Moms Who Sew, with Skill...

Updated on May 21, 2011
D.F. asks from Raleigh, NC
14 answers

In my never-ending quest to find a way to make enough money to be able to stay home with my children, I am now thinking about sewing. The major problem with this idea is that I don't even know how to sew on a button. I have absolutely no sewing knowledge.

I guess I thought of this idea when I started researching cloth diapers for my baby girl. I noticed there are a lot of moms out there earning some money by making cloth diapers and accessories while their children take naps. The idea of doing something to generate income while my children sleep sounds super-appealing.

I also started thinking about sewing because I wear a ring sling all the time. I don't know who made it, but people are always asking me about it and seem to be interested in buying one. Since I don't even know who made mine, I can't help them with getting their own. However, if I could become skilled enough at sewing to make a quality ring sling, I might be able to make a little bit of money.

I looked on Craigslist and saw that there are many sewing machines for sale as low as 25$. My first thought was that, wow, I won't have to make much of a financial investment. But then I started to wonder why so many sewing machines were for sale. Do a lot of people try sewing, realize it's too hard, and then give up? Also, are there a lot of low-quality sewing machines out there? Are there some that I should avoid? Are there certain ones that everyone recommends?

I would also need someone to instruct me in sewing. I have a feeling that just looking at a book of directions would allow me to make too many mistakes. Should I look for a sewing class or an individual to teach me? I currently do not know anyone who sews.

What is the learning curve on sewing? Would I have to make 50 slings before I got "the touch" and was able to make a good one. Could I learn in less time? Would it take more time? Would the financial investment of buying material for practicing be expensive?

Is sewing an area where either you gain skill relatively quickly or you don't get it at all? Do some people never develop the skill after practice?

If you've read this and don't think I'm way out of my league for considering this, what are some other not-too-challenging things I could sew that people might like to buy?

Thank you for any information you can share!

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So What Happened?

Thank you so much for taking the time to inform me about what is involved with sewing. Clearly, people who make money sewing started doing it as a hobby. Then they realized they had a special talent and decided to market it. You all have made it clear that there would be a significant up-front investment and possible many years before I could make much money.

I think what I am taking from your responses is that it would be good for me to start learning about sewing just to have the skill. If, after I've learned to appreciate it as a hobby, I realize I am quickly developing a skill for it, then I could consider trying to sell something.

The only item I wanted to make and sell was a ring sling. I did meet someone at a wedding shower who saw my sling. She sews and said this sling looked super-easy to make. Because it is adjustable, there is no custom job to it. Everyone wears the same size and adjusts it to their baby.

Thank you again for taking the time to educate me!

More Answers


answers from Modesto on

If you really have the 'desire' to sew head to a fabric store, there will be someone there that will be able to tell you about lessons. I took a sewing class while in highschool, it was mandatory back in the day, along with a cooking class.... it was called HOMEMAKING... and before the feminist era. Sewing is not hard once you learn the basics, like how to read the pattern and what material you need for certain items and which way the fabric is supposed to be placed while sewing. If a 13 yr old can learn it, anyone can. Desire to learn it is the main thing. My grandma sewed all the time as did my granny... they made all sorts of dresses, and jackets for me and my sister, along with barbie clothes to match. Where there's a will, there's a way. You sound very interested and that's the main ingredient to doing well.
Talk to the girls in the fabric department at the department store or go to a regular fabric store in your area. I think the reason you see sewing machines for sale is because newer, computerized models have come out that are just better than the older ones, but even the oder ones are easy to use once you learn the basics. It does take a little bit of practice, but it's not hard, only tedious and a tad time consuming. But the better you get the faster you get. That is my input.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

If you have never sewed before then it will take you a lot of time and practice to get good enough to sell your stuff. I learned to hand sew as a child and use the machine starting around 12. I've have my own machine for over 10 years but I still don't always get great looking results. I've made some things I love and many that didn't turn out. If you had one or two patterns and did them over and over you would probably get good at making that pattern turn out well. I also found sewing isn't great with crawling babies or toddlers. There are sharp pins and other non baby safe items, my son tried to pull the sewing machine down on his head when he was about 10 months. After that I put it away for a while. But if you think it would be fun to try as a hobby see if you can find a local class. In my town the high school adult education program has a few.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Rochester on

I've been sewing most of my life, and am basically self taught...but I am good at following ridiculous directions and have practiced A LOT to really get good at it.

