While they may be distant relatives, home-sewing and production sewing are completely different animals.
Here are some of the things I learned when working with my consultant and visiting a contract sewing manufacturer.
1. Industrial Machines are not the same as Home Sewing Machines
Industrial machines are not necessarily bigger and stronger like people may think. The difference is how they are used. A home sewing machine is designed to be a jack of all trades, master of none. An industrial sewing machine is designed to do one thing very quickly and reliably.
If you’re making a pair of jeans at home, you will sew each individual seam with the same machine and you’ll need to reconfigure it for each operation.
If you’re sewing a pair of jeans in production, you will have a different machine to sew each seam. Each machine will be set up to do it’s individual function as quickly as possible. And when you’re using sewing attachments, it can be done VERY quickly. Check out this video of a waistband attachment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gb3PSxRIARU (doing that on a home machine would be VERY time consuming and it would be difficult to get it straight)
2. My current method of Scrunchie Leash making is not scale-able.
There are some things I learned that can immediately increase the efficiency of production, but there is one major roadblock to scaling the production of Scrunchie Leashes. Currently, we sew the leash inside-out and then turn it outside-out. There is no great way to perform this function in production.
We examined a few different ways this could be overcome by sewing the leash outside-out from the beginning, but they all have different effects on the look and feel of the product and are heavily dependent on the material. So, the leash needs to be redesigned for manufacturability.
3. Massive gains in productivity are possible.
Seeing all the different machines that are made to put together clothing in record time shows me that it would be possible to make massive improvements to our own production. Currently our production house (aka: my mom) is able to make about 6 leashes in an evening. If I can nail down a redesign and find some used industrial machines, it may be realistic for us to make 100 leashes per day while increasing the quality at the same time.
Increasing our capacity from 6 to 100 leashes per day would open up retail and wholesale possibilities. This is the goal and it feels within reach.
The Big Lessons Learned
- Get help from experts. I paid a decent amount of money for my consultant, but it was worth every penny. The amount I learned in those few hours face-to-face could have taken me months -or maybe years- of frustration to figure out, and I probably would have given up before I got here.
- Make sure they’re the “right” experts. Had I talked to a home sewing “expert” I would not have gotten very far. The production environment and the home sewing world are completely different beasts.
- Always learn and adapt. Learning these new production techniques would be wasted if I wasn’t willing to alter our design to utilize them.
That trip gave me the direction and confidence I needed to move forward. Before I was stuck thinking I couldn’t sell to retailers because I didn’t have production capacity and I couldn’t pay for production capacity because I couldn’t afford it without higher sales. With my new knowledge, I feel empowered to improve our design, increase our production and scale this business.