What is a line sheet?

After I wrote my post about American Apparel’s line sheets, Kathleen told me that maybe a line sheet 101 type of post was in order.

A line sheet is many things, but above all it is a document -actually several documents- that communicates necessary information to your prospective buyers. You will actually need 3 kinds of documents. One is a line sheet, second is a swatch card and third is an order form. I’ll start with the line sheets; these must contain:

-Styles: pictorial descriptions of styles (usually sketches, sometimes photos)
-Style numbers: If you must use names, you must also have style numbers.
-Color and fabric information
-Delivery dates and order cut off dates
-Order minimums
-Company and/or sales rep contact information

Now I’ll explain each category in detail.

Styles: pictorial descriptions
Most companies use sketches. Even the large companies use sketches, so don’t feel bad if you don’t have photos. It’s better to have a clear sketch than a crappy photo because a really bad photo will often make your line look bad. If you can’t sketch, have someone sketch for you. Or have someone make line art (computer generated sketches that are extremely crisp and clear). One important thing to do (I find a lot of companies don’t do this) if your items have important back detail, show the back. Please, show the back. Here is a sample line sheet (245kb).

Create your line sheets as if your buyers will never see your line in person.
I know a lot of companies rely on markets to show their line but there will always be buyers who didn’t see your line at market or saw it but didn’t write an order at market and need to remember what was great about your line. Your line sheets should remind them. If you have important fabric information, put that in your line sheets. Don’t rely on your reps to remember to tell each prospective buyer about it.

Style numbers
Names are cute, but style numbers are easier to remember. Try to have consistency with your style numbers as well. Some people mix style letters and numbers– WPE122, and some people use all numbers 8233 (which, in my opinion is easier to remember) and some people use all letters FPJSAX (which, is easy to remember only when it makes sense, this example is a real style number and FPJ stands for Flannel Pajama and SAX is for the saxophone print). I have seen companies use style codes like DNAYTOPDA and I think that just makes people feel dyslexic and they can’t remember how to write them down. Literate people instinctively try to make words out of collections of letters and when they don’t resemble anything meaningful, it becomes frustrating. Kathleen has a whole section in her book about why style numbers are easier for everyone to deal with, including your pattern maker, sample maker and contractor.

That’s pretty self explanatory. And you can include suggested retail prices as well.

Color and fabric information
When I go to market, the number one thing I find lacking in most line sheets is color and fabric information. I couldn’t even begin to tell you the number of line sheets I have seen that describe colors as “wild orchid, midnight rain, honeysuckle” and do not have color cards attached. Your color card does not have to be fancy, you don’t even need to have the kind with swatches of fabric cut out and glued to card stock, you could just make one swatch-based color card and xerox it for all I care. Even though color reproduction won’t be perfect, at least your buyers will know that honeysuckle is just a fancy word for gold and they won’t have to guess what it is. You can see a sample fabric swatch card here (153kb).

And if you work in prints, please have color information. Not every buyer will write an order at market and it is so frustrating trying to write an order after market and not being able to figure out what color corresponds to what name.

Season/Delivery dates and order cut-off dates
This one is so important, it needs to be at the top of the line sheet. Order cut-off date, start ship and complete ship dates are extremely important and line sheets are usually presented in order by delivery date. Earliest delivery on top, last delivery on the bottom.

Order minimums
If you have order minimums, you should put that information on your line sheets. Most companies have two minimums- minimum per style and overall order minimums. Here are examples of different kinds of minimums:

minimum: 4 pcs per style; $250 per order
minimum: 4 pcs per style per color; $250 per order
minimum: 4 pcs per style; $250 per delivery
minimum: 4 pcs per style; $1,000 per market (some companies want you to have a minimum order per market, regardless of the minimum per delivery)

Company or sales rep contact info
I think it’s nice when companies have their sales rep info pre-printed on their line sheets. It saves reps the time of having to make out labels and put them on every line sheet.

