Open tabs 3/8/11

seyed_alaviToo often I don’t share what I’ve been reading or finding across the web but several sites compel today’s effort. That and I have too many tabs open in my browser. Typical.

On the heels of yesterday’s entry I found three textile glossaries courtesy of Textilesmithing, glossary one, glossary two and glossary three. There’s a fourth but it’s not loading for me. Textilesmithing is a newish blog featuring topics on surface design, weave, pattern and with a healthy smattering of stuff you should have known a long time ago. Such as, sharkskin suits are not made of sharkskin. Yes indeedy! I imagined they weren’t made of shark skin but I didn’t really know what they were made of and so now thanks to the internet, I can pretend I always did. Be careful though or you can waste a whole day there -speaking of the Lexus carbon fiber circular loom that amounts to nothing less than autie-porn. The photo above is Sayed Alavi’s Flying Carpet installation at the Sacramento Airport, again courtesy of this entry on Textilesmithing. If you follow Seth on twitter, you can pick up more tres cool stuff like this gizmodo story about a brief history of bulletproof fabric.

The Department of Fashion & Apparel Studies at the University of Delaware publishes Fiber Journal (free subscription). This issue features articles about Artisans and Fair Trade: Crafting Development, Creating a Green Label and a whole bunch of other stuff. I can’t read it all. Codes of Conduct—Not Just for Large Manufacturers caught my eye because I have so often told you that you can’t assume a small operation is better for workers than a large one. The paper’s author (Sugandha Agrawal) says smaller operations are reluctant to undertake initiatives fearing cost and what not (same as you!). In the firm that agreed to participate for the experiment, basic safety regulations were implemented, nothing crazy or costly (do go look, it is basic 5S) but the results were astounding:

…worker attendance improved by 20 percent and there were fewer complaints of fatigue or poor health. The better attendance had its direct impact on productivity. Also, providing designated break times for tea and prayers lessened the machine run down–time and improved line productivity by reducing bottlenecks associated with one or a few persons leaving the assembly line. By providing a healthier and safer workplace, workers were motivated and excited about work.

It occurs to me to ask, do you all have any idea what constitutes workplace safety? It seems obvious to me but then maybe it isn’t. How did I learn it? I don’t recall reading a book about it, maybe I read some OSHA regs at some point but it just seems like common sense. Perhaps I absorbed it from my environments so it merely seems intuitive. Is this topic of interest? Related: Mr Fashion-Incubator has finally made a decision on shop lighting and ordered some test lights so we may soon be able to speak more quantitatively about that. Since I’m finally in my permanent shop location, we want to get the real thing instead of eking by on cluster hung four footers. Let me tell you, I was not prepared for the price. Between the lighting fixtures, bulbs and materials for the electrical upgrade, it’s going to cost about $7,000. I have no idea what it would cost if we had to pay somebody to install it and add new electrical service. I’m thinking we should add raceways at the same time. Mr.F-I is not amused that I told him (same as you) that you don’t mount fixtures on the ceiling; no more than 5 feet above the cutting table surface. But anyway, before I went off track, maybe I could do safety stuff in my shop all official like so you all can get an idea of the things to keep in mind.

Sally sent me a link to a so called case study from the NY Times about shirt garters. Really.

It’s a love/hate thing, an under-the-bar secret that men (and possibly some women, though I haven’t found any yet) pass along. It’s what your natty bartender has on under his pants, for lack of a better way to put it. The shirt garter is exactly that: a $7 rubberized strap with garter hooks on both ends that attach the tails of your shirt to the tops of your socks, keeping your shirt neatly tucked in while, as a symbiotic windfall, holding up your socks.

According to NPR (this is just the latest, like I said, an open tab I need to close) Manufacturing in the US is in trouble (again) but not for the reasons you think. I have a whole draft on the subject I’ve yet to publish (yet one of many) and maybe I’ll never polish it to the point of publishing but ya gotta know, the biggest crises in manufacturing in the US is not the lack of jobs but the lack of workers. I kid you not. I know everybody thinks contract sewing operations are dying for work but it’s the exact opposite. Nobody I know can find enough qualified workers. It is a real crises. It’s even a crisis in NY of all places. The mayor wants visa restrictions relaxed for immigrant garment workers. We have tons of designers and marketers but not enough skilled workers (an ongoing topic in the forum). It’s crazy.

