What does a seamstress do?
Seamstresses make alterations to and carry out sewing repairs on garments for customers. This may involve a fitting with the customer to decide where adjustments need to be made. Typical jobs include sewing, lengthening or shortening hemlines, adjusting seams, altering darts and repairing zips or tears.
Having agreed with the customer which changes are to be made, the alteration hand marks these out on the garment, either by pinning or tacking, or by using chalk marks before making the adjustments.
Depending on the type of alteration, they may have to unpick the stitches in the garment before sewing the pieces together again in a slightly different position. They have to decide what kind of stitching will suit different types of fabric and may stitch by hand and/or use an industrial-type sewing machine, such as an overlocker.
Seamstresses may specialise in women's or men's clothing or both.
What's the working environment like for a seamstress?
They usually work around 35 to 40 hours a week, which may include Saturdays. Part-time work and overtime may be available.
They usually work in a shop or workshop, dry cleaners or sometimes from home. Most of the time they work sitting down at a machine.
What does it take to become a seamstress?
To work in clothing alteration you should:
have an interest in textiles, colour, fashion, design and trends
have excellent practical skills for using tools like scissors, needles and sewing machines
have an appreciation for detail
be able to deal tactfully with customers
be able to take accurate measurements and make calculations
have the ability to work quickly
have good eyesight, and normal colour vision for matching threads to fabrics
be able to work on your own initiative.
Seamstresses work in clothing retailers, as well as dry cleaners and industrial laundries. There are also shops which specialise in fast alteration and repair services.
Promotion prospects are limited, but in larger companies there may be supervisory roles available. Self-employment is also an option.
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