Sewing Machinist

The Job and What's Involved

As a sewing machinist, it would be your job to stitch sections of material together to make fabric products, ranging from clothing to soft furnishings.

Your duties would include:

  • Feeding garment or textile sections through the machine.
  • Stitching together full garments or fabric products.
  • Adjusting machine settings for different jobs.
  • Checking that finished work matches pattern instructions.
  • Carrying out basic maintenance, such as cleaning and oiling machines.

You might specialise on one machine, such as a buttonholer, or use a number of machines like overlockers, hemmers and bar tackers, to produce different finishes. In large scale manufacturing, you might operate computerised sewing machines that read from a digital design pattern.

You would work with a variety of fabrics, such as cotton, wool and leather, and on a number of different product lines. You might also stitch industrial textiles, for example those used in sail making.

In a full-time job you would usually work 37 to 40 hours a week. There may be opportunities for overtime and part-time hours.

You would normally work as part of a team in a factory and spend most of your time sitting at a machine. The work can be repetitive and factory conditions can be noisy.

Starting salaries can be between £12,000 and £13,000 a year. Experienced machinists can earn between £14,000 and £18,000 a year.

You may receive bonuses based on your output. Some companies pay by piecework (a fixed amount for each item you produce).

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Most opportunities are likely to be with clothing and textiles manufacturers. The highest concentration of jobs is in the East Midlands and north-west.

Jobs are advertised in the local press, through Jobcentre Plus and Directgov (Jobseekers page).

Education and Training

Although there are no set entry requirements for this role, employers would normally expect you to have basic sewing skills. Most companies would ask you to take a practical test at the interview. You would also need good eyesight.

A college course could teach you the skills needed as a starting point for this career. For example, the ABC Certificate, Diploma or Award in Fashion and Textiles at levels 1 to 3 includes options for garment construction and pattern cutting.

You may be able to get into this job through an Apprenticeship scheme. The range of Apprenticeships available in your area will depend on the local jobs market and the types of skills employers need from their workers.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work, Careers Wales; and for Northern Ireland contact

A Few More Exams You Might Need

You would normally receive training from your employer in the different machining methods. You may be encouraged to work towards one of several NVQ qualifications, including Manufacturing Sewn Products at Level 2 and Apparel Manufacturing Technology at Level 3.

Featured Job Guide - Oil Drilling Roustabout

Oil Drilling Roustabout

Oil Drilling Roustabouts and Roughnecks work as part of a small team on offshore oil or gas drilling rigs or production platforms. Roustabouts do unskilled manual labouring jobs on rigs and platforms, and Roughneck is a promotion from roustabout.

Roustabouts do basic tasks to help keep the rig and platform working efficiently and Roughnecks do practical tasks involved in the drilling operation, under the supervision of the driller.


Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A sewing machinist needs:

  • Good practical skills.
  • The ability to work quickly and accurately.
  • An eye for detail.
  • The ability to work in a team and alone.
  • A willingness to work flexibly.
  • The ability to concentrate for long periods on repetitive tasks.

Your Long Term Prospects

With experience, you could become a sample machinist and work with a designer or manufacturer, making up product samples before the final version goes into production.

Other options include supervisory management, staff training, quality control and pattern cutting and grading. Alternatively, you could set up your own business as a tailor or dressmaker.

Get Further Information

Skillset Careers
Tel: 08080 300 900 (England and Northern Ireland)
Tel: 0808 100 8094 (Scotland)
Tel: 08000 121 815 (Wales)

Focus Point, 21 Caledonian Road,
London N1 9GB

Other Related Jobs

Additional resources