The Apparel Engineering and Needle Trades Handbook

I’ve been meaning to tell you about one of my favorite books. It’s a vintage manufacturing book called The Apparel Engineering and Needle Trades Handbook published by Kogos. It is quite rare with few known copies surviving. While the book is 45 years old, it is immensely valuable because sewing is a mature industry; it just hasn’t changed much. I asked John Rebrovick at SouthStar Supply if he had any copies left and he’s located a few so if you think you’d have the slightest interest, I wouldn’t wait to purchase one. In fact, I wouldn’t finish reading this article; I’d go buy it first and then come back to finish reading this article. Assuming you didn’t like the book, I guarantee you will not have a problem finding a buyer for your copy.

For example, on page 295, I found “Production Mobility through Sequence Designing” which seems to be a precursor of the production organization system that we now know as UPS/TSS (Unit production system/Toyota Sewing System). In reference to the system, it reads in part:

Although it cannot be called a “straight line sequence” in the true sense of the term, our garments run up and down a series of rows from initial cutting to final pressing. As one observer put it, “Garments are practically handed from one operator to the next with no need for bundles to be passed from one section to another”.

The other things I like about it are that you can find “fathers” of industry writing articles. For example, Richard Sussman (of Sussman Irons fame) writes about a new method of pressing to eliminate boilers which is useful for small producers. I have a Sussman, I like it. We now know these as steam irons of course but it’s useful to understand the process behind your product when it stops working and you need to troubleshoot it.

If you get this book, you’ll see the definition of “mature industry” in action. By that I mean that much of the equipment you’ll see pictured in the 40+ year old book is exactly the same as what you can buy today. An example of that is the cloth notcher on page 147. Mine looks exactly like this! The great thing about the photos are blow-by-blow descriptions of moving parts; none of this has changed. Another example is “Cutting methods and machines”. You can compare the equipment pictured in nearly any of these photos and find them in any suppliers catalog. The great thing about this book is that unlike today, the authors don’t assume you know which blades to use with which fabrics, having the blades moving at x speed with x number of plies. With charting, this is all spelled out for you.

This book is an endless treasure trove of factory floor information. Everything from proportionates of men’s suits to inventory warehousing with layouts of bolted fabrics to inventory paperwork controls (many of you may be validated to see you’re storing your fabrics in a nearly identical fashion). This is one book you won’t regret buying. Anyway, here’s the specs on the book, pasted in from SouthStar Supply website.

Apparel Engineering & Needle Trades Handbook
Item Number: BOOK-2
Item Price: $45.50
Kogos, 1960. 388 pages. 9″x12″. Soft cover.

Over forty years later, this book is a blast from the past but still an excellent resource. Extensively illustrated. Over fifteen years in preparation, this comprehensive handbook is a compilation of basic knowledge and practical know-how covering important aspects of apparel manufacturing. It represents the experience and ideas of experts in the needle trades industry. A dozen books in one, pointing the way to improved manufacturing methods, reduced costs, and greater profits. A valuable reference source for all needle trades executives–management and production alike.

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  1. Jimmy Hudson says:

    Per your recommendation I stopped reading your post and quickly ordered the book.
    As it is now three years since your endorsement, I felt very happy to be able to still order a copy.
    I received it today (with a few other items) and must agree with you; it is everything you said it was. I especially appreciate and enjoy reading the rather proper English that was being written at that time but imagine those men probably sounded different in their day to day speech.
    Thanks for sharing this book. It will make good bedtime reading other than the rather overwhelming mustiness of the volume

  2. dosfashionistas says:

    And 4 years later I found it on Amazon for $34.50. I am getting more professional books now that I am retired than I ever had while I was working. Mostly on your recommendation.

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