Getting a quote for cutting

From my mail:

We have been moving our production from CA to TX over the last few months. We’re trying to streamline and save money. I’ve found a really great sewing contractor in the area, but she outsources her cutting and therein lies the problem.

The cutter I’m currently working with in Orange County charges me:
$70 per marker setup (including grading, which with my products is super simple)
$1.50 per marker copy
$.45 per piece

The prices her cutter wants to charge me:
$12 per marker setup (for 1-10 pieces)
$15 per market copy (!)
$.90 per piece

At those prices, it’s more cost effective for me to ship the cuts in from CA! The only other data point I have is that my main contractor in CA, when she does the cutting as well as sewing, adds $.35 per piece. Which of these pricing schemes looks off to you? I’m not at all opposed to paying people properly, but this is a huge difference, and I don’t want to get fleeced.

I can say that some of these charges look excessive but to be sure -after all, I’m not a cut and sew operation- I called a couple of people I know. The first thing I’ll say is that the price your CA contractor was charging for the marker copies is very low. So low that I think it must have been an error. While your products are simple, the marker size is substantial. Both my friend Barbara and I think the $1.50 is what you were being charged per yard of marker copying -which is a fair price. Now maybe that’s not actually what you were paying but 1.50 for an entire marker is way way too low; that’s why we think that is a mistake. The set up charges for the marker in CA are pretty high. However, the set up charges for the marker in TX are rather low. If your markers are ten yards long, then $15 per marker copy is fair. Otherwise, it’s not.

Now, about the charges for cutting. This will always vary according to the size of your order and I know that most of you understand that. It also varies on the type of fabric you’re using. The woven fabrics you’re using are the easiest to spread, so 45 cents per cut -what you’re paying in CA- sounds about right. Nobody I spoke to -here in El Paso- thought .90 cents for cutting per piece was a fair market price. Nobody. In fact, everybody said they wished they could get that. The prices I was quoted for your product ranged from .35 to .50 cents each.

Barbara’s take on the costs of the marker set up (in TX) was that this price is on the low side. If you (or anybody else) wants a quote on marking and grading, you can call her at 915-313-0065 or you can email her. She’s in El Paso TX. Also when any of you call any of these people, tell them where you got the information. In this business, you need a referral to be taken seriously. If you just say “you found it on the web”, you’ll be regarded with a degree of suspicion until you can prove yourself. Even tho most of you don’t know me personally, use my name; you’ll get in the door a lot faster. Sorry, that’s just how it works.

The cutting quotes I got were from 2 different cut and sew places, again in El Paso. Both of these companies specialize in mostly wovens and leather products.

3NH Fashions is highly regarded locally but it’s hard to get through to Pablo or Frank (I spoke to Javier but you should not ask for him). Their number is 915-541-8187 and leave a message! Often, the person answering the phone doesn’t speak English very well but they take numbers down just fine.

Then I spoke to Teco at JJ Enterprises. His number is 915-533-8110. Teco can do everything from denim to leather; he’s also done a lot of bags and knows how to do “inlays” (leather) which isn’t something that many people know how to do.

The end result for your problem is to see if you can negotiate price on the cutting. It’s 100% higher than it should be. Is it possible that your contractor is getting a cut on the deal? Most of the people I know don’t work like this. We don’t get a cut on a deal for a referral; it’s all quid pro quo. You do for me and I do for you. However, if you’re not in an area with a lot of cut and sew operations who work together to take care of customers, it could be that the contractor is collecting a fee on the cutting portion. I wouldn’t know.

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  1. SB says:

    OK, here’s more info, after going back and forth with the contractor a bit. As far as I know, she’s not getting a cut.

    It turns out that the grader and cutter are not the same shop, in TX. Perhaps that’s contributing to the higher pricing? In CA, it’s all done in one shop and he may be losing a little here but gaining it there.

    The cutter has gone down on the per piece price to $.75. They say they don’t know how my other cutter is making any money. I said I don’t know either. It’s not my business.

