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Articles Q&A
Leah's Notions-"Cutting Down on Headaches" Working with Pets
Joining Organizations

Home Business to be with Kids

added July 2007

Dear Leanna,
I hope this message finds you in good health. I was linked to your site from a site on how to make your own dress forms. I'm a man who wants to design his own custom-made clothing. Pam Tripaldi has a site called She sells a 7 level comprehensive sewing instruction course by vhs/dvd.
Sarah Doyle has a site called She carries books/videos on how to make your own patterns, based on your personal measurements. She learned from a  patternmaking course in Tainan, Taiwan. I want to buy these sets badly !! I'm interested in creating my own custom tailored suits.
This will be for my own creative expression and not necessarily for business reasons --- although my own tailoring/dressmaking shop may be a great idea !

I've never sewn before, aside from stitching a couple buttons on shirts. You do beautiful work. Your clients must truly love you. I saw your older pics and your newest basement studio.
It's amazing to see what $26K can buy. LOL.
Did you set up a business at home because it allowed you to watch your son grow up and it provided more time-flexibility ? Or wouldn't having a commercial shop provide even greater tax advantages ? What can you share with me about how to tackle my sewing/designing endeavors ?
Your rolling drafting-patterning table is ingenious. I want one.
Any tips or suggestions that you can provide me with are greatly appreciated.
Thank You Kindly. From Manson Scurlock in Chicago.
I've worked in both store front and at home situations. I prefer at home. It gives me lots of tax advantages and more flexibility. Plus, employees are a whole nother headache I'd rather not do again. Yuch!
I like the way my business is for now. I am alone a lot, but I don't mind it. I don't do much design work. It's all alterations right now. I design things for myself and friends on occasion. I work mostly with brides. Some folks think that's too stressful, but I love it.

added November 2002

I know the retail business very well. You work to please a customer and sometimes it works and most of the time it's never enough. The Internet is a new way of whining anonymously and sometimes harshly but it is a great way of learning new information that I would never receive in conventional manner. I must say I should have held my thank yous until I scoped your webpage entirely. I am thinking of starting a business later on in the year since I have a young one and childcare is entirely expensive. It was very good of you to put advice and info it did get me to decide whether I should go ahead and do it. I know it's not going to make me rich but it's something I will enjoy doing. My husband and I work from home so that will hopefully be to some advantage for our daughter. I hope I will be able to e-mail you for tips and advice as well as the sites that you mentioned on your site.

Much thanks
London , England

I don't know how the economy is in England, but here it's so nice to be able to be home for my son and still earn money to make a living. It hasn't been easy because I've had to move around too much. Just when I've got a good reputation in an area, I've had to move and loose all that work and basically start over from scratch. I've been in the same area now for 12 years and I'm starting to make a good living at it. I've met some others that have done well too. So it is possible, just a long road to get there.

I wish you all the best and hope you find lots of useful stuff on my site in the future!

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When to Hire Help?

added October 2001

Hi Leah I've come to the point in my home sewing business where I can't do all the orders that are coming in. Should I feel guilty about hiring some of it out?

You have more questions here than just guilt. I've worked by my self, with employees and over employees, hiring out, and being a hireling. I am now working alone with a "passing-on" type of policy. I take on only as much work as I can do without getting overbooked and having to put in a lot of overtime. (I have come to value my free time to spend with family and am protective of it)

So to the problem of what to do with the work I have to turn down. You can accept it and pass it onto another hireling, paying her less than you are collecting so your time is covered - if you have a competent person who will work this way. There are talented people out there who would like to work do the sewing without the added hassles of bookkeeping, but they are hard to find. IF you have one, I would not feel guilty for using her. I would carefully inspect each item, for it is your reputation on the line, not hers. And if you find a problem, you will usually have to fix it wasting your valuable time you intended on saving by hiring out in the first place. But, besides this pitfall, a good hireling can be a great asset to your business.

I choose to simply pass on work I feel I can not do to competent friends who take on the whole process. No headaches or responsibilities for me. These friends return the favor in kind during their busy times. If I can take on a customer of theirs, I do. This is a great networking relationship that helps most when a customer of mine wants a job I either don't want to do or don't have the resources to do. I hate doing windows and don't have the space to do it right, but have many home decor friends who love it.

It all depends on the level of responsibility you either want or don't want to have. Each method has it's advantages and disadvantages. Just do what works for you.

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Home Schooling

added Feburary 14, 2000

I love to sew, I have children and I homeschool. I worked my sewing business for one year. I would become stressed and frustrated for many days. I must say I allowed customers take advantage of me. I realize what I've done wrong. But do you know of someone in my position who is sewing still and successful? What keeps them going? How many hours a day do you spend in the workshop?

