how to fill a bar cart on the cheap.

so. last week, i returned the silk gown i made for wee pixie.  there was some tugging involved.  some promises extracted about giving it back, should pixie ever grow tired of it.  my dream was that she'd admit boredom with it right there, and respectfully hand it over.  really, how many times can you wear a one of a kind bias cut topstitched green silk evening gown?  maybe i should've offered her money?  name my firstborn after her?

yet, i'm considering taking on sewing for friends again.

am i stupid?  

while the gown left me with a severe case of maker's remorse, i did recently complete another sew-body else challenge that left me walking on air, and it wasn't even a request.  in a fit of spring fever, i up and  offered to make my sis-in-law a dress.  i envisioned something simple, something she could learn to make as i made it, out of cotton, with maybe a fitted waistband.  no first-time-failure polyester-masquerading-as-silk for her, like i did!  it had to end in success, so that the sewing bug would bite her swiftly and surely.  she countered with ideas of what she'd really like: a cotton skirt, and two of my double agent dress (tutorial, i swear, is coming).  okay!  i could see that ending in smiles!  and she could be the guinea pig for my tute!  i pulled out the proper patterns and got her size ready, and on The Day she arrived at my doorstep with the carefully selected oona approved list of supplies.

umm, only, the two yards of four way stretch jersey and one yard of light cotton turned into three yards of Thick. Double Sided.  almost Neoprene material... which she had her heart set on making into a tailored top and pencil skirt.  erm, actually, a REVERSIBLE tailored top and pencil skirt.

confident the day would end in tears, i had a mini heart attack, pushed all prepared patterns to the side, and poured some coffee.  and by some miracle, at the end of the day she had exactly what she wanted.  she was thrilled with the results, i was thrilled that i could do it (it is SO much easier to pin on a warm body that isn't your own), and because she saw and helped with the whole process, she really understood how much work went into it.  and she wore it out the very next day!  i was giddy, i tell you.  GIDDY.  it was so satisfying to sew for someone who really got it.  we're doing it again very soon and i can't wait.

BUT.  we all know that's not how it normally goes.  someone sees something handmade on you, and chirps for one.  "oh, except could you do that ruffle-y thing i saw in marie claire and i'd love pockets and hey wouldn't chiffon be cool?  that wouldn't be hard right?  'kthnxbye!"  so.  i thought it might be a good idea to come up with some ground rules.  (sis-in-law, these are not for you.  you have the run of my sewing mill.)

friend requesting a garment shall heretofore be referred to as "the choosee".

1.  first and foremost, if the choosee should be deemed to have Major Fit Issues, a short beginner's course in sewing a wrap skirt shall be offered instead.

2.  otherwise, the choosee shall pick from patterns designated by oona, and only patterns designated by oona. no grabby hands at a one-off garment on oona's person, or pointing eagerly to something in a shop window. (unless it is a rectangular caftan maxi dress as sold by anthropologie for upwards of three hundred dollars.  i'm not shitting you.  four seams.  true story.)

3.  the choosee shall pay for all fabric, notions, and a pack of schmetz needles in the proper size and type.

3a.  a bottle of alcohol would also be nice.

4.  the choosee shall be given a list of said items, and shall do all shopping.  oona may accompany if time and mood permits, but the choosee should be ready to go it alone.  

5.  the choosee must be there on The Day of sewing.  this ensures three things:
  • any problems with fit can be quickly solved with no guesswork,
  • the choosee will therefore be someone oona actually likes; as otherwise, the choosee would not be invited to kalkatroona, and: 
  • anyone oona actually likes will be sure to bring a bottle of alcohol.
i know there are plenty more rules to be had here, but that's where i'm at.  i thought you might have more to offer.  do you deign to sew for others?  do you have rules?  what would you add?


  1. Hell no, I'm far more selfish than people like yourself or Zoe.

    I suppose I might one day, but we'd be talking serious goodies and compliments as payment. Like a hoverboard, or a unicorn.

  2. I would add that it needs to be 'invitation only'. You'll only make stuff for your friends if you make the first overture.

    I had a co-worker once who asked me to replace the zipper on her leather jeans . I HAD JUST GOTTEN A SEWING MACHINE, the day before. She continued to ask for the next 4 months. I didn't do it. Probably because I didn't like her. :)


  3. I like your rules. No, I love them. I'm tempted to print them out and put them on my wall like a manifesto (and warning to others). Too often have I been blind-sided by, "Oh I love that, could you make me one?" and my favourite request, "You have plenty of material to use up and I know you wouldn't accept payment" (insert incredulous disbelief here).