Like others have mentioned, your best bet for learning would be to go to a fabric store or craft supply store and sign up for a class. They can also recommend a machine for you. A cheap machine is not going to last you forever, but with the proper care you can use a reasonably priced machine for a long time.

I think cloth diapers and slings are probably two of the easiest things you could pick to sew, so you're really not off base with that...also, they sell. It's really when you get into fitted clothing that you have to have a lot more skill...and it'll come, with time.

If you are a relatively intelligent woman...and you sound very can learn pretty quickly. It will not take you 50 tries to make a good sling...maybe 3 or 4, to work out the kinks. But that's after you learn the basics of sewing and how to use your machine. For some people, just learning to wind a bobbin and thread the machine takes a bit! :)

Now, I'll just be honest...if I thought I could make money sewing and selling, I'd be doing it. So far, I haven't found anything that as a stay-at-home mother, I can really prosper at. Sewing is not a quick thing...especially for me, since I don't have a dedicated space. Every time I want to sew, I have to bring the machine up from the basement, take out my project, set up, work, and then take it all apart and store again. I mostly sew projects here and there for my children...a cushion for the rocking chair, a costume for Halloween, a dress, a teddy bear because she wants one with a special material, etc...

And no, buying material won't be expensive, to practice. You can go to (just examples) a local senior center and ask if they have some you can buy. Mine has a ton of unused, donated material and you can pretty much take a stack for a dollar or two. Clearance racks at stores offer material for a dollar a yard. Or, find some old sheets to practice with.

I'll warn you's fairly easy to sew. More of the difficultly (for me, anyways) was learning to work with the material. Once you get into it, you'll see what I mean.

I am all for you learning to sew,'s very useful, and will come in handy even if it doesn't work out to make a living. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Eugene on

Give it a try. I taught myself how to sew when my girls were little. There was a show on PBS called "Sewing with N." and I watched it and practiced like crazy. I loved sewing, spent lots of time making everything from dresses to quilts and one of those ring slings, too. After a couple of years, I was pretty adept and was designing and cutting my own patterns. So, yes, it is possible to go from beginner to proficient if you put your mind to it.

As far as making money from sewing, I think that takes more than sewing skill. You have to be fast, have a good sense of what would sell, and a way to market your product. Good quality fabric is expensive, too so you'll have to factor that into the cost of your product. But if you like to work with your hands and enjoy making things, it might be worth learning how to sew.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

My sister is a master seamstress and has a shop on etsy. She spends just about every waking moment sewing. She has a room full of fabric that she uses regularly. She has ribbon, jeans, denim skirts, purses, etc...all that have to be purchased too.

To sew for the public you would have to be a perfect seamstress. And they don't make much profit. If I can go to Walmart and buy a pair of pants for $15.00 why would I pay someone to make a pair for $25-$35? It's the same with just about any other garment.

As for crafts, there is the possibility that you could find a place that no one has thought of yet. But, you have no sewing skills. So you are talking about going to classes, investing in a machine, having to start from scratch with notions and supplies, and them having to schedule time to actually try and learn/implement everything you are taking in.

I really don't want to discourage you...I think if you have a true desire to learn to sew and create items that you should. But you must really want to learn and do it, so much that if you went in the red each month to do it you would still sew and create things.

Sewing does not save money. It takes time, it takes utilities, it takes investing in machines, both a regular one and a serger if you are sewing garments.

I learned to sew very well and sew nearly perfect seams. My mother in law sewed heirloom garments, they are very lightweight and have much delicate work like tiny seams going up and down various areas, then lots of sewn in lace. I sewed better than her. A good teacher will have you doing things that will teach you basic skills and will make it very easy for you. We took notebook paper and "sewed" the lines on it, without thread. It taught us to sew straight and to hold the "fabric" straight.

Again, sewing is an expensive hobby. It doesn't make much money as far as making and selling garments. They can just be bought for so little compared to hand crafted. Fabric has more than doubled in price since Walmart closed down the fabric departments all over. The same fabric at Hobby Lobby that was $1.88 at Walmart is now $6.99 at Hobby Lobby.

