Model Stitching is one of the embroidery designer’s most vital tools. Without the, designers would not be sure exactly how a design would work. They wouldn’t know the exact size, which fabric and threads work best.
This is where the Model Stitcher comes in. Their role is to take the design and stitch it in accordance with the designer’s instructions – turning the theory of the design into the actual piece. Some designers have two or three model stitchers, each working on a slightly modified version of the same design. Sometimes, a design will take two or three versions (or more!) before it is exactly what the designer is after.
Many embroiderers think that model stitching would be a fun way to earn a bit of extra money, whilst getting in on the ground floor with designs.
Well, in some ways, it is, but it’s also a lot of hard work. Model stitching allows you no room for error, or to add your own personal touches to a piece. It also means you need to work to a strict deadline.
Requirements of the Model Stitcher
Model stitchers need to be very experienced embroiderers with advanced skills in a number of different techniques. They need to be able to follow instructions to the letter, and also be able to stitch neatly, quickly and to deadlines.
Most designers also insist that model stitches have a smoke free home – some also require a pet free one as well to ensure that the piece is kept as clean and odour-free as possible.
You need to be a highly experienced stitcher, with the ability to stitch on many different types of fabric, using different threads/floss and able to incorporate beads, charms, etc. You also need to be a clean stitcher – with a neat, unknotted back, no lumps or bumps and each stitch clear and defined.
You should also be experienced in all the basic stitches of the technique you are stitching, as well as several advanced stitches and with the ability to teach yourself / learn new stitches quickly.
Flexibility in your stitching preferences is essential, a willingness to stitch designs on any theme, subject and to follow instructions exactly.
Writing skills are important, as you will need to prepare a report when you have finished stitching. You need to keep a record of any errors you find, and how much thread you use. Often, not just the number of bobbins/skeins, but the exact number of inches. This last is especially important if you are stitching a design that will become part of a kit.
Your end report should include how long it took you to stich, how clear the instructions were (including any “how to do this stitch” instructions, and any spelling mistakes). If there was an error or a difficulty in the design, your report must clearly show where and what it was, and you will also need to mark your stitching (usually using pins). Some designers will ask you to suggest a way to overcome a problem, and this will also need to be clearly explained in your report, as well as to be stitched on a separate piece of fabric. You will also need to explain problems with fabric and/or threads.
Then, when that is done, you need to package it all up as instructed (usually the same way you received it) and send it all back.
Model stitchers are usually paid on a “per piece” basis. Sometimes postage for the return of the item is included or reimbursed with your payment, sometimes it’s included in the payment for the piece.
How to become a Model Stitcher
You will need, in effect, to audition. The very least you will need to provide is a stitch sampler of your work, neatly labelled showing different stitches and techniques, thread, etc.
In many cases, you will be instructed on what to include on your “audition” piece. Some designers provide you with a design and instructions that you will have to stitch. Your “audition” piece will not be returned to you – if you are successful, it is sometimes used to confirm what level your stitching is at.
Most model stitchers are employed by publishers / agents and distributors of particular designers, however some designers also use their own model stitchers. If you are successful, you could end up stitching for several different designers.
This is a field in which you need to prove yourself constantly. Sloppy or inept work is not tolerated, and results in no stitching coming your way. Most model stitchers are employed on a freelance basis, so you will need to ensure that you set yourself up as a small business on a taxation basis to accommodate this.
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© 2007 Megan McConnell