Turning Green and Guilt Tripping

I’ve officially started my course this week, with my first classes on pattern making and garment construction. It is hte first time since I was 13 (about 1993, for anyone who’s counting) that I’ve been taking any sort of formal sewing instruction, so I’m curious to find out just how many bad habits I’ve picked up along the way. Given that the product of the 1993 high school textile classes was a rather hideous appliqued tracksuit top with matching pants and a great story about a friend sewing through her thumb, I have higher hopes for what I learn from this round.

The start of classes has rather neatly coincided with finishing my cleaning operation on Ethel’s innards. There is still work to be done tarting up her outer appearance, but she is now officially gunk free, and has a fully cleaned and re-assembled bobbin winder. It’s also just in time for her younger sister to start acting up, making unfortunate noises and shorting out her light on a regular basis, so I’m quite excited at the thought of having a straight stitch machine online that doesn’t require me to treadle. How I’ll cope with button holing when baby Singer gives up at last I do not know – I might just find myself forced to splurge for a new machine, heaven forbid. In the mean time, I’ve decided it’s time to give a photographic update on Ethel’s progress. Please excuse the shoddy photography once again – phone cameras have their limitations.

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And now that I’ve done all that work, I have a bit of a confession to make. I’m coveting new industrial machines. It’s all the fault of my class. I’ve had a taste of life with automatic thread cutting, of a setting that means you always finish with the needle out of the fabric, of speed control settings, of computerisation. And I’m left wondering if I can jury-rig some kind of steam punk creation onto the venerable Ethel to bring her into the modern age in style. I know that all sorts of things were done to these machine heads, making them look like something straight out of Jules Verne, but the truth is, I just want a shiny new Juki to play with for my own. And with redundancy rearing it’s head at work, I’m thinking pay out could contribute to one. But then I think of Ethel, and the guilt kicks in. Because she does the work just as well. She’s just lacking in the bells, whistles, and computerisation. And the shiny. Perhaps this weekend will see her get some of that back, though. I have plans to see what car polish and elbow grease can do for her. If they can create auto features, I’ll be truly surprised, but here’s hoping for a steam punk miracle intervention.

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The Proper Etiquette

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I’ve been – ahem – pimping my sewing services out recently, putting ads up on Gumtree. There’s been a moderate level of interest expressed, with a few phone calls a week and the occasional email. That side of things is, well, pleasing to my budget. Or rather to my budget planning. Because for every person who turns up at the door of the bunker wanting new pants, or their hems taken up, or general repairs, there are several more responses that are not quite what I expected.

Just a quick word of warning here before I launch in properly. This post is not going to be a quiet little saunter through my sewing experiences. I have been sewing a lot lately, but this post has nothing to do with that. This post is an angry rant about the rudeness of people.

First there are those who leave a message on my voicemail, then screen my return call and aare never heard from again. There was the woman who left me a voicemail at 6pm that she wanted something, and when I called her back by 9 the next morning she rather abruptly told me that she had found someone else. Fine, but no need to be nasty about it. My favourites, though, are the ones who talk through what they want in great detail over the phone. They seem to agree to the price and the timeframe that I offer them and agree to stop by the bunker that night. And then they don’t show up. Last night was a prime case; she had three silk dresses that needed work – two zips and a hem. One of them was a rush job. She said she would be coming by at 6. By 7:30 I gave up and started on making my dinner. I don’t mind so much that they don’t show up, though. What I mind is that they don’t tell me they aren’t coming. The 2 hours between the phone call and the supposed arrival time might be long enough for drastic accidents to happen, but this has happened more than once so the chances of it being a coincidence, or some sort of karmic sabotage of my fledgling sideline are getting slimmer by the week.

A lack of consideration is not confined to phone calls and no shows, either. It turns out you can also be lacking in the manners department via email. One of the first contacts I had was through email, someone wanting to know if I would be able to make alterations to about 200 garments, rehemming lining on skirts and relocating should pads on lined jackets. Both are potentially somewhat finicky and I hadn’t seen the articles in question. I was more than a little daunted by the prospect and told them so, but they still wanted a quote and time estimate. After 24 hours or so of calculations I got back to them. It was roughly half my usual rate per piece for that sort of alteration, so it probably wasn’t what they were expecting if they are as used to sweatshop practices as I suspect. It shouldn’t have surprised me that they got back to me with a no, but the wording of the refusal had steam coming from my ears. Something along the lines of, “We already got somebody who can do it quicker. Oh, and by the way, they are MUCH cheaper than you.” That’s probably somewhat softer than their response. At the time, it was along the lines of nose thumbing via email. And rude, when they had all but insisted that I provide them with the quote.

Today has managed to top it all off though. I got this email: “Our landromat is looking for someone to rent our kiosk and provide services in relation to alterations, ironing and folding or other services you can do at my shop.” So far, nothing out of the ordinary. I never say I do ironing and folding, but hey, I can see how they might have been confused. It’s the assumption that this will be appealing to me in the conclusion that gets to me – “The rental can be discussed later and negotiable when we meet together.” Because the rental – not to mention the location – wouldn’t be important if I was considering their offer seriously. And the fact that I’m advertising online already as offering a service would suggest that I am quite happy where I am (I’m not entirely thrilled with the bunker at times, but that’s beside the point). So what on earth makes them think we can talk about this “when we meet together”?

It’s not hard to engage in polite communication. It just takes some thought. I’d encourage everyone to make the effort. It makes the life of those providing a service so much more pleasant…