Dream Sample Room

This will be more fun if we answer it together. I’m also curious as to what you’ll say. KT (a technical designer for a manufacturer) writes:

I’ve been given the task of setting up a Sample Room/Design Lab here in our design offices. Whilst I had a great sample room in [redacted], I’ve never had the opportunity to build one from scratch! I’m picturing my dream world – one where I can develop patterns and construction details with our team in an innovative and creative environment (my dreams will probably be crushed by budget but they’re nice for now). So I thought I’d put the question to you since you’re the professional… what would you include in your dream sample room? Is there anything you would think essential?

Don’t we love to dream? ~sigh~ My essential shop would include fairies. Lots of fairies.

From the responses I’ll create a list of essentials, priorities and costs which will be useful down the road regardless of the size of your enterprise. I’ll make it into a separate post for future reference.

Here are my suggestions –in the context of KT’s employer. Obviously, your mileage will vary:


  • CAD system with all the doo-dahs.
  • Software: Illustrator, Excel etc
  • A 16-20 foot table
  • Various tools and supplies (rulers of varying lengths
  • Good lighting, probably more than they think they need.
  • Pressing equipment
  • Sewing machines (product specific)
  • Shelving

Nice to have:

  • Dress form
  • Two sections of 16-20 foot tables
  • Overhead feed rail
  • A compressor (depending on equipment/product demands)
  • Stereo
  • Fairies

Thanks for your suggestions!

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  1. Rocio says:

    I would be inclined to move the dress form to the “Essentials”, because unless the pattern maker is very experienced you could end up with a lot of “Franken-patterns” created from existing blocks that are not that great.
    It also speeds up the process when it comes to proportion, as most designers don’t really give working sketches with precise measurements (“mid thigh” vs “16 from center back waist”)

  2. KT says:

    ah! and yet bit’s taken me so long to convince anyone that mannequins are an essential! (don’t worry those are not only on my essential list they are en-route to the dream sample room). As you mentioned the biggest benefit when designing with mannequins is the ability to visualize proportions – It allows the designers to work out the balance of design features in 3D “on body” and saves on the amount of sampling required.
    Some Patternmakers have the luxury of live models – which is what until this point I’ve been using. This method allows me to not only get proportion right but see how the garment “moves” and “feels”. Fit forms will definitely reduce a lot of that expense though allowing initial ideas to begin on the form before being tested on a live model.

  3. emily says:

    label maker! everyone needs a label maker.

    also, bins to store/sort small tools etc. a good storage system for extra fabric/big supplies/finished patterns/paperwork (i.e. cutters musts etc, tech drawings etc)/sample or muslin garments.

    something to do with fabric scraps (which are the bane of my existence!).

  4. Theresa in Tucson says:

    Fairies, I want fairies too, especially the kind that clean (or are those Brownies, I can never remember which). No leprachauns, too mischieveous. I envy anyone with room. Pictures please, when it is done.

  5. dosfashionistas says:

    A paperwork softwear system to go with the CAD, preferably that can interface with it.
    A laser printer to print all the paperwork.

    Personnel who can and will read the instructions.

    Brownies would definitely be nice. I would be glad to leave a bowl of milk for them and I would never, never thank them or offer them clothes. I promise.

  6. Kristy says:

    Hanging racks, for samples and patterns. Archiving old but brilliant patterns is essential, and it’s always handy to have the best ones on hand for new adaptations of them.
    A huge table, that you can walk all the way around (very important)
    Shelves, for fabrics, tools, stationary, etc
    Fairies are handy, gnomes are also very productive I hear.

  7. Lauren says:

    can I just make a list of all the stuff I would have in my creative design room/play room/wonderland i would have if I could? This list is by no means realistic, or exhaustive.
    20 ft table
    my juki straight stitch
    5 thread serger
    rivet press
    knitting machine (one of those giant Stoll ones that no one has just for themselves)
    large format printer (for printing heat transfer prints)
    drum heat press
    screenprinting setup
    dyeing area (probably a room unto itself)
    gigantic weaving loom

    Ahhhh I feel so much better now! hahahaha. now, back to reality.