WWDMagic (the tradeshow) has a blog now. Did you know? I didn’t. I’ve had that tab open in my browser for two days and still haven’t read it. Yesterday’s entry is a video about the business of fashion blogging. We’ve come a long way baby! I remember the hassle of getting press credentials to attend the show, trying to explain what a blog was and now the trade show is featuring how it’s done. They even had a contest for potential correspondents. It’s a fine thing. Of course these bloggers aren’t doing the kind of blogging I do (the segment was filmed in the Teen Vogue section) but it’s all good.

Okay, those are all my open windows in the browser, closed one by one.

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  1. Kathleen says:

    Good grief! I couldn’t even post a comment on my own site without logging in. How did that happen? I always manage to do something goofy anytime I access the site from a “smart” phone -as I did last night. Henchmen of Tory Burch were gushing endlessly (to the tune of 68 comments) about her new line and I had to login to ban their url. Requiring a login was accidental and could explain why I didn’t get any comments yesterday. Or at least, I can blame it on that.

    JT Morgan sends this comment (I don’t know why she never comments, she sends them to me instead). She sends me lots of autie-porn

    Subject line: feeding one’s inner geek in re materials properties

    “The re-invention of silk “For a millennium, traders brought silk fabrics from the Far East along the Silk Road to Europe, where the beautiful yet tough material was fashioned into dazzling clothes. Today bioengineers (video interview)are infusing the natural protein fibers spun by silkworms with enzymes and semiconductors. They are processing the modified strands under varying temperature, shear and acidic conditions to create novel materials with remarkable properties.”

    Source: NY Times

    JTMorgan’s comment reminds me of a site called Worm Spit that I found late last week. This guy raises silk worms and runs a yahoo group for people interested in doing the same. It’s called cat herders (cat=catepillars ha ha).

  2. Theresa in Tucson says:

    Loved the article about shirt garters. A Marine Corps officer once told me the the sock garters were a required part of the uniform. Over the years people have always come up with little tricks to keep looking their best under difficult conditions. Didn’t have time to look at too much more but you were so right about the 5Ss. I like it when you ramble around as I always learn something.

  3. Arlene says:

    Silly me-when you said sharkskin suits, I thought you were talking about the swimming suits the Olympic swim team wore a few years back. I am thus enlightened twice!

  4. Elizabeth Kloian says:

    I heard of a similar study being done where workers were told that lighting their office was being changed to a new kind of florescent that would reduce eye fatigue. The new bulbs were the same as the old, but the psychological effect of believing that management actually cared about them resulted in: fewer sick days, less reportage of headaches and eye strain, higher morale.

    I work in the food industry. I see many, many parallels between food manufacture and sewn product manufacture. Too many to list easily, actually. I’d be very curious to hear what safety standards are in a sewing factory. In the food trade, being taught to be a cook (or whatever) included safety training, but it was never called that as such when I came up through the ranks. Someone would take you under their wing and tell you things like: never grab at a dropped knife, don’t pick up something hot with a damp towel, call out when you walk behind people, especially if you have something hot or sharp, etc..

    Some of it, like keeping your station clean and organized were to-fers: they increased productivity, and safety, but the safety part was seldom mentioned (messy, slippery surfaces=greater chance for trouble).

    It was very common for workers never to take a break during their shift, unless they smoked. Somehow, smoking was okay, but if you wanted to actually stop work to eat or rest your dogs for ten minutes you were a lazy weakling. It didn’t matter how long your shift was, eight hours or ten or whatever. The pressure to not take a break could be tremendous. I always hated that and don’t allow it in my shop. Many of my workers have come into my shop from such environments. When I told them to take a break, they’d demure or outright fight me because they thought they were being tested and would get on my bad side if they actually took the break. I had to force them, as a matter of policy, to take breaks. Now they love it, expect it, and I know they are less tired, more focused and productive and happier for it.

    What happens in the sewing trade? What’s it like?

  5. Lisa Blank says:

    I had looked at some entries from the archives yesterday, and they all required a login to comment…not that I had a comment to make, but it was something I noticed.

    I’m interested in hearing more about workplace safety and in seeing what you do in your own shop.

    Elizabeth, your description of the food industry is really interesting.

    I recently came across Alison’s recommendation of Instapaper in the forum. I signed up this week. Basically, it’s a way for me to have less tabs open. The downside is that I still have to find time to read all that good stuff I’ve marked to read later.

  6. Doris W. in TN says:

    Ack, now too many tabs are open in my browser. Thank you for the fascinating links, and thank goodness Firefox can “save & quit”.

