Pop Quiz: Ordering sizes for production pt.1

If you’re just now joining us and need the back story, see the first post for a description of the problem. That entry lists the quantities the customer ordered and what not.

To illustrate the solutions proposed by those commenting, I’ve made markers. Each marker shows crude representations of the patterns using rectangles. Each size is represented by a differently sized rectangle and is color coded. If there are duplicates of a size -say, 2 mediums- they are both green but different hues. Or is it tints? Keep in mind that while a solution may be incorrect, there are worthwhile lessons to be learned from them. A given solution may not fit the problem I posed but it may resolve a problem for you. Without further ado, here’s Marguerite’s marker followed by her comment.


Solution 1: Marguerite

I just faced a similar spread and what I would do (and did) here is lay out S, M, L, XL together and lay the M and L twice (you also said this above). That gives you 30 M and L and 15 S and XL if you use 15 layers. I’d use a second marker for S and XXL on 3 layers. I don’t know if this would fit their table (I have 64 feet) and I’m far too tired from my own production issues to figure out their yardage!

Both of Marguerite’s markers fall within the limits of table length -maximum length being 240″.
With the plies -she mentions 15- the white order is filled completely, no extras. She didn’t mention the number of plies for black but I’ll paste in 10 plies for her rather than 15. Still, with only 10 black plies, her cut is 10 over for size Medium and 10 over for size Large.

Technically, she gets dinged for 20 pieces over the customer’s order because that could become dead stock. However, in real life, this customer is new to the business and was uncertain about quantities to pull out of his hat order. In real life, you sell more mediums and larges (at least in his market) so his order for M & L should have been higher, in ratios similar to the white colorway. Likewise, these are black. Black outsells everything!

Solution 2: Judy

Marguerite, you don’t need to use a second marker – place the XS and XXL first on the marker,place a mark on the table (a piece of tape) where the XXL ends. Now, when you spread the fabric, spread 3 full marker lays of the white, (or black), then, start the next lay where your mark is on the table to cover the rest of the sizes you need. Then when you switch to the other color – again, 3 full lays of that color, and then the rest are shorter plys. I often have to do this when I need so many of a color in a particular size. To make life easier for me this way – it uses more fabric, but the customer pays for that – I will not mix sizes in the spread – so I have each size marked with a line separating them. This way, I can mix colors, and quantities of sizes. It takes a few minutes to plot it out, but this works for me.

Below is a screen capture of Judy’s marker (see the larger one if needed). She’s dinged twice. Building off of Marguerite’s marker, her cut order quantity is 10 over for the black medium and 10 over the black large (caveats noted in Marguerite’s above). Ding #2 -since the contractor’s table is only 20 feet (240 inches) long and her marker is 305″, it’s not going to work.


Now, before anybody (especially Judy) gets the idea I’m knocking her, her solution is precisely one of the ones I was hoping to get. Yay Judy! No it doesn’t work for our purposes but Judy has described a “stepped spread” and this is a great solution for awkward cuts provided your contractor has a long enough table (one of these days, I will successfully convince one contractor that even 20 feet is too short). Judy mentions that this wastes more fabric and it’s true but with a 2″ gap between the step up, the customer is saving 2″ per layer over a separate marker that would incur a total buffer of 4″ (2″ per side).

I’m going to break this off here because Quin’s solutions are coming up and she makes my head hurt. Don’t tell her this or I’ll deny it, but I’m wondering whether I can hire her to do my planning. She really seems to be into it.

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  1. If you saw my marker today, I’d get dinged for cutting time! It was loooooong, but I needed a spread of 1-1-2-2-1-2-3 (S – 3X) and just layed out exactly that many on the marker (yes, all of them) because I didn’t know my fabric allocation and it hurt my head to figure it out, so we just ran the fabric up and down until it ran out. The good news is that I didn’t waste ANY fabric because of the efficient combining of sizes and the spreading was so easy (main fabric about 40 feet as I recall and trim marker about 20 feet). It’s pretty cool to get exactly what you want without thinking it to death.
    Now if I could just find another stitcher!

  2. Jessica Montoya says:

    It’s only taken me a few months with a 20′ table to realize that I want to upgrade to a 30’+ table, particularly in order to do stepped markers (as my cutter just described to me a couple weeks back). Spreading and cutting isn’t that hard, it’s definitely the markers and cut quantities that require considerable mental energy!

  3. Jessica Montoya says:

    Also, I may have missed it, but a spreader typically eats up about 3-4 feet of the cutting table, so the maximum length of the marker for a 20′ table is probably closer to 200″…and if you happen to be cutting knits, you have to leave larger gaps between sizes for the fabric to snap back after you cut.

  4. Penelope Else says:

    This is an amazing series of posts, thank you Kathleen – and to those who gave such generously serious thought to the answer! I knew it was something I’d eventually need to understand and practise but…..

    I’m now confident that it will all soon coalesce in my brain; looking forward to the next post.

  5. Kathleen says:

    Absolutely Jessica. This post is intentionally very bare bones to deal with cut order planning in isolation. The idea is to help designers understand the ratio of orders to place because designers often complain that their small orders are discriminated against, not realizing that their jobs are actually a lot more work than someone’s 10 times larger. But yes, presumably one would tell the designer what the spreading length of the table is as opposed to total length if one didn’t have an end stand (as the contractor in my example does).

    As to the knits, you can reduce the gap for knits by calibrating the spreader and also, experience and handling. Isn’t that always the case?

  6. Calibrate a spreader? You can’t mean a hand spreader or is there something I’m missing. Our calibration means calibrating the people walking the spreader up and down! Yesterday I spread by myself and it was easy–although it did mean a lot of walking around the table.

    And, I was wondering how I could have been so off (dinged!) in my previous response. I was only looking at the white. Silly me. But if I’d had to consider the black, too, I’d never have posted as it hurts my head too much to figure out my own spreads much less someone else’s. I do everything I can to avoid cutting extras. I don’t want inventory left over.

    This is a very complicated problem that is inherent to small companies.



  7. Willie Unidad says:

    It need only 1 marker by using a stepped layer spread. The marker will group into 3. The first group is XS and XXL, second S and XL, third M and L but in one marker. Place a mark on the table (a piece of tape) where the first group XXL ends and another for second group L ends . Now, when you spread the fabric, spread 3 full marker lays of white and black. Start the next 7 layer of black where the XXL end mark on the table to cover the 10 plies required for black. Then followed the 12 layer of white with the same length of the 7 layer black. On the second group where the L end, start spreading the remaining 15 layers of white for the completion of 30 pcs required for M and L. It will add a small amount of fabric because of the allowance it add due to a group layer spread but we maintain the marker length and using only one marker.

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