Many sewers and bloggers will tell you that sewing for other people is a slippery slope. You start sewing on a button and then the next thing you know you never have time to sew anything for yourself.
I'm not such a believer in that. Yes, if you say okay to every request for clothing from people who don't understand how much work you'll either end up putting it off, hating them for stealing all your sewing time, or garroting someone with a yard of printed ribbon, but you just have to set your boundaries before you begin.
Ask yourself these questions:
1. Can they do it themselves? If someone who has the skills to sew something but asks you for help they may have a good reason. If they need to get a petticoat sewn but they're making the wedding dress to go over it and darn, where did all the time go? then that's more understandable than if they just got DVDs for the new series of [insert program you don't watch here] and they just have to watch it RIGHT NOW!
2. Could they and would they learn? If it's something really simple, could they just learn how to do it themselves? If they come to you every time they loose a button then it'll probably be a lot quicker to teach them how but if it's something like complicated embroidery that you enjoy doing it might take longer to teach them the skills they need to get it right than to just do it.
3. How much do you really like this person? Are they your brother's colleague's cousin once removed or are they your favorite child? There's a reason they call it a labor of love, and it's not because you just adore patching holes in trousers.
4. How long will it take? It makes sense that you need to be very invested in someone to make them a huge beaded ball gown but you might be happy to sew a button on for a friend every now and again. Either way, it's a good idea to make them aware of how long it'll take before you start. If you're going to spend an hour sewing buttons on then make sure they know it's not a ten minute job.
5. How much difference will it make to them? Will this have a big enough impact on their mood or standard of living to make it worth the effort? Fixing a cherished childhood toy will be remembered a lot longer than fixing the zip on a cheap, rarely warn dress. If someone is depressed or having a terrible day or week or even month then one act of kindness can mean a whole lot more than what you put into it.
6. Is it important to you to have a say in how they dress/present themselves? If you want to sew for someone so you can change their style then you're probably heading for disappointment, but if you just want them to stop looking homeless then it might be worth a try. I'd quite happily put the hours in making my boyfriend new trousers if it meant the general public wasn't exposed to his boxers every time we went out.
7. Will you enjoy the project? Is it something that you'd do just for the fun and the experience or will it be a hard slog with very few rewards? If you'd be happy to sew something just for the practice and the artistry that goes into it, like an embroidery sampler, then why not make it to fit someone who'll love it?
8. Is it something you need to practice? You can always use sewing for others as practice for something you want to get better at. If you always wear stretch fabric skirts but you want to add fly zippers to your skill set then make something for someone who'll actually use it.
9. Are they easy to work with? Simply put, if you're going to spend most of the project wanting to strangle them for changing their mind or never being happy with the results then it's probably safer for everyone if you stop before you begin.
10. Are they willing to do or give something in exchange and will it be worth it? This goes back to making sure they know how long it will take. Are they happy to do something that requires a similar commitment of time and energy for you (after taking into account your answers to the last nine questions) or pay enough to make it worth it? If you make a complicated evening jacket in exchange for a hug or a fiver and the cost of the materials you're probably going to feel ripped off.
The reason I'm talking about this is because I spent about an hour this morning making a pair of my boyfriends shorts wearable for the day ahead. The button had been pulled off, ripping the fabric when it went, and in the heat of mid-July a pair of shorts are almost a necessity.
If I hadn't had a huge button purchase to feel less guilty about then it probably wouldn't have gotten done, but I'm also in the process of building up good karma at the moment anyway. I've mentioned before that my boyfriend is good with video editing and the like, and I have ideas for making and including videos and graphics in my blog and I'm going to need his help.
If you want to know how I fixed the rip, just have a look at the picture below!