Go to Hobby Lobby when the patterns are $0.99 on sale. Look for the ad on or in the store. They usually have McCalls one week then Simplicity a week or two before or after on sale each quarter for that low price. That is when you need to find a few patterns to try out.

Take time to be able to sit down and look at the books from front to back. All the way from ladies clothes, through kids clothes, on to crafts and accessories, then on to costumes. You might find the patterns inspiring and be able to sit down with them and the teacher and make something right off the bat.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Antonio on

Took home ec in school, sewn projects off and on for years, taught both my girls to sew. My stuff always looked like it was homemade but was good enough for me! But to sell it-would not do that.
In our small town, my girls sewed during 4H classes and they were judged in contests. It was very difficult.
Not to say it won't be easy for you-just like painting, some people can, some can't!!
The machines they have now practically do it all for you-you can set the computer and let it go but they are much more expensive. Just look at some of the quilts-made with new machines and not hand sewn.
But you can sew stuffed animals or other crafts where the focus is not on the garment itself. Many people are into monogramming which is also by a machine but can be costly.
If you truly are interested, find your local home extension agent. They will know people-maybe you can meet some elderly lady who would love to pass on her skills. Our 4H is handled by the county extension agent so google it or look in the phone book. Another think you could do is watch public access television-they have many sewing programs to watch.
I don't know how to crochet but along the same lines of at home work. Lots of girls are wearing crocheted head bands.



answers from Appleton on

Look into classes at a local Technical School or college or a continuing education program. You could contact the Home Ec teacher at your local high school and ask if she knows of a good beginning sewing class.
When looking for a machine a used machine seems like a good idea but if the machine hasn't been taken care of you could run into a lot of repair costs. One more note: Singer Sewing Machines were the gold standard for sewing machines for many years. The old singers were great machines, however Singer went out of business in the earlyto mid 1970's. A business man in Taiwan bought the Logo and Name and began making sewing machines a few years later. These machines are not the high quality machines of the orginal company.
When looking for a sewing machine you will save yourself a lot of frustration and money if you buy a good somewhat expensive machine. When you talk to the Home Ec teacher ask her advice about a machine too.


answers from Redding on

Oh Gosh,, Ive been sewing since I was 5 or 6. My M. taught me and my older sister. She still can't sew a straight line or cut out a pattern to save her life, but I have done very well in crafts craft fairs and a few stores. I have made a lot of my family's clothes, many many baby things and gifts. It takes time, and care, and money. I have 5 machines right now. A nice older Kenmore Ive had for about 30 years. Its on its last legs. I have a really good Husqvarna purchased about 8 years ago for $1000 and it is my work horse. I picked up a basic Brother off Craigslist for $50 AFTER I had the seller take it for a check up at my favorite sewing machine store. I bought another Elna for $25 from a garage sale. Both these machines are at a church where I go sew every week and I mostly let others use them because they are basic easy simple but they are no where near good quality. They are loud, and cheap and snap the threads and jam up way too often for my tastes. I have a new Husqvarna that cost me $2250 and it's wonderful. I don't get into the embroidery that a lot of machines can do and didn't want to pay $5000 for one either. So you need to find a price you can pay and get a good sewing machine store to deal with. Not Joann's where they really don't service it or give many lessons. A real sewing machine store will give free lessons on how to run the machine because you bought from them and may offer beginner classes in sewing and garment assembly. Fabric is expensive but you can use coupons and sales and check prices of similar prints or colors since there can be a range from $3 a yard to $25 a yard. You just have to start out and see how you do. A cheap machine may make you frustrated and think you don't like sewing but a better machine will give you better results. I'd go to a sewing machine store and ask if they can show you how to get started and see what they have to say. Go to more than one store so you can see the different brands. A lot of them are allowed to deal with a few brands but not others, and you never know, the other brand might be the model you like best. It can take years to get good enough to sell any decent quality stuff. If it was that easy, we would all be doing it and making tons of money. Try it, you might like it tho!



answers from San Francisco on

I've sewed since I was a teen however, I've never been good at anything too challenging. Recently I sewed some basic costumes for my daughter's school play and that inspired me to take a sewing class. I do OK but even after a few months of a weekly class I am a SLOW sewer. I do think that you need to have some natural skill to be a fast and efficient sewer and make money at it. Good-luck.



answers from Minneapolis on

There is a difference between sewing for yourself and sewing for others. When someone chooses to buy a handcrafted item, they do it because they want something unique and stylish. Anyone who would consider any of the products you suggested would expect perfection. In all reality, as simple as diapers and slings seem to be, if you expect to entice customers to buy your product, you're going to have to be more creative, cuter, more user friendly, and cleverly designed than what's already available in stores now.

