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What does a Seamstress do?

Seamstresses - or sewing machine operators - use high-powered, heavy-duty industrial sewing machines to stitch together garments and other products of cloth, canvas, leather and non-woven fabrics. In many cases, the work they do is carried out using standard sewing machines, but may also require the use of specialist computerised machinery.

Seamstresses join, reinforce or decorate material or articles. They may construct the entire finished product or specialise in performing a single operation such as sewing seams, tacking, making buttonholes or stitching collars. They can work in clothing factories on a production line, or start their own sewing business.


What qualifications do I need?

To become a competent seamstress, you could study towards a Bachelor of Fashion Degree at a university or fashion institute. Many factories have their own centres which offer training, where operators are taught how to perform tasks with a sewing machine. Other formal qualifications exist in the form of a Certificate of Competency from the Clothing Industry Training Board - an eight-week all-inclusive training course. 

What subjects do I need?

Physical Sciences
Electrical Technology


Where can I study?

University of Johannesburg
BA in Fashion Design

Villioti Fashion Institute
BA in Fashion Design

Stadio School of Fashion
BA in Fashion Design

Where can I get more info?

National Bargaining Council (NBC) - www.nbc.org.za
Cape Town Fashion Council (CTFC) - www.ctfcdigital.co.za


Interview with a Seamstress

Elodie Banza | SEAMSTRESS | Global Fabrics

Elodie Banza | SEAMSTRESS | Global Fabrics


Why did you choose to become a seamstress? 
I enjoy textiles, working with different fabrics and putting things together. It’s just so satisfying and fulfilling.

What training did you undergo, and where?
I matriculated from high school in the DRC, and this was a subject that formed part of my studies. From there, I learnt through work experience.

Describe a typical day on the job
A typical day at work involves setting up my working station, cutting, measuring, stitching, ironing and hooking curtains, blinds and cushions.

What do you enjoy most about your work?
I really enjoy sitting at the machine and sewing – the adrenaline I get from working the machine is exciting!

What don’t you like?
Cutting, measuring and ironing are my least favourite parts of the job, because then I’m on my feet for long hours, which is exhausting for my feet and back.

What hurdles have you had to overcome?
I’m still overcoming hurdles and that mostly has to do with my wages. Only a select few are willing to pay for quality, and also, racism is difficult to deal with.

What’s been the highlight of your career to date?
The highlight of my career has been sewing for huge organisations such as schools and restaurants.

What are your future goals?
My future goal is to work for a company that pays me what I’m worth, so that I can lead a comfortable life with my kids. Hopefully I can one day start my own company.

In your line of work is experience as important as formal training?
I believe training is way better! It’s a very hands-on job, so it’s better to gain knowledge through watching others and doing it yourself, rather than learning from a textbook so you can produce a certificate that says you can sew.

Is there a type of personality best suited to this work?
You have to have patience, attention to detail, and be organised. You have to be a very strong person; it’s not for the faint-hearted. There are lots of deadlines to meet and the analytical aspect of it can be very stressful.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in your career?
Provide quality work and stand up for what you believe is your worth.

Describe your job in three words
Exciting, competitive and (lots of hard) work.


Interview date: May 2021