For the Woman Who Sews
WITH NEEDLE AND SCISSORS (75 suggestions)—Needlework in its various forms and ramifications offers a far wider field for part-time activity than any other form of endeavor. It can safely be said that millions of women are adequately qualified to earn money this way.
The first step to consider is this: What can I make that will sell profitably? There may be an article which you can make easily and with a great deal of enthusiasm and enjoyment, but unless you can do so at a profit you have gained nothing from your labors.
So always take into consideration the cost of material, the time consumed in the making of the garment, and its salability. Unless you feel reasonably sure that there is a market in your own neighborhood or community do not waste your time.
Convinced that there is a market, proceed in the following ways to let the world know that you are ready to serve it:
1. Have a neat sign painted with some such wording as this, and place it in your front window or front porch for transients:
2. Show your finished products to your friends, neighbors, relatives. Ask them to recommend their own friends.
3. Advertise regularly in your local newspaper.
4. Call on the well-to-do families in your town.
5. Call on women's hotels, Y.W.C.A.'s, nurses' homes, and all other institutions where women of little leisure are apt to live, and have little time for personal work.
6. If in a co-ed college town, advertise in the college newspaper, and post your card on the dormitory bulletin boards.
7. Have cards and circulars printed, with your name, address and telephone, stating what you are prepared to do. Mail these to prospective customers in your town.
8. Leave samples in women's exchanges, dress and specialty shops, gift shops, and department stores, and offer them a percentage on sales.
9. Obtain names of customers from friends.
10. Call up women on the telephone.
Once you have won over a group of patrons, they will keep you reasonably busy by giving you frequent orders and by singing your praises to their friends.
CHILDREN'S FROCKS—If you can make attractive clothes for your own children you are well qualified to make them for other children. Make up a half dozen dresses, put a couple at the woman's exchange, one or two at your local store, and take the rest with you and call on a number of wealthy families who have school children. After you have called on those families that you know, begin to use the telephone more for appointments. It will save you considerable time, and you will not be dropping in when they might be occupied with other important duties. You can obtain lists of names by making inquiries at the stores where you trade, at your local school by talking with the principal, and by referring to catalogues of private schools and nurseries if there are any in your community.
You will find your best market in the month preceding the opening of school. Mothers will be grateful to you for assisting them in the problem of getting their children outfitted for school.
If your prices are reasonable they will prefer to buy from you and save themselves the tear and wear entailed in the process of shopping in hot weather.
MAKING BABY CLOTHES—This is a good market because it is not only mothers who buy, but also grandparents, aunts, and friends who like to give something to the new baby.
In this work aim for the maximum beauty and daintiness, of course with the minimum amount of work. Sell them at a cost which is less than customer will have to pay for ready made things.
The best way to sell baby clothes is to display them in a store show case, with a card stating that they can be purchased at your home. Exhibit a different garment each week. Also display them in Baby Shows, Women's Exchanges; often a millinery store or a beauty parlor will display such items and charge a commission for direct or indirect sales.
In the cities, the best way to sell baby things is to call on wealthy people; also by selling them to department and baby stores.
MAKING HANDKERCHIEFS—This for the woman who can do fine, delicate hand work. It is important to watch the shops, or the needlework books and magazines, for there are always new fads and fancies, and it's always the fad of the moment that sells best in any field of handwork or wearing apparel.
The sales outlets for handkerchiefs are the same mentioned above. It is a good plan to provide gift boxes, for many of the handkerchiefs bought are for gift purposes; also get up special Christmas boxes for this purpose.
A MENDING SERVICE—There are a good many bachelors, school college boys and girls in every college town who will take advantage of a "mending service." Here is the sort of "ad" to run once in a while in the college paper:
Do your shirt cuffs need turning?
Posters with the same wording tacked up in college dormitories will also bring customers. If your local laundry does not have its own mending service it may be willing to distribute these circulars for you in their laundry packages.
Or the laundry may employ you to do all of its mending and offer free mending service as a way of getting more business.
