Spring 2016 Manufacturing Boot Camp

My momI know the project choice of this event isn’t going excite many but the targeted population and production goals should.

After interviewing social service agencies and workers, we decided to manufacture house dresses for elderly women. Reason being, once society feeds, houses and medicates the elderly, they are largely forgotten. The specific group we’re serving, has less than $4,000 a year in income. The average annual income of a family of four in Cantron County, New Mexico, is $11,000. Sadly, New Mexico is either dead last, or second to last in nearly every national economic and social indicator there is. And people wonder why I live here -well, there is the greatest need of economic development here!

Our project goals are to cut and sew at least 240 house dresses. There will be 3 distinct designs and at least 3 colorways. We plan to donate at least 2, if not 3, dresses to each lady.

This go round, we are doing the design phase in a four day sprint. That takes place on February 26-29, 2016. These are the things we will accomplish then:

  • Analyze fitting and dressing challenges for our “customer”.
  • Design for a 240+ unit production run with a minimum of 3 styles and 3 colorways.
  • Design dresses with a variety of features valued by our “customer” with an emphasis on self dressing.
  • Create the pattern and a complete the production pattern auditing for each style.
  • Sew mock ups of each style for group critique
  • Ceate finished samples.
  • Create an industrial engineering work study to determine the number of operations, sewing time per operation and type of equipment will we need.
  • Analyze the sewing skills we need to train for and finalize a plan to manage the challenges of an unknown workforce.
  • Do the cut order planning (calculating yields), creating the master schedule to order goods, final costing, and show how to manage production soup to nuts.
  • Finalize the sourcing plan to include the costs and inventory we need to complete the project.

There are only 6 slots available for design, 3 are reserved for New Mexico residents. The 3 slots for out of staters are spoken for, leaving 2 New Mexico slots still open. I will keep the NM slots open for a week and then take first come, first served from the waiting list. In other words, by all means, fill out the registration form to be put on the waiting list.

The production phase takes place May 27-30, 2016. We have a total of 24 openings for that. I know that people who try to sell you stuff (we’re not making any money on this, strictly charity) stress that “this offer won’t last” but if the first event is any indication, the event will fill fast. Also, we pared back by a factor of 30%. Instead of 40 plus participants, we will only have 30.

Before I forget, the first mention of these events will be posted to the Albuquerque Fashion Incubator page so if you want to be notified quickly, go there to get on the notification list.

Okay, so that’s all for now. Go to the official announcement page to learn more about this project and to figure out if it is something you want to do. I have to go home now before it gets dark because I lost one of my chickens yesterday and hope I can find her before it gets dark. It is hard to find black chickens in the dark and she is special to us. She was paralyzed when she was a pullet and we nursed her back to health when any sane person would have whacked her over the head. Unlike the other chickens who are named Dorothy, she is named Baby and is very tame. All of the other ones are convinced we are out to kill them. If you didn’t know, chickens are all about drama.

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  1. Debi says:

    This sounds like a very worth while project. My father was in assisted living and a nursing home for a total of 6.5 years. I saw so many design features very much needed for the elderly. My father had moderate dementia so I modified much of wardrobe to better suit his needs. Aside from the obvious use of Velcro over buttons and snaps…I recommend no front or side pockets as one of the designs…this keeps their hands free in the case of a stumble or fall to catch themselves or soften to fall. I would have loved to participate however I have a family reunion that weekend. It is Memorial Day weekend.
    Should you have a need June on, I would be interested in helping.

    • JustGail says:

      Very interesting, because the first thing I thought was – the house dresses need nice big pockets so they have a place to put keys, ID, a tissue/handkerchief, etc. when they need to leave home for a short time. Or even while in the home, it’s nice to have a pocket handy.

      Maybe some with and some without pockets?

      • kathleen says:

        I thought I’d commented already but I don’t see it here.

