping – can be expensive on large, heavy or valuable items. Smaller items that can go in a padded envelope and be inexpensive to send may sell better.“

Enjoy what you’re doing!

SewMyPlace comes up with some nice ideas in the aptly titled “6 Ways to Make Money Sewing” – and there’s one piece of advice in particular that we think is really important. Make sure that you really enjoy the type of sewing that will be required.

Otherwise you may as well go back to the day job!

“After all, the whole point of making money sewing is being able to earn some cash while doing something you already love to do. So you should choose a sewing business that allows you to do the types of sewing projects you most enjoy.”

This article contains lots of relevant stuff, including the type of sewing service that you might light to consider providing.

Choose your speciality

All of which brings us very neatly to the Assemble & Earn website and their article “Introduction to Starting A Sewing Business From Home.”

“What you decide to sew will also depend on the the kind of equipment you are starting out with and whether you are working on your own or with someone else.”

They flag up suggestions like alteration and repair, custom sewing and designing.

The real life success stories

It’s all very well people banging on about “how to do so-and-so” or “top ten tips to become a millionaire in 20 minutes” (to be fair we haven’t found that one yet lol), but the best and most inspirational example are the people who’ve been there. Done it. Worn the T shirt – and in this case probably made the T shirt as well.

We’ve got two for you here – one bang up-to-date and one a couple years older that we also love.

Debbie Shore, “Derbyshire’s TV sewing superstar”, according to the Derby Telegraph. She has so much energy and get-up-and-go that she was always going to be a success – even being Zippy’s girlfriend on Rainbow!

The wonderful This is MONEY website features an inspirational report on Helen Dickson, who started Bustle & Sew who “…realised her passion could become a commercially viable business after her daughter left home and she finished a full-time job working for the local authority.”

The right tools for the job?

And we couldn’t finish without a subtle plug for our wonderful Jaguar sewing machines and overlockers, which, like the Jaguar 377 offers automatic threading.

The Jaguar 377 offers the perfect sewing partner for precision sewing, offering you the ability to use a variety of built in different stitches, enables you to create a variety of sewing projects with ease, making it ideal for beginners and more experienced textile crafters.

Overlocker sewing machine advantages

Between 2 and 4 spools of thread simultaneously!

Overlocker sewing machines have a number of key advantages, particularly when it comes to stopping the edges of cut fabric from fraying. They used to be professional level pieces of equipment, but these days overlockers are increasingly finding their way into the home market.

An overlocker by no means replaces a “traditional” sewing machine, but it does excel at joining two layers of cloth and trimming the edge of the fabric to stop fraying. According to The Sew in Brighton Sewing School

“Its primary function is to clean finish a raw edge, giving the project a professional appearance. Many overlocking stitches have built-in stretch, making them the perfect tool for seaming knit fabrics. Additionally, the eyes of the loopers are larger than the eyes of sewing needles and can therefore accommodate thicker decorative threads.”

Other overlocker advantages

An overlocker’s stitch pattern typically allows for a significant amount of stretch – useful when sewing elastic or stretchy fabrics. And being able to stitch a number of threads at a time can be a huge advantage. The Jaguar Supa Lock 486 for example can be set for two, three or four threads.

An overlocker doesn’t use bobbins but loopers to supply the lines of thread, making it easier to contain the materials edges within the seam.

It’s important to remember that an overlocker won’t completely replace a conventional sewing machine – inserting zips and buttonholes or topstitching will still require one of those.

Jaguar overlockers – super, easy threading

Exclusive to Jaguar overlocker sewing machines feature a unique cutting system which opens up by 180 degrees, giving easy access to the looper thread guides. Threading is quick and easy with no need for tweezers or specialist tools – it’s as quick and as simple as that!

  • The Jaguar 487 – an excellent choice for those looking for features and performance. Surprisingly easy to use.
  • The Jaguar Supa Lock 486 – a 2, 3 or 4 thread overlocker with differential feed.

“The Jaguar 487 is easy to thread as each route is colour coded, easy to access the the workings under the needle plate as this part can swing all the way open allowing a very clear view of all the mechanism housed here.”

Helen McGowan, Kildare, Ireland.

Overlocker / serger sewing tips

Sewing: overlockers are sometimes known as sergers

Some overlocker / serger sewing beginners aren’t aware of the difference between an overlocker and a standard sewing machine. So to get the ball rolling, we thought we’d tell you what an overlocker is…

Wendy Ward provides an excellent definition on her website where she also points out that the machines are also known as “sergers”. Get in touch if you know how this term came into use by the way – we’d love to know!

“…it’s a separate machine that sews with 3, 4 or 5 threads to join seams, neaten edges and cut off the excess fabric all in one go. It’s the neat professional looking finish you find inside ready made clothing.”

Adding a neckline

A useful tip for overlocker serger sewing beginners from the Makers website. After sewing side seams the next step is something that you definitely need to get to grips with: adding a neckline – and this also applies to hems and cuffs. There are some great step by step photos on this article.

Finishing your seams

The Scruffy Badger Time website is compiled by Winnie from Bath in the UK – and we love it!

In her article Overlocking / serger tips: finishing your seams she suggests three practical ways of obtaining a tidy finish on a project. It’s worth paying close attention to her third tip – the most complicated but long term we think the best – which involves getting to know your overlocker’s “stitch fingers”. It’s tricky but worth persevering with – and again the photos are a real help.

Also worth checking out is Winnie’s excellent article Overlocker tips: unpicking seams.

Matching up fabrics

The What Katy Sews website has a really interesting focus – “…matching up all my stashed-away fabrics to appropriate patterns and getting them sewn up”.

The article mixes knits and an overlocker – a really useful combination.

Threading an overlocker / serger

An excellent video by Denise Wild shows how to thread a serger, which will be particularly useful if you’re new to overlockers, your serger keeps unthreading – or you just keep forgetting how to do it.

And now the bit we REALLY love…

We’re trying very hard not to look smug here, but if you’re fortunate enough to own a Jaguar overlocker – it self threads!

The Jaguar Supa Lock 486 overlocker for example, is an excellent choice if you are looking for features and performance. Surprisingly easy to use … this is probably the reason why it is Jaguar’s number one overlocker.

Super easy threading

Exclusive to Jaguar overlocker sewing machines  – the unique cutting system opens up 180 degrees giving easy access to the looper thread guides. Threading is quick and easy with no need for tweezers or specialist tools.

It’s as quick and as simple as that!

Jaguar 486 overlocker serger sewing machines

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