  7. Kathleen says:

    Elizabeth: I agree 100% about there being many common elements in the food industry -and also the building trades. Especially as these relate to lean manufacturing (food service lends itself to lean adoption more than anything imo). If you search for “Maslov” on F-I, you may find some of it. I may write about it more in depth one of these days. I sense an underlying relationship btwn the three industries but struggle to express it.

    I also worked in restaurants as did Mr.F-I. It is very common for us to analyze operations in restaurants while we’re dining. I also review them in this context.

    I retain habits I learned in restaurants such as saying “behind you” in public places when I think someone in front of me doesn’t realize I am there. Even on this site I’ve used “86” to refer to out of stock etc etc. Likewise, I’m incredibly annoyed when people don’t police their kids in restaurants. Forget annoying other guests, it’s a health and safety issue. Managers should ask customers who won’t tend their kids to leave; restaurants should be liable if they don’t. I will never forget a waitress who broke her leg because of a bratty kid playing in the wait station.

  8. Kathleen says:

    This is a note mostly for me for when I write about shop lighting because I may forget later on and I will read this entry before I do it.

    Mr.F-I spent (in my opinion) entirely too much time worrying about some lighting issues such as the color (blue vs yellow) and whether the lighting was closer to natural light (very expensive). I told him I didn’t care about natural lighting but I don’t think he really heard me until yesterday. I mention it now because you may think the extra cost of natural lighting is worth it. That is your decision but I guess it depends on your relationship to the world.

    When I was in school, we were taught to never trust inside lighting for color matching. No matter what, we had to go to a window or outside to compare color shades and hues. Accordingly, it is second nature for me to do that, I don’t trust inside lighting at all. Iow, even if we bought the ultra expensive “natural” lighting, I would still go to a window or outside so it is silly to pay extra for something I will never trust. Now maybe lighting technology has dramatically improved so it really works now but I don’t do enough color matching to justify paying double the price. Worse case (how I placated Mr.F-I), put the natural lighting in your office but you don’t need it in the cutting and sewing areas.

    Mr. F-I also spent a lot of time worrying about having the bulbs covered and what we should get etc. That is another thing I do not care about enough to pay for. I don’t ever recall seeing baffle covered bulbs in a plant. The only thing about florescents that bug me is whether they flicker too much (some of us can see the 60 cycle flicker). A lighting baffle wouldn’t do much for that so it is not a worthwhile expenditure. The better solution for a flickering bulb is a newer and better bulb. I am not saying to cheap out on lighting but it can be more expensive than you imagine especially once you start adding on amenities that may not be needed.

    Hanging bulbs not too far above the work areas saves energy (and money!) in several ways. Mr. F-I wanted them on the ceiling but for them to throw down enough light, they would have to be more powerful ($$) and use more electricity ($$) and also, they would throw off a lot more heat. I don’t have an air conditioner and since only one month in the summer is toasty, I can’t justify cooling (beyond fans and opening the overhead door) so I really do not want to add anymore heat than I have to. Keep that in mind if you are in a position to have to make similar trade offs.

  9. Elizabeth Kloian says:

    Kathleen: When our company got it’s “Green Cert” 90% of our lighting was already florescent. But, they still came in and changed out our ceiling units. Something to do with the baffle(?)- I could ask my husband. The old style uses more energy (again, I forget: 5-15%) to start up the bulbs. We thought that silly, but the green dudes insisted that across the board the savings were significant enough to implement the change.

    And, I cannot link together food, clothes AND construction. But I do see food and sewn products following the same path and ending up in similar places as regard the effects of industrialization, spread of styles and goods trans-nationally by trade and colonization, and price spikes and shortage of materials from speculation on commodities.

    Erin, at Lacis, told me about certain types of lace that had been prevalent in the nineteenth century that completely disappeared after mechanization because they could not be translated from handmade to machine-made. The same thing happened in pastry. Although it might be said pastry also suffered more from the effects of war. I don’t know if war had an effect on sewn goods.

  10. David S says:

    It’s the ballast that controls whether the bulbs flicker in normal use, not the tube. Fluorescent lights are an arc light — there’s a high-voltage electric arc (a spark, roughly) from one end of the tube to the other. Which way it goes changes, driven by the ballast. The arc causes the coating on the inside of the tube to fluoresce, which is why you don’t see an arc. Traditional fluorescent ballasts are what’s called “magnetic” ballasts. They’re basically iron core transformers that step up the line voltage to what’s needed for the arc. They switch the arc at twice the frequency of the line, so 120 times a second in the US, 100 in much of the rest of the world. They’re also rather inefficient, and many hum. Modern ballasts are electronic, and use special electronics to do the voltage raising, and switch the arc several thousand to several tens of thousands times a second, which is not only beyond human eye’s ability to see a flicker, but it’s beyond the ability of the phosphors to react to it, so there is no flicker at all. They’re more expensive, but not that much these days, and it’s more than made up by reduced energy use and increased tube life. They also start tubes more reliably and faster (ones in my garage come on instantly even at sub zero F temperatures.). Nicer ones also wire tubes independently, so the failure (or removal) of one tube doesn’t change the behavior of the other tubes in the fixture. Not having to get maintenance to come change light bulbs ahead of the replacement schedule can be a very big savings for some large institutional and industrial settings.

