Archives 8/19-8/25 2005-2010

stu_and_kathleenI’ve been busy this week, hosting my co-blogger Stu who is here visiting from Portland. It’s been a real learning experience having someone around who is too much like me. Case in point, he wanted to see how the grading machines worked. Which ultimately involved their complete dis-assembly. [While he was at it, I had him reinstall the two screws left out of it from the last time I took it apart (in my defense, I didn’t put it back together then, Mr. F-I “helped” me do that and it’s my fault for not supervising). Not that I ever have extra parts left over, heh.] Anyway, yesterday we went to Santa Fe to watch a bronze pouring at Shidoni Foundry. The process wasn’t what I expected making for a very unique experience. The grounds of the foundry are beautiful with two large parks (including picnic tables) with a nice variety of sculptures (for sale) in a peaceful bucolic setting.

This morning, Stu wanted to look over the new-to-me blind stitch machine I bought a few weeks ago because he says he needed to “hem some pants”. Other than that’s what duct tape and staplers are for (and the existing hems are single needle) I intend to take full advantage of having an expert mechanical engineer around who delights in figuring out how these things work under the flimsiest of pretexts and who will then instruct me on how to adjust the tensions, stitch ratios and all that because of course, I don’t have a manual for it.

Supplied is a photo of me and Stu standing in the doorway of the oldest house (estimated date of construction circa 1200) in North America (Santa Fe). Our heads would be much higher than the top of the door frame but for the wearing away of the threshold over hundreds of years. The gap between the bottom of the door and the ground is almost 8 inches. By the way, I have lots of photos of friends and family standing in this doorway from the various trips to Santa Fe.

News dispensed with, below is this week’s edition of the archives. Hope your weekend is great.

August 19, through August 25, 2005
Tools and Supplies
Retail buyer complaints
Ironies of fabric sourcing
Lean Laundry
US Children’s Clothing report
10 signs of a problem designer

August 19, through August 25, 2006
Analyzing business plans pt.4
Sizing is a variety problem
Leadership and implementing change
How to design packaging
What are jobbers?
How to buy wholesale fabric
Analyzing business plans pt.5
What is a bridge line?
What are Look Books?
What does “self” mean?

August 19, through August 25, 2007

My first trade show: Marguerite Swope
Slow Fashion
How many lines sheets?
Vanity sizing shoes
Sizing for the Eco market 2
Microsofting your product
How to solve any problem 2
Designer’s advice on starting a clothing line

August 19, through August 25, 2008
Pop Quiz 477: Plus size grading
How to work with a fashion illustrator
Freelance Fabric Design Question
Top misconceptions of lay people you wish you could correct

August 19, through August 25, 2009
Prototype bag Style# 4216 pt.2
Museum Notes: Toledo, Textiles & Vionnet

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8 comments

  1. theresa in tucson says:

    Sounds like you had a great time. Stu looks much more cuddly than I imagined. I had imagined geekier, with sharper edges. Nice to know I’m wrong.

  2. Stu Friedberg says:

    Stu is more the short and pudgy type than the lean and pointy type. This morning I also chopped off about two inches from the bottom of my beard, although it still goes as far up as the bags under my eyes. The hedgetrimmer awaits me at home…

    I got my first hands-on experience with three types of industrials I’d never used before. First, I was forced, forced I tell you, to compare a couple of single-needle machines with servo control, auto-backtack and thread cutting. My Juki is nice, but dumb. These machines are smart, but there is more to the foot pedal than “forward” and “stop”. There are two separate “reverse” positions on the pedal. One raises the foot. The other backtacks, cuts the threads, and raises the foot. It takes a few test seams to learn how to reliably separate those two functions. Kathleen’s Adler is smoother, but I found her noiser Juki slightly easier to control on our brief mutual introduction.

    Then I got to play pathfinder somewhat. I hemmed a couple of pairs of pants in the process of figuring out how to use Kathleen’s new-used blindstitcher. Broke a couple of needles in the process, unfortunately. (Note: send Kathleen a box of LWx5T needles.) The machine really isn’t that cranky to use, but it does take some getting used to. With a whole 20 minutes at the machine, I certainly didn’t become an expert, but I did get four hems done reasonably enough.

