Let me share some of the preparation that goes into sewing a new product. I think seeing my process might help answer the pervasive question of why handmade costs so much more than mass produced.
Let's start with ordering fabric. I do not buy wholesale because I can't. Wholesale means buying fabric a whole bolt at a time (after gaining special vendor contracts)and I'm just not big enough. Plus I like to offer lots of variety in my products, listening to my customers' needs. Buying fabric by the yard or two or sometimes five suits my business right now, which also means that I'm buying fabric the same way you would. Not at a deeply discounted price.
After fabric arrives, I wash it. I don't just wash it in Tide, my commitment to being ecologically responsible carries over into all aspects of my business (another post on this is in the works). I wash all fabric in Seventh Generation detergent. There are several reasons for washing:
Washing removes chemical residues that make the fabric "pretty" on the bolt in the store. Many fabrics are chemically treated to make them shine a little under the store lights, make the surface smoother and even a little starched. I like to start sewing with a clean slate. Plus, all that residue can dull your machine sewing needle. Organic cottons are not chemicaly treated this way, but I still wash them to pre-shrink.
Washing is imperative if I'm working with upcycled fabrics. Gotta wash away that thrift store ick smell--you know what I'm talking about. You don't know the previous life of that fabric, and I'd rather not know. It goes immediately into the washing machine when I get it home!
Fabric comes out of the washer and dryer looking like this. You can guess what's coming next...
I iron it. Every last yard is ironed before I ever cut into it. Not only is it nicer to work with, when it's crisp, you can make accurate cuts. If you cut and then iron, your measurements will be far off, so this is a necessary evil. Best done while watching Downton Abbey.
Now it's time to cut. Measure twice, cut once. See above about expensive fabric.
Finally, some sewing! Don't forget to add the Dancing Threads RI label and a price tag when you're finished. Oh wait, I'm not finished...one more step.
Ironing. Again. This is one of the things I feel makes the final product look more professional. The steam iron is really your best friend when you're sewing. I would hazard a guess that I spend more time ironing than stitching, no matter the product.
Oh, but it is soooooo worth the extra effort! Do you think this bag is worth $15? Let me know in the comments.
As co-owner of Stitchery in Portsmouth, RI, I teach sewing classes to children and adults. Welcome to my blog Dancing Threads RI.