Busy mothers at times could also take advantage of your mending service. So can your department store with articles that customers may want to have mended or altered.
CLOTHES FOR ATHLETES—It would pay at least one woman in every town to go in for this kind of sewing. Basketball and running pants for high school students; bloomers and blouses for "gym" purposes for the girl students.
A visit to your local high school with samples would eventually lead to a great many orders, especially if you can get the principal's recommendation, and if your price does not exceed the ready made prices. It might also pay you to make these athletic clothes for your local athletic store for resale.
MEN'S SHIRTS—Many a man would prefer to have his shirts made to order rather than buy the standardized sizes which do not always prove satisfactory. Then there are men, either very tall, very short, or too stout who can never buy a ready made shirt that fits. Also the well-to-do men who prefer special fabrics and want comfort in their shirts.
If you can get two or three leading citizens in your town to become your customers, you will soon have enough work to keep you busy to your heart's content.
Examine a number of shirts that are put out by the best manufacturers. You will find them in stock at men's stores. This will give you an idea of the various good points to adopt in your own line.
AN APRON SPECIALIST—The variety of aprons that are used is without an end. There is the bungalow apron, the tea and fudge, the clothespin, the traveling, the kitchen, the handmade lace, the embroidered, the calico, and linen, the children's apron, etc.
If you can add little original touches of trimming to make your aprons unique, attractive and irresistible you can easily "corner" the apron market in your town.
Aprons can also be made up for barbers, grocers, butchers, cooks, waitresses, and others engaged in store work.
After you reach a point where most of your time is taken up with sewing, you can employ some one to act as salesman for you.
INITIALING AND MONOGRAMMING—If your sewing abilities tend toward the artistic you can find creative work in helping to make the bride's trousseau distinctive and beautiful by monogramming every piece. Whenever you notice an engagement announcement in the paper, consider the prospective bride as a potential customer. Bring her some samples of your initialing and monogramming, and invariably she will give you the job.
Also call on department, art goods, and fancy goods stores with your samples. This likewise will lead to profitable work.
CHARACTER DOLLS—Children love dolls that are completely dressed. Purchase some inexpensive dolls from the 5 and 10 cent store. Then make up costumes of the various nations—Russian, Indian, Mexican, etc. Have the clothes comprise an exact replica of baby's garments.
The uniqueness of these dolls lies in their costumes. Around Christmas time you will find many a mother who will want to buy a complete set of dolls of all nations.
Your local toy, stationery, or department store will give you substantial orders for such items.
DRESSES FOR STOUT WOMEN—Specialize in clothes for stout women, and you will find many a rich matron who will want you to make her a dress that will make her look slender.
This sort of sewing requires a special knowledge of lines, materials and styles which can be easily learned by careful study of the fashion and style magazines.
An "ad" or a printed announcement that you specialize in slendering styles for women whose sizes range from 42 to 56 is a good way of bringing in customers.
These women will not only be interested in dresses, but in underwear, house frocks, nightgowns, and other apparel as well.
CUTTING AND FITTING CLOTHES—You will find numerous women who can do their own sewing but are completely lost when it comes to cutting and fitting their own dresses.
You should offer this kind of service in addition to your regular dressmaking work to those women who can do their own sewing. You can do this sort of work at your own home, having the customer bring her material with her; or you can call on the customer and do the cutting and fitting there.
A great many girls who live in boarding houses, at the Y.W.C.A., or even at a college dormitory, who for reasons of economy must do their own sewing will prove steady customers once you have acquainted them with your service.
If you have a store in town that sells patterns and dress material, get the storekeeper to suggest your name to his customers if they show any hesitancy about their being able to cut from patterns.
CURTAINS FOR NEW TENANTS—Every time one moves from a house or an apartment into another there is always the curtain problem. Either there are more windows than in the old apartment, or the new windows are too large or too small. In fact, at moving time many women like to change curtains.
