Sewing machinists follow pattern instructions to stitch clothing and garment pieces together. They may work on a single part of a garment or a whole garment, and carry out several sewing operations. Depending on the employer, machinists may work on a range of clothing lines or may concentrate on a particular garment type, for instance sportswear.
The machines they use operate at high speeds and different machines do different jobs, such as buttonholing or lock stitching, with many machines now computerised. Machinists may specialise on a particular machine or, quite commonly, use a number of machines, such as overlockers, hemmers and bar tackers to carry out a range of tasks and produce different finishes.
Machinists guide the material through the machine, correcting any mistakes as they go. They alter machine settings to suit the type of material and finish required. Some workers carry out simple maintenance, such as cleaning and oiling the machines.
Machinists may also work with designers and pattern cutters to make up samples of new styles to show to buyers.
As well as the clothing sector, machinists work with industrial fabrics, for example, those used in sail making; other machinists can be found in bedding and soft furnishings manufacture.
Sewing machinists usually work 37 to 40 hours a week. Overtime and part-time hours are often available.
Machinists normally work in a factory environment, usually in a team under a supervisor. Self-employed machinists often work in a small workshop or from home. They spend most of the day sitting at a machine.
To work as a sewing machinist you should:
Most opportunities are with clothing manufacturers and smaller retailers, specialising in making up garments and carrying out alterations. The industry is spread throughout the UK, and is particularly concentrated in larger urban areas.
Skilled machinists may be able to become sample machinists. Promotion to supervisor, responsible for running one of the manufacturing lines in the factory, may also be possible. Experienced machinists can become staff trainers or go into quality control as a garment examiner.
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