Your worst purchasing decision contest. Win Fabric Calc!

The developer of Fabric Calc, the iPhone application designed to streamline your fabric purchasing decisions, has proposed a contest for visitors.

The Rules:
Post a comment describing the worst purchasing decision you’ve made with respect to miscalculating fabric needs that Fabric Calc would have helped prevent. This can be cleansing, fun and educational to learn how using this iPhone application would help avoid costly mistakes in the future.

That’s about it. Next Wednesday (April 14th), I’ll pick two winners with the worst stories.  You may remain anonymous by making up a name to post under but you must leave a valid email address or I cannot contact you.

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  1. Sheri Williams says:

    I was going to make lingerie, bras to be specific. I wanted to make a good fancy
    stretch lace with satin underlay. I ordered bra straps, every different size of
    underwire (hundreds) and two bolts of 60″ stretch lace and two bolts of
    60″ stretch black satin. I thought each bra was to take half a yard, so I figured
    on paper, and got it wrong. I needed 60 feet of material, not 75 Yards of
    60″ wide fabs. I still have about 73 and a half yards of this gorgeous fabric.
    Anyone want to make some bras?


  2. Mark Miller says:

    This was actually done by an employee, who was excellent at many, MANY things, but was weak in certain math calculations….the product was ordered without anyone double checking.
    (measure twice cut once).

    We use KNIT for both waist bands and cuffs on some of our outerwear. The yield was miscalculated such that 3 years later we are still working off the same order of goods….and we wondered (then) WHY our invoice was so large? Ouch.

    I guess it could have been worse…we sometimes buy cashmere!

  3. Lawrence says:

    I have always been making garments for people, even while working full time in the industry. I find it relaxing to sew….. and rewarding when some one is happy with my garments.

    OK, My story begins with a suit I had in a window across the street where I live. I lady called me up and loved the style but not the plaid fabric. That was easy to change, I met with her and my headers, and she picked this beautiful Loro Piana cashmere twill. It was very expensive, but it would make the suit even more beautiful.

    I sat down and saw that the suit has taken up 6.6 yds (I always keep track of consumption)… It was a 50″ plaid (and I cut it on the Bias and matched everything up). I called her and costed the suit with 6.6 yds. I ordered the fabric, while on the phone they told me that the new goods were not 1,27 meters but 1,524 meter wide. In fumbling from meters to yds, I miss calculated and I decided to order 8 meters.

    When the fabric arrived, I had almost 9 yds. The suite only took 4.6 yds and I had almost half the fabric left over. Not only did she pay an extra $500.00 usd for the fabric, I still have the fabric here in my little 400 sf apartment (It’s much to expensive to give away). I should have considered that I was going from a plaid to a solid, and the width went from 50″ to 60″ cuttable.

    This was 1 1/2 years ago….. And now I lay everything out on the floor before I buy any thing.

    No more yardage brain farts for me,

  4. Sabine says:

    A few years ago, I ordered 100m of a hemp corduroy because i liked it and because I was gonna design something for it eventually…I still got most of it.
    And the reasoning behind it is that it is about 30% cheaper then cut goods in price alone, there is no cutting charge and importing fabric you want to get as much as possible to make your trip across the border worthwhile and to reduce shipping cost/yard. So, while my reasoning back then made sense to me, it does not any longer.

  5. Barb Taylorr says:

    Whenever I try to make a quick calculation for different width fabric, or yards to meters, I always round up to make the math easier. Sometimes I also add a little on to the final number due to inseciruty that my math might be wrong. None of that has ever resulted in any one specific srcew-up, but rather in years of excess goods purchased uneccessarily.

  6. I always had the hardest time figuring how much fabric to order when it came to cutting Bias for spaghetti straps and such. I used to be the Production Manager at a small company (we made maybe 500 of each color per style) and so I had many duties. I would order the fabric and trims and also do the cost sheets and keep track of vendors in the computer system and handle grading, marking and cutting tickets and sewing contracts, etc…. Anyways, the part that was always the most difficult was figuring out how much fabric to order for bias strips (also remembering to include it as a fabric AND as a trim in the cost sheet since it was a send out to be made after we cut it). So, this would have been the best app to have…although, this was in the 1990’s so there was no such thing as an app. =) I eventually ended up getting a chart from the bias maker and using that along with a cheat sheet that I created explaining how to do it correctly for the rest of my colleagues.

    These days I make everything out of recycled T-shirts so I don’t need to figure fabric anymore….so I don’t need to win this. But, I just thought it would be an interesting thing to share that many designers haven’t experienced if they haven’t worked closely with the production team.

