Just recently, we visited one of the cloth factories to learn more about the cloth-making process, and the efforts that go into actualising your dream design. We took with us a set of paper patterns and several meters of cloth and made our way into a large North European ladies gloves and clothing manufacturer with an objective to get a vivid picture of the whole process. Read on to find out what we learnt:
The process can be a little puzzling, especially without prior knowledge on the working of the garment manufacturing industry. Individuals working with garment-making factories have to put up with frustrations stemming from delays, extended lead-times, or the rigidity of the factory whenever there is a request for changes in the eleventh hour. Feel free to go over our guide on working with garment manufacturers.
- Patterns – Paper vs Digital
The garment manufacturer immediately noted that our paper patterns needed to be digitised in order to sample and produce garments properly, especially as some activities can’t be done by using paper patterns only. It makes sense to have sewing patterns as a file instead of paper only in today’s modern digital world. The specialist working with the manufacturer on pattern-making placed our paper patterns on a digitiser, which is essentially a large board. Through the digitiser, the pattern maker was able to feed the paper patterns into the manufacturer’s system, which in our case was the Assyst software.
Using a hand-held device, every pattern part was separately paced around by taking a snapshot of the pattern’s position for each dot. The specialist went all around the pattern piece for complete collection of all the information and also ensured that the pattern was registered in the software. This process takes time given that some clothes have tens of panels. In our case, we only had a few.
- Sorting out patterns
The pattern maker discovered a few rough places and slight imperfections that could be easily attuned and corrected, especially now that the pattern appeared in their system. With digital patterns, the pattern maker can easily make adjustments and alterations with great accuracy. Adjustments for all measurements are visualised and observed in real time. Keep in mind, the exact set of patterns would be utilised later for grading to other sizes following our approval of the samples produced. The same software is used for size grading.
- Lay-plan: Readying the patterns for production
The step that followed was printing out our patterns on a plotter. To do this, the specialist had to ready a proper lay-plan by proper laying of all pattern blocks in a particular order (by sampling in our case, keeping in mind factors like the length of fabric, roll width, and the total number of pieces to be produced (with the sizes broken down). This process was quick as the patterns were already in their system. The software used for this process made suggestions for the optimal layout of these patterns based on our quantities and other factors to optimise fabric use and minimise fabric consumption. The software did quite well with this, but the process could be improved further.
- Fabric Cutting
From the pre-compiled lay-plan, the plotter made print-outs of our patterns, and the fabric was ready to be cut. Printing of the patterns was done on a special paper that seamlessly adhered to the fabric to prevent sliding when cutting. We noted that at the beginning of the cutting process, workers used scissors to cut manually, but specialised equipment was later used to trim the finer bits.