Tuesday, July 2, 2013

the handmade revolution

FAIR WARNING: long post and huge soapbox ahead. continue at your own risk.
this is not where this post was going to go when i made these dresses.

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this is not where this post was going to go when i posted the photo on instagram.


this is not where this post was going to go when i took the photos of my girls wearing these dresses.

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but somewhere along the line things changed. and this post became something completely different.
here’s the thing: these dresses were inspired by the dresses made by jessica at dreamcatcher baby. and i had all intentions of saying that in the original post—credit where it’s due.

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i competed against jessica in sewvivor, and she did awesome. she was selling these adorable baby girl dresses and coordinating boy bowties at the time, and shortly after sewvivor ended her dresses got picked up and “pinned” by a big name blogger…and the rest was history. jessica’s business has virtually (literally and figuratively) exploded over the last few months. she’s got pre-orders, pre-sales, dresses that sell out as fast as her two little hands can make them (whilst juggling a husband, young son and newborn baby boy).
and rightly so: her dresses are impeccably made, and her fabric choices and pattern mixing is top notch. the bows on the fronts of the dresses always have the pattern perfectly centered—a little detail a fellow seamstress can appreciate. it speaks to an extra minute or two spent planning, rather than just churning these bad boys out as fast as she possibly can—chopping that fabric whichever way gets the most cuts out of each yard.

unfortunately, the supply/demand ratio and the popularity of her dresses make their price out of my reach.
fortunately, i sew.
so i made my own version of her adorable dresses for my littles. what i planned on doing was posting about them with a link to her shop for anyone interested.

no tutorial.

why not?

truth bomb:
i’ve copied/been inspired by/whatever you want to call it etsy sellers in the past. sometimes i post the things i make-most times i don’t. there are many things i make that never see the light of blogging. they’re for my own personal enjoyment, and too close to someone’s hard won success in their little shop. i can’t justify telling someone else how to do these things, at the expense of another’s livelihood.

(image source)

but then that raises the question: where’s the line? when is it okay to say “hey i copied this from XYZ shop and here’s a tutorial to make your own” and when is it not? because isn’t that like…80% of what’s blogged?

in the blogging world it seems like a rather unspoken rule that that copy-and-paste type inspiration is okay if you’re taking from the big guys: the anthropologies, the pottery barns, the west elms. but not from the little guys: the etsy sellers, the big cartel sellers, the independent pattern makers.
i admit—this is kind of the line i follow to. but why is that okay? i’m not being smart—i genuinely want to know why and when this is okay. is it because we’re taking from a faceless “big corporation” vs. just one or two or three people working in the back bedroom of their suburban home?

and then the reverse comes in to play: the accusations of stores like urban outfitters ripping off the hard work and content of etsy sellers. (go ahead and google…there’s a ton of it out there).

when i see a must-have pillow at Big Store selling for $45 i think hey, i could do that in my home for $5 worth of supplies, and tell other people how to do it on my blog! when i see a cute or funny printable on etsy for $20+ i think hey, i could do that on photoshop in my bed and print it out and it’s costing me like 50 cents for paper and ink …and not show anyone.

again: stick it to the Big Stores, protect the little guy.

same with dream catcher baby’s dresses: i love them. but they are far out of my reach—especially for two (or three…or four…) of them. and here’s the part where i have drop another brutal truth bomb, knowing that jessica may well read this—they’re really very basic sundresses…empire waist, full skirt, bow on bodice. any home sewist with basic knowledge can make it on their own quickly and easily. my first dress from measurements to finished hem took just over an hour—while i did 10 other things in the meantime. and i did a similarly shaped dress last summer—same basic idea, just without the big bow on the front.

but that’s really beside the point, isn’t it?
the reality is ease of creation < how much people are willing to pay.

someecards.com - When you said (image source)

the fact that i can make this dress myself cheaper than i can buy one from her basically has nothing to do with the dresses jessica is successfully selling. because as long as there are people out there willing to fork over the money for a Dream Catcher Baby original, then she’s fine.

