Laurel Hoffmann Explains Why Sewing Can Be A Top Career Choice For You Today

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Alex organized his first fashion show with the help of his supportive family and a few friends. While the show was still three months away, he made a discovery which surprised him. While preparing for the fashion show, Alex realized that not knowing sewing is a big handicap for a designer.

Alex continues to take sewing lessons today and advises that “if you’re going into design, you need to know how to sew first. You must know All of the rudiments of the business.”

Sewing is certainly one of the most valuable skills you can teach yourself and your children.

So why is sewing a top career choice today?

The world seems to be going in a circle. More and more women and men are seeking tailor made clothes and smaller boutique fashion stores – which not only provide a better fit than ready-made clothes, but also lend a sense of individuality to the wearer.

Learning the craft of sewing is absolutely necessary in order to know what’s possible when designing – and there are multiple well paying career options open for those with sewing skills.

Here are some examples of profitable businesses run by those with sewing skills.

  • Custom curtain making is a lucrative business idea – every new home owner wants to make his or her home beautiful.
  • Embroidered baby quilts: Which mother would say no to something beautiful for her baby?
  • Make bridal dresses, headpieces and veils: Which bride wouldn’t want something different from Sears? And how many can really afford a dress by Sarah Burton?

If you are a back-to-work mom, with sewing, you could be doing something which is creative, fun and offers the possibility of financial freedom. With time you could teach sewing or expand into a custom tailoring business with the help of a couple of apprentices.

At the very least, you will be able to choose your own fabric and make a suit for yourself, exactly the way you want it to fit at a fraction of the price you pay to the designer brands.

How do you go about the business of sewing?
You might feel that sewing for profit is very different than sewing a pair of pants for yourself. There are many elements to consider apart from sewing – tools, equipment, material suppliers, constructing a product line, figuring out your specialties and marketing your sewing business or finding a job.

Don’t get worried. All these are just details. As long as you enjoy sewing everything falls in place through the process of trial and error. It might need a bit more work, a bit more uncertainty in the beginning – but when you do get in the groove, you will be thankful that you chose sewing instead of that nine-to-five office job.

What is the best way of getting started?

To answer this question we reached out to Laurel Hoffmann, who is today one of the most respected figures in the sewing industry in North America. Author, Teacher and Designer – Laurel today opens up the world of sewing for budding designers through her live sewing classes and also through her books on sewing and pattern-making.

As Laurel says on her blog – ContemporaryFashionEducation, “industrial sewing is different from home sewing. However YOU can – everyone can – easily learn the methods used by professionals and create exquisitely beautiful garments, like those produced in the industry, for yourself, your family, and your customers”.

Laurel Hoffman kindly agreed to share her thoughts in this short interview with us:

Shannon: You have a very wide variety of courses. What are the courses which you would recommend from a viewpoint of getting jobs or for starting a business?

Laurel: I believe that knowledge of both patternmaking and sample making – being able to draft the patterns, then cut and sew the entire garment using industrial procedures – is essential if one is to be successful in any aspect of fashion. I am convinced that everything I have put into my program is needed to achieve that success, whether on the job, starting a business, or sewing for oneself and one’s family. It is what I needed to know when I worked as a production pattern maker in the industry, and what I need to know when I sew for myself and my family. I am writing and teaching what I learned in the industry because I believe information about how the industry drafts and sews high-end garments should be available to everyone.

The time spent in class is very short. Each course runs for 10 three-hour classes with the exception of one course that contains 12 three-hour classes. One could complete the 6-course program in one year. The rotating courses are offered on Saturdays in three semesters a year. One course is offered in the morning, a second is offered in the afternoon. The work is intense, but when a student has finished the program she is able to design, draft, and sew anything.

Because this program was written for Professional Continuing Education students who could not necessarily take the courses in order, each course is inclusive. Most of the courses combine pattern-making and sample making. The student learns to both draft the patterns and sew the garment in those courses.

The program and its supporting textbooks take the student step-by-step, hands-on through the processes as they are done in industry. Only the most basic sewing machine and equipment are needed. Although there is no business or design course in the program, business is continually stressed in the classes. Design, including color analysis is also incorporated into the courses.

Shannon: Do your students usually go on to find jobs or do they start their own home business?

Laurel: My students include design room personnel, students who wish to enter the industry, home entrepreneurs, and people who wish to sew more professionally for themselves and their families. Those who have wished to enter the industry have been successful. Some head up designing departments.

Shannon: What are some suggestion you would have for someone starting new in this area?

Laurel: First of all, think bottom line. Find ways to learn the trade without going into debt.

Secondly, practice patternmaking and sewing. Unfortunately the industry uses a different sewing method than that offered in the home sewing books – so learning sewing is a tough assignment unless one can obtain an instructional sewing book that presents industrial sample making.

Sew for yourself and for others. Learn how to fit well. The fashion schools are turning out hundreds of designers so there is not much job opportunity there. Today one can start a blog and sell to individual customers from there. If successful one can do well, but if not, one has not put up capital that one then has to recover. Having one’s own business is a good way to start, and looks good on a resume when applying for a job in the industry, even if the business was not financially successful.

The industry is desperate for patternmakers who are well-trained, so learning how to draft and fit is the way to go. Plus it pays more. Entering the industry is difficult. One has to keep looking and take whatever is offered in the beginning. It’s very important to be able to take criticism. Once in the industry it’s tough work.

The fashion industry is returning to the USA, so there may be more job opportunities in the future.


Please visit blog – ContemporaryFashionEducation to view Laurel’s books, schedule of classes and sewing tips.

I noticed Laurel also offers a 2-day master class in Philadelphia. I love these short duration courses so much since they makes it easy even for out of city folks to learn from Laurel. If you would like to visit Philadelphia and learn from Laurel in the 2 day workshop and master-class, please visit her website for more information: Laurel Hoffman School: Contemporary Fashion Education



In conclusion:
First of all, we would like to thank Laurel for taking the time to share so much insight for all of us. A creative career like sewing and fashion design is a vocation which brings great fulfillment, and kudos to Laurel for the great work she is doing in this field.

In closing, I would like to echo Laurel’s words – “YOU can learn sewing”. You can master the nuances of the business and make a successful living out of it. Do NOT give up if this is what you love. Give it another shot – a good shot – leverage the experience of experts like Laurel, find a small support group and you WILL find success.

We close with this maxim:
Question: When is a bad time to sew?
Answer: Never