        My thinking is that our “customer” is an older lady (70+) who can handle her personal care needs such as bathing, toileting, eating etc. While she may have vision, circulation, arthritis or range of motion limitations, she is not a nursing home resident who requires assistance or routine medical intervention. So, her dress doesn’t require special features design to facilitate treatment. The dresses should be comfortable, easy to get in and out of, and facilitate her daily needs. In short, I think pockets would be a good idea.

        For now I want to avoid making a garment that is intended to be worn by those needing medical assistance. Other than liability, I don’t know enough to ride herd on the latter (and no time to learn it right now) but I think this project is a good gateway to exploring the option down the road.

    • JustGail says:

      I think the coffee just kicked in – my brain skipped right over the “as one of the designs” part of your comment when I suggested both also.

    • kathleen says:

      This is a great idea, Marilyn. This is definitely a possibility but I would want to wait until we finish production and deliver the products in the event we discover something that should be tweaked. Don’t hesitate to nag me later. This also hinges on another charity project I have in mind that I meant to write about.

      I never did get around to releasing the children’s coat pattern and it’s probably too late now until late Summer but I should do that. The funny thing is, in one community where we donated the coats, adults were going into the center and trying to buy them for their kids. They’d seen them around and thought they were great. They were disappointed to learn that they were not for sale.

  2. kathleen says:

    We’re half way there now with 15 registrations. The design phase is full, I even got my 3 New Mexicans. One of them tho, needs a scholarship. She is a strong candidate, lots of skills, she just doesn’t have much money. She’s been working part time for the Santa Fe Opera and local DEs. She’s originally from Las Cruces and even studied in the UK. Can anyone help out?

  3. rita penner says:

    So exciting an event! I’m drooling. As usual, you’ve set yourself a thoughtful and ambitious challenge.

    There’s use for what you’re doing here too. There are ignored seniors in Canada as well, living way below the poverty line, and of course more on the way.

    An actual LOL at the ‘chickens being all about drama’. Yes, indeed.

    I sure wish I could come but I’m so far away and on top of that, my first grandchild’s first birthday is on the 26th. Isn’t that perennial? There’s always an excuse. sigh.

  4. Miriam Weiss says:

    I am excited to hear about this project.

    For whom is this project opportunity all about newbies?

    Is the project solely for charity or is it to teach startups as well?

    • Avatar photo

      We have a mix of people. At the first boot camp, we only had 2 people with production experience.

      The project goal is to benefit needy people in our community, using the opportunity to teach start ups or even enthusiasts who want to learn and contribute. In short, it is both, not one or the other.

      • sonneriefashion says:

        I would have love to attend and see a production run myself. (I have never experienced other companies production just ran my own) maybe a lot of my problems will be solved by me watching you once. I would wish to go but as of now I am struggling to find a good production manager for my small sewing factory. I tried doing everything myself. Managing employees, assisting customers fixing my machines, making patterns and samples all at once. I am soooo overwhelmed is this normal? how do you manage all at once.
        I have so many orders coming in and production is not moving fast enough! I need to be on top of every small detail if not production goes wrong. Any suggestions? I am drowning in work!

        Kathleen I was thinking of contacting you personally because I am beating around the bush and getting nowhere. Do you think you can help me?

  5. Lisa Blank says:

    I don’t know why the project choice wouldn’t excite. I love the idea of helping seniors with something so practical. The thought that will go into the designs will be a great exercise for those who participate in the design phase. I look forward to hearing more as you have things to share.

    BTW, is there any way to subscribe to comments via RSS under the new site design? I can’t seem to find it for this post but will keep looking.

    • Avatar photo

      I’m very pleased at the warm reception we’ve gotten. However, in discussing the concept before hand, reception was tepid at best.

      Now, after we made the announcement, I’ve received emails from [people who have not signed up] very well meaning ladies (presumably seniors), telling me that today’s seniors will not want these, that they won’t want to go about town wearing them. It is … difficult to get people understand that our “customer” is not them. If our “customer” goes to town, that’s a town with population 2000 and they just might be happy to have something new, bright and cheery. Our customer is not a white, upper income, urban, educated, woman with stable finances. In the community we surveyed, people were delighted.