    Kathleen also has a double needle machine, a Brother LT2 of some variety, which she has not used much (or at all). I had never touched one before, it was unthreaded, and we didn’t have instructions handy. There are almost certainly more elegant ways of getting it set up than what I ended up with, but in the end it surrendered to my stubbornness. And I don’t think I damaged it in the process, although we did start out with the needles threaded backwards. (Note: long grooves on the inside, thread from inside to outside.) This particular machine is neat because it has a split needle holder. The creme de la creme of double needles will have split (dual) needle bars, but a split needle holder runs a close second. This replaces the standard needle clamps with a simple device that lets you raise either needle so it won’t stitch.

    You can sew a square corner with two nicely nested lines of stitching with the following routine: Sew with both needles down until you reach the inside of the corner. Stop with the needle bar up, and raise the inside needle. Take 2 or 3 more stitches (outside needle only) and stop with the needle bar down (and the outside needle in the fabric). Pivot. Take 2 or 3 stitches (outside needle only), stop with the needle bar up, and lower the inside needle. Take up any needle thread slack for the inside needle. Continue stitching with two needles.

    So I hardly broke anything at all. Oh, and I sharpened their kitchen knives!

  3. Art Seaton says:

    Kathleen,

    I have managed to get a copy of your book through inter-library loan and have enjoyed reading it even though I have no plans to go into the designer/entrepreneur profession myself. I got it because of the comments you made concerning sleeve caps and ease, and intend to photocopy that entire chapter for personal reference. The advise you give to those either going into or already in that profession looks to be good. My main experience in manufacturing is in a computer keyboard facility and I can easily relate to a lot of what you say from this experience. (I worked on the line, not in management or engineering, but am intelligent enough to have recognized most of the mistakes you talk about before seeing them confirmed in your book.)

    I have two things I want to relate to you. First, concerning your comments about prim a-donas, specifically the “green M-n-M story.” The company I worked for put me through a non-credit course on Statistical Process Control where I learned (as Paul Harvey used to put it) the rest of the story. I don’t remember the name of the rock group, but this group had progressed to the point that it was playing stadiums and drawing capacity crowds. It had a very extensive floor show to go with the music, one that required a lot of preparation before they arrived to set up. All this was specified by the contract. Unfortunately, a lot of promoters thought they knew the business inside and out and didn’t bother to read that contract. The group would arrive on scene, find out that none of the preparation work (again, specified in the contract) had been done and that they couldn’t put on their performance. The M-n-M requirement was written into the contract as a test. (I was told that it was red, but the color doesn’t matter.) When they arrived at their hotel they looked at the candy bowl. If a few of the offending color were in the bowl, it meant that the contract had been read and that they could probably count on the preparation work being done. If the amount of the offending color was similar to any other color in the bowl, it meant that the contract had not been completely read and, since it was a part of the contract, they could claim breach of contract before going out to the stadium with their entire crew and all their equipment. Of course, if there was no candy bowl, the conclusion was the same. It wasn’t because they thought they deserved special treatment. It was because they were tired of wasting the time, money and energy required to go out to the stadium just to find out that the promoter had not done his job. If I’d been intelligent enough to come up with the idea, I would have done the same thing. The only difference is that I would have varied the color just to make sure, once the story got out, I could tell if the promoter actually read the contract or if he just acted on the basis of the story. But then, they may have done this and the story just didn’t get told completely. They probably did, for all I know.

    The other story comes from my time in the keyboard manufacturing facility. My position was on the line in final assembly where we married the printed circuit board to the metal plate that held all the keys, attached a cable and placed it into the plastic case that held everything, called the enclosure. One of those keyboards, (we manufactured for several companies and they all designed their own keyboards) had a sprew, a well in the back enclosure that was designed to go through the PCB and the plate and attach to another extension in the front enclosure with a screw. With one out of five of these keyboards, the assembler had to give the board a karate chop between the typewriter keys and the function row of keys to get these two plastic extensions through the PCB/plate assembly before a screw could be sunk in place. This caused plastic shavings to be pulled from one or the other of these extensions which got between the key and the part of the PCB which registered that the key had been depressed. Of course, the key wouldn’t register during final test and the keyboard had to be reworked.

