Industrial sewing instructions

Based on a conversation from comments, I thought to amuse myself by showing you typical industry sewing instructions. Seriously, this is it!

industrial_sewing_instructions industrial_sewing_instructions2sm

Or maybe I should say you’re lucky if you get this much. If you think there’s some vast repository of secret sewing instructions people are hiding from you, you may as well give it up.

Perhaps the better question is why there are so few instructions. I can think of several reasons.

First is chain of responsibility: the head of product development is in charge of getting this done. Not necessarily doing it but seeing that someone does it.  Most heads of PD are none other than designers but few have the background in production to know all the details because they’re doing well enough to get their own jobs done. It’s a heady bit of industrial engineering if you see the full chart below.


Designers aren’t trained for this so they pass it off to either pattern makers (technical designers) or whoever is in charge in production. The production head (presuming this is done in house) really doesn’t need instructions because they, the supervisors and the operators know what’s what. At best the production manager writes a list of operations (or copies and pastes from past products) to make piece work tickets for bundling.

In the case of outsourced production, there’s a few reasons instructions aren’t written. One, again the designer doesn’t know. Two, they expect the contractor to do it but again, why would a contractor do it if they already know how to do it? It’s a chicken and egg problem. The main reason instructions aren’t written is because nobody wants to pay for it. It is that simple.

Writing instructions, like patterns themselves, must be customized to each product. Instructions and patterns are one-offs. There’s no global default for any of this, no one way that people do things.

For example, if you look at a larger version of the product sketch, the hems of the sleeves and hem of the sweep appear to be identical but they are not. If you see the larger version of the chart above, the sleeve hems are done before the sleeves are even joined to the shirt body (that really annoys me, sorry if you like to do it that way) which is kind of odd. It is odd because the sweep isn’t hemmed until after the side seams are done. Those two elements should match (in my opinion). Plus, this is a better quality shirt. You can tell because the shoulders are taped and the collar band is closed before it is set into the neckline. So, with just those three elements, there are more than nine different finishing possibilities. See why I say sewing instructions must be customized? And consequently, aren’t written either.

Anyway, these are just a few reasons why there are no industrial sewing books (contrary to whatever some enterprising publishers or authors have claimed by virtue of the titling of their books).  Sewing processes are customized to individual products according to the line’s customary price points, costs and perceived value. In addition to no one wanting to pay for them, don’t forget that! So maybe I kid a little because some manufacturers probably would pay but an industrial sewing book would be long on charts and machine specifications (which can amount to gibberish for the uninitiated) and short on the sort of details that new entrants would most want and need. It’s a delicate balance to please both parties and to maintain any credibility. And for something to be very usable, manufacturers would want a lot of this stuff on disk (which invites a lot of other problems for author and publisher) so they could copy and paste the data into their spreadsheets for costing. My fantasy is that someone else will do it so I don’t have to because you’d need a separate book for every product type.

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