I haven’t written about Lila’s wardrobe for a little while, but we’re making steady progress. I like to start simple when I’m working on a “wardrobe” type project, so the first order of business was to make Lila several pairs of shorts for the coming summer.
Shorts worn with the mini Blank Canvas Tee I made a few weeks back
Wait, who am I kidding about “the coming summer?” It’s pretty much shorts weather all year around here. I’m sure this sounds delightful to those who hail from cold climates.
Lila and I have built her sewing into our “at-home” afternoons, and she’s learning to trim threads as well as what words like “baste” mean. It’s fun, though she usually gets bored after half an hour and decides it’s more fun to stick pins into scraps of fabric. That’s ok, too.
We made three pairs of Oliver + S Puppetshow Shorts this time around. The pattern includes a tunic- I like the tunic but never got around to making it. The shorts are simple, comfy, go together in an hour or so, and I like the quality of the finished garment. I also like Oliver + S for the quality of their instructions and the attention to detail.
This is the first pair of shorts made from remnants of my boot-cut Pinkie Pants. The fabric is thick and tough, with a little bit of stretch. I gathered the pockets as per the pattern and hand-stitched the binding at the lower edge for a bit of mindless hand-sewing while I watched Futurama.
The second pair, from remnants of my Teal Clovers. I left the lower edge uncuffed as per Lila’s request, and we pleated the pockets instead of gathering. All of the shorts feature a little speck of folded ribbon at the back- it’s a great little detail written into the pattern, and Lila doesn’t get confused when she dresses in the morning.
After I saw the twisty looking waistband in the photo, I checked out the already washed and worn shorts and they don’t look that way now. These pictures were taken just after completion, perhaps the elastic hadn’t settled?
For the third pair, I was inspired by Jill’s lace trimmed shorts at Handmade By Jill. I stitched each long edge of the lace just below the seamline on the pocket’s top edge. The legs pleat into the cuff.
Ever since I read Tanit-Isis’ post on Homemade Legitimacy, I’ve been scratching my head to come up with a simple way to quantify the value of my sewn goods, partly as a way to challenge myself to pay attention to the quality of the sewing. Even for simple little girl shorts. It’s a tricky issue. What’s my sewing worth to my family?
When I’m working on samples for Cake or crazy fun experimental stuff, I don’t think about it much. But when I’m sewing things I could probably go out and buy, I have to wonder about the value of my sewing, and whether it’s worth it to sew shorts for Lila when I could go buy them.
Cost, Value, and Price
It’s tough to get a handle on the value of home sewing. My google searches turned up very little, I had hoped for a calculator or worksheet or even a conceptual post on the topic, but I didn’t find what I was looking for. I’m not talking about sewing clothes for re-sale or a business. That’s not my talent. (Though if that’s what you do, that’s awesome! It’s just not for me.)
Rather, I’m thinking about the value of using my sewing for practical, utilitarian purposes. I made a worksheet to keep my thoughts and the numbers in order. After I finish Lila’s projects, I have a few Negronis to make for the husband and I’m curious how the cost/value/price stack up across my family sewing.
I broke it down into three pieces. The first is “Cost.” This is the actual, honest-to-goodness cost of producing the garment with raw materials. When I calculated the cost of Lila’s shorts, I counted the pink and teal fabrics as “remnants” (free!) and the denim as half a meter because I bought extra on purpose for Lila shorts. I charged myself $3 for the elastic (which was more like $.50) and use of my machine and tools.
“Price” means what I’d pay in the store for a similar garment. It’s tough to match a particular ready-to-wear garment unless you actively seek to make a knock off. Also, shopping is a pain in the neck.
To satisfy my curiosity, I went shopping online and pinned comparable “bubble shorts” and found prices ranging from $14 to $96. I wouldn’t pay $96 for a pair of Lila shorts, but they are undoubtedly well sewn with some cute (and time-consuming) details and yummy fabric. I settled for a median “price” of around $30- that’s a fairly ordinary retail price in these parts for cute girl shorts made of solid materials with good stitching.
Emphasis on solid materials and stitching. It’s false economy to spend $10 on a pair of shorts that will become pilly or unstitched after a few wears.
Value is tricky. It depends on the sewist, the garment, and personal priorities. However, I think it is important to factor intangible elements of sewing into the value of the garment. 10% came about as a good, simple percentage and it seems to work well. I could leave out the intangibles, but those personal values keep me sewing and deserve to be counted. I’m interested to hear what y’all think about this, because I’m pretty much making it up. At the same time, it’s important to value the sewing and I have to start somewhere.
Finally, I factored in my labor at minimum wage. The minimum wage here (as such) is around $20/hour*. Don’t have a heart attack, Americans, the cost of living is higher. I’m happy to value my sewing time at minimum wage, especially when I’m zipping off several little pairs of shorts with my girlie and generally enjoying myself. I’d love to hear thoughts on this, too.
This is how I came up with the cost, price and value of Lila’s denim shorts.
So what’s the point?
The Point Is-
My utility sewing has value for my family. In this exercise, my “price” and “value” worked out more or less the same and I think that’s about right. If “value” fell below “price,” I’d go buy the item because it wouldn’t be worth my time and materials to make it. Probably. “Value” could also come out much greater than “price” for a variety of reasons- maybe the garment was made with time-intensive finishes, maybe I valued Stylistic Control heavily for purpose-built item, etc.
If I had more money than time or skill, I could go buy 3 pairs of shorts at $30. This would mean I’d have to actually go shopping. (Let’s leave out sales, they’re often as much work as just sitting down and sewing the shorts.) 3 x $30= $90
However, at this point in my life I have more skills and time than money. It’s important to me my daughter is decently dressed though we live on a tight budget. I spent under $30 for three pairs of shorts, for about 4 hours of very pleasant work I enjoy.
Moreover, I didn’t compromise on quality or personal ethics to “save” money buying 3 pairs of cheaper shorts. All the seams are well finished, the shorts have functional pockets, are made of durable and easily washed materials, fit my girlie and Lila had some input into the look of the final garment. And the sewist who made these shorts didn’t have to sleep under her sewing machine. I sleep in a nice warm bed.
The *only* change I’d make in my sewing after shopping thoroughly for ready-to-wear shorts is to make the front waistband flat and elasticize only the back. I’ll try this when I make her linen-remnant pants and get back to you. It’s only a small detail that’s covered by her shirt, but I’ll know even if no one else does.
Click here for your own pdf worksheet. It’s interesting, well- maybe only to me. I like filling in the numbers and thinking about the value of my work, and I want to use the sheets to keep track of the useful but “boring” sewing I do. Boring has value, and charting the value is fun.
What do you think? Am I chasing my tail and overthinking everything? How do you value your sewing? What kind of boring sewing is on your table? Do you prefer to buy rather than sew the boring stuff? Do tell!
Next up: Conversant in Color
Then: Bras and Panties (also part of my Value The Sewing project)
Then later: Tiramisu Pre-Sale Circus Time! Heaps of posts on knit topics you’ve requested, and a look behind the scenes…
*correction: the official Australian minimum wage is $15.95/hour. I’m going to leave my wage at $20 because that’s the very least I’ve ever been paid here at an hourly rate.