Heather's Little Sweatshop

Before Christmas, I accepted a sewing job for a friend of a friend. She wanted some aprons sewn to give as presents to her friends. Not my most favourite thing, especially right after I declared determined focus on my art, but I quoted $20 bucks an hour, estimating that it would take me an hour to make each apron, figuring that would be enough to scare off someone who wasn't serious. Unfortunately, the client agreed, upping the order to six aprons, and gave me an open-ended time frame, as she was giving them as birthday prezzies, not Christmas gifts.

My friend and her friend (the client) went off to get fabric, hoping to match the very attractive retro style fabric of the bib apron she was wanting me to copy. I advised them to avoid the horrors of Fabricland, if at all possible, but where did they go? Straight there naturally, because a big sale was on. Of course, they couldn't find what they wanted, and settled for something not-as-nice, but okay. Once the fabric was in my door, I had to wash it, as it reeked of fillers and finishes.

It sat over the holidays, giving me the stink-eye every time I walked by. Then, the other day, I got an email from my friend wondering how I was doing with the aprons. In the interest of giving her a progress report, I figured I better get the damn things done and out the door. (Did I mention that I run a bad attitude sweatshop?)

I had already taken a tracing of the sweet little half circle skirt apron, with an overskirt and bib, adding the three inches in length the client requested. (I'll bet Damselfly is rolling her eyes right now. She knows what's coming.) Hmmn, seems the original took advantage of every inch of the 44" fabric and I would have to do some fancy manoeuvring to fit the pattern pieces to the fabric. Turns out this was the creative highlight of the whole enterprise, but it did take twice as long as it should have.

Okay, cutting is done, on to the construction. The only way to make this work is to do it like an assembly line. Apron strings and neckbands first. 18 times 45" of 1/4 inch seams, tubes turned inside out and pressed flat. After the first six seams, I was having great sympathy for real sweatshop workers. During the next six, I tried to make it like a game, and do each one faster than the next. For the final six I was vowing that if I somehow became Queen of the Western World, all citizens would have to work on a production line for a day to see what it was really like. I had to take a break then, because I couldn't face another endless seam.

Heather's Little Sweatshop has music, and wine, and unlimited bathroom breaks, and cuddly dogs - jeez, what am I complaining about? Only 35 minutes has passed. My neck hurts, and I'm bored to tears.

Thank God I have the best iron in the world. My sweetie gave me the Rowenta that I had been blatantly hinting about for Christmas, and wow, that thing can steam! It made blessedly short work of the miles of apron strings. It almost makes me look forward to the 6 times 85 inches of bias binding that is next on the list.

These aprons better not be gag gifts, that's all I can say.


  1. I have enjoyed reading the last few blog posts - amulets and eye contact right through to aprons.

    Thanks for this blog and happy new year dear.

  2. ylove how you are turning the work into a game!

  3. Sending a hug. Contemplating with abject horror alll those feet of bias binding, which always results in burned fingers for me. And tubes. With 1/4 inch seams. Truly I feel your pain.

  4. Yikes ... makes the case for one-offs for sure

  5. Oh poor Heather! You forgot the first rule of sewing for others: say no! OK, then when they appeal to your sympathies and you grudgingly say yes, immediately double your estimated time. Because you KNOW there's going to be trouble. Sewing for someone else is always more stressful than sewing for yourself!

    I like your personal incentives to bribe yourself to keep sewing. I do that kind of thing too.


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