Friday, 4 April 2014

The day I nearly murdered a client

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there lived a woman who sewed for people. She did this , because  she had two young children and she liked to be at home with them. Sometimes she made patterns for a factory, loads of track suit patterns, with lots of bright colors and flashy panels. All the grading for lots of sizes, all done by hand in hard cardboard. Oh well, it WAS the nineties! Not quite as bad as people say the eighties was, but the garments were a fashion travesty.

The woman, of course, was me. Johannesburg, 1994, I think.

That's the problem with being a freelance worker. You get some pretty awful stuff to make. Sometimes it can be good, sometimes very, very bad. 

 Sometimes I call myself a pattern making prostitute.... If you pay me, I will make it. I will say that whatever you want me to make is great! I am getting better at not doing that, but sometimes I still do.

I preferred making patterns to sewing. There is something so lovely in nice pattern board, and grading rules.... It's a bit like knitting. You know you are going to have to repeat the same thing over and over again in order to complete the task, but its regular, and calming in a way.  So organised and sensible. But was a lot of work and paper, Some of the patterns were so heavy when I finished them I battled to carry them to my car. Now its all done on computer. The trees will be happy about that.

Sewing, on the other hand, I absolutely hated. I didn't have my lovely Bernina at that time, just a little machine which chugged away and was great value. I had a nice old singer industrial overlocker which was awesome but a pain to thread. There's something so random about when the fabric, sewing machine and thread combine which is not good. Bad things occur and I go crazy. I get back ache and want to throw it all in the bin.

I had one client, an Indian Muslim lady.  The Muslim community have a lot of functions and it is important to be well dressed. No Hijabs were ever seen in South Africa back then. Head coverings, yes, but none of these....
I made some rather Over-The-Top garments for her in some alarming sparkly fabrics which broke needles and drove me crazy. One day she brought me some fabric, rather too little for her rather cuddly body size. The fabric cost $500 a metre.I used to feed my family for a whole month on that! It was narrow with a border on it and I had barely enough to go around her body. 
fancy sewing your way through this ?

 I squeezed a garment out for her, and she went away happy.
A few weeks later she called me, and said she wanted me to make another garment, out of the same material, unpick it and fashion something else "Because everyone had seen that dress and I want a new style" 

For probably the first time, I said..... NO. I'm pretty proud of that. No more sewing for THAT lady.

I was annoyed, but it wasn't as if I wanted to murder that one.


There was another woman who  came to me a few times for dressmaking. She had an unfortunate figure,with curvature of the spine. It was obviously very difficult for her to find anything that would fit her unusual shape. But she was so fussy! I made a trouser suit the first time, but it came back a few times for changes. 

Then I made another top for her. The fabric was slippery crepe de chine, polyester. Lovely.....yeah right!
On completing the garment, she came for a fitting. She was in fine form that day. She was standing in front of the mirror, being a bit fussy. I know I should have been understanding, she probably had very poor self esteem. Then she said it..... " the next time you make something for me could you use larger stitches so that I can unpick it when I get home"

I was stunned .I felt my hands rise up behind her back....

I wanted to strangle her right there, in my own bedroom. The urge was so strong I had to force myself  to put my hands down again and hold them behind my back!

Now, although I really hated her at that moment and almost did a terrible deed, out of that incident, I came away with a valuable lesson. Don't sew for people?? 
I wish that were so!

But the valuable thing I learnt is, 


My machine sets by default to a small stitch each time I turn it on and I wish it didn't. I always turn up the stitch length when I sew. At the moment I'm making a riding jacket (Not for me,again!) and I've unpicked the thing a couple of times already, and this is what reminded me of Mrs Fussy Customer.

I wonder who sews for her now?


  1. I really enjoyed this! It put a big smile on my face!! :)

  2. Well done! I did enjoy this ... could just picture these ladies!!

  3. Another option would be to sew Ms Fussy Customer's lips shut with too small stitches that will take her a while to unpick!