but then…again i ask—where’s the line? if i post a tutorial showing how to make an easy high waisted, full skirted sundress, am i stealing from her? what if i add a bow to the front? what if i make the bow and dress two different fabrics? at what point am i “stealing” from her? and how much do i have to change to make it “mine”? and is it different if i open up my own etsy shop and sell something similar?


so what prompted all this? well, jessica had quite the blowup on her instagram account not long ago. the pictures have since been deleted—and i don’t blame her. a comment from one person along the lines of “i wish you weren’t so expensive and i wish i had money” spiraled out of control—people attacking her prices and people defending her work.

the one comment that really got to me was someone who said basically “i can make 2 or 3 of these dresses at home for the price she’s charging.”

i’ll admit it—when i saw what she’s getting for these dresses i almost choked. whoa!

but let’s stop and think about it for a second: yes. you or i can run out to the fabric store and buy the yard of fabric and fat quarter and (using a coupon OF COURSE) whip up one or two of these dresses for a mere what…$6? go crazy—buy designer—$12?

so we can sniff down our noses at the etsy sellers and their foolish customers and post comments like “bah. made it myself for 1/32nd of the price you fools are paying.”

but now…what if someone wants to pay you to make one for their daughter.

well now. suddenly you are spending your time picking just the right fabrics for her daughter. and sewing for her daughter. and pressing it and packaging it and mailing it. oh, wait. now you’re in it for $18 or $20 with shipping because boxes and pretty tissue paper don’t grow on trees…and you still didn’t charge anything for your time. cause you’re nice like that.

and now everyone LOVES your two dresses. and LOTS of people want them. yayyyy me! kermit arms all over! so now you’re buying bolts of fabric and storing them in your home, and your sewing machine and your serger are churning away for hours each day…oops—gotta get them serviced at $100 each—and you’re spending hours listing each dress on etsy and driving to the post office and communicating with Susie from Nebraska who wants this one for her sister’s wedding but can you make the bow a little bigger and can the fabric be a touch bluer and can i have it in 3 days? and then etsy takes a cut. and paypal

takes a cut. and uncle sam takes a cut.

how much is your time worth?
because after you dish out for ALL of that, you still have yourself to pay. this isn’t charity. this isn’t dressing other people’s children out of the kindness of your heart.
ask yourself: what do i make at my job per hour? why should a seamstress’ time be worth any less?
sewing isn’t some magical art. this isn’t sleeping beauty, i don’t have a magic wand to conjure up dresses with. it’s real HARD, frustrating, tiring WORK. you get cramped hands from cutting, painful sewer’s back from leaning over your machine for hours, a tired brain from figuring and measuring and all.the.math.

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if you can do it yourself—rock on with your bad self. i can, and i did. but if you can’t, and you’d like me to do it for you—THIS is how much it will cost. and if you don’t like that well then have a nice day no hard feelings.

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if you want to scoff at a handmade dress because you can buy a dress at walmart for $8 then go ahead and go to walmart and buy your $8 dress. maybe you want to take a look at the non-monetary ‘cost’ of that dress before you get up on that high horse you’re riding, though.

because guess what—jessica can make 2 or 3 of these dresses FOR HERSELF very easily too. but if you want her to give up her free time—her time spent with her babies and man—her time spent watching dvr’d reruns and double fisting popcorn in her sweats on the couch—then THIS is how much it will cost you. and she shouldn’t have to apologize for that.

truth bomb #3: i’m as guilty as the next seamstress of under valuing myself. when people ask me to do work and offer to pay me i mentally tally up hours and then tell them a number…much less. and that’s why i find myself sewing for people late at night, hand stitching things for what amounts to $3 or $5 per hour. would you work for that? my husband just gave my sewing-freely-for-others-self the smackdown. no more, he said. at least for now. i’ve taken on too many things and stressed myself out over them too much lately.

alida makes
wrote a post about this a few weeks ago. it’s a good read.

sooo…where do we go from here? i’m curious what your thoughts are on the matter. let’s talk.

disclaimer: if i’ve ever sewn for you…know that i did it happily and enjoyed doing it. i’m not talking about you, or us, in any of this. :)
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