katherine summer * couturière

Fine Dressmaking in the San Francisco Bay Area

25 August 2012

Opportunity--A Euphamism for Production Woes. Part the First.

For years now I have been terrified of the production process.  I've read books, taken classes, and developed numerous designs that I would like to have made.  I've also heard horror story after nightmare regarding the pitfalls of manufacturing.  ESPECIALLY for naive beginners.  

Why am I even saying that?  Betsey Johnson recently declared bankruptcy, and that was AFTER Steve Madden, who acquired the brand in 2010, excused a $48 MILLION DOLLAR LOAN.  


Did you hear me?  
I SAID HE LET THEM OFF THE HOOK FOR A $48 MILLION BUCKS.

If people with this many years of experience and this much money are failing...  well, clearly the prospect is more than intimidating.

However.  

I am a brave lady who does not like to shy away from challenges.  And so when my dear friend Dusty (also a production virgin) said that she was going to be manufacturing a small run of gorgeous stretch velvet super bootie skirts, I asked if I could jump on her bandwagon.  
super bootie skirt

One of the biggest advantages of this is that we can split the fabric cost.  Dusty's skirts take up a lot of fabric.  My tops  need very little.  In fact, in the cutting layout (called a marker), my tops fit very neatly in between her skirts, so they actually took up no extra room, fitting in what would have been the scraps had she done this by herself. 

Also, having someone else to go through this with made the process less daunting.  And Dusty is what I would call GOOD COMPANY.   

Mistake #1
Our cutter told us that we needed to order our fabric before he would create the marker.  Presumably this is because he didn't believe us when we said that our useable width was 58".  So we estimated our fabric needs based on making one garment.  We knew that we'd have economy of scale but no realistic idea of how much.  
The result is that we ended up with way more fabric than we needed.   This ended up not being a terrible thing because we had enough to do another run, but that is another story.

Lesson #1
GET YOUR MARKER MADE BEFORE YOU ORDER YOUR FABRIC.  Is this always the way to do it?  I can't say--I am sure there are reasons to order the fabric first, but not in our case, which is a very small run.  


Mistake #2
The fabric, all 224 yards and 7 colors of it, was delivered to her house, wrapped in opaque protective plastic.  Did we at least cut open a little window to check the colors like smart little girls?  NO.  NO WE DID NOT.  So when we picked up our leftover fabric  from the cutter, all the colors that we ordered were there except for one.  Instead of the olive green velvet that we had ordered, we had a taupe, very much like a raw umber Crayola--remember those?

Lesson #2
Check your inventory as soon as you receive it.  Our source would certainly have let us exchange it.  Luckily we liked the color, and it sold well.  But what if we'd gotten canary yellow or something?  

Another problem that I had was that my top has a contrasting fabric band around the bottom.  My top is a pull-over.  Which means that all the fabric has to stretch enough  to get over the shoulders.  Just because a fabric has elasticity does not mean that it has equal stretch on the straight grain and the cross grain (horizontally and vertically).  This is just one reason that you need grainlines on your pattern pieces, which I did.  

However, when I got my sewn tops back, the band was very tight.  You can still get the tops on, thank goodness, but they do not have the right stretch--the cutter cut them on the cross-grain instead of the straight grain.  I asked my sewer why she didn't call me, and she said it was because there was still stretch--she would have if there was no stretch.  

Mistake #3
I did look at the plotted pattern pieces after the cutter had digitized and graded (made the different sizes) them, but I didn't look carefully enough.  Had I done so, I would have seen that the grainline was erroneous.  

Lesson #3a
Check your plots carefully.
Lesson #3b
Draw your grainline with a black sharpie.  Make it so that nobody with half a brain could miss it.  Not that my grainline wasn't legible in the first place.  This is incontrovertibly the cutter's fault. But I am finding that everything must be crystal clear, or you can expect problems.  Nay--you can depend on them.

Would you like to see the fruits of our labor?  
You can purchase the tops here and the skirts here, and we're offering a deal if you want to buy a matching set--details are in the listings.

asian costume

chinese costume

asian top

chinese top

chinoiserie costume

opium den costume

3 comments:

  1. you girls have been so busy! and the vintage lace color makes my jaw drop. Every. Single. Time.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Alyssum! Thank you--it is quite a delicious color :-)

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  2. Anonymous3/9/12

    WHAT WONDERFUL BEAUTIFUL THINGS! VERY TALENTED
    SO CREATIVE AND DIFFERENT - LOVE IT ALL!

    ReplyDelete