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Mar 28, 2015

My Fish Print Shirt Adventure



Readers, I am actually making a shirt for neither me nor Michael but rather for a mystery client!

I am using the fabulous Hawaii Print cotton fabric sent to me last summer by MPB reader Michael C.  My client is an avid fisherman and lover of the outdoors (as well as a "summer") and I thought this fabric would suit him to a T.  I hope so, anyway!





He wears a size Medium shirt (15 1/2" neck, 40" chest) and the pattern I am using is vintage Butterick 6751 from my stash.  Very nicely drafted.



To pick up the purple and add some additional pizazz, I have chosen to make the inside cuffs, collar stand, and yoke out of purple gingham.







I'm nearly finished and, frankly, I love this shirt.  If it doesn't fit, well, my Michael would be delighted to have it.  But I am crossing my fingers that it does fit.  Some detail shots below.

Sleeve placket.



Matching thread (purchased last week at Sil Thread).



Michael modeling the shirt, in progress, without collar or cuffs.



Collar ends.



Completed collar.



Completed cuff.



Back of shirt (yoke cut on cross grain; back has center pleat).





Front of shirt (without buttons), still to be hemmed.



I have thoroughly enjoyed making this shirt and I hope to get some photos to show you of my client wearing it -- if it fits, of course.

I've started thinking seriously about making shirts for paying clients and how I might price a garment that takes me, conservatively, 10 hours to make.  Any ideas/formulas?

If you sew for money, how do you charge for your work?

Hope your sewing projects are coming along swimmingly (no pun intended). 

Have a great day, everybody!

51 comments:

  1. Beautiful work, Peter. The print is interesting on its own, made more so by the gingham detail.

    I'm not sure how to begin recommending pricing for your work except to find reasonably comparable RTW, then add for materials -- more if it involves sourcing, even more if some of the work is subcontracted (buttonholes, etc.). Custom shirts should be expensive; being middle class, I'm not sure I'd go much further North of $100 - $150 for one, so...10 hrs./shirt is very roughly $10 - $15/hour including everything.

    My $0.02. :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Just to add one professional perspective I found interesting, if a little vague:

      http://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2013/01/16/what-is-the-difference-between-made-to-measure-and-bespoke/

      Delete
  2. I don't know what minimum wage is in NY, but if you charged only that you would be asking (I am guessing), $90-$100. Your considerable talents and your ability to fit a shirt make your time much more valuable than that! I would charge between $15-$18 per hour IF the clients provide the fabrics. Obviously you c additional for material if they don't. Oh, and don't forget you use thread and interfacing, etc., too!

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  3. Great idea to put your abilities out there for others to benefit from. You sew superbly and there must be guys who would pay to have something special. $100 for labor seems reasonable in NYC.

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  4. Very nice shirt! One thing though... are you sure is a Hawaiian print? All the dots make it look quite indigenous Australian (aka aboriginal) to me.

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    Replies
    1. Along the selvage is printed "GVH Hawaiiprint" -- that's the manufacturer. The pattern itself may represent indigenous Australian symbols.

      https://picasaweb.google.com/101177577152766699680/July2014Projects?authkey=Gv1sRgCObst_ethPGnqgE#6043082539741931602

      Delete
  5. Long time reader and have gotten so much out of your blog! I think you could charge double that, and a quick google search bears this out. I'm having trouble posting the link but a thread about custom shirt on Wall Street Oasis lists prices at $200-250.

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  6. If I were consulting for something related to my career, I would charge $50-100 an hour, or more-- I have an advanced degree and a prominent position, and this seems to be the going rate. If I were charging someone for my sewing, I don't think I'd go lower than $20-25 an hour, since I'm competent but don't have the same sort of credentials. OTOH, I wouldn't sew for money from an economic standpoint, since it would be so much more profitable to take on extra career-related work. Instead, I take on small jobs for friends and barter.

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  7. How you pair fabrics is a mystery, and sheer genius!

    Your workmanship is superb, and whatever you charge, keep raising your prices (you are already a "cult brand").

    The fact that you deliver in style and substance makes you a name to watch (at least for those who aren't already Peter-aware).

    Exclusivity is expensive.
    Profit is your purpose (not donating your time onto the backs of others).

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  8. Really great fabric and craftsmanship. Always impressed how wonderful your collars come out. Any tips or tutorials you can recommend for me as I tackle my first shirt?

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    Replies
    1. Crafty's course by Pam Howard, goes thru shirt making using a Kwik Sew pattern. This would be a good course for you to take to learn to do your first shirt.

      Delete
  9. I make trousers, not shirts, but consider this: The average MTM shirtmakers charge between $100-$180 for their wares; based on varying quality materials, details and their level of fitting.