    Based on my own experience, I'd probably add a ruffle clause. Eg. If selected item involves more than 3 metres of ruffles, 2 bottles of alcohol will be required. But then, you could exclude ruffle-y items from the patterns of choice list...unless you want to expand your liquor cabinet. I'd also be looking at making the alcohol clause more mandatory than optional - people just don't seem to realise how many life hours (that could otherwise be spent doing something self-indulgent)it can take to sew something. If hours required for completion were calculated at a non-sweatshop hourly wage, they would be paying a lot. I'd have a list of Kalkatroonan-approved liquor at the ready.

  4. Good rules. I keep telling my relatives they need to come visit for me to sew them anything. They all live a six hour drive away, so it keeps the requests down. I especially approve of the "I'll sew for you if you keep me company".

  5. Hell, I can't even get stuff finished for myself! The only sewing I do for others is when I decide to give a handmade gift.

  6. I wanna teach people to sew sooooo bad. Like, I want to teach it more than anybody probably wants to learn. This could result in me being EXPLOITED so I will be sure to follow your imminently sensible rules!
    BTW, love your photo here so much I have made it my work computer wallpaper!

  7. i like #5. in fact, when my friends ask me to do simply hemming jeans, i require them to be there and work with me ;) 1. its easier for fit and 2. they know its not just 'whipping it up" in 1 minutes if they are doing the ironing! :)

    i would also add fresh cake, and possibly having to accompany me to some future fabric shopping adventure!

  8. i'm a bit complicated..
    i do like to sew for other people
    but not when they want me to :)
    i sew all the birthday presents
    for my friends and family
    for years now
    but, after few painful lessons
    i do not sew things for (most of) them when they ask me to
    (i sometimes do promise to sew something
    and then postpone it until they forget about it)
    my mom is most frustrating choosee in the world
    she once said "would you make me a simple wide leg pants?"
    i said ok
    then show her some 27 different wide leg pants patterns
    and she found something wrong about every single one of them
    so much about simple
    and.. no
    i did not made her said pants

  9. I pretty much don't sew for my friends...I always say NO! Just say no! lol. It is really mostly because I know they can't afford it. Anyways, I will help them sew something, especially if I know they already know some sewing basics (like my sister). Otherwise, I accept paying sewing jobs. And I do sew for my nephew-in-law for his birthday, if I have time.

  10. Haha! Nice list! I especially like the part about the (bribe of) alcohol. ;) The only thing I've ever made anyone was an apron for my mil. But it was for Christmas and, duh, one size fits all. I might sew for someone, but I'd much rather help them learn to do it themselves.

  11. I sew for my Mom. Because she's the best. And because it's fun, she hates shopping, hates buying things, so I get a thrill out her delight at not having to do EITHER of those things and getting something perfect for her. And I've made bags for friends, but no clothing. I've hemmed, once or twice, but anything more and I'm going to need a bottle of brandy and some serious appreciation. Luckily, people don't really ask me to sew them things, because I think that would be unbearably rude, and I would have to slap them. And there are rules about that sort of thing in polite society.


  12. I'd love to be the Choosee in this situation - not because I don't know how much work goes into sewing, but because I've never had anyone sit down and help me learn how to sew, so my progress has been painfully frustrating and slow, and demotivating.

    I'd bring mixers with the booze, and a bag of ice.

  13. Genius. I really want to eventually move to making clothes for others soon, but when I tried to start the process I only found myself getting frustrated and territorial. Rules will be good. But I better do my own sewing first.

  14. haha i love these comments!! As the only sew-er... (that really looked like sewer, like outfall drain... I'm not an outfall drain!) within a few thousand kilometers (I live somewhere very very very cold... with penguins)... I get lumped with the "oh can you just fix... (insert convoluted needle shattering cold weather articles here)."

    I tried the booze rule. Not quite sure whyyyyy that didn't take off! haha, luckily with the lack of female company there's been very few requests for frills... I love your list. I might hang one similar on my wall just for show... :D

  15. Oooh so sorry to double comment but I just remembered my "favourite" sewing for others "request"... work colleague comes to my desk and says, "My sister went to an alteration shop the other day to get some hems done, you'll NEVER believe how much they charge, it's ridiculous! Anyway, I told her that I'd get you to do them because hems don't take that long and you wouldn't accept payment for something like that". Lets just say I declined and we don't talk so much anymore. I need to ditch the sewing for others (outside family) - I've found myself sewing for the kids of friends of work colleagues. But then, our liquor cabinet is out of mixers... I had sprite last night for the first time in forever without any alcohol in it. It was a very disappointing experience.