  8. Ann K says:

    Hey Kathleen, in re your ‘tools and supplies’ reference on your essentials list, would you explain some time how you use that lovely sewing hammer? Thanks.

  9. Stacy Holt says:

    Change room (curtained off corner)
    Large Mirrors
    Large cork board for story boarding, swatches, schedules, etc.
    Digital Camera – essential for producing spec sheets, communicating with buyers, etc.
    Desks should be the height of a work table (4X8). Much easier to use the computer to review samples and all that other hands-on activities…. with a Drafting Table rolling chairs
    Single Ply Automated cutter to synch with the CAD system
    Usual assortment of sewing machines suitable for your product line (coverstich, SN, Serge, button holer, rivet, heat sealers) – fashion, sportwear, outerwear, lingerie, bra’s????
    Washer and Dryer – test washing, dyeing
    Fabric Testing Equipment- pilling, stretch, color fastness, etc.
    Mannequins as still an essential, even with CAD and live models.
    Rolling racks for each desk- samples, samples, samples!

  10. A long time ago in the late 80’s, I worked for Alfred Sung Collection in Toronto…. and we had the best sample room I had ever worked with. Calvin Klein was great too, but bigger then some factories. They both has a pattern making room, where the pattern makers would just create patterns. The head pattern maker would work on the hardest styles. We had a retired tailor, he would make the suit jackets and structured outerwear… and then we had 2 jr pattern makers. They would pick up the rest of the styles, or rework – fix fit issues.

    The sewing area had 12 machines, with 10 sewers, the head sewer would feed the work to the other 9 sewers and keep track – let us know when the work was running low. There were 2 cutters who would also sew when the cutting was done, and a Huffman presser – fuser who ran the “HOT” area. We also had a Key Hole machine, Reg Button Hole, and 3 button sewing machines. 1 Large cutting table, and the walls were lined with shelves…. threads, zippers, boning – Fusings were with fabrics on shelves that were in the middle of the room creating a small room for the cutters. The whole area was flooded with light….. We created the full Alfred Sung Collection & Alfred Sung Sport lines along with picking up some production. Most Holiday evening wear gowns were made there because of the detailing. The bathrooms has a Washer Dryer stack between the 2,, so we could test fabrics….. and a shower – by law in Ontario. There was also a refrigerator and microwave. A light box (for color lotting samples and the small production runs) was in the pattern making room.

    This was what I used as a model when I opened my showroom – the back had a large table “3 tables out together”, 3 straight stitch on one wall, 2 – 5 thread surgers – a blind hem and 2 ironing stations, My desk was facing hte back entrance, and had the lightbox behind me, next to the Zerox photocopies – printer – scanner – and I was able to make my samples in house with friends and interms.

  11. Dennis says:

    I have a fairy, several angels and a German scientist. The scientist wants me to design a free energy device and some type of levitation device. Had a dream about a levitating ball and some type of circular flying craft. But none of these entities help me to keep the place clean or to sew. Wah!

  12. Mary Lombard says:

    Great postings! We’re planning a move soon and I’ll be drawing out a floor plan. I hadn’t planned on sewing machines as we are importers, however, have changed my mind! My home studio has 12″ deep cabinets on the wall with glass doors, I love them! All trims and books are in there. My only suggestion for the dream room is a good pattern filing system for tag board patterns and soft paper patterns.

  13. Million says:

    These are extremely awesome ideas, some of which must be executed!

    I think my main requirement is tonnes of light, and natural light from a window as well.

  14. Deanna says:

    I would add a filing cabinet for sample cards, files, junk you want to hide. A large canvas curtain across a storage area. Hides the junk and makes a good impromptu background for photos to email etc. (i hate photos with junk in the background) I like a peg board thingy on the wall for tools that want to climb into fabric bolts and hide. Also a automagical scissor sharpener, chair casters that don’t ball up with thread, and regular thread in the serger that looks perfect with all fabrics. Also a cheap and cheerful student to do all filing, sweeping, dusting, labeling, cataloging etc. Maybe the faeries could do that? I haven’t worked with them to know. Coffee maker that is not on the same circuit as the iron. Counter with sink for making coffee. Cordless phone with headset.
    No wonder it’s so easy to setup shop!

