This is a follow up to the first entry. It not really true to the topic but addresses some issues that came up in the comments. I’m still looking for more quotes and comments if you care to weigh in.
In part, Hilarie wrote:
As a designer of leather handbags, I found a producer in NYC… who would produce small runs for me and whose quality met my standards […]. This person charges 1000.00 for a prototype regardless of the amount of information I provided, or the simplicity of the bag. He requires a prototype to be made in his shop before any production, even if I provide a fully produced perfect copy, with pattern. For production of small runs, he also required I pay for a die cut pattern in advance.
Not much to add to this except to say he must have been established enough to call the shots on requiring dies to be made because they’re so costly. It’s too bad he didn’t have one of these machines (I covet). I would also require a prototype to be made in house in advance of production no matter how perfect the pattern. Patterns must be made specific to the equipment one uses and besides, you have to sew one for costing.
Then Lisa provided some pattern costs ($4,000) which seemed very high to me. I would imagine that $1,000 to $1,500 would be more typical in other parts of the country (Lisa lives in NY). She doesn’t mention if this included grading and it may well have.
Is there a standard time range it would cost a patternmaker/ sample maker to do the patterns, cut and sew standard pants, skirts, jackets, shorts, dress shirts, dresses, jump suits etc? I know it varies from person to person, and from design to design but is there an average? What if the patterns are based on existing blocks the customer provides?
This is too difficult to say without knowing the extent of the design details. If these are basic sportswear, none should take more than 8 hours of pattern work or sewing. I also can’t say if the blocks would help or hurt. I’ve had some blocks that were so troublesome it would have been less work to start from scratch. I’ve had other blocks that were solid and only needed a bit of clean up, shortening the job considerably. Including these items can save you quite a bit of money, time and miscommunication.
Heidi wrote in part (frustrated with the contractor):
The quality issues were many and included pattern pieces marked with ball point pen (where the internal pockets were supposed to be sewn in, and the pen was clearly visible in the samples). They claimed that actual production would be drilled, but I thought this unacceptable regardless (am I being too harsh? Is this normal?).
It’s not unacceptable to use ball point pen to trace patterns for prototypes but all lines should be cut away. I know that’s not possible with drill holes, I just mention it if someone else has a similar problem. My question with the drill holes is, would drilling in production leave an exposed hole? If you can see the pen, you might see the holes and you shouldn’t. But yes, it is normal that one wouldn’t drill holes for a prototype. The machine used to drill holes is set up for plies and this is a single unit. At best, someone might run an awl through the marking but if you have a mark, you don’t need the hole.
In part, Marie wrote:
It seems as though I am so far out of your league and that of your other readers but I am learning. I have had a small business in which I make leathergoods, mostly deerskin, and sell them at our local Artisan’s Festival… At times this business seems overwhelming and I wish there was a way to have some items sewn by someone else, but I haven’t had any luck finding an individual or small shop to hire. Mostly, I feel fortunate to be in this unique situation where I do not have depend on anyone.
I’m pasting from the personal email I sent her below:
In some ways, your comment makes me feel bad because I’m trying to outreach to people like you before you get too big and have formed many bad habits.
You are actually in an enviable position, I think firms should remain very small. Not as a self serving way to make one’s self feel better or to self justify why they haven’t grown so they don’t feel inferior by comparison, but I mean truly, growth creates problems. Growth and success kills more small companies than the lack of sales. Most people want to grow too soon. They are ready to grow bigger, sooner than I would want.
kulchababy weighed in with:
I’m mainly a self-taught patternmaker, but was able to drum up enough biz to help pay my way through college. Talk about the nightmares. I used to get people who only had sketching 101 trying to enter design contests around the world and trying to start clothing lines…
On one hand, I know well the frustrations of which she speaks. On the other…I’ve also experienced fixing patterns made by designers, self taught pattern makers and design school grads who have never made patterns for production. How can you know what you don’t know? I don’t think there’s much recourse for the problem as long as learning opportunities remain limited. Regardless of one’s experience and education, a motivated service provider who cares about their customers and continuously strives to learn, is optimal.
Lastly, Theresa decries the lack of small quantity contractors in the US which is part and parcel of the above. I think a bigger problem is that manufacturing as a profession is not socially esteemed. Here’s a snippet of what I wrote before:
I don’t mean this unkindly but it’s hypocritical to complain you can’t buy made in the USA products anymore because who would want to do it when everyone decries manufacturing as an awful horrible thing? I once stood next to a woman in a store who complained nothing was made in the USA and when I said I worked in US manufacturing, she sneered at me and said “sweatshop”. You can’t have it both ways. If manufacturing is a dirty word, we are never going to rebuild jobs here because no sane person wants to engage in reviled and insulted work. Manufacturing is just like any other business, you have good ones and bad ones. It is unkind to insult hard working people who are proud of doing a good job especially if they’re doing something you don’t want to.
It’s common for people to describe production work as degrading and mind numbing but that’s a value judgment. I know plenty of people who enjoy it, self included. Maybe more people would be attracted to manufacturing if it weren’t so maligned.