    On a side note….I made a terrible decision when ordering trims once. I used to co-own a small company called monkeywench that made street wear inspired by the board sports industry. We only made about 50-100 per color of a style. We wanted our own custom labels (2 different main labels…one for tops and one for bottoms as well as 5 different size labels from xs-xl). We designed it and sampled them from a label house and we loved them. Then when it came time to order them in production, we realized that we had mis-communicated the quantity we needed originally and their minimums were 20,000 per style. So, after much deliberation, we decided to go for it thinking that we would grow quickly and need them anyways. So, we ordered 20,000 of each style… the math…..that’s a lot of labels for a company who makes 100-300 per style. We spent tons of money on these labels but were thinking that it would really help in branding and that we’d need them because we had confidence we would grow quickly. Needless to say, that was about 1998 and I still have thousands of left over labels that I will never use because we’ve since closed the company and I’m making one-of-a-kinds out of my home now. HA!

    Funny thing is that mistakes like this are what helps me be a better business owner and mentor/advisor to new start up companies that I consult now. I can tell them what NOT to do!

  7. Jomama says:

    @Angela, a coworker of mine has a quote in his signature that would fit your philosophy, “Good Judgment comes from Experience. Experience comes from Bad Judgment.”

  8. I guess we are typical newbies. We are producing small quantities of a few designs to use in a few locations as a test market. As we muddle through the process, we just took our best guess at what quantities of fabric we would require. Needless to say, some quantities were too small causing the design to be altered and some were too much but we were able to use the extra for some small pieces. Since we are offering them as immediates, we did not get into too much trouble . . . this time. Thank goodness this was a test market.


  9. Austin says:

    Not my error but I saw the result of a major oops when I did time in the warehouse. Someone made an error in their metric conversion for required yardage resulting in over 1000 yards of excess on a series of prints for a particular high volume retailer. It was a running joke about “top shelf” goods it didnt mean high class nice stuff it was used when refering to goods that will probably never be used. They were kept on the top racks out of the way and fairly inaccessable. When the manufacturing shut down and went overseas there was over 100,000 yards of fabric in the warehouse. I seem to remember about 10,000 of this being top shelf errors accumulated over about 20 years.
    In my own business mostly just printing errors. Scaling wrong, wrong print… Usually just go ahead and turn it out and sell em off cheap to minimise the loss.

  10. dora morris says:

    Don’t let anyone push you into buying something just because they are testing your b_lls. I was working with a jobber who was looking for fabric for my bags. He sent me some things I liked, but I wasn’t thrilled. After a few calls I said ok send me 200 yards of each. Well, needless to say I am sitting with 800 bags in my gararge that are not what I had hoped they would be. Instead of helping me and sending a few yards to “test” the fabric, I got bullied and now I have bags that I really don’t like. It is my own fauld, but at least it is not 100,000 yards of fabric like Austin! By the way Austin, what is the fabric?

  11. Austin says:

    Fortunatly is wasnt me that was stuck was the swimwear company I worked for. The top shelf stuff was prints exclusive to a retailer or third party that wouldnt be able to use for anyone else. The 90K extra was just what inventory was on hand when they closed up and went to china. That was a full scale operation 90K of fabric wasnt much during the season.
    I dont keep much prints on hand but do keep a selection of solids for immediate needs about 500-1000 yards total at any given time. Im not in the fashion biz so dont have to worry about anything getting stale.

  12. Jay Arbetman says:

    This is really about a sale, not a purchase but I am including it as a public service. Don’t let this happen to you!

    In the 1980’s I lived in New York, worked on Seventh Avenue and had an expense account. As an aside, when I moved out of New York and came back to the Midwest, 14 bars in New York closed.

    OK….back to our story. I was with a couple of buyers from a major department store. The name of the store (which is now a Macy’s) has been withheld to protect the incredibly guilty. We went to a wild and crazy place called Triplets. One of the features was that they served vodka in a block of ice. My goodness, you couldn’t even taste the drink……it was just a cool breeze. I figured, it probably wouldn’t have an effect either. WRONG!

    I woke up at the crack of noon. In the pocket of my suit jacket (which I was still wearing. I’m always one to be sheik) was an order for me to deliver by the end of the week for 10,000 mink coats at $5.00 each. Something that looked vaguely like my signature was at the bottom. That was one order that they are still waiting for. Different times for sure.

    My advise, sober judgment at all times!

  13. lori says:

    Could you or someone give the yardage for a 14’x22′ space. I am using a fabric width 54″. I am covering a ceiling no match ( a few cut-outs). Also, please tell me how you figured the amount.
    My friend said 14′ x 22′ = 308′ divided by 3′ = 1 yard
    purchase quantity approximate 11 yards a little less ???

    I think it should be 22 yards

  14. JustGail says:

    Lori – that’s 308 square feet. after that, your friend lost me with dividing by 3. I know they were trying to get to yards, but the logic escapes me.

    here’s how I figured it (done to minimize piecing and not reducing for cut outs) –
    With 54 inch fabric, you need 3.11 widths to cover the 14 foot dimension, at 22 feet each. So 4 x 22=88 feet, or 29.3 yards. Running the fabric the other direction, you need 4.88 widths to cover the 22 foot dimension at 14 feet each. So 5 x 14 = 70 feet or 23.3 yards. The first method will result in a lot of left over fabric.

    So your 22 yards might work if some piecing is acceptable. How are you fastening it to the ceiling?

    So, how’d I do with the math?

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