      • Vicki says:

        These dresses sound a lot like the “House Dresses” many, if not most, women wore when I was growing up in the ’60’s. These were clothing that was comfortable and all of the days activities (from cooking, cleaning, gardening and relaxing) could be conducted in them, all the while being perfectly respectable dress to answer the door, have coffee with a neighbor, or run errands. I’m wondering if the naysayers have seen the people in athletic attire and pajamas going about town.

      • Kristin says:

        “very well meaning ladies (presumably seniors), telling me that today’s seniors will not want these, that they won’t want to go about town wearing them” Outrageous. Outrageous! (to quote Judge Judy :)

        Number One: Those “well meaning” (quotes intentional) ladies are NOT your customer. Needy NM housewives are the customer, so those non-customers input is worthless anyway.
        Number Two: I am not a senior, and could see myself in one of these, if I lived in that NM area. Number Three: WHO says they’re to be used as street wear?? They are house-dresses. HOUSE.

        By the way, if that lovely blue number the woman in the photo is an example of the house dress, it is dreamy. I especially adore the cute birds decorating it. It looks like a higher end robe.

        PS- I am not a designer, not even a pro seamstress. I am just a hobbyist but I can’t get enough of you! I mistakenly thought I’d bookmarked your page – I lost it!! Couldn’t find your page ANY where and I could not remember your name, or your site, nor anything that would bring you up in the search engines. Then I remembered I added you to my Twitter!! Logged in- Eureka!! Yay!

        By the way, I’d been searching on several search pages for any info and tips on “Industrial Sewing Techniques” or Industrial Sewing Tips & Tricks to no avail (I use yahoo, duckduckgo, google, many different ones) and I found this page quite by accident, and not under those terms I gave just now- this page I found linked through another thing I can’t recall, but ANYWAY- I finally found what I was looking for, and it’s PERFECT. I may even purchase your book, even though I am no seller, and no merchandiser of any kind, I only want the expert sewing tips. If you come out with another version for sewing hobbyists, I’d be very interested!!! Thank you for your wonderful site, your work, everything.

  6. Jackie says:

    I’m just a casual sewist, but enjoy reading and understanding the process. I’ve read your blog for years and think you are amazing!

    Regarding your latest undertaking, I’ve noticed when visiting the elderly, that many women have forward shoulders and the manufacturers don’t seem to address that. The women keep fussing to keep the house dresses sitting on their shoulders. Thought you might want to think about that in the pattern stage.

    A Fan,

    Jackie Pilo

  7. karin kiltz says:

    If I could afford to travel there, I would at the drop of a hat. Awesome idea, and great opportunity to learn, regardless of the project. A project doesn’t have to be glamorous to teach.

    • Avatar photo

      I understand your situation but would like to encourage people to apply if they can’t afford the fees as we are actively requesting donations for scholarships. We’ve been fortunate to receive funds from Marcy Tilton, her sister Katherine Tilton, Marguerite Swope (Ivy Reed) and Raina Gustafson. We’ve been able to fund one student and need funds to cover at least one other candidate. This candidate is a graduate of TenderLove; a local 501-c3 that teaches sewing to homeless women and immigrants.

  8. luciadorado says:

    Hope you find your black Baby! I was lauging so hard: “chickens are all about drama”. LOL. This made my day. Good luck on your project!

  9. Martina Flynn says:

    I used to make house dresses for my grandmother…she had very specific ideas about what she wanted, and I was happy to make sure she was satisfied! They had to be washable, pretty colors, just below knee length with sleeves just above the elbows. Oh, and she liked a front zipper closing so that they could be a little fitted, but still easy to get on and off. She thought the popover dresses weren’t “outdoors” enough to be able to go to run a few errands in. Congratulations on a fantastic project, I hope it all goes well…the ladies should be thrilled.

  10. Judith says:


    I hope you found your chicken the one named Baby.

    Chickens are all about drama. Laughing.

    Loved your bit about the chickens.


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