    A bespoke shirtmaker's shirts can get as high as $400+ because the shirt is made from a pattern drafted uniquely for the client. Shirt connoisseurs care a great deal about fit.

    On the other hand, these operations are not known for producing shirts from interesting patterned cloths. That may be a selling point for you. The matter of fit is still important; the S, M, L, XL size scale is okay for mass outlets, but doesn't cut it for custom shirtmaking. You may need a few blocks that you can grade for may sizes, from which to work.

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  10. Robert Graham shirts start at $199 and go up to $700. Somewhere in that range?

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  11. I was thinking more West Coast tribal print. You have professional level sewing skills, so no surprising to me that you are thinking along those lines. You are worth $30/hr easy.

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  12. I agree with Jenerators- this definitely looks like an Australian Aboriginal design to me. But then again, I'm not familiar with Hawaiian art, so who knows!

    I have people ask me quite often to sew for them & I tell them I charge AU$25/hr & give them a rough estimate of how long I expect it to take. Then of course they need to supply fabric, thread etc on top of that. People rarely decide to for me to sew for them once they find out how much it will cost which I find sadly indicative of society's value of money over workmanship.

    Ink & Spindle did a great post on this subject many years ago that I recommend: http://inkandspindle.blogspot.com.au/2011/09/formula-how-to-price-your-wares.html

    ReplyDelete
  13. Have a look at Molli Sparkles blog - he wrote a piece awhile ago about pricing your work correctly. It caused quite a stir at the time.

    it's all about not devaluing what you do and recognising the skill set that you have.

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  14. Yep, Australian Aboriginal dot painting I think so too!

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  15. You need to price for your time and your skill and the materials. Think about if you are making bespoke, or a standard size with no adjustments will you price differently.

    On another note, what interfacing do you use for the collar stand. Have made a couple of shirts for my hubby, but the stand seems to soft?

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  16. Here's another vote for that being an Australian Aborigine print, and a lovely one at that. I have no idea what to charge for myself, so have no idea what to suggest for you. Something vague like: enough to make it worth your while (and not to inadvertantly undercut those doing it more regularly) and not so much that you feel uncomfortable. Don't forget your overheads (heading, electricity etc) too.

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  17. I'd like to add to that. Sewing for money can become very stressful, especially when you are a perfectionist. If you have to draft or alter a pattern, you will spend even more time. In order to make it worth your while, you will have to charge at least $20/hour, maybe more once you report that income and have to pay taxes on it. Also be careful how many projects you take on. It can become stressful when they are piling up. When I sewed for money, my own sewing all but dried up.

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  18. I love the gingham accents. Funny how gingham seems to compliment just about everything. I've also looked at this pattern several times, mostly because I'm attracted to the pockets. Glad to see you've had such great results with it. I can't imagine anyone not loving this shirt.

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  19. Wonderful shirt, love the fabric choices and the quality of sewing is superb. Re charging, fully agree with the above. You are selling your story and the long hours of practice to reach your standard, which is all bound up in your "brand". Don't under sell this, you are not competing with the average ready to wear market. jane

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  20. All of these comments are very interesting! The general non-sewing public has no idea of the work that goes into sewing a great garment and they're shocked when you quote a fair price. They wouldn't work for $4 an hour but they expect you too! Too many people want things at Walmart prices nowadays and they expect couture workmanship! I don't sew for people unless I'm giving them a gift, otherwise I make and sell things on a consignment basis at a shop here in Hartford.

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  21. You're good. Might as well make some money off it......FWIW, let me offer a couple thoughts as a guy who makes some pin money repairing boat canvas and sails. Always get the cost of materials up front, and half the cost of labor. Never get all the labor up front, even if the customer insists on it. A 100% up front customer can be a serious pain as a customer.... As for what to charge, the value of the product (shirt) to the customer is what the customer is willing to pay, not the time/skill you put into it. The highest margin custom shirts are bespoke dress shirts ($400 to $700, minimum order 3) and any kind of shirt for bodybuilders ($150 to $400, minimum order varies). For bespoke, quality of materials and fussiness of construction makes the difference. For bodybuilders, it's fit, fit, fit, fit and something for materials....Bodybuilders are also in need of sport coats -- denim to wool to cashmere -- that fit and showcase their body shape earned in many hundreds of hours of hard exercise, . Prices start about $500 and move higher quickly. Could you ask Mr King his thoughts on local market rates for shirts and coats?. . . BTW, never get the product back to the customer quickly. Customer satisfaction increases for each day you work on it. Good luck to you.

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  22. BTW, that's SeamsterEast at aol dot com I was having all kinds of troubles posting until I set up a new Google account.