Arrange with all the real estate offices in town to advise you of new rentals. Call upon them before moving time if possible, and offer to make new curtains, or remake new curtains from the old ones to fit the new windows. Also offer to put them up yourself as a special service. Around moving time, women are usually harassed for time, and fatigued from multiplicity of things to be done. Invariably, if you approach her at that time with your curtain service, she will gladly give you the job and consider herself very fortunate to be relieved of that responsibility.
WITH A PORTABLE SEWING MACHINE—Before vacation time when mothers are busy getting their children ready for summer camps; also a number of weeks preceding the reopening of schools, the average home with children is one of great activity.
At this time, a woman who can sew and who at the same time possesses her own portable sewing machine will be able to get many a day's work by calling on her neighbors and other women of the community whose children attend school.
ARTISTIC OFFICE SMOCKS—Sewing as a part time occupation does not necessarily limit itself to small town or suburban activity. The very same methods recommended to the small town or suburban woman can be applied in a city neighborhood or even to one of the large apartment houses.
In fact there are possibilities which the town woman may not even have. As an example in the larger city offices the stenographic and clerical force usually wears smocks when working. Make up a number of attractive smocks from patterns or from styles that are on sale at department stores, and take them around for a few hours each day to the various office buildings. If you can sell them at prices less than those on sale at the regular stores you will be able to sell a great many.
HEMSTITCHING—Machine hemstitching is profitable because not every woman has a hemstitching attachment on her sewing machine.
The company which sold you your sewing machine will be glad to sell you an attachment for three dollars, and at the same time supply you with information on how to use it. The work of hemstitching can be very easily learned.
Your women customers when informed that you are ready to do hemstitching will soon begin to send you a large variety of garments, handkerchiefs, curtains, etc., for hemstitching. Also notify all of the tailors, dressmakers, department stores and others of your service.
REJUVENATING DRESSES—This should prove exceptionally profitable in these days of depression when a restricted budget does not permit the buying of very many new dresses.
In fact, most dresses that are discarded are seldom worn out. If you are one of the women who has a genius for remodeling old dresses into new stunning creations you have the opportunity of a life time to cash in on your ability.
Keep up with the styles by subscribing to style magazines and you will find hundreds of suggestions that will help you in pleasing your customers.
NIGHT CAPS—Just as long as women continue to bob their hair and continue to pay unbelievable sums for permanent waves and the like there will be a market for cleverly designed night caps that help to keep the wave in place.
To make up a dozen of these caps from netting should require very little time; and to sell them even less time, for every house has one potential customer. If the price is right, you won't have to go very far to sell your entire supply.
QUILTING—Hand made quilts are now very popular for bed coverings. And the most economical way to make them is to piece together the various colored blocks by machine and instead of filling them with new cotton or wool use some old or worn comforters.
For those who are willing to pay a good price use wool cotton or eiderdown for fillings.
Make them up in all sizes, for adults, children and even baby cribs. Babies and children's quilts can be made very attractive by using nursery patterns from the various children's books.
Patchwork and Quilt Making, Price 10¢. Joseph Doyle & Co., Newark, N. J. A book of authentic old time and modern quilt designs—full illustrations and instructions.
HOUSEHOLD LINENS—There is always an opportunity to sell household linens such as guest towels, pillow cases, sheets, dresser scarves, etc.
These linens are being so constantly used and so frequently laundered that they wear out rapidly and are constantly being replaced.
If you are experienced in crocheted and embroidery work, and if you can initial and embroider you will find plenty of work where originality is required.
Make up a sample of each of the above mentioned items and show them around to prospective customers. Offer to supply them with linens bearing their own monogram, and make the prices reasonable, and you will be kept very busy supplying the demand.
FURNITURE COVERS—A few months preceding the general exodus of the city dwellers to the country and the seashore is the time to approach customers with furniture covers which will keep the furniture away from dust during the summer months when there is no one at home to do the dusting.
The only requisite for success in this work is an ability to cut and fit furniture covers and draperies as well as an artistic taste for decorative fabrics.