Start looking at mass produced and name brand products as well as, going to websites like Etsy or local high end boutiques that feature handmade baby products produced by local cottage businesses. That's your competition. If you can't come up with something on par or better (such as a fit unmatched to the others out there, or some unique design or fabric), perhaps find another plan.

Secondly, if your product does take off, are you skilled and equipped enough to mass produce your product and still maintain quality? I think just knowing and/or learning how to sew isn't your biggest concern. You won't last long if you can't fulfill orders. You could get hundreds of orders in a day. Would you be able to make enough of these items to keep up? Do you have a set up at home or a place that you can make into a studio dedicated strictly for making these items, interference free? Realistically, a half an hour or hour or two a day while the kids nap isn't enough time to make anything well...even for a skilled sewer. So a dedicated space is a must as well as dedicated time. Where would you store items until they are purchased? Where will you store preproduction supplies? Who will handle accounting and orders? How do you plan to ship etc. Take in considering how long it could take you to create and perfect your signature product, and how to get it to the customer in good efficient time, maybe this isn't a good, let alone financially feasible endeavor unless you are perhaps able to get a small business loan and can make accommodations/delegate duties to others to help get these tasks done.

Short of starting a sweatshop in your garage staffed by illegal aliens, or hiring or finding fellow friends and skilled sewers who would be willing to get a small stipend until you get on your feet and can pay them more, chances are you won't realistically be able to meet production goals and maintain quality all on your own. You might be able to make a few items and sell them here and there, but then you will not make a profit. Then this would really be a hobby.

Last, as others have mentioned. Besides basic lessons, you really will need to take additional classes on more specialized sewing skills such as pattern making, tailoring, embroidery and knowing how to use common industry machines such as a serger (really a must for speed, certain stitches and fabrics and is just a must as it is a time saver), cover stitch (needed for finishing), and embroidery machine (for monogramming, personalizing, unique details and finishing touches). You will also need to know how to use the other important tools of the trade, such as quality irons and steamers for fabrics, good scissors (can cost alot), rotary wheels, sewing tables so you will have the ability to adjust patterns (in case you have special orders or sizes), dressforms in various sizes (especially so you can size for the slings) and so on, so you can really make a very polished product.

People want detail and personalization, not basics. They will expect you to tailor things to their exact specifications and needs because you are not mass producing these. If a mom with an unusually large baby needs a super large diaper in a size that exists no where, will you be able to alter your patterns to fit her needs?

Furthermore, If you don't know how to use machines like those mentioned above (there is an art to it for sure) your pieces will not look professional. People want special if they go with a handcrafted item. Otherwise, they will just buy it from the store. You will find, you will have to charge alot to break even, especially in the beginning. So if they have to pay alot, it better look and be worth it. If you don't have alot of money to begin with, this might be tougher than you think also...sewing IS expensive, even with coupons etc. As I said, when you're sewing for yourself, no problem cutting corners and making adjustments financially. For potential customers, you can't skimp. No one is going to pay for something that looks homemade.

Machines like those needed to make nice quality products are not cheap (talking the thousands). Designer fabrics aren't cheap, but this is what people are going to want- not mass produced fabrics found in most fabric stores. You're going to have to find the good stuff that will give your product that extra-something. (Google designer fabrics and you'll see the difference between these patterns and fabric choices in contrast to what you'd find in stores.) Computer programs and threads needed for some of these professional quality sewing/embroidery machines aren't cheap either if you go that route. Notions that make your items look professional can be costly too. Sure you can get the cheaper stuff, but believe me, there is a difference in the finished product when you're using the expensive and unique stuff.

If you do have an idea that takes off, have you thought about who your target market is, and how and where to best get this product to them so you can make sales? Would you peddle these on the internet? Out of your garage? At the church bakes sales? Trade shows? Fairs? Conventions? Garage sales? Or schlep to boutiques in your hood that sell this kind of stuff? What's your plan Stan? If you don't have one, you might be dead in the water before you get started.

