Why I Make Tablecloths in My Down Time

One of the biggest challenges of being an entrepreneur is to have consistent work coming in every month. Some months might be great and some months might not be so good in terms of the amount of incoming work. When you’re in busy season, you have to manage your work and triage it to get everything done on time. On the other hand when you know it’s not your busiest month, you have to work hard to create more work.

In my recent downtime, I made tablecloths. Many of them. It was commissioned by one company I work with. I pressed the fabric hem and sewed straight lines over and over again. It is not sexy nor Instagram worthy but I take on work like this for several reasons.

One is to keep the client happy and build a trusting relationship. They might not give you the work you absolutely love at all times, but work is work. When you are starting up, you cannot be too picky.

Two, it was surprisingly relaxing to do this simple task. It was a good break from creative work. It felt similar to knitting, where you repeat the simple pattern over and over again. Knit, purl, knit purl….

Lastly, it helps me keep going with my business. The money I earned from making tablecloths can be put elsewhere to grow my actual business. So regardless of its sexiness, I take on work like this sometimes to have healthy finance for my business.

P.S. Other small business tips here and here.

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Realistic Look on Hours I spent on My Handmade Business

realistic-look-on-hours-i-spent-on-my-handmade-businessAs the end of the year is quickly approaching, I was thinking back of the list of things I wanted to do in year 2016. I wrote in this post back in 2015 that I wanted to track the number of hours I spend working on my business. The main part of the business is designing and making wedding dresses. A less time consuming, but equally important aspect of the business, is the culmination of other less time consuming projects. These are things like selling on handmade market places like etsy and creema, participating in various photoshoots and working on other sewing projects like custom kimono dresses and costumes. This past year, at the end of every work night, I would keep a log of the hours I spent in excel. vv-work-hour-log-screenshot

It is pretty simple; I only have three columns – date, hour and the specifics of my activity. Between January 1st to December 23rd (total of 358 days), I spent the total of 737 hours. On average, I spent two hours every day working toward my business. It is about 14.41 hours per week. In reality, I don’t work on Sundays and there are some days that I did not get to put my hours toward because of travel or family. So it might be more accurate to say that I spend 2.8 hours, or approximately three hours every weekday after/before my 9-5 job on my personal business.

I included the following to my log:
– Sewing time
– Time I spent on buying materials
– Blogging
– Writing newsletter
– Taking and editing photos
– Consultation time with clients
– Networking events or parties
– Time I spent on making my own clothes. Although it was not many hours, I counted this into log as my study time and material for blogging.
– Updating etsy and creema shops
– Accounting and taxes

I did not include the following:
– Transportation time from home to meetings or to fabric shops
– Knitting I do for pleasure
– Time spent at post office to ship orders
– Updating SNS

For the upcoming year, I am hoping to spend a similar amount of hours. About 2 hours a day would be a good goal for me to keep up my work/life balance. I am lucky to have a full time job that I can work from home so that I don’t loose time in transit. My kids go to bed at 7pm and don’t get up until 7am, which allows me to have the night and early morning dedicated for what I like to do. Looking back, the majority of time was spent on sewing, which is fun for me but I need to spend more time on marketing/networking. This will bring more business but would necessitate a decrease in time on the sewing machine. But there is the rub, if I cannot have more business but less time to sew. So, I need a sewing assistant who can come over to my house and help. So…. finding that person is my next goal.

I will continue to log my work hours in 2017. It would be interesting to compare again this time next year.
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How I learned to Sew

how i learned to sew vivat veritasReading the recent blog post by Rachael (House of Pinheiro) on “What do you do to become a better sewist?”, it got me thinking about the question I get asked often: “How did you learn to sew?”. When people find out that I sew wedding dresses, they often ask this question. I tell them I learn most about sewing through resources online and books. I never went to fashion school or couturier school. I have a bachelors degree in journalism which turned out to be totally useless in the line of work I do. I tell them that I learned how to install invisible zippers by googling “how to install invisible zippers” and just doing it many times. Usually, people react with disbelief…

What most people don’t realize is the amount of time I put into sewing. When first starting I sewed for hours every day. I still do. At first it took me three nights to sew a simple dress. I was confused most of the time. The thread tension was wrong, I didn’t know that you needed a special foot to install an invisible zipper. I didn’t have a serger so my seam allowances were not finished. But I kept making more pieces, each time improving little by little. Once I figured out how to make a simple dress, I moved on to making more complicated things like jackets, coats, shirts, wedding dresses and most recently jeans, just like schools would have you do in different classes.

I took piano lessons for 13 years from age 6 to 19. I think my mother wanted me to be a concert pianist. It turned out that I didn’t and I stopped playing the piano when I moved out of my parents’ home. My mother thought it was such a waste. She put in money, effort, all the driving me back and forth to piano lessons and her daughter just gave up like that. However, I do not think it was a waste at all. From all those years of lessons, I learned the importance of practice and the importance of not giving up. Although I no longer play the piano daily, the understanding that “practice makes perfect” stuck with me.

What worked for piano also works for sewing. I kept sewing and sewing, and trying my hand at other crafts (pattern drafting, draping, knitting, sketching, crocheting, embroidery etc) to better my skills and although you don’t see the immediate result, looking back you will see how much you improved! Most good things in life like marriage, child raising etc. come with practice and patience as well, right?

When I first started selling clothes online, nobody bought my clothes. It made me a bit sad, but Andy encouraged me to keep going, so I sewed more, posted new creations online, figure out how to have better photos and slowly, some people took interest. Those people who bought from me helped me learn even more by requesting custom clothes. You get to experience sewing for different shapes and what’s better, they are paying for you to learn!

“Experts have said it takes 10,000 hours of hard work to become an expert seamstress” (Quote from Ten Thousand Hours of Sewing…). Read “Outliers” from Malcom Gladwell and be encouraged to keep sewing or doing whatever you are trying to learn (I listened to the audio book). Every time I am tempted to sit on the couch and browse through Pinterest for hours, I remind myself that every little bit of effort counts. Instead of sitting in front of the TV, I sit in front of my sewing machine and keep sewing.

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