Even those people who do not close up their homes during the summer are on the lookout for draperies.
BAGS OF ALL DESCRIPTIONS—Laundry bags can be used in every household, yet it is surprising how many times do not possess this all important household necessity. In all probability, if some enterprising woman with an ability to make beautifully designed bags were to make up a dozen and offer them for sale by a house to house canvass, she would soon find herself busier beyond her brightest expectations.
Then there are stocking bags, and handkerchief bags, and sewing bags, and school bags, and collar bags, etc.
These should be made up in colorful printed linens, in the varicolored cretonnes and black satin embroidered with colored material.
Dormitories, summer boarding houses, hotels, gift shops, your friends, neighbors, relatives; these provide an outlet.
ALTERING NEW DRESSES—Contact a number of dress shops in your neighborhood until you find two or three who do not do enough business to warrant the employment of a full time worker for altering dresses that are sold to their customers. Suggest that you are available for part time work and that they can call on you any time they have an alteration job. In this way the storekeeper has to do no more than pin up the garment purchased by a customer and then call for you to do the altering.
This is a service that most customers expect from a shop when they purchase a dress. In some cases a charge is made. A free alteration service would attract a sufficient number of new buyers to warrant a shop keeper paying the charges entailed in free alterations. Point this fact out to him as an argument for his retaining you to do this work.
SPECIALIZE IN BIBS—Where there are babies there must be bibs. And if a woman can make up something in a bib that is different and practical she can sell them by the car load.
Most bibs are not big enough to be of sufficient practical value. Very often, in feeding, the baby will drop food onto the bottom part of the dress and soil it to such an extent that a bib could have been dispensed with entirely.
Often the string used in tying the on the bib will not be fastened enough and falloff unnoticed, or the baby will pull off the bib by tearing the string.
The ideal bib and one which should appeal to all mothers is a bib that is as long as the baby itself, with a slit in the center large enough to be slipped over her head. It should be as long in front as in the back. And when it gets soiled on one side, just turn it around and you have another clean bib.
The best material to use for this bib is oilcloth, decorated with nursery figures. Some women might prefer the usual washable material such as cretonne, gingham or rough toweling.
OTHER WAYS OF MAKING MONEY IN SEWING—The suggestions that have been made thus far are but a fraction of the money making possibilities that are open to the woman who can sew with a needle or with a sewing machine.
A book covering several hundred pages could be devoted to this art, but inasmuch as the scope of this book contemplates the covering of a much wider range of subjects and is restricted as to space, the reader will be referred to at the end of this chapter to a number of sources which contain in greater detail a number of other methods to be employed in spare time money making in sewing.
A number of additional suggestions are offered in the briefest way. The same sales promotion methods suggested in the preceding pages apply to the following activities:
Children's rompers; repairing laces and linens; Dutch caps and costumes; costumes for school plays; dusting sets; portieres; clever boutonnieres; jewel bag covers; relining suits and overcoats; overalls for children; sideboard and dresser covers; polishing cloths; scissors caps; trunk covers; door bags; shoe bags; covers for table mats; buttonhole making; baby bonnets; baby shoes; spoon, knife, and fork cases; bed covers; bed comforters; gloves; ice bags; cloth scrap books; bedroom sets; chair covers; dress and coat bags; mattress covers; underwear; baby coats and bonnets; neck ruches; neckties; carriage covers; fine needlework; stamping; picot edging; pleating; cloth covers for books; nurses' costumes; dentists' coats; operating coats; bathing suits; and Japanese kimonos.
Costume Designing. P. C. Brown, 620 Fifth Ave., New York.
Clothing for Women. L. I. Baldt. Published by J. B. Lippincott, Philadelphia, Pa.
Clothes Making Simplified. C. Countiss. Published by the Fashion Institute, Chicago, Ill.
The Mary Brooks Picken Method of Modern Dressmaking. Pictorial Review Co., New York City.
Bulletin on Sewing. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C.
Note: To account for inflation, multiply prices by 8 to 10.