Pop Quiz: Are you a manufacturing expert? pt.2

Wasn’t the quiz fun? No? Sorry ’bout that. Okay, here’s the answers to this quiz (pg. 227) that I forgot to publish in the book (!). By the way, all of the answers are explained in the book in copious detail but I’ve added a few links to help you out.

Section 1: True or False
Note it didn’t say True and False. Chalk that one up to my perverse sense of humor, most everyone knows that about me already. Therefore the answers to section one were all false. Below are some notes to clear up points of confusion, some answers people marked as “true”.

2. If products are ruined at the dry cleaners, it’s nearly always the dry cleaners fault.
False. I’m glad I’m not a dry cleaner. They get blamed for a lot of manufacturing oversights. (pgs. 52, 158-159). It’s not fair to blame the dry cleaner just because they had it last. Test your inputs!

5. It’s okay to name your designs because you’re a very small company and this rule doesn’t apply to you. Besides, numbers are too “corporate”.
False. This has been covered on this site ad nauseum. Not having style numbers is how knock off manufacturers pick which items to copy, buying your styles from tiny independent boutiques across the country.

8. Family and friends are good judges of your design ideas; they’ll know which are the best bets.
False. Or nearly always so unless your family member is a retail buyer of your product type (doc). Your family and friends love you, they’re only trying to be kind. Any time someone says “I’d buy that”, my first thought is to whip out an order form. To be on the safe side, see #18.

13. Sewing contractors have high minimums; it’s impossible to have just one item made.
False. Minimally, sewing contractors have to make at least one in order to price the item for production. How to find sewing contractors who will do small production is another story.

18. It’s okay to cut and sew the items before you have any orders.
False. I’m similarly humorless on this subject. If your product idea is a sure winner, why would you need to cut in advance of orders? Better to take orders and produce it in larger lots for greater economy. More.

Section 2: Who is at fault if…
Again, most everyone got this right; it is the pattern maker. Two things were gratifying. First, no one blamed seamstresses (I could kiss you for that). Two, most people would hold themselves accountable as they have the final responsibility. I could not be more pleased that people are not blame centered but you need to know whose job it is to repair or amend these problems. It is entirely possible the pattern is not a problem but the pattern maker may need to trouble shoot the process to see where meanings were misconstrued. Perhaps a better way to explain it is that a pattern maker would be mortified if these problems were manifest and would be suffering heart palpitations (no lie) so please allow them to help you as a kindness to you both.

Section 3: The three stages of manufacturing are:
1. Design (planning/sourcing/protos & samples)
2. Sales (Market, taking orders)
3. Production (only produce what you’ve taken orders for).

Section 4: General Questions:
1. What is a style number?
A number used to identify the style. Not having them or having poor ones is the easiest way industry professionals will know your longevity in the industry. Typically considered to be unimportant by new designers who could not be more mistaken. See “What are Style Numbers?” and “Numbers Are Your Friends” in the book.

2. What’s the difference between a sloper and a block?
In industry, a sloper is any (any!) pattern without seam allowance. A block is a pattern of a style that represents your typical silhouette.

3. CM&T means Cut, Make and Trim. By the way, “trim” doesn’t mean to trim off loose threads although that is included. Trim means to finish the garment with button holes, buttons, tagging, pressing etc.

4. What is a marker?
A marker is a layout (usually printed separately) of how the pieces should be laid on the fabric. As Barb mentions, we do that to get the highest yield.

5. What is allocation?
Allocation is also known as yield, or the yardage required to produce a unit. However, Barb is also correct in saying “materials assigned to an complete an order”. If you have X yards in inventory, you allocate X number of yards toward the production of a given style. It is a way of assigning the raw inputs you have in inventory to production.

6. What is a stock or base size and what size is it?
This is the median or the middle size of your size run. If you are selling XS-S-M-L-XL, it would be the medium. Sizes 4-14, it would be 10. Perhaps it was due to semantics but several people said it could be whatever you wanted. I’ll say I couldn’t disagree more and let it go at that.

7. What is grading?
Alicia had a good response so I’ll just copy and paste hers: “the process of increasing or decreasing the size of the base garment to a specific set of size measurements, while still retaining the features associated with the sample garment.”

8. What is a prototype?
Again, saving myself some work by pasting Irene’s answer: “A prototype is a sample… to be used as reference for production more than as a selling tool.”

9. What is torquing?
Torquing means the grain is skewed. This usually happens when wet fabrics are unevenly wound. This matters because the greige goods you start with may be fine but they get messed up during the dye process. You’ll sometimes see pant leg seams twist out of alignment but you really can’t know if it’s a pattern problem unless you can see the pattern. There’s a very simple way to test for torquing in my book on p. 158.

10. In which stage of manufacturing are patterns graded?
Of all the responses, this one got the most wrong answers (sorry!). Patterns are graded after orders are consolidated, as close to right before production starts as is possible (the last minute). This often confuses people because grading is a pattern function and patterns are made before market. You grade patterns after the sales phase because you don’t want to have wasted the money to have graded patterns for styles that may not sell. Plus, you may have to tweak the fit based on feed back from sales.

The Drawing:
We had 18 submissions to the contest, all were qualified entries, the number of correct answers had nothing to do with it (personally, I loved the entries that said, “I don’t want to take this test but I want to be entered”). Obviously there is no way to prove this was as random a drawing as could be done under the circumstances so here’s some photos of the judging process. None of these photos are very good, taken with the iphone which isn’t good for small details or if it is, I have to learn how to use it properly (entirely possible). First all the names were printed out and cut into little slips of paper.

Then each name was folded up and placed in the plastic bowl I keep handy to feed stray kitties or puppies who wander by for food and free pets I’m giving away that day (yes, I’m such a sucker I keep dog, cat and bird food -and treats- at my office and usually in my car).

I was very careful to lay each slip of paper in the bowl so none of them were overlapping or stuck inside of another. Then I raised the bowl above my head, stuck my hand in there and pulled out:

Alicia Hahn, our student designer from Australia. Congratulations!

Hopefully entrants will be satisfied this drawing was as random and fair as I could make it since shipping costs are hefty to Australia, and logically, would have chosen a winner who cost me less :).

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  1. Thanks for the opportunity. I was at barnes & noble today looking in their sewing section. I physically picked up Weekend Sewing by Heather Ross to have around my house for inspiration, but put it back down again after remembering that the next book I want to spend any money on is yours!

  2. Clara Rico says:

    You’re so sweet to show us pictures of how you did your random drawing. Also for giving free pets to puppies and kittens who wander by. That probably isn’t how you meant to say it, but it came out very cute and made me smile.

  3. Eric H says:


    Actually, that is exactly how she meant it: she frequently announces to nearby animals that she is giving out free pets, usually for a limited time, get them now before she starts charging for them.

  4. celeste says:

    i’m glad you posted the answers (but it also makes me feel how little i know – but at least I knew that starting out – lol).
    to bad I didn’t win though , and I could’ve saved you on shipping!

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