How to sew faster pt.4

In response to How to sew faster pt. 1, Debby posted an interesting comment I can use to explain why a given tool (aka “machine”) is not going to solve your sewing problems. She says:

I am curious that you say that scissors, or shears, are more accurate than a rotary cutter. I always considered a rotary cutter more accurate because they don’t lift the fabric up off the table and don’t leave a jagged edge like shears can. And you can usually go around curves better with a rotary cutter.

She’s not wrong.

Upgrade your equipment and it will let you do whatever you’re doing faster but there is a gap between what you expect to happen and what actually can:

  • Better Machine = better result (what people expect)
  • Better Machine = faster result (what really happens)

In part two of how to sew faster, I explain that sewing faster relies on a combination of Method, Man, Machine and Materials. In this case, rotary cutters are “machines” that will cut faster. However, relying on machine as the singular strategy to cutting faster amounts to a trade off; sacrificing results to get greater speed. It’s not necessary to make this trade off. Change your method -the machine is secondary- and you can have greater speed and better results.

At this level (for sampling, protos and one-offs), the tool you use to cut doesn’t matter as much as method does -unless you care more about speed than results. It doesn’t matter if you cut one or a million, method always takes precedence over machine. In fact, that is how you can test the effectiveness of a given method. You want to trace the items first (see this) before cutting whether you use a rotary cutter, scissors or a straight knife. The tool is a secondary consideration to solve a speed problem. We can’t expect a tool to solve a methods (quality) problem.

If machine cannot solve the method problem, it also cannot solve the Man portion of the problem either. “Man” means we are relying on the skill of an individual to use the tool properly. However, method (tracing out before hand) can reduce the impact of one person’s errors. If you use the pattern edge with a rotary cutter, you’re shaving off tiny slivers each time. It amounts to allowing the rotary cutting user to remake the pattern every time you cut it out. If you shouldn’t give that much power to the person who made the pattern, why would you give that power to anyone who uses it?

A lot of people cannot grow because they can’t find reliable help, meaning, they can’t find anyone who works as well as they do with the same tools. This amounts to expecting man+machine to solve the problem when method is what can save you. If you focus more on upgrading your method, then machine and man aren’t as critical.

PS. No doubt I’m probably to blame for some of the confusion but if I’d written a post called Trace it out before you cut whether you use scissors or a rotary cutter, the message would not have gotten nearly as much traction as Rotary cutters: a guaranteed argument.

How to sew faster pt.1
How to sew faster pt.2
How to sew faster pt.2b
How to sew faster pt.3
Rotary cutters: a guaranteed argument
Poka Yoke pattern making

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