Training sewing machine operators pt 1

I found a book called Sewing Machine Operator’s Training Handbook published in 1972, edited and compiled by Manuel Gaetan. Although it’s a short little book and a fast read, it covers everything from recruiting, interviewing, pre-employment testing and training sewing operators. It is also, as they say, a blast from the past. For example, the section on interviewing (complete with sample application) is illegal these days. One’s marital status and number of progeny are no one’s business.

The section on pre-employment dexterity and alignment testing is interesting. It would never occur to me to check for this because I’d hire someone who already sewed on the basis of a work sample they’d brought in. I’d forgotten about the traditional dexterity board (photo below) that was popularly used in the industry early on. It provides the added benefit of checking whether an operator is color blind. I’ve posted other specific exercises that only require a deck of cards in the forum. I never would have thought of these simple strategies to judge one’s ability to sort (singularly, bi-manually), align and stack. If you don’t think those skills are important, it could be you don’t know that approximately 60% of “sewing” time is really processing and handling, not sewing at all.

An intelligence test is recommended. I can see this going over real well these days considering many operators don’t speak English. Times have certainly changed from when this book was written. Here’s an example:

The instructions say “any candidate who misses more than one question should be scrutinized rather closely”. In this case, that would be me. Question 10 doesn’t form a patterned sequence and being ditzy ADHD, I missed listing a “1” for the missing numbers in question 9, and then some of the answers were incomplete and open to debate from the testy neurologically challenged contingent (moi again). Minimally, one certainly needs to be able to read well to pass this test; they’d probably never have to do that much reading again on the job again. As I always say, operators tend to be learning disabled and many aren’t very educated. This does not mean they aren’t smart! I have seen more unwarranted deprecation of human intelligence in sewing lines than anywhere else.

Then the last one is a mental concentration test guaranteed to make you go blind or dizzy. The directions for this read: In each line are pairs of adjoining figures which add up to ten. Find them and underline them.

Now that I’m done having fun -I promise- with the shortcomings of the text, I’ll write more tomorrow about training a new stitcher. Related: I’m hoping this book can be made available as an ebook. Anyone interested?

Training sewing machine operators pt 1
Training sewing machine operators pt 2
Training sewing machine operators pt 3
Training the green sewing operator
Comments from the sewing trainee
Training new sewing operator pt.3

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  1. Jennifer says:

    Well I am glad I did not have to take that intelligence test to get my job – I’d screw up more than one question. Dyslexic and probably a smidge bit ADHD. Now give me a WAIS Block Design test(Involves putting sets of blocks together to match patterns on cards)and I’ll kick ass!!!

    Color blindness is critical to test for everyone in the process: spreaders, cutters, sewers, quality control, finishes and even DE’s – if you do not know get checked. I had a Textile Science professor who was yellow/blue color blind he did not know until he went to work for a dye house.

  2. J C Sprowls says:

    Is there such a thing as adult-onset ADHD? If so, I think I need to get myself checked out.

    The first time I read #4 I missed the word ‘if’. I believed PROTOPLASM was longer than AUTOMATION because I presumed I had been told so. As a result, I dropped the T from THEATRE. When I was instructed to pick the middle letter in THEATRE, I figured out I had made a mistake.

    These things are tricky, I tell ya!

  3. trish says:

    I think adult-onset ADHD is called AADHD or AADD (if there is no hyperactivity issue.)

    I would love a ebook of the Gaetan book…

    and I love those little tests… almost all of us had to take the test, not just read about it, LOL!!!

  4. jennifer says:

    I’m a bit of a nerd, so I love these crazy intelligence/concentration quizzes! But I do agree that the whole intelligence test thing is kind of off base for interviewing sewing machine operators!

    By the way, the answer to number 10. would be 8 :)

  5. Oxanna says:

    I’m curious…could colour blindness be considered a “disability” under the ADA? Of course, I’m not sure exactly what could be done to accommodate someone with colour blindness, even if it is a disability, but I think I’d hate to get sued because I tested for it. :-o

  6. DK says:

    Number 10 could also be 2 since there is nothing that indicates some point of symmetry axis in deciding if it is twice or half the opposite number. Some doubles are above or below, nor is there an even odd pattern for alternating nor sum additive subtractive pattern.