I don't know of any one who is trying to home school and run a business. That's a lot to undertake! But funny you should ask this today. My son (age 8) is home sick today. Luckily, I don't have a lot of sewing to be done. He's sleeping right now, so I'm working. Things have changed very much since he was born. I have always had my business, but it has not been a full time thing. I've worked maybe 6 hours at the max on a given day, usually 4. Once, Daniel started going to school, it was much easier to take on more work. During the summer when he's out of school, I take on less, but it's quite natural because my customers need me less in the summertime.

My situation I think is quite different from yours. When I first got married, I didn't really need to work, but I didn't want to give up sewing so I kept my business going. When I had Daniel I took a short break, but soon got board. I set up his playpen in my workroom and started taking on sewing again. He got used to playing nicely most of the day and sleeping the rest. It was great because I had the freedom to attend to him as I needed to and still get work done while he slept or played by himself. When he started walking it got harder to get my work done, but we found ways to deal with that too.

Home school was an idea we thought about, but did not decide to do. If we did, I would have found ways to work around it too. Are there times when the children are doing studying or individual research that you did not have to be looking over their shoulders? During these times you could be sewing. If they need to ask a question, you are still there. I'm sure there are many ways you could find to integrate your sewing work with their class work.

It's way too easy to let customers take advantage of you when you work at home. The most important thing I have learned is how to say, "no" kindly. Just say, "I just can't take this on right now, the children are into a very difficult lesson and need more of my time." If the customer tried to get you to do it anyway, than they would get a firmer no from me. Any customer who cares less for your dedication to your children than her garment is not worth your time.

What I find hard to deal with at times is friends who think you can "fit them in" because even though they know you have to spend time home schooling, they know you are still at home and could sew for them.

Only you can balance these things. I don't know how much time a day you have to have for the teaching, but whatever it is just don't let others make you feel like you have to cheat you children out of any of it. You can still have a sewing business, but to me, your home schooling is way more important and I doubt you could take on full time work and give your children enough quality time.

Do I know of someone in your position who is sewing still and successful? Depends on how you define "success". I make an ok living, but I don't call myself successful. I don't know of anyone sewing at home that is a "success". Most are happy with what they make, but you can't really become a millionaire doing this. I made more money when I had my shop and 4 employees, but that's a whole other situation that I have actually been giving serious though to going back to.

What I'm trying to say is money is not the end all measure of success. What you are doing with your children is in many people's eyes way more important than making a little extra money sewing. In my opinion, which may or may not be worth anything, you are just as important as your children are. Do all you can to teach them well, give all you can to bring them up in the way you think is most pleasing to God, but don't loose yourself in the process. I would not recommend giving up your sewing totally. You need to find that right balance that lets you teach and sew. IF you have to say no sometimes to customers, don't let yourself feel guilty. That garment will not be worth anything 10 years from now, BUT your child will be.

I think I'm rambling some, and I do need to get to my own pant hems. So, I wish you and your children success.

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Working With Pets

A response to a post telling the story of how a sewing professional's dog had puppies on a client's wedding gown when she had to leave town on an emergency.

A thought for you and anyone else with pets. I adore my cat, but she has never been allowed on the tables or counters in my house, especially the
sewing studio. She understands this well and never tries to break the rule. But when I moved into my husband's parent's home I inherited 2
cats and a dog that were not so well mannered.

The litter boxes were kept in the basement laundry room and cleaned about once a week (not enough). The rest of the basement was for
storage. Mostly of boxes from appliance purchases and other useless stuff Chuck's parents just couldn't part with. When I started weeding
through and cleaning out the basement so I could put my sewing studio there I found all sorts of "accidents" and "gifts". It smelled so bad
that when the carpet guys came to put in my new carpet they refused to take out the old carpet because the smell was so nauseating. It took
forever to sanitize the room well enough so that I felt it was safe to set up shop.

Since I figured that training these older animals good manners was out of the question. I moved the litter box to the garage and installed one
cat door into the door to the garage and another into the outside garage door.  I went to my local hardware store and got a screen door hinge
(the kind that closes the door automatically) and installed it on the basement door to my studio. Now no animals get into my room by accident.

I also make it strict policy to not have customer goods in the house when I have to go out of town. It is sometimes a hassle, but most
customers appreciate my precautions. I do my best to finish work before I leave town and insist that it be picked up. If by some chance I do
have to go out unexpectedly, I ask the customer to come get the item while I am away. If they say it is inconvenient, I tell them my basement
story and they easily comply.

And a question responding to this post.