Order form
Most sales reps have their own triplicate order forms and some companies provide their own to the reps. I know of one company that provides a pre-printed order form with all their styles filled in (of course, this is not in triplicate) and I love it. Why? It’s so much cleaner with reduced potential errors. Perhaps you remember my rant about the sales rep who insisted on hand writing my order because she claimed “the owner knew her writing” but I couldn’t read a single thing she wrote. I still don’t know what the order says and guess what, I never got it. Maybe that owner couldn’t read her writing very well after all.

If you have a huge line, it’s not feasible to offer that type of form. But if you don’t, it makes it really easy for the buyer to just fill in the quantities under sizes and the price and style information is already there. It even had a space to write in the color. This particular company had a small line so they could do that. If you can it’s worth doing it, especially for market because it makes it easier on the buyer. Since everyone can read the style information, it definitely makes order processing easier. Here I’ve provided a sample order form (358kb).

You can easily go into any CopyMax, Kinkos or whatever huge copy center is in your town and have forms printed in triplicate (or duplicate). Another option is to buy your own at a printer supply store such as Xpedx, Kelly Paper or whatever is in your area.

If you are producing a line or would hope to, you really need to read The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Sewn Product Manufacturing because this entry (or this blog) cannot begin to teach you all you need to know. After all, if you didn’t know you needed line sheets, what else don’t you know? You can read sample chapters free online.

Why American Apparel has the best line sheets
How to make a line sheet
How to make a line sheet pt.2
Line sheet cover letters
Line sheets revisited


  1. Style Numbers revisted

    If you have my book, you already know I’m rather humorless when it comes to designers who name, rather than number their styles. In this post, I’ll reiterate the most important reasons and bring up some additional ones. Thanks to…

  2. Poise says:

    What’ I’ve been reading

    I have seriously read every word and ever comment from Kathleen’s Fashion Incubator blog. I’ve gone from the first entry up to August 16th. If you are a small craft…

  3. Damon says:

    Can a t-shirt line be one with random designs printed on them…such as (skulls, eagles, lions, etc) or should the line consist of the same imagery..such as (skulls and thats it)?

  4. Amy says:

    I just stumbled onto this blog when looking for info. on PatternWorks…It is FREAKIN’ AMAZINGLY HELPFUL! Thank you for existing…you have no idea how much you are helping the small scale designer that’s just starting out.

  5. Katie says:

    wow, that was just what I have been looking for! Someone who doesn’t assume I know all of this stuff already. Thank you so much…I will be reading ALL of your posts!


  6. Ranjana says:


    I can’t thank you enough for all the wonderful information that you keep on providing on your website. It is wonderful and useful information for DE’s like myself. I have recently purchased your book as well and it is very informative to say the least! You are a Godsend for all beginners!
    Keep up the good work!

  7. sakia says:

    all i can say is God bless you, you just saved me not to loose an opportunity
    a huge one will keep you posted on that.thank you thank thank you so muchReport

  8. This is the best informative website on this subject matter I’ve seen. I’m in the process of bringing our family line of handbags to retailers here in the States, and this is going to help me tremendously with that endeavor.

    Thank you very much!

    Paty CrabtreeReport

  9. Thanks for taking the time to post this! I am a newcomer to the business and things like this really help! I hope someday to b able to return the favor to the community! My site sells very cool designer removable bra straps, a fabulous accessory to any girls wardrobe! http://www.exposedenvy.com. I recently picked up my first significant account and they asked me for a line sheet……yikes!! Thanks for the help!!

  10. Teddy Foster says:

    Thanks for the info, putting together a line for upcoming show. I thought I knew what I needed to do and figured i’d just check for comparisions and found this very informative blog. It was just in time, submission is in a couple of days. There are things I did’nt realize, so thanks.Report

  11. Laura Lewis says:

    Love your site/book! It is a guiding light to emerging designers! =) Maybe I overlooked this, but when taking orders, is it customary to request the money up front/run the buyer’s credit card up front? Or would most buyers prefer to put down a partial payment or pay after the goods are delivered? I hope to be taking orders for my line this year, and I was considering offering to send a Paypal invoice to keep credit card info secure, but I am afraid I will not have the money to produce the orders if I do not get at least half of the money up front.Report

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