  15. emily says:

    Hmm. I’m kind of big to fit into the fairy category but I’m good at organizing, and love apparel production….anyone serious about wanting a fairy? I’m in DC and available. :)

    Oh Kathleen, your pics are so great. I’m so jealous of all your space and toys!

  16. Good List!
    I’m an Old School Slow Clothing kinda Couturier so the Tecchie stuff isn’t neccessary in my room, but I’ve got most of this and a little more.
    Still cant find a good resource for the Fairies, however………

  17. KT says:

    The pictures look great Kathleen! I’m not sure I’ll have the same luxury of space so will have to be smart with where I put things. I love your kick press, we used to have an almost identical one at a factory I worked at… right next to a nifty machine that turned tubes of fabric for belt loops.

    A lot of things I have already – my CAD equipment will move there and my mannequins. I have in mind the same reliable folding board that you have too, with the gravity fed iron. I’m stuck for a good sample filing system though? does anyone have ideas? currently we use plastic boxes with the garments folded to prevent hanger wear and stretching.

  18. kristin says:

    A wall size bulletin/idea board to place sketches, images, inspiration, swatches, etc. . . and corner studio to shoot finished samples either on mannequin, form or model.

  19. Jesica says:

    Definitely a pegboard to hang all of your tools on – I couldn’t live without mine. Also something to store your roll(s) of tag board on, a fridge & microwave (I’m so unproductive when I’m hungry/thirsty!), fabric storage, something to organize your thread, and some sort of system to organize sewing machine feet. All of the previous comments seem to have it covered. I started out with the bare minimums and I’m learning what I need as I go along.

  20. Sandra B says:

    This is a nice counterpoint to the topic over at Craftzine.com, where they are looking at how people organize their crafting areas. (http://blog.craftzine.com/archive/craft_rooms/) So many of the featured spaces have that cute and quirky retro look that is popular at the moment, (identical recycled jars with fabric scraps glued to the lids, etc) I’ve been feeling a bit inadequate. It’s nice to see a space that is more realistic. That’s not to say it isn’t also aesthetically pleasing, of course ;-) Your workroom feels like coming home, a space that I could do the work I want to do, not worry about lining up the rulers neatly.

    No matter what physical stuff I need in a workroom, the most important thing is about 10% more empty space then I ever seem to have, pale walls, lots of lighting, and suitable climate control. I can’t use my airconditioner because some doofus build a storeroom around the vent, and there’s no insulation in the ceiling. My studio has been heating up to over 100F this summer, and in winter it gets really cold. It definitely affects my personal productivity, but even worse, my student numbers drop in extreme weather.

  21. Tara Lynn says:

    I just copied and pasted this entire post in word sorted the lists, got it down to 3 pages with size 9 font. Here goes! Maybe, hopefully I will be moving into my new studio in 2 yrs. We framed it this summer, it’s 32×28′ one big open studio on the third floor of our home, with one huge window over looking the trees and river in back and a glass door to porch in front. The floor plan includes a 4’deep closet overhanging the roof for bolts of fabric, 2 cutting tables, 2 knitting machines (7 gauge and 3), small bath room with washer for dying and pre washing, 1 5 thread juki, 1 pfaff, 1 brother needle feed, 2 overlocks, 1 baby lock, 1 coverstitch, 1 white and 1 jnome for free form machine embroidery, closed in shelves to eliminate clutter and dust, drawers lots and lots of drawers 18 -20″ deep to fit rulers and patterns and binders and file cabinets and 6 dress forms size 2- 22 and garment racks for wedding gowns hanging from the ceiling and one of those really long rods so i can get the gowns up and down from the floor, and a fitting area with 2 walls of mirrors and one of those really cute round fitting stands with antique pink trim round the edges and some ergonomic stools and chairs that as mentioned above do not collect threads in the caster wheels and a good vacuum and floors of bamboo or cork. and White sheet rock walls with plenty of cork boards and a design table to have meetings and leave a mess of sketch books and tear sheets and photos, a computer desk, new lap top with second flat screen for multi tasking, updated version of photoshop CS3, and MS word so I can open peoples email attachments again! I can not wait. right now I am squeezed into a 13’x25′ space, surrounded by particle board with plywood floors and tattered chairs with threads jammed up into my caster wheels. 2 years, 2 years…

