Sewing for other people is not an easy business, especially if they are far away. However, at some point don't we all try to do this? My first experience was with James and it all seemed to turn out fine. However, my second experience, one I was very excited about, did not turn out so well. Why? Because some people cannot be pleased. You cannot make them happy no matter what. Mistakes will be made, yes. Sewing is perhaps a lost craft, and in today's world of ready-made, machine-perfected clothing from an overseas factory, it's difficult for people to understand that a custom made, hand-made, historical garment is not an easy, or normal thing to make. Sometimes things happen - buttons break, for instance - and all a seamstress can do is request the garment be sent back for repair. Do you know anybody who does not make changes and repairs on their costume pieces? This is part of the problem of sewing for other people. The expectation. Also the deadline. Clothes are not made overnight, and hand-made clothes, even with the aid of a machine, take weeks, even months depending.
I don't even know where to start. I want to post some e-mails I received from an unhappy Mary Spencer, but I feel they need explanation. Mary has made my life miserable. She freaked out and sent me e-mail after e-mail about in-progress photos I posted on my blog, complaining that the photos did not reflect what I said I was going to produce. Obviously she missed the "in progress" text written all over the post. She cried, yelled, and badgered me with e-mails every time something appeared to be amiss. I spent as much time calming her down as I did sewing. Mary also told me many stories of how they'd been screwed by other seamstresses, particularly Fugawee, Bonnie Miss Flora, and The Silly Sisters, well-known and respected companies and individuals. She imparted to me that I was the only one who could make this garment, that it all depended on me. I was confident I could do a good job, and that my years of experience working with clients in the graphic design business would help me handle this one. I was quite wrong.
I received an e-mail from an acquaintance in the costuming community warning me about this client. I did not heed the warning, but boy I should have. When so many reputable seamstresses and established companies have so much trouble with one person, it's important to take a listen. I can now add my recommendation to these companies: DO NOT WORK WITH MARY SPENCER.
So why did I? I wanted to expand my costuming portfolio. I wanted to make beautiful garments. I needed the money. What I learned is that sewing for money is not well-paid. The hours and hard work you put in do not match what you make on the garment, and if you ask the price you know it should actually be, people flip out. So working for pennies, it only makes it that much more enjoyable when your client harps at you.
The mistakes I made:
- I sewed a collar on not to regular liking. To the client, it was upside down, with the finished edge (the hem) showing, not turned under. That was a mistake, I was wrong.
- I used inferior self-cover button kits to make the buttons. I tugged and pulled on the shanks to test them, but when they arrived to the client, many or all came apart. I offered to replace them, but the client refused and made the new buttons and sewed them on instead.
I could have handled things differently, but when someone calls you in the evening and unexpectedly screams at you about something well beyond your control, after months of being pushed and having to "handle" this person...well, there is a breaking point. I defended myself because the complaint was on a garment that this client had accepted, paid for, and had in their possession for more than a month, and only then decided it was incorrect. I offered to correct the mistake three times, each time they refused, and only continued to yell at me. So at that point, what is the conversation for?
I decided, based on my experience, the unsolicited warning e-mail, and being screamed at on the phone, not to work with this person anymore. We were just about to begin a new project, one I had received materials and a downpayment for. I made this known, without emotion, in an e-mail, at which point I began to receive e-mails from the Mary's husband Adam (not the client at all!) about how I became "enraged," and that everything I said was a lie, and that I am extremely unprofessional and like to a twelve year old girl. Of course, I was unable to complete any sentences at all on the phone, as I was talked over and berated - I had no ability to explain anything...and, of course, the client's partner was listening in on the other line, without my knowledge, a violation of New Hampshire law.
I responded to the vicious e-mail by telling this person's partner that if they continued to harass me (after I've ended business with them and returned their materials and deposit for the next project) I would make it known to everyone I possibly could my experience with this Mary. I received yet another aggressive e-mail this morning, and so I am following through on my promise. I would also like to add that since ending business with Mary and Adam Spencer, they have filed blackening reports with RipOffReport.com, the BBB, and their local police, all because the mailman wasn't carrying their materials and full refund fast enough. I've received countless harassing e-mails threatening legal action, and Mary continues to slam me on her "An Historical Lady" blog, complete with made-up conspiracy theories and paranoid accusations.
This is a warning. Do NOT try to work with this person. It will lead to frustrations, battles, and heartache you cannot even imagine. It will lead to false reports filed with the BBB, RipOffReport.com, the police, and constant threats of litigation. It comes with defamation of character, direct abuse, sincere attempts to destroy one's business, and all kinds of stories that get more and more colorful as time passes. It is not worth the money. It takes a force of nature to deter me from working with clients, and I can safely call Mary Spencer person a force of nature.
So there it is. You may judge me as you like. If you think this was an unprofessional thing to post on my blog, then know that it is out of self-defense as well as in an effort to warn the historical costuming community against this person and others like them. Thank you for reading this.