How To Get The Best Production Quality From Your Sewing Contractor?

I was invited to answer a reader's question on Jane Hamill's blog who is my co. founder of Indie Design Association on working with a contractor and getting the best possible results from them, so i thought I'll share the answer with you all since it has a LOT of great tips for you to use especially if you are new to the process and don't have any help!

“I’m drowning in QC! What can I do?” -Bobbi, Canada

Today we answer a question from a reader who is fed up with Quality Control problems. I feel your pain, Bobbi. I’ve been there! I solicited my friend, colleague, and NYC product development guru, Boaz David, to answer Bobbi’s question. GREAT info today, check it out…

Q:  Hi Jane! We have manufactured our designs for a few seasons. Quality gets better with each run but there is always something that seems to need reinforcing etc. So, we lose time getting it to retailers because we are fixing things and do not want to give them a low quality product. This sets us back and then we cannot fill orders fast enough.  We need to fix this problem.  We have the orders but are drowning in QC — doing it ourselves thus far (2 owners), beyond what they are doing at the factory.

Sewing contractor

Is this common?  How do other clothing lines deal with this? Have seen may vids on what to ask for from factory but that does not always mean they deliver it.  So what do you do when you have thousands of pieces with your logo (reputation) imprinted on your garments and the quality is almost there but the perfectionist in you doesn't want to send it out to retailers without a little extra QC?
Background: Manufactured in Canada.    -Bobbi, Canada

A: Bobbi, this is a great question, especially if  you are new to production. Generally speaking, it is common to have some type of quality issues with production re; labels sewn or placed wrong, button placement is off, or even worse things (I know it’s not what you hoped to hear but it is the reality and is the reason why you need to do QC). Usually these types of things happen as a result of miscommunication between the designer and the contractor, or by having the contractor follow verbal descriptions rather than an actual sample. The trick is to try to catch things ahead of time by implementing ways to check things throughout the process as well as create some rules for contractors to reinforce and keep consistency.

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Sew by sample – this is the most useful thing. Give your contractor a PERFECT sample to follow for production, this sample should be EXACTLY how you would like your production to look and up to the basic details (don’t assume they will know how to do it because they are the contractor), so they can follow it one to one without making any interpretations of their own. When I started with production my mentor told me that you don’t want the contractor/sewer to think, he meant it in a good way, which means that you want them to follow your instructions and details and not leave anything open for interpretation. Check out any of these production forms and use them to help providing your contractor the best information.
  2. Have your contractor make a Top Of Production (T.O.P) sample that you will approve before they start sewing your complete production. This way if they are doing something wrong you’ll catch it and it can still be fixed before they continue with the whole run.
  3. If you are located near your contractor, visit them on a regular basis throughout the process, to make sure everything is fine.
  4. If there are stages in the process that need extra attention, see if it’s possible for you to create “check points” where you will need to approve them once they get to this stage and before the product is finished (re: the way a pocket sewn etc.).  Ask your contractor to notify you when they get to this stage and go there to approve it. If you cannot go there, have them send it to you to approve before continuing (that means they will probably need to stop their work flow, so make sure you designate time for that).
  5. Allocate more time for production if possible, always have some extra days on hand  so you can address unexpected issues when they come up.
  6. Find a contractor that you like and stick with them, After you go through a few production runs together they will know how you like things done.
  7. Think about the production process when you are designing your product, and if there are things you can see that will call for problems rethink them.
  8. Keep your designs consistent, don’t change things all the time if you can avoid it, this will confuse your contractor and open doors for mistake.
  9. If you feel that your contractor is making the SAME mistakes over and over again even though you addressed them a few times before then maybe it’s time to look for different contractor.

As I said, production is one of these stages that unfortunately will always have unexpected issues, it’s just the nature of it. The only way to avoid these problems is if you are producing the same product over and over again using the same materials and the same contractors, so everyone knows what to do. Since that’s not likely to happen, (not that much fun making widgets, right?) do your best to eliminate the problems before they even happen. Using the above suggestions can help minimize them and reduce the stress in your life!

Need more help? Click here to get my FREE workshop: How to work with a sewing contractor

Hope that helps, let us know your thoughts.