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  23. I was thinking $50 to $100 an hour; i.e. $500 for the shirts that you make straight out the envelope; $1000 for the ones you custom make to fit the client and that you will never make that again using that fabric for any other client (seriously, one of a kind).

    If you have to get the materials for them (fabric, buttons, interfacing) then tack on cost of materials and an hourly rate for the time it takes you to go buy those things.

    Based on your location being NYC, I don't think that is unreasonable at all.

    Now you need some labels--EnriqueSews ordered his from labelsandribbons.com; I need to figure out what I want mine to say!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. p.s. Check out what the legal implications are of making shirts using commercial patterns first. The newer patterns have the restrictions about using it for home sewing only and not for commercial purposes. I don't know about the older ones or vintage ones.

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    2. In the United States you can not copyright an idea, i.e. a style of shirt. Thus the commercial pattern itself and the directions to make it can be copyrighted, but the idea for the shirt can't be. It doesn't make any difference what the pattern envelope says on it. Logo's can be trademarked, which is different from copyright. That is the reason designer clothing has so many logo's on it.

      Delete
  24. Peter, you should visit some custom menswear shops and take a look at their business and business models. Custom shirt prices at Michael Adams in NYC start at 225 and climb up to 500 plus depending on the choices you make, collar styles, cuffs, fabric buttons etc. Custom shirts are all about fit fit fit and fit. Most tailors work from pattern blocks and shirts are drafted for each customer individually .. ie no commercial patterns. You will have to access if your skills are up for this or not. Turning a hobby into a business is great but you need to know your business, and in particular, your client/customer. Good luck with whatever your decide to do.

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    Replies
    1. Peter just some further suggestions, since your shirts that you make are not truly bespoke, and you use commercial patterns and not your own developed pattern blocks, you might considering marketing your shirts as vintage. Since you are using a home sewing machine and vintage buttonholers, the look might not appeal to everyone, except those on the vintage market. You can also look at setting up a shop on etsy to sell your garments as well. I think you need to step up your skills before you start to compete with bespoke tailored shirts. You will need to probably price your shirt accordingly, ie double or triple the price for the shirt based on the cost of materials that you use. So for example you use great cotton and materials cost you 80 dollars in materials, then price your shirt at 150-160.

      Delete
    2. Run from Etsy. You would be doing their bottomline a favor and they would be adding what value to you and potential clients?

      The site has one of the worst search engines imaginable and no one will find your shop unless they already know it exists and are planning to buy from you. It is hard for buyers to sort your past feedback (really hard for a buyer to read negative feedback-not of course that you would get any!- to determine if the buyer was loony or the shop has a problem.) It is also hard for buyers to search for clothing- Etsy doesn't have a good way to separate made-to-measure, clothing by size, cut, or composition. The few times I went looking for a fancy dress on Etsy I got so frustrated by not being able to find my size or rule out styles (no sleeveless) or rule out items that were shipping from outside the US, or being able to select fabric composition (no polyester!) that I gave up and went to Ebay or direct to designers' websites.

      Now that you are going pro, you might be required to register your business name (if for example you called your label "MPB Industries") with your city or country and get a sales tax ID. There are often different tax rules for providing services (tailoring) versus selling a good (a shirt.) Good luck!

      Delete
  25. Pricing your work is hard. I've recently started selling my woodwork and I've been agonizing over prices. One issue to keep in mind when figuring an hourly rate is that professionals usually work more quickly and efficiently than even highly skilled amateurs. So if you start making shirts for sale now, will it still take you 10 hours per shirt a year from now? Or will it only take 7?

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  26. You may want to look into pattern drafting software. I've heard good things about wildginger.
    http://www.wildginger.com/products/pmtailormade.htm

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My experience with Wildginger was not positive.

      Delete
    2. i agree totally .. useless, for the cost, draft your own patterns and learn the skills

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    3. Sorry to hear you had a negative experience with wildginger... many recommend it highly. PR has quite a bit to say about it too.
      http://sewing.patternreview.com/SewingDiscussions/topic/90485

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  27. I worked for architects some years ago. Architects help produce buildings, not shirts, but the formula for cost estimates always fascinated me: {cost of labor (all workers wages, you assign your own hourly wage)} x 2 plus 25%. Customer pays for materials; this formula pays a profit and overhead (electricity, paper, pencils, etc.) Other commenters outline the importance of knowing your customer and your competition; this helps you avoid "mission creep," getting out of your own comfort/skill zone. The Internet offers a market for everyone. If you aspire to bespoke status, you need to build a label and reputation, and educate your customer not to confuse "workmanship" with "fussy and unnecessary detail." Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Singing out on this one ... YES !!