  22. Paul says:

    Do you really need a CAD system with all the do-dads? Unless that means just a large continuous feed pen printer like they use for engineering drawings. What other do-dads are included?

  23. Kathleen says:

    They need the apparel specific CAD system. My caveat was

    Here are my suggestions –in the context of KT’s employer. Obviously, your mileage will vary

    The engineering plotters are pretty useless to them. They need to be wider than those. You don’t have your book yet but the need of this is in the section on marker making.

    The two central doo-dahs needed are the CAD system and plotter. A digitizer is optional (if they make everything inside the system) but when the price of a digitizer is compared to the plotter and software, it’s counterproductive to not have the option of digitizing patterns in on their rare occasion its needed. Fwiw, I use my digitizer much more than my plotter (and even the software) but that is a reflection of how I work (not to be confused with how others should work). I still mostly make patterns by hand. The CAD system cannot be beat for grading and of course, sending the output to the plotter for printing.

  24. Lisa Bloodgood says:

    I also say LOTS of light, both from overhead and windows. When I’m in my sewing room, I have the blind open and the overhead light and floor lamp on. I don’t think it’s enough yet. (We just moved here in Aug.) Everyone else already said everything.

  25. sfriedberg says:

    Ditto on LOTS of light. I have thirty-six four-foot fluorescent tubes in a space less than 700 square feet with white painted walls and ceiling, and it is NOT overkill for fussy/fine work. Put them on multiple switches, so you don’t have to turn everything on at once if you don’t need it. If you know in advance where various activities will take place, put more lighting where hand/eye coordination is needed. Warehouse and receiving don’t need as much light as sewing. Inspection probably requires more than everything else. If you can’t put in permanent lighting, make sure you have lots of good task lighting at work areas.

  26. Paul says:

    What is the widest fabric width? Sixty (60) inches? If that is true, then a plotter would have to be able to handle paper at least 60 inches or maybe 72 inches? I worked in an engineering firm where we did 3D layouts of units and plotted on 60 inch wide paper, but we had three plotters too just for our mechanical group.
    I was just thinking that a Sample Room might do layout work for markers to maybe 1/2 or 3/4 scale, test full size patterns for fit, grading, etc., but not print the actual marker used for cutting the stacked fabric on a vacuum table (or however the operation does it) for production.
    I agree with “lots of light — non-glare”.
    If you want to reduce your lighting electrical costs all around look into LED lighting. LED lighting gives extremely long life without any heat and uses low voltage-milliamps of power. Good for task lighting too. I used to have a problem finding 12V bulbs for my two industrial machines until it dawned on me that I could use LED lighting. I replaced them once in 10 years. Since LEDs have no filament they do not mind vibration either.

  27. Kathleen says:

    Paul: fabric width varies but generally, yes, you’d want a plotter with at least 72″ wide output. I think most engineering/architectural plotters use paper sheets rather than rolls in the larger widths and we definitely need rolls.

    About scale, we rarely work in anything but full size. It makes sense in other endeavors (buildings, bridges etc) to work in 1:10 scale or 1:25 but not in apparel (or microchips). We don’t have the means to gauge diminutive results at that phase because we use humans to test fit. Earlier on in product development it can be that one develops in half scale (extremely rare) but it is nowhere near the plotting stage. If anything, the half scale would be digitized in and blown up to full scale and then plotted for a sew and fit test on a human or form.

  28. Seth Meyerink-Griffin says:

    …I notice that you have at least one Alva form there. Makes me feel a little better about dropping the huge whack of cash on them when I was a student and got a huge discount.

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