  16. Oona, this is so perfect! I'm stealing your list. But in addition to alcohol I'll add equal trades—like building me a beautiful alcohol cart, a homemade sweater to wear while drink said alcohol, or a year's supply of snacks (fancy olives or macaroons).

    I can see this sewing for others getting tricky. I've had a bunch of people ask lately, but they've offered to pay...I just have to figure out how much to charge. Every time I figure how much work goes into a dress, I can't imagine my friends wanting to pay!

    I did, however, make that pregnancy/nursing wrap for my sister (out of pretty purple jersey). She loves it, which made me feel it was worth the time.

    Oh, and I LOVE that green silk evening gown. I was lusting after it on Burda before I even knew about kalkatroona.

    Can't wait to see that blue jersey dress!

  17. sending a box of wine. pronto.

  18. OMG love you and love this. Too often I've got people asking me to make them things, and sometimes I agree, but really, I just want to make things for myself. I will gladly teach people how to sew, but I don't exactly jump for joy when people ask me to make them a full ensemble. You are a better person than I, but I think we knew that already :)

    Of course, if someone gave me a bottle of Moscato d'Asti, I would be all over that project in a heartbeat. I can be bought, and I am not ashamed to say it.

  19. I do sew for others. Family, that is. They know me and they know what they can expect from me. And it's mostly gifts for them. My sister pays me otherwise. Not quite by an hour, of course, but it's still a nice occasional income.
    Surprisingly, other than that I haven't had any of those crazy requests yet. Maybe because I don't go to work yet, so I don't have collegues with crazy ideas about sewing.

  20. P.S. My sister sends her sympathies and crossed fingers; she says she knows what it's like, because when she studied English, everyone thought she could translate for them.

  21. I admire your kindness and compassion and loving ground rules. I'm more of The Sewing Nazi- No, no no.

    I learnt all my ground rules as a painter doing commissions....

    "Oh, its too green..It's the wrong green...I didn't ask for green...can I have more green...on and on and on.)

    Off the rack and thats it.

  22. I freakin love this!! I really hate it when people ask me to make them things. It's so freakin rude dude! Do I ever ask someone to donate hours/days of their life soley to my cause! shit no! If you're nice and I feel like makin you somethin..you might just get somethin. But don't ask!! My new answer is.. 'buy a sewing machine.. and I'll come over and show you how to use it.' I'm yet to have anyone take me up on my offer. Funny that.
    Casey Sew

  23. reana louise: HOVERBOARD. perhaps i should expand my alcoholic qualifications.

    saro: VERY good point. that's going on the list. and seriously, what? your co worker is bananas.

    amanda: i'm thinking of making a little oona-rules print out list. that way it can be really bratty and you can just blame it on me! degree of difficulty should be included, yeeesss. and degree of stupidity, for instances like being enslaved to do a hem for someone you don't Even. KNOW. the NERVE.

    tanit-isis: smart, that. gets you out of it smelling like a rose.

    big: no, you? but i mean, you post your FO's on your blog like ALL THE TIME...

    emilykate: you SHOULD, cause your lingerie video is excellent. (no wait, that didn't come out right.) i'm so glad you liked the pic! how cool to think it's on your screen! maybe i'll make a little desktop section...

    petiterepublic: interesting; not just cake, fresh cake. me likey.

    mokosha: i just love you.

    lisette: yes, but how do say it will cost them money?! i can never get those words out of my usually extremely loud mouth!

    stephanie lynn: thanks! yeah, i went the apron route one christmas. sewed them up whilst drunk after thanksgiving.

    leah : that's beautiful about your mom. i gotta call my mom.


    seeks: yes, your own sewing ALWAYS comes first. should be added as numero uno!

    jungle jen: and i love your handle :). i really may make that printable list. should include "no boring minor fixes allowed."

    daughter fish: i likes the equal trades!!! the blue jersey dress is coming with me on vacay and i'll get a good pic. or you know, i'll wear it in real life to brooklyn :)

    debi: YOU need the wine girl!!!!!!!! i'll sew for five days straight for you while YOU drink.

    meg g: oooh, moscato, i haven't had that in forever!

    hana: good point your sister has-- i love that she pays you, and that must be exactly why!

    don: oh that's way tougher, i think. you can always tell someone the fabric does a certain thing and that's that, but paintings could go on FOREVER. me, i like all shades of green.

    casey sew: hey girl! yes.. maybe rule #26 should be, "no repeat customers". if they want another garment, better bring a machine.

  24. You are so funny! Kalkatroona is a cool place!

  25. they musta heard you with the 'no sh***ng four seams', said caftan now on sale <$40...lol :)


i thankya truly for taking the time to comment, i love a good conversation-- and hope you know my thanks are always implied, if not always written!