    Elizabeth’s work probably replaced their magnetic ballasts with electronic ones.

    (Tubes do have an end of life failure mode where they won’t strike an arc from one end of the tube, but the other still works. That is one reason for the very noticeable flashing flicker. New tubes usually fixes that.)

  11. Seth Meyerink-Griffin says:

    Questions and comments:
    Is there a reason that you *couldn’t* make a suit out of real sharkskin, aside from the cost? I know that you can skin sharks (I skinned the spiny dogfish that I had to dissect in HS biology and salt cured it, but my mom threw it out before I could attempt tanning), so I would think that it’s technically feasible. It also seems to be very strong, and quite thin/light. Downside: the sharks that you can raise on farms tend to be small, so you would need a lot of them, and wild sharks aren’t very common, nor can you safely remove large numbers of them without damaging the ecosystem. BTW: By ‘suit’ I mean a traditional notched-collar jacket and matching trousers.

    I definitely prefer compact flourescent bulbs that are in the white/daylight range, and I typically use 23W bulbs (comparable to a 100W incandescent). The blue/green range of regular flourescents isn’t comfortable for me, and yellow of the ‘soft’ bulbs is too relaxing (not conducive to working), and the white bulbs make it easier to work with black fabrics, IMO. I also have very little natural light available in my apartment…

  12. Seth Meyerink-Griffin says:

    Before I forget again: I currently work as a stitcher at a tensioned fabric display company, and I only managed to land the job after *months* of sending out resumes to every company that I could find that was trying to hire stitchers. I know how to sew, but I didn’t know how to sew the way they needed people to. (I’m learning fairly well; because the displays are so expensive, they don’t really want to let me practice on them. But after being there a month I’m fairly comfortable with most things they do.) If contractors were willing to teach industry standard sewing (as opposed to design school sewing), and there were more contractors in Chicago, I would happily murder a few people to get a job in an apparel sewing factory.

  13. Dan Barch says:

    On Safety and Lean, the two are synonomous – Lean is founded in participation and contribution of all employees on all matters so hourly contribute to process design while executives spent time on the shop floor. The discussion on Safety can get very long and involved, generally OSHA can check for facility and equipment conditions, but its the unsafe practices that are tougher to catch and depend on good managereal relations.

    The lighting experiment cited above is called The Hawthorn Effect after a factory trial in Hawthorn, IN, where workers’ productivity increased as lighting was increased, then decreased – the productivity was found to be due to attention paid to the workers during the trial. I call it the first rule of supervision – what you pay attention to gets better, what you ignore gets worse.

    On Lighting, we prefer task lighting – closer to the actual work, rather than over head – for the working illumination. Overhead or better yet natural light is great for attitude but not the job itself. And where flourescent lighting takes 10% of the electricity than incandescent, LED is 10% of flourescent, and the bulbs last longer – and are more expensive to install, so there is a trade off. Can’t speak to color on that one.

  14. kay says:

    Color of light does tend to matter more to aging eyes. Once you get to Reading Glasses Age, there’s enough other stuff going on in the interior of the eye that you start to become more sensitive to glare and scattered light, and blue wavelengths scatter more. As the lens opacifies and cataracts form, color distinctions in the green and blue ranges become more difficult, too, no matter the lamp color temperature. Also, some fluorescents have a rather jagged distribution of wavelengths. In better ones, the jaggies are smoothed out, more like sunlight. The last color photo on this page compares sunlight wavelength distribution to one fluorescent source:

    Which is all a long winded way of saying you may wind up buying “better fluorescent bulbs” as Father Time does his dirty work.

    ps: You may want to replace fluorescent lamps more frequently than “burned out”: see figure 10 here:
    With fluorescent grow lights, we figured 6 months of 12 hour use was time to replace the bulbs… the plants just didn’t do well with older lamps, they weren’t bright enough any more. (In another life, I was a botanist.)

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