    However, the grader has gone up to $25 for the setup (perhaps they hadn’t actually looked at my pattern before?), and is staying with $15 per marker copy. I know you suspect that I’m confusing $1.50/yd with $1.50 per copy. So I’ve gone back and checked my records. Honestly, it’s hard for me to tell. I’m invoiced pretty sporadically, and the marker copy “unit price” is listed as $1.10 (I was wrong about the $1.50). So it could be per yard. I just can’t tell from the “quantity”, since the time period is unclear. But I’ll give them that point. I can see the marker being 10 yards long with our stuff.

    The big thing is that overall production would flow much more smoothly if I have the grader, cutter, and contractor working together (in the same neighborhood, no less). They have long-standing relationships, and coordinate well. Adding an out-of-state variable would slow down the entire process and hamper speedy problem-solving (which WILL need to be done at some point). So now that we’re at $.75 per piece, I have to decide if that “upcharge” (wherever it’s really going) is worth the service of “production coordination”. I suspect it is.

    One more factor to consider, as if there weren’t enough, is that one or two extra weeks in the production cycle (from shipping and dead time) is extra time I’m separated from my money. If I can shorten my production cycle from 6 weeks to 4 weeks, then I’m selling inventory by the time the fabric bills come due. That’s worth cash.

    Oh, and I think the quantities we’re discussing are ~300 pieces per cut.

  2. Big Irv says:

    I don’t want to “salt” any wounds here, but I think you are paying far too much per piece. And the idea of cutting at another location is so foreign to me as a contractor, I don’t know how you guys do it. I am spoiled by a set of inhouse experienced cutters who set fair prices for my clients, that form part of my CMT costs to the clients that I do cut and sew for. If you question the integrity of the pricing, obtain a few quotes like they do in other industries. What’s with the marker set up charge ? Is that like a hoist charge when you go to Jiffy Lube ?
    Big Irv

  3. Thomas says:

    so for a men’s coat — say 40 “pieces” on a marker for the self — would that still be about the same price as what you’re talking about. If not, how much more/less should it cost?

    How about cutting the linings, fusible, undercollar, pocketing, etc. – what would be typical charges for that, or would it be included in the per piece for the self?

    thank you — this information is very helpful for me.

  4. SB says:

    I hear you, Big Irv. But you’d be amazed how many contractors don’t/can’t cut. I had one shop tell me they would charge $3 per piece to cut this same pattern! I ended up using them for the sewing (they were fabulous), but just had to outsource the cutting. Another contractor got so overwhelmed with all of our volume that they asked us to outsource the cutting so they could focus on sewing. And the current place in Dallas just doesn’t have a cutting setup at all. So this is what we’re forced to do!

    Ah, for an in-house production facility. I dream of such a thing. But I think we’re in an awkward volume where it isn’t quite cost-effective to bring it in. (That’s on top of the personal reasons that we’re not ready.)


  5. SB says:

    Thomas, Kathleen may have more to say about your question, but here’s my take. Think about what’s involved in cutting, and you’ll get a better idea of the answers to your questions. They roll the fabric on the table in a big stack, then they lay the marker down, then they use a “knife” to cut the pieces out. So the per “piece” price will definitely be higher as you add pieces to the marker. The “linings, fusible, undercollar, pocketing, etc.” are all included in the per piece price. I’d think suits would be pretty pricey. For some perspective, the item we’re talking about has 7 pieces total, I kid you not, in both the self (one piece) and batting (6 pieces). And ALL of these pieces are rectangles. How’s that for easy?

  6. Big Irv says:

    I don’t make suits, but I make outerwear pieces that can be complex in both cutting and sewing. You essentially break it down into 3 parts. Cut, sew, and trim/package. We factor in the self, insulation, lining,fusings, pocketing etc…Costs can mount if only doing 40 pieces, but a average cutting price for an insulated jacket with 10-14 pattern pieces can run $2.50-4.00 depending on the type of insulation .
    Something simple like a sweatshirt or yoga pants,
    .40-.50 cents, in my circle.( average 300 pcs).
    I don’t understand contractors that can’t or won’t cut a client’s fabric. Space is one thing, but lacking the “know how”, is simply baffling. It’s like going to a coffee shop, and having to go next door for your muffin. I hope you see my point. I understand why NYC concerns cut in one area of the garment district, and sew in another, but Orange County ? This cutting in another location just adds time and money and sometimes, confusion . Not good.

  7. MW says:

    And the idea of cutting at another location is so foreign to me as a contractor, I don’t know how you guys do it.

    In California, where space is at a premium, it’s very common. To get an efficient cutting operation, you need a very long table and some sewing contractors just can’t justify the space for the table AND all that fabric.

  8. Big Irv says:

    No doubt, the longer the cutting table, the more efficient your cutting operation should be. I have been in garment factories around the world, including London England , and why is it all these factories see fit to have an inhouse cutting capabilties ? We are not talking about prime “downtown ” office space here. Perhaps someone with commercial real estate knowledge can give us the real scoop on square footage rates for industrial zoned properties. Companies looking to make garments through normal contractor channels should have the convenience of inhouse cutting. Look at Fall River, Massachusetts. At one time, the most populous garment manufacturing district outside NYC. No off site cutting happening there.
    Clothing companies should demand to have their cutting done alongside the cut and sew operation.

  9. thomas says:


    Thanks for your help and direction.

    Also, when I say “pieces”, I mean pattern pieces — now I know the right term. thanks,


    Also — all the jacket and trouser makers I know of in New York have their own tables — but none are in Manhattan — all are in brooklyn or queens

  10. Big Irv says:

    Did you know of the suit making industry in Montreal ? I hear some good things about their capabilities. You have great website. Nice looking product.
    Big Irv

  11. christy fisher says:

    “downtown” is one of the operative words as far as $$$…also California , in general, has ridiculous real estate prices (that’s why many people are moving from SoCal into the Phoenix area)..and one of the MAIN reasons I decided to move my operations to the “sticks”.
    We have 900 sq. ft and pay .80 per square foot ..and that INCLUDES all utilities (heat, electric, water..etc). We have an elevator and a public restroom, so it is like having an urban space without the expense..
    I used to deal with the Fall River area (there are still a few oldtimers in operation there)..
    I think eventually you will see contractors going to places like Hemet (California) or farm areas where there are some large and comparatively inexpensive buildings in California.
    Downtown is (and the nearby outlying area are just too high a price.

  12. deerskin says:

    Re: So Cal real estate prices.
    Even outlying areas like Hemet–about 100 miles this side of LA are not cheap. On the other side of the mountains on Hwy 10 prices are crazy–3000 sq ft house- $500,000+ Okay this is not NYC prices but i mean . . .
    So much of So Cal has been developed also, when i lived there as a child, near Hemet, you could drive from my town-Banning to LA and pass lots of vacant land between towns. Now–not so–houses, houses, houses, strip malls, industry etc. every where.

  13. ray says:

    I am wanting to get some garments sewn by contractors. They are not complicated but I have never done this before. The garments basically have one piece sleeves with cuffs/hems-cuffed hem around bottom of top and shirt style collar. Does not require lining. How do I find someone to cut and sew for me to send to boutiques. Sorry for sounding so dumb but I need help…thx so much

  14. Kathleen says:

    How do I find someone to cut and sew for me to send to boutiques. Sorry for sounding so dumb but I need help

    I wrote a book on how to do all of this, The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Sewn Product Manufacturing, upper left hand side of the page. The blog is a free service but it doesn’t replace the book. Also, if you have it, you may qualify to join our forum to get direct referrals from members.

    I realize this may be a disappointment but if you think about it, just as you hope to earn a profit from my advice, it’s only fair I’m compensated for having provided it :). Look at it this way, if I didn’t make a living, I would have gone out of business and the blog wouldn’t exist. It is analogous to getting the best price with a provider but if they don’t earn a profit, they go out of business and aren’t able to do work for you in the future. The same holds for stores buying from you. If they demand too low a price and you decide to take it, you go under.

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