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“Hey, could you make _____ for me?”

How many times do you hear this in the course of the average month? I know I hear it at least 5 times monthly, from friends, family, acquaintances, and sometimes even nearly complete strangers.

My mother in law wants me to reupholster her dining room chairs.

My sister in law asked me to fix the misspelled name of one of her kids on an item made by another relative.

A friend asked me to make her a duplicate of a commercially available item.

An acquaintance asked me to make a duplicate of an item I’d made for my son.

And it’s not that I can’t do it. And it’s not that I don’t want to do it. But the requesters very rarely understand what they’re really asking, and therefore also don’t understand the reasons that I really ought to turn them down.

First, I really lack the time. I’m carving out one week out of every four to work on projects for me (in other words, not for either shop and not for customers). But the amount of time that week represents is very small - usually only a few hours of incredibly interrupted work time. That’s not much. However, this rarely deters me from turning down anything but very large projects.

More than just the time involved in fulfilling everyone’s personal wish lists is the lack of follow-through, and this is possibly the biggest problem.

My sister in law, for example, asked me to fix the aforementioned item. I agreed. I told her to drop it by and I’d see what I could do. That was eight years ago. Every once in a while, I still feel bad that I didn’t fix it for her, but the fact is - I couldn’t very well fix it while it was at her house 30 miles away.

A friend asked me to make her something similar to an already-existing item. I agreed, and told her several things I’d need to know before I could work on it. (color, size, etc.) It hasn’t come up since.

Finally, what many non-crafters, non-sewers, etc. do not understand is that just because a person is good at a few facets of craftiness doesn’t make them professionals at all aspects. I’ve turned down so many friends asking me to do tailoring work for them. A few have seemed a little hurt over it. But what they didn’t understand (despite my attempts at explaining) is that I’m really not a tailor. I can adjust a pattern to fit my body better - on the second time around. I can adjust my own ready-made clothes to fit me better - but I really only do it on the simplest of clothing items.

I’m also not skilled at developing complex patterns. I can do basic pattern drafting. But I can’t draft a pattern for a fitted slipcover for your couch (MIL again).

And I can make things from wood like simple cabinets and furniture, but if you want something that looks like it came from a store and not from my basement… go buy it from a store.

This isn’t being mean, this is doing you a favor. And doing my family a favor, because they don’t deserve to have to live with me while I’m working on a project for which I am ill suited. (I get a wee bit grouchy.)


And you know my MIL, with the dining room chairs? I told her no, even though it’s an easy project and I could totally do it. Why? Because she can do it herself. No, she doesn’t know how. Or, rather, she didn’t know how. I walked her through it. (remove seats from chair frame. remove old fabric. remove old padding if it’s overly worn. Buy new padding, buy new fabric. Cut padding to size. Cut fabric. Pull fabric over padding. Staple to underneath side of seat. Replace.) Now she knows. She can do it herself.