Do you have a skill with cats that no one else seems able to attain? Despite all attempts at firm 'training', the best deal negotiable seems to be that such things go on the 'what the cat can do when the humans are out of sight' list!

It takes a lot of diligence and patience, and you have to start when she is young. There are many things I did with all my cats and have always
been able to get "my" way.

1. I do give them people food, but only in their food bowl on the floor. She must have finished her cat food dinner first too. This teaches them
I will give treats, but they must remain on the floor.

2. I am careful to not leave out tempting items on counters. When dinner is served the pots are covered or put back in the oven. And again the
cat does get a little treat in her dish.

3. When they first start jumping on the counter or table they get immediately taken off and scolded. If they do not get the point, they
get squirted with this noisy water gun I got. It's really neat and battery powered. They hate it because of the noise and the water. If I
don't have the gun handy, I just splash water on her from the sink. This may seam cruel, but it does not harm her and it does work.

4. She gets lots of attention in other places of the house. A brushing every night before bed. (And she does sleep on the foot of my bed. It's
a heated waterbed.) Lots of lap sitting while watching TV (as long as I don't have work in my lap).

Another tip for scratching on furniture- Sprinkle pepper in the area of the furniture she is scratching. Use white pepper for light colored
upholstery and black for dark colored. That way it won't show but she will smell it and will stop and it won't harm your furniture.
Also, keep her nails clipped. At least once a month. Long nails is why she feels the need to scratch in the first place.

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With a 2 year old my time's very limited, and he is getting less patient. I imagine I will really start soaring with my business when my children (now and future) are in school.

I stopped working for about a month when my son was born. When I started taking on work again he was not a big difficulty. I set up a play pen in one corner of my sewing room for him to play while I worked. He slept most of the time and I got a lot done. I could easily take breaks when he needed me for feedings or diapering.

I did try one of those snugglies. The kind you can actually breast feed hands free. It didn't bother me to sew with it on as I thought it might, but my back could not take the strain. So I went back to the play pen, until he got to walking well. He still stayed in the pen most of the time, but I kept one side down so he could walk over to me if he wanted. I also got one of those jumping things. He liked it for awhile.

Basically he got used to the routine of having me working. He grew to respect the time I needed and I did my best to stop in-between tasks to spend a little time with him. This went on until he was a little past 3. Once he started liking TV he didn't want to be in the sewing room with me all day.

I have his TV set so the only channels he can get are ones I think are OK. He plays well by himself and I check on him often. I make it a policy to stop whatever I am doing if he comes into the sewing room to visit me. He never stays long and I don't loose hardly any time giving him that little bit of attention. Now and then I do take a long break to play a game or do something else with him, but he knows that I need to do my work and I will pay better attention to him in the evening.

I do take a good hour lunch break with him also. We fix the meal together and eat it while we watch whatever he chooses on TV.

I have a great kid, and well mannered. I like to think that the way I treated him during his baby years taught him that I do care about him, but I have to also care about my work. And some day he will have responsibilities he will have to make choices about. I don't feel like I ever had to choose my work over him. I was able to have both without hurting him.

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Joining Organizations

What organizations can I subscribe too?

You're on line, that's a good start. Join all the news groups and e-mail lists you can. One good one is . Send an e-mail with your name, e-mail and real addresses and what you do or want do in the sewing field. You will receive a weekly digest in your mail box of Sewing Pros Gab. Great place to exchange ideas and such.

Contact the local extension office of a community college near you. They will have all the local legal info you will need and perhaps be able to inform you of local organizations you can join.

The American Sewing Guild is a national organization that may have a local chapter in your area. National Headquarters PO Box 8476, Medford, OR 97504-0476 (541)772-4059

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Leah's Notions-"Cutting Down on Headaches"

An article written for the July 1996 issue of Tangled Threads

I finally gave up and went to a physical therapist last week. My back has always been curved but has not been any big problem most of my life. But with the change in lifestyle I've gone through the past two years, my back has been causing so much discomfort that it has become hard for me to sew for long periods of time. I thought I'd share the advice I'm getting because it should help most anyone who sews.

The first thing they did was to show me why I get headaches after a long day at the sewing machine. Since the average head weighs about 15-pounds, they gave me a 15 pound weight and told me to hold it in my hand as if my arm were my back. Then they asked me to set my arm like I sit when sewing. My arm started to hurt in no time. It is nearly impossible not to hunch over when sitting at a sewing machine, but the strain on the spine is really too much for anyone's back to endure for long. Next they told me to move my hand like I was tucking in my chin and my arm automatically felt better.

I've been trying to remember to sit with my chin tucked and I haven't had a bad headache all week. It does look a little funny, but it works.

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