    At the time, there were so many failures at final test that a line was set up just to rework all the failures, which was expensive. (Your comments on waste apply here.) My wife worked on that line and one day we happened to notice that, with that particular board, she was rebuilding (or helping to rebuild) one out of five in every order. Well, this was too much to be a coincidence, so I went to my line lead with the information. I was told, “Oh, Art, it’s always been that way. Just deal with it.” Not satisfied, I went to the floor lead and received the same response. So, I went to the supervisor.

    I clearly remember the incident. He was in the break room at a table by himself, doing on some paperwork, when lunch time came. I pulled a chair over and asked, “Mind if I join you,” to which he replied, “Well, there goes the neighborhood.” Without a moments thought I answered, “Well – f*** you very much.” He laughed. I laughed and then we got down to my business.

    Without going into too much detail, it turned out that all the parts were within specifications, but that the specifications were too loose. When the hole drilled into the PCB reached one end of the specifications and the hole drilled into the metal place reached the other, the problem happened. The solution was to tighten up the specifications. After much study, it was determined that this would require more work on the part of the PCB department. They had to limit the number of PCB’s that were drilled at any one time to five, when they had been doing ten, and had to take extra measures even at that reduced number to insure that the hole went into the right place.

    The manager of the PCB department refused to authorize the extra measures saying it would cost his department too much. A study was done and it was determined that it would cost his department less to correct the problem that it was costing Final Assembly to rework the keyboards that failed final test. However, this manager was a son-in-law of the owner and he decided that family was more important than efficiency or cost saving, so I continued to give one out of five a Karate Chop until the board was superseded with a new design.

    We didn’t loose employees over that waste, as you suggest happens in the fashion industry, however moral went down. It was already down because the owner used the threat of “going off shore” to prevent unionization. Eventually, he retired (or died or maybe retired because he died) and the company went into new hands. The first thing the new owners did was to move manufacturing “off shore” to save money. Due to the gross lack of quality caused by employees who had never held a power tool before in their lives, stock plummeted and, I believe that the company, at one time one of the biggest employers in our fair city, no longer exists.

    The moral of this story, Kathleen, is this. The problems you talk about in your book aren’t limited to just the fashion industry. They affect all of manufacturing, including automobile, kitchen tool and even entertainment center manufacturing. The real prim a-donas are not the rock musicians who demand that all the “green M-n-M’s” are removed from the candy bowl. They are people like the PCB department manager who are so concerned about looking good that they are not willing to consider the entire picture. They create waste that is far more expensive that the measures they would have to take to prevent it. And, they don’t worry because the waste is created in areas out side their concern.

    Love your book and you website. Keep up the good work.

    Art Seaton

  4. Kathleen says:

    Photocopying a book isn’t exactly a vote of confidence any author wants to hear. Particularly this case. Free-riders have book purchasers and site donors to thank for making this site possible. Otherwise I couldn’t do it anymore.

    I realize the concepts in my book are universal to other forms of manufacturing. Many readers have said it is a good grounding in any kind of entrepreneur driven manufacturing enterprise (and have called it “the entrepreneur’s guide to manufacturing anything”). There are other examples; consider Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Chapters 25 & 26 are quality primers that apply to any endeavor. I’ve written a great deal about quality (there’s even a category for it) as well as lean manufacturing on this site.

    I’ve since learned of the m&m story more fully (and have mentioned it elsewhere on this site). The m&m’s were brown; the group was Van Halen. Source is rarely properly attributed; most recently in The Check List (awesome book).

  5. Art Seaton says:

    Kathleen

    Now I’m embarrassed and I apologize for the back handed complement. Unfortunately, I’m disabled and cannot afford either your book or to make a donation. It’s the same way with public television, which I do enjoy on occasion. The best that I can offer you is that I will speak highly of you, your book and your site. Hopefully, those who accept my recommendation will be able to purchase your book or make contributions to your web site.

    There will always be “free loaders” like me and the only way you can prevent this and still have this information available is to charge membership and put everything behind a password. I would not condemn you for doing such. However, I do appreciate your willingness to share your expertise freely and to let those who benefit respond with the best they can do – even if it means nothing more than word of mouth praise. Whether you realize it or not, this is what you agreed to when you decided to make your website open to the public like it is.

    Art Seaton

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