February 11, 2019

Frequently Asked Questions about Tech Packs

With the release of my Tech Pack, there are a lot of questions on how to use it.

Q: Is there an industry standard for Tech Packs?

No, but there is industry expected information. There are several tech pack templates and forms available for purchase on the Internet, and they are all a bit different in presentation. Generally, those tech packs seek the same information. A Tech Pack contains any and all information needed to manufacture your product. This information includes a cover page, technical drawings, cutting specs, labels, etc. The forms included in my Tech Pack allow for a lot of flexibility so it doesn't matter if you are manufacturing clothing, bags or tents.

Q: Does a Tech Pack include a cutting spec?

I have seen some statements that imply a cutting spec is usually not included in a tech pack. That has not been my experience. If a cutting spec is needed to make your product, then it should be included in a tech pack.

Q: What forms do I send to a contractor?

Only the forms that are needed for the work contracted. It is possible to hire a contractor that can do everything from product development to cutting, sewing, finishing and shipping. Usually, a sewing contractor is hired to do cutting and sewing. In that case they only need a cover sheet, style sheet/cutting spec, bill of materials, colorways (if needed), labels, swatches, and anything else needed to complete the work. Forms that contain proprietary info are for your own in-house use, such as a cost analysis.

Q: What is the difference between a Cost Analysis and a Bill of Materials?

A Bill of Materials contains a list of every input (fabric, trim, supplies) needed to manufacture your product. It does not contain pricing. This form can be used for ordering and inventory.

A Cost Analysis also contains a list of every input but also includes pricing and quantity. This form is used to figure the cost of manufacturing, sale price, and gross profit. This information is kept confidential.

Q: What else should my Tech Pack include?

A tech pack is usually just the paper work involved in product development. But if you are sending a tech pack to a sewing contractor, you should include a perfectly sewn sample and fabric and trim swatches. This is especially important if you are manufacturing overseas where there may be a language barrier. The sample will help clarify what you want when the contractor may not understand or read the tech pack. Swatches are also helpful if the contractor is also buying materials overseas.

Q: I don't draw well, do I have to include technical drawings?

Any drawing is better than no drawing. It is the primary way you will communicate with a technical designer and/or pattern maker. You can also hire people to create the drawings for you at reasonable cost.

Q: Can I customize The Simple Tech Pack?

Yes. Included in your purchase is a spreadsheet workbook version (Excel and LibreOffice Calc). You can add your company info and logo. You can also rearrange, rename information if you choose. The only caveat is that the forms are copyrighted and cannot be resold.

Q: I'm an indie pattern designer. Will this tech pack help me?

Yes. An indie pattern designer is very similar to a fashion designer. You will still need to develop a style, cutting spec, measurements, sewing instructions and grade rules. The cost analysis will help you price your product. The Simple Tech Pack can help you organize the information needed for your final product.

Q: Why does your Tech Pack have a Style Sheet instead of a simple cutting spec?

I created a combination form called a Style Sheet. This form contains both a technical drawing and a cutting spec. I have found it very useful in product development to include a technical drawing with the cutting spec as it travels through sampling. That way every person along the way has the same point of reference. It reduces both paperwork and questions.

Do you have any other questions? Please leave a comment and I'll answer your question in an upcoming blog post.

February 04, 2019

New! A Simple Tech Pack

A Simple Tech Pack

I am excited to announce that I have released a Tech Pack available for purchase in my Etsy Shop!

There are many versions of tech packs on the internet. I call my version A Simple Tech Pack because I have identified the most essential pieces of information needed. My forms have simple clean lines without much visual clutter. These forms will help you gather all of the needed information to manufacture your product. Included is an instructional guide on how to fill out each form. There are three versions provided – PDF, LibreOffice Calc, and Excel. