Meet Martha. Need hard copy patterns?

Meet Martha. She’s come on to help out part time. She’s been working with me for a week now. Speaking of, she can make hard copy patterns for those of you who need them. Please don’t hesitate to inquire if you need them.

I’ve known Martha about 20 years. She used to be my boss. When the last of the local plants closed down, she went into other work but she’s always loved this work best.

The hiring has given me much cause for thought. For far too long now, I had thought that hiring a qualified candidate wasn’t a possibility so I planned accordingly and never scaled. A world of possibilities has opened but I’m a bit ambivalent and even a little scared about it. It’s one thing to worry about providing for your own family. It’s another matter to worry about someone else’s. She’s not the first person I’ve ever hired, just the first in a very long time. The first time I hired an employee, I was so worried I couldn’t sleep for two days. What if the business doesn’t come in to support it? It can be terrifying.

Reflections on hiring
Long time ago, I did a survey on the effect hiring workers had on micro businesses. Among DEs, sales increases of 800% to 1000% for the first hire weren’t unusual. In fact, over 800% was the average (in my small and likely questionable sample).

Hiring is costly if only in the context of training. Even if you get lucky enough to hire an experienced old timer, you’ll run into some of the same obstacles. Being a small business and being pulled away from existing commitments to train means less revenue right off the bat so it can be a significant investment. To realize the greatest return on her potential productivity, I’ll have to buy another CAD license ($7,500) and set up an office ($3,000?) for her to work in. Employees never think about the costs of their hire beyond an hourly wage.

In this case, Martha’s CAD skills are rusty. Like many old timers, she never used CAD for anything but marking and grading so having to learn to correct patterns or even make them in a program is a steep learning curve. Likewise, she’d only worked with Gerber. She is astounded by the sophistication and capability of modern CAD programs like StyleCAD which is the system I use now. It will take her awhile to learn to trust the new tools but she still can’t get over the difference between digitizing in Gerber versus StyleCAD. The former requires (comparatively) a great many more points making the new CAD programs so much more efficient in both time and resources.

For now she’s learning to sew. Sounds crazy, no? Other than operating a flat feller at the old Levi’s plant, sewing (as many think of it) was never her job. She knows how to operate given equipment and how to position the workpiece to needle. As you may discover, teaching an old garmento how to sew is several orders of magnitude easier than teaching an enthusiast or new sewer. The biggest difference for me is that I can verbally explain the sewing order several steps ahead and she sits down and does it. No worrying about this or that not fitting together, pinning, praying or any of that. She’s never made a jacket in her life but she’s cut three samples and sewn two of them in the first week here.  Which is not to say it all comes out perfectly but the process of troubleshooting is refreshing -and comforting. It is so relaxing working with someone who understands the chain of accountability. Meaning, we immediately go to the pattern, examine the cutting and go from there. None of this self-blaming one usually sees when nonconforming results ensue.

I’m sure I’ll post more once I’ve had time to reflect but I did want to post on it before too much time had passed. I’m painfully aware at just how little time I’ve spent writing entries for you and I will continue to rely on your infinite patience and good cheer. In closing, join me in welcoming Martha. I feel so lucky and glad to have her.

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  1. Barbara Peterson says:

    Thank you for this post. I hired someone in January and had to let her go in August. It was a horrible experience. I need someone now, but I am too afraid. Yes, there is more to paying an employee and yes they do not realize it. I felt so responsible it kept me up nights. Your employee is getting work done…mine told me what she would not do. All this after she came on board. I’m still shaking in my boots.

    • Ah- that’s why you ask them ahead of time “Is there anything you will NOT do?” I wince just at the possibility of having to hire someone- for ANY thing. Even someone to cut the lawn. Like Kathleen said, it’s one thing worrying about your own family, and having an individual dependent on you another. One would really, really have to dissociate themselves from that person for the error of keeping on a bad employee.
      Another option is Contract: hire them at 3-month stints. You will feel less guilty about dropping a person, and you have the option of hiring them on for another go- if they can.

  2. Kristen says:

    Why yes I do! I just started transferring and cutting out hard copy patterns and it’s sloowwwww. Is this something that can be shippable? Or only locally done? (possibly dumb question, it’s been a long day!)

  3. Welcome Martha, you have an incredible opportunity to be working with Kathleen, so enjoy every minute of it. I especially like have a picture of you Martha, it helps to put a face with a name – it’s the best thing, other than a video and meeting them in person, that we have for the forum. Best wishes to both of you as you start this journey.

  4. Alizah says:

    Thank you Kathleen, and welcome Martha! It’s really informative to read about others’ experience of the hiring process. As an employee, I think it can be hard to imagine that for the employer there is a real emotional element to it. That for the employer there are stakes involved. It’s really cool to see the “back stage” of your business, Kathleen – good luck to you both as you embark on this new stage.

  5. Kathleen says:

    Why yes I do! I just started transferring and cutting out hard copy patterns and it’s sloowwwww. Is this something that can be shippable? Or only locally done?

    Yes, hard patterns can be shipped easily. Here is a post that shows a way I came up with to mail them.

    Since then, a customer shipped me a large quantity of his hard patterns using a cardboard tube he bought at Home Depot that is used as a concrete form. Very clever!

    But to answer your question. You can ship tracings or the plot with the graded patterns and have those put on oak tag. If your patterns are in digital format, you can email them and I can plot them here.

  6. Sabine says:

    That sounds like fun, Kathleen!
    I am glad you are enjoying yourself.
    Btw, with autoCAD, as I have learned in school, you can borrow a license, so you don’t have to buy a new one. I am not sure if styleCAD will allow that, but they might.

  7. Kathleen says:

    Sabine, I couldn’t ask. Borrowing is an awesome opportunity for students or anyone who is learning and exploring options but once you need the tool to generate revenue, it’s only fair to pay the piper. I need them to stay in business to continue to provide support. Rather like this blog (and speaking of, thank you for your continued support -and everyone else too!).

  8. David S. says:

    Welcome, Martha!

    I think Sabine was referring to a floating license, which is pretty common for per-seat licensed software. Your license allows you to have X simultaneous users. That can be X users who use it all the time or it can be M (M>X) users which only use it sometimes. There’s a license server which keeps track, when you start the software, it asks the license server for a spot. If there is one, it gets it, and starts up. If not, you get an error, and wait, or track someone down and get them to stop.

    probably doesn’t make sense for two people.

  9. Kathleen says:

    David: interesting, I didn’t know that but it makes sense in larger operations. It wouldn’t work here even if they offered the option since we’d mostly need to use the program at the same time.

  10. Barb B says:

    I bought your book and have used it like a bible. I thought you were invincible but I’ve got to say I was so amazed and relieved to read your comment about hiring an employee. I literally have been losing hair and sleep worrying about my business and employee. Thank you so much for sharing and thereby making the rest of us feel better about ourselves.

  11. Myrrhia says:

    I was so proud to hire my first full time employee in August. I had full time work through September and October, but then my materials supplier back ordered everything I needed to keep going, and I switched back out of production an into sample development for the next season. Cutting back her hours has been so hard for me. She seems to take it okay–but I am having a hard time sleeping. Thank you to all the understanding workers out there.

  12. Sarah_H. says:

    Welcome Martha! As an old garmento myself, I think this is bound to be great fun for both of you, as well as profitable. I like being retired, but I do get lonely for my factory buddies now and then.

  13. Leslie Hanes says:

    It is scary to have employees. For over 5 years I’ve been on a rollercoaster of too much work, then not enough…compound that by outsourcing a lot but still wanting my local girls to have meaningful work. Sometimes I have them make stock that I’m pretty sure will sell (never do this, its definitely a no-no in Kathleens book) BUT, luckily it always does, and just when I wonder how much stock I can possibly handle, a big order comes in and suddenly I need them to work overtime. So, I can’t afford to lose them despite the worry that I occasionally cant afford to keep them. Sometimes I even have to reduce the retail price of the stock they made if its just for my store, but it also keeps things fresh by moving old stuff out the door. I don’t recommend my practice to anyone, but thank goodness its worked for me, and my gals are still with me.

  14. Kristen says:

    I didn’t click the notify button and haven’t seen the responses. :( I realized I also didn’t welcome Martha – Hi Martha! At this point, I’ve cut enough that it’s probably more of a hassle to ship, but I will absolutely do this next time and am really excited about the prospect of this!!!

  15. I want to second Sandy’s comments, “What a wonderful opportunity.” While creating manufacturing jobs is one of my goals in starting my business, I am petrified of the responsibility of hiring people whose livlihood will depend on me. On the other hand, I realize I cannot do everything myself. I am past the stage of life where that energy level is possible. Kudos to all you brave people. I continue to read and research and rely on your knowledge pool. I have given myself a decision making deadline for this project.
    Kathleen: I am reading as much and as often as I can of what you have written over the years, but i need to ask you: I have been working on creating my own flat patterns, but I am much better at draping. If I create a sample from draping, can you (or a pattern maker) make a pattern from the sample? Thanks for all the knowledge you share.

  16. Kathleen says:

    Brenna, were you able to get to their site? I tried it right after I got your comment via email but didn’t have a problem.

    Re: draping/pattern.
    Yes, it is relatively simple (imo) to make a pattern from a drape. I suppose that should be qualified. Maybe it would make for a good post? If you have a photo of your drape on a stand and could send it to me, that would be immensely helpful.

  17. Amanda says:

    I was hoping to find somewhere that can use PDF to make hard patterns. I live in northern ca and need hard patterns. Any people? Prices? Shipping? Any help would be appreciated!

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