      Peter is still a home sewer with some professional skills that he learned in his FIT class. He needs to apprentice with a bespoke tailor. He also needs the right equipment. Business skills are the most important to creative talent and producing an outstanding product.

      Again, know your business, know your target customer, and find a place where you can fit ... vintage home made on etsy .. i believe is where he can start.

      Delete
  28. Etsy has it's problems, but may be a great first step. I found once I started offering custom items (not clothing) my sales really picked up. Many buyers go there looking for something they can customize...like Michael's zipper bag.

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  29. For most handcrafted items, it's the cost of your materials time 3.

    I usually times that by four if it is more complex - and yes, this also usually takes my hours spent into account.

    It's a good formula to start with.

    Also remember most people who do piecework in the garment industry are not making piles of money.

    $30-$0 of materials, and eventually you could get faster than 10 hours, so yes - $100-$200 for that shirt is reasonable considering you did use a pattern and it's not bespoke.

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  30. I hope you will sell these shirts, so you will have another excuse to make more of those wonderfull creations of your. I hope that you will be able to ship overseas too. I do sew shirts for myself (learned how with Craftsy course, by Pam Howard). But I might ask my wife to order one as a gift...
    If you will do sell them, you can ofer another service for the customer : that is to see how it is done. Maybe the customer can come for a yoke and coffee :)

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  31. If you're considering this as a business, $15/hour is WAY too low. You will owe self-employment tax (typically, employer pays a portion of this, you will owe all of it), income tax and possibly gross receipts tax (I'm not in your state, so I don't know). Then you will need to consider how much of your equipment cost (maintenance, replacement, etc.) needs to be covered by the price of your product. Now, if you're doing this under the table for a little extra, and you don't mind giving your client a deal on a bespoke shirt, please don't let me stop you. But if you're looking to spin this into a business, do it with your eyes open. Lizzy

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  32. Clearly you love to sew and have a lot to offer. Sewing for others as a business has an inherent risk -- it might take the fun out of it. And that would be a loss. So here is a suggestion: charge a lot ($200) for a shirt made from interesting fabric (not bespoke fitting) but limit yourself to one per month. Then maybe once per year, you do one for "free" for someone who can't afford it or to honor someone who is doing something good for society or someone you admire.

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  33. Love seeing that fabric sewn up into something MPB'd.
    I always pictured a short sleeve camp shirt. (must be Calif. climate influence). Your work as always is sublime. You and Mainely Dad should team up and make jackets & shirts. Win Win

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  34. Clearly there are folks here who don't understand the value of your skill. I would charge at least $50/hour for that kind of custom sewing. I've paid $250 in Berkeley, CA for a simple linen blouse that wasn't even custom made. Since you're in NYC...maybe even up that. See how this one fits, and then go from there!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If Peter can make a go of it charging $500 - $1000 for casual shirts made from commercial patterns, I'm all in favor. I don't think that's realistic as he's not a bespoke tailor, but I'd be the last person to discourage him from offering his skills to the marketplace. The question is where in the industry a skilled home sewer best fits, where his demonstrated creativity is expressed along with his technique.

      One area in which I think Peter would really excel is teaching. I also agree with the suggestion re. bartering. And to be completely selfish, I hope his new venture -- whatever he decides -- doesn't mean he won't continue to blog.

      Delete
  35. Never, EVER, make a creative endeavour you adore into your job!! Ask me how I know... :(
    ~ Kelly, in Norfolk

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  36. ...interesting post Peter. My hubby is 6'5" about 220 so he is tall and very muscular so "everything" for his is custom. So whether I make it or it comes from a tailor it is custom and he is willing to pay for a good no GREAT fit. Some of his shirts are upwards of $200 even what I make as the fabric he chooses and my labor if I were to charge would be between $150 and $200 for his shirts. So if I go to purchase a custom shirt I am looking for that something special and I am willing to pay. That is me and I know my hubby feels that way as he has had custom clothing all his life based on his build.

    A note on not making the creative endeavor you adore into your job - welllllllllllll as long as you can maintain creative license and your clients allow you that all will be good...........it gets dicey when the client wants to dictate yet they don't have or see a vision. I say do whatever floats your boat - you can do it as long as you like it and stop when you want.

    Cynthia

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  37. The pattern is very unusual and you either like it or don't but that's not really relevant to the question. What is striking is how wonderful the tailoring is: this is a "product" that you can't buy in the shops. I don't know anything about going rates for services so wouldn't venture any opinion on appropriate rates/market potential etc etc but, whatever you decide to charge, you have a beautiful product

    ReplyDelete

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