This week we went to a garment factory to learn how clothing is made and the type of work that goes into bringing your dream design to life. With just a few meters of fabric and a set of paper patterns, we visited a large Northern Europe mens gloves and clothing manufacturer with the goal of fully understanding the process. So we wanted to share our experience with you:
Without any past knowledge of the way that garment manufacturing actually works can be somewhat confusing. People who work with a clothing factory for the very first time are frequently frustrated by long lead times, delays, and the lack of flexibility coming from a factory when a company asks for last-minute changes. You also can review our guide on how to work with clothing manufacturers.
- Patterns – Digital vs Paper
The clothing manufacturer that we visited noted right away that for proper production and sampling, our patterns would need to be digitised since it is impossible to do some things with just paper patterns. In today’s digital world, it makes sense to have sewing patterns inside a file instead of just only on paper. The pattern making specialist at the manufacturer and took our paper patterns and put them on a big board called a digitiser. This allowed the paper patterns to be inputted by the pattern maker into their systems. The Assyst software was used by this factory. Each part of the pattern was paced around using a hand-held device to take a photo of the pattern’s position for each of the dots. They went around the entire pattern piece until all of the information had been collected and the pattern showed up in their software. The process is quite time-consuming since there are tens of panels on some of the garments. We were fortunate to only have a couple.
- Sorting the patterns after they were digitised
The pattern maker detected that there were a few small imperfections and rough places that could be easily adjusted and fixed since the pattern was now in their system. When the pattern maker works with digital patterns it allows them to make changes and alterations with surgical precision. All of the measurement adjustments were tracked and visualised in real-time. The same patterns were used later on to grade other sizes once we approved the product samples. The same software is used to do the size grading.
- Lay-plan: Preparing patterns for production
Printing the patterns out on a plotter was the next step. In order to do this, the factory specialist needed to prepare an appropriate lay-plan, which involved laying all of the pattern blocks out in a specific order (from our case sampling) while considering things like roll width, fabric length, and the total number of items being produced along with a breakdown of all the sizes. It was done quickly since the pattens were in their system. The software used with the lay-plan recommended the optimal layout of the patterns (geometrical shapes) for the quantities that we had as well as other criteria in order to reduce fabric consumption and make the best use of our fabric. The software did this fairly well, but it could still be improved.
- Cutting the fabric
Our patterns were printed out by the plotter from our pre-compiled lay-plan. The workers then cut the fabric. The pattens got printed out on special paper. They stuck seamlessly to the fabric. That way, nothing would slide when the fabric was cut. As the cutting started we notice the first part was done manually using scissors, but then specialised equipment was used to trim the finer parts.