Industrial Sewing Worker

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Industrial Sewing Worker


Without them, we may not have clothes, draperies or furniture coverings. Industrial sewing machine operators run single or multiple-needled sewing machines. They join the parts together, hem, gather, reinforce and attach buttons, hooks, zippers and other fasteners to textile products. Sewing machine operators work with clothing, hats, shoes, tents, tarpaulins, awnings and upholstery. They also work with a wide range of materials such as cloth, leather, canvas, nylon, and polyvinyl chloride (PVC).

Industrial sewing machine operators work in factories. They spend most of their day sitting in a straight-backed chair controlling the machine through foot or knee pedals. Typically, bundles or garment pieces are brought to them from the cutting area and the sewing machine operator assembles them into a finished product. This is often an assembly line process, where each operator performs a single operation on one part of a garment such as putting on buttons. Even though they work with other people, the solo nature of the tasks and often noisy environments mean sewing machine operators have little interaction with one another.

There are many types of machines in a sewing plant, such as blind-stitch, button-hole, and monogram machines. Sewing machine operators tend to specialize on one machine, performing one specific task such as stitching hems, attaching elastic or making sleeves.

Sewing machine operators tend to work a standard five-day, 35- to 40-hour week. Depending on where they are employed they may work rotating shift work. Older factories are cluttered, hot, and poorly lit and ventilated, but modern facilities usually have more workspace and are well-lit and ventilated. Textile mills are noisy but if they are employed in retail stores or tailors it is a much quieter environment. Sewing machine operators must be attentive while running equipment, and have attention to detail. This job requires a person who pays attention to detail and takes pride in their work.
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  Average Earnings  
Lowest 10% of Earners:
Median Salary:
Highest 10% of Earners:

  Interests and Skills  
Sewing machine operators must first be conscientious and detail oriented. They need to be able to follow instructions precisely as this is detailed work and it will be inspected. Good concentration skills are also important when working with machinery. These workers take pride in their work and in producing a well-done piece. Sewing machine operators also need good vision and manual dexterity in order to work with fine details and operate the machines.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Run single or multiple-needled sewing machines
  • Join the parts together
  • Hem, gather, reinforce and attach buttons, hooks, zippers and other fasteners to textile products
  • Use specialized machines such as blind-stitch, button-hole, and monogram machines
  • May operate smaller equipment or be required to do some hand-stitched work or detailing
  • Examine garments and operate sewing machines, sergers and other machines to repair garments and other articles during the manufacturing process
  • Complete production reports
  • May perform minor maintenance and repairs on sewing machine
  • Sewing machine operators tend to work a standard five-day, 35- to 40-hour week. Depending on where they are employed they may work rotating shift workdays and evenings. They will be sitting for most of the day or if on some of the newer machines they may be standing for long periods. The work environment in apparel companies and textile mills is busy, and it can be hot and noisy as well. Many times they work on 'piece-work' which means they get paid for the amount of work completed rather than an hourly wage. Attention to detail is extremely important in these matters as the work is inspected and operators receive wages based upon quantity and quality of their work. If the work is not up to standards they will not receive payment for those pieces.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Industrial sewing machine workers are employed by textile mills and apparel factories, or they may work in smaller specialized establishments such as tailors, dressmakers, or as sewers employed in retail stores. Some may also be self-employed.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Industrial sewing machine operators with experience and opportunity may move into supervisory positions in the textile industry. There is also the potential to be self-employed as a shop owner. Sewing machine operators can move into other industries such as theater and film costume production.

  Educational Paths  
There is no specified training for workers in this industry. Currently, a grade 10 education is required; a grade 12 education is preferred. Due to changes in the technology this work force and requirements are in the processing of changing. Some community college courses in sewing machine operation are recommended.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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