Not to be a wet blanket, this would be too big of an endeavor for a beginner. If you don't have an immediate need to do this, and you can learn all that's needed to sew well, and you can over the years take your time selling things here and there until you find your groove, then go for it. But IMO this is not something you're going to be able to just dive into and it will be a booming success overnight. You need a business plan. You need skills. You need an original idea that has appeal to the masses or a niche. You need machines. You need access to supplies and people to make this work.



answers from Lexington on

I would suggest you contact your local sewing guild. Ours recently gave a n introductory lesson to my MOPs group and from that we've formed a free beginner's class. The recommendation has been on a machine that you go to every dealer (NOT a fabric store) and try them all without being upsold to find a machine that fits your body, is sufficient for a beginner, and is something you like. From there I would look on Ebay or Craigslist once you know what you want. However, if you get a cheapy $100 walmart machine don't expect it to get you anywhere as it wont keep tension, will break needles, snag your material, and frustrate you so utterly that you will never want to utter the word "sew" again. Plus they can't be repaired, whereas if you purchase a good used one from a dealer you can get repair and maintenance when you need it. As with most things, expect to get what you pay for. I'd expect a decent beginner model to start about $600, unless you find a great deal on Ebay. I would totally recommend a Janome with a pedal governor.

One of the instructors we met has about 10 machines but her favorite has been a 40 year machine that is STILL going....and small enough to pack in an overnight bag.

Having experience with mega-frustrating machines as a teenager, find something decent and buy it used or find a friend with a decent one and borrow it. Also, have a special room set aside that you can close off so your kids can't get into needles, thread, pins, etc and get hurt or totally mess up your project. Or at least a cabinet you can put everything away in and lock up for the night. Finally, I'd recommend spending the time and money to take private lessons from a qualified individual as recommended by peer sites and dealers. Or, find a friend or two to help burden the cost. Heck, I found 15 without even hardly trying!

Good luck if you decide to go for it! :D



answers from Allentown on

I sew for my own family (mostly diapers and lounge pants). I used to flirt with the idea of selling my wares. It is NOT something I'd recommend to a novice.

For one thing, the competition is fierce, and the successes are the women with the most talent and, usually, the most time.
For another, mommas are tough customers. A spot of sloppy stitching or a crooked seam will have them demanding their money back and possibly you out the time and materials.

And the last - even with 4 years experience, it still takes me almost two hours to make a diaper from start to finish... if I don't have kids interrupting me. The cost of materials plus a fair hourly wage would result in a very expensive diaper that looks *just* on the wrong side of professional.

Now, a serger and a snap press would make it much faster and neater... and cost a heck of a lot more! I'd have to spend a lot of hours ignoring my children to recoup that cost.

Seriously, leave it to the pros.
Trade your outgrown diapers in and you'll probably make more money (or credit) that way!


answers from St. Louis on

Oh lord where to start, first the Craigslist. Yes a lot of people think sewing is easy. Nope, it is not. So yeah they spend money on a sewing machine and then sell it after it has collected dust for a while.

My mother was a dress designer, a very good one. She taught me to sew when I was six so yeah as an adult I am pretty good. It is like any skill something that takes time. You can learn half assed but to do it well takes time and you have to be a bit anal retentive. Like you can follow a pattern and it will be meh, but to understand what makes clothes or whatever look Oh My God that is amazing takes knowing and doing what makes them look amazing.

I don't sew very much because when I do it must be perfect! Still I have my machine and do pull it out to alter clothes when needed. When I bought it 12 years ago it cost almost $800. The machine is that important, you cannot cut corners and make anything good.

Having said all this I have no idea what a ring sling is so I have no idea what the skill level to make one is. When I speak of skills I am talking about making clothes so take it for what you think it is worth.



answers from Lexington on

Sewing is neither as easy as it looks, nor as difficult as you might imagine. I would strongly suggest that you find a Hancock Fabrics or other fabric store that offers sewing lessons. They can also advise re: machines, projects etc. Yes, there are shoddy machines out there, there are old machines out there, and there are machines that no longer have all their parts and accessories and may be only 25, but if not complete, it is a complete waste of your money and time

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