    Oh and about color blindness: if it is a bona fide requirement to performing the job it is legal. I work in Quality Assurance and I have to have my eyes checked once for color blindness and annually for acuity – corrected.

  7. nadine says:

    I used to manage a small sewing operation that made cut and sew hats with about 25 sewers and 3 sample makers on a regular basis. When hiring new people, we gave them the pieces to make one of our general hat styles. Then we observed whether they could put the pieces together correctly and also their speed and sewing quality. As sewing hats is very different construction from sewing t-shirts or jeans most struggled to figure out what the sewing order was. However those that did usually were excellent and got hired. We felt that test was enough. I really don’t think administering intelligence tests and a lot of written stuff would necessarily accurately judge someone’s ability. You might not realize this but our modern day intelligence tests were derived in Europe (I believe France) and at the root of their agenda was to determine how much “culture” a person had assimilated. I think today anyone would see this as a bias and a hidden agenda. So growing up in the 60’s where school children were given these tests to determine who was “gifted” or not, I noticed that mostly white kids were labeled gifted and minority students or students with english as a second language were disproportionately left out. Also many minority workers who may have legal working papers are not comfortable with this type of testing so they may not score well due more to mistrust and anxiety rather than actual intelligence factors. You can tell I’m not a big fan of them as I don’t feel they take individual characteristics into consideration. Just my 2 cents.

  8. Eric H says:

    3) 2, 5, 8, 11, 14, __, __
    6) 160, 80, 40, 20, __, __

    Do they mean continue the series, or just add two more numbers? Because they specifically direct you to add two more numbers “to the series”, which implies that the series is the set of numbers shown. And do they want you to continue the implied series, or “add two numbers to the series”? In which case, which numbers would you add? If you added 2 to the first series, you get 4, 7, 10, 13, 16. Etc.

    9) 2, 5, 7, 8, 11, 14, 17, 20

    What are the missing numbers? Many numbers are missing from the series. Do they mean just the odd ones (3, 9, 13, 15, 19)? Or do they want all numbers missing (3, 4, 6, 9, 10, 12, 13, 15, 16, 18, 19)? And does the series include only the numbers shown, or do they intend for you to extrapolate beyond it, as they did above? In which case 21, 23, 25, 27, …. would have to be added to the list of odd numbers. And why stop there — would you add 1 to the other end of the list? And do you limit yourself to positive numbers?

    10) Oh, this one’s just a mess. I think 8 is the most obvious answer, but 2 is just as likely given the vague directions. But on the left, 3 + 4 = 7, so on the right 14 + 6 = 20. Of course, 8 + 6 = 14, which is what makes me think 8 is the better answer (it fits two patterns). Or maybe you add them but switch directions every time so

    4 + 3 = 7
    7 + 3 + 4 = 14
    14 + 4 + 3 + 7 = 28

    and the other two numbers are red herrings?

  9. Amy says:

    I’d be interested… (thanks to the commentor who answered #4, that was the only one that left me befuddled – which doesn’t say anything about my intelligence, just my interest in this type of test/quiz/puzzle.)

  10. Ileen says:

    9) 2, 5, 7, 8, 11, 14, 17, 20

    There are no missing numbers in this series, there’s one extra. The 7 doesn’t belong because it messes up the arithmetic sequence where the nth term = 2 + (n – 1)3. As an algebra teacher, I hereby flunk the creator of this test!

  11. Polaire says:

    Re Question 10, I think the answer can only be 8, not 2. Not only is it the double of 4, 8 and 6 = 14, just as 3 and 4 = 7. In other words, there are two conditions in the chart.

    I thought the second part of Question 9 was extremly ambiguous.

    The “Concentration Test” was pretty easy.

    On the other hand, I’m pretty sure I’d suck at the Dexterity Test.

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