Production pattern tutorial 2

Regarding the production pattern making tutorial, you should know we’ve been given permission to use someone else’s intellectual property for the purposes of our own education. Now, since the entire purpose of this exercise is to convert a home sewing pattern into a commercial pattern, in the process, it is highly likely that disfavorable comparatives will be made but this is not intended to disparage the donor of this gift. Not at all. Any negative assessments I make should be only taken in the context that this is an item that is not designed for the purposes of manufacturing. It is not a criticism of the original maker who never implied it would meet our needs. I am grateful she’s allowing us to do this.

Anyway, you need to see sewing instructions and you need to download and print the pattern. It comes on three sheets, drawn out nicely on a grid. I did have one problem with it and this isn’t implied against this pattern but about instructions in general -but does it bug you when there’s lots of copy with instructions? A lot of the articles in Threads have too much copy. I have a hard time wading through a lot of copy. I like simple step by step instruction. Kind of like the way I do my tutorials. I only like one or two sentences per picture in a tutorial. I think you all would be amazed to know many problems I have learning hands-on things from books. Anyway, one of these pages has way too many steps for me to follow. In a production environment, reading takes time. Pictures and visuals are the best thing, always. Plus, you don’t have language barriers.

Speaking of language barriers -this is an aside- my friend Miracle (my co-blogger) had this experience with her contractor and she faxed me her invoices to prove it but even Miracle’s invoices weren’t in English; they were in Chinese. I busted a gut over that. While I do think anybody is allowed to speak whatever language they like, I think she has the right to get her business receipts in English because if for no other reason, English is a trade language. It was funny tho. The only thing you could read were the numbers. No problem with those. Otherwise, Miracle is pretty happy with her contractor.

Back to the pattern, there’s loads of copy on page 2. It seems you have to draft the thing from dimensions.

I have just read the instructions and boy, is it a lot of work. I’m going to have to modify these if I expect anybody to follow along. I was hoping the pattern was ready to go and we could just cut these out of manila folder paper. Bummer. I guess I’m going to have to draw these up. I also need to do a sketch. The other thing is, this is a lunch bag and I was thinking we should make it into a purse instead. The only difference would be the straps. I have several different ways to make straps that can be useful in bag making. If you don’t have a tube turner, making straps can be time consuming. And by the way, I have an industrial tube turner. They’re not very expensive ($125) and they do a bang up job. I really love mine. I’ll take a picture of it for you later. If you’re planning to make bag straps in quantity, this would be handy. Regardless, I do know another nifty way straps are made that they don’t do in home sewing that I’ll show you. Also, our straps are interfaced. That’s something I notice in a lot of the bags made by start ups, their straps are wilting. Those need to be fused so I’ll show you that too. While I’m speaking of bag makers, sooner or later (probably sooner) you’re going to need a sewing hammer. Carol gave us a source for those. A sewing hammer will dramatically improve the quality of your stitching. I don’t mean to harp on those but as far as usefulness is concerned, hammers are a big bang for the buck -no pun intended. Even every home sewer should have one. As it is, even a lot of factories don’t know to use them.

Anyway, we’ll start this project next year after the holiday. Everybody have a happy holiday. I don’t know what goals you have planned if any in the new year but hopefully we can all be more productive.

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  1. deerskin says:

    When you first suggested the production pattern tutorial I looked at the pattern and the directions and got tired. I don’t remember having problems with the amount of text (copy) but with the photos that were hard to understand. While i was impressed by some of the tailoring done in the construction–like trimming the paddings so it did not extend into the seam allowances–i had to read the directions twice to get a pretty good idea of what was going on.
    That said–writing clear, concise instructions is a challenge and as is knowing what best to illustrate so that patternmaker/stitcher etc can fill in the blanks.
    In NYC costume shops i worked with plenty of non-native speakers of English–and found that visuals and demonstrations were the best way to convey information, although many of the speakers learned key words for techniques like ‘bagging out’ and ‘sew with Xs’ so we spoke in shorthand and used our hands a lot. Anyway some of the English speakers did not know sewing terms so visuals also worked best there. And as one of my bosses said (i paraphrase): “No one ever said that i could talk about this stuff”

  2. SB says:

    I, too, am looking forward to this. I’m a designer who doesn’t sew, so this is going to do me a world of good!

    Thanks, Kathleen.

  3. Regarding work instructions — Steve Blackwell did an article for my “Lean Directions” e-newsletter about visual work instructions – they apply to Kathleen’s lament that pattern instructions are typically wordy, as well as to the work instructions available to your stitchers in the factory.

    Not only did Steve do a nice job on the article, you can also contact him or view his website from links at the end of his article.

    Here is the article: Shorter Text for Visual Work Instructions

  4. Kathleen says:

    Karen, that article is a great resource. It prescribed doing what I’d only been from intuition. My internal editor won’t like capitalizing all the nouns (or eliminating unnecessary words) but I agree it does read better. I didn’t realize just how much I scanned -as opposed to reading- instructions. For those of you who have to write instructions for your contractors, pay heed to this (from the article):

    Employees consistently complain, “I don’t understand what I’m supposed to do here.” When the text is too wordy, employees tend to look at the picture and guess at the instruction. This is especially true when a worker is reading in his or her second language.

  5. Gigi says:

    Excellent article! Thanks for sharing that, Karen. Instructions for home sewing patterns are especially wordy! I, personally, just don’t have the patience to read them. Funny thing is that many people want MORE pages of instruction! I believe a concise list of the construction steps would be much more helpful. For instance, the steps for a simple top might be:

    1) Sew front to back at shoulder
    2) Attach neckline binding
    3) Set sleeves
    4) Sew side seams
    5) Complete hems

    I don’t understand why that requires three large pages of instructions. Why not just a couple of diagrams?

  6. Cinnamon says:

    One of the things I like about Japanese craft books is that there are few words. Most of the directions/instructions are small graphics. I buy Japanese sewing, quilting, bagmaking books for inspiration and always end up wishing that American designers would pick up their style.

  7. anne says:

    I’m a technical writer, working mostly in the software industry. Processes and the way people work fascinate me. I’ve also been sewing and knitting since almost before I can remember; and while I have bookcases full of texts, I mostly learn by poking around the inside of clothes in expensive shops. My keyring recently acquired a tiny retracting tape measure :-)

    I wouldn’t recommend capitalising all the nouns – it’s actually harder to read words in all caps. I use bold; it reads more naturally, but the eye is drawn to those words. When the reader needs to check the task again, they can skim through, mostly reading the words in bold – saving time and frustration.

    However much you slave away on your carefully written text, remember that most people _don’t_ want to read it, they just want to do their job. There is no Nobel Prize for technical writing.

    You should also start the task with a list of requirements – it’s really annoying to leap into a task (which is common behaviour) without reading it thoroughly, only to find half way through that the task comes to a screaming halt because you don’t have that essential little widget not mentioned in the introduction.

    One last point – think through your steps carefully. Where I work, there’s one of those ‘what to do in case of a bomb threat’ signs, which is appallingly badly written.

    The instructions tell you to talk to the person making the threat, and then call the relevant authorities. Somewhere towards the end, (around Step 6) it tells you not to hang up the call from the person making the threat! Which of course you already have done, to ring the police.


  8. Lorne says:

    Apologies if I’m missing something obvious, but was this tutorial ever continued? I can’t find the next part if there is one.

  9. Kathleen says:

    Apologies if I’m missing something obvious, but was this tutorial ever continued? I can’t find the next part if there is one.

    You’re not missing anything (sorry). With continued discussion (on the forum) the consensus seemed to be I would be giving away too much because some of the material would come from my book and as such, the format should be subscription based. The other issue is, I was concerned the whole topic of the blog could veer off course so I thought it’d be better to start another site for it. I haven’t launched the new site but I have been collecting material for it. I’ve been collecting names of people likely to be interested in it too (I’ve added your name to the list) and will also mention it here whenever it goes live. At this point, the hang up is integrating an easy subscription option that is ecommerce enabled and I don’t know anything about that.

  10. Lorne says:

    Thank you so much for explaining Kathleen. I am VERY eagerly looking forward to your new site. There is such a need for information about production pattern making.

  11. Kathleen says:

    In the short term till I get it going, what is it that you’re looking for specifically? What are you intending to do? Have you read those sections in my book? There is that whole section on production pattern making and several other additional chapters on grading, drafting linings, correcting patterns for shrinkage, making guides (and what they are), fitting (again, concepts never mentioned elsewhere). In short, the sorts of things you need in the daily work environment that are never mentioned much less explained in pattern books. And if you have this book, what sorts of details are you looking for beyond what’s presented? Anyone feel free to answer this last question as it would be helpful for me to know. Thanks!

  12. Rhonda says:

    Was the production pattern tutorial ever continued, and if so where? Last post you mentioned it being at your new site (that was back in Nov. 2008). where is your new site? where can I find the info. on the rest of this tutorial? Thanks in advance. Rhonda

  13. No, it wasn’t ever continued owing to the above (my comment dated 11/10/08 8:38 AM). What we have done since then is to shoot the first of several videos. What will likely happen when the first is released for sale, is that I will start the new site at that time. Then, people who buy the DVD can access the site and forum at a discount for the first year. Anyone else can join by paying a subscription. People who pay a subscription can buy the DVDs at a discount so it all works out either way. This also applies to my forever book projects on sewing and production pattern making which will be rolled into this new site in the same way. In the interim, we discuss anything people bring up in our existing forum. I have also most recently done a production pattern class. These are announced sporadically. I won’t do another one until next May or June.

  14. Robert says:

    So, it’s July 1, 2010, is there any news on this new site or DVD with the production pattern tutorial? It would be so nice to actually see a tutorial!
    I love this blog and your book!

  15. Kathleen says:

    Hi Robert
    In addition to my comments above which explain the course of this project, I’ve been out of sorts with my move. I have shot a video on correcting patterns (production pattern making) but it hasn’t been released yet. There are tons of tutorials on this site, click on “tutorials” in the blue bar at the top of the page for a mostly complete list. Lastly, since you have the book, you can join our forum where we talk about a lot of stuff with a great deal more specificity and detail.

  16. Tina says:

    Any news on when the DVDs might be ready? I am a home sewer (well, not very good) but am always looking for ways to make my stuff look better.

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