Sewing and Fabric Alterations Professional: Career Profile and Educational Requirements
Sewing and fabric alterations professionals produce clothing and other fabric goods for consumers. While these workers sometimes complete training courses offered through vocational schools or apprenticeship programs, many learn their skills on the job.
Sewing and Fabric Alterations Careers
Sewing Machine Operators
Sewing machine operators usually work for clothing and other fabric goods manufacturers. These workers are presented with pre-cut pieces of fabric and material to sew together using a machine. They may also be responsible for adding buttonholes or fixing stiches.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that employment for these workers would decline by 34% between 2008 and 2018 (www.bls.gov). This may be due to outsourcing to factories abroad or the use of automated sewing techniques, though the BLS also noted that jobs would continue to be available due to high industry turnover. As of May 2010, the median annual salary for sewing machine operators was $20,600.
Tailors, Dressmakers and Custom Sewers
Tailors, dressmakers and custom sewers are skilled workers who alter, repair and even sew custom garments for their customers. Many work in dry cleaning shops, as customers of these establishments often appreciate being able to drop off a garment to be cleaned and repaired at the same time. They may shorten hems, record alteration requirements on clothing tags and insert padding.
The BLS projected 'little to no' change in employment levels for tailors, dressmakers and custom sewers between 2008 and 2018, noting that while many people don't use these services, there is demand among affluent clients and high-end stores for custom sewing and tailoring. The median salary for these workers was $26,560 as of May 2010.
Upholsterers use fabrics to cover furniture and may work to produce new pieces or use their skills to repair damaged items. Working conditions can be dangerous or unhealthy for upholsterers who work with sharp tools, engage in heavy lifting and sit or stand in awkward positions for short periods of time. Common duties for this position can also include locating furniture defects, removing furniture webbing and securing furniture frames.
The BLS predicted a seven percent in increase in employment for upholsters between 2008 and 2010, due to continued demand for custom pieces and repairs of vintage furniture. As of May 2010, the median salary for upholsterers was $29,960.
Education and Training
Many garment workers and upholsterers are trained on the job. For example, sewing machine operators may receive training from other employees or a representative of a sewing machine company. Upholsterers may have the option of completing an apprenticeship, but can sometimes also complete training at a vocational school or community college.
Tailors, dressmakers and custom sewers can begin formal training while in high school, as many schools offer sewing classes to students. Other options include enrolling in a vocational school or community college program that offers training in fashion design, sewing and alterations, such as the certificate in clothing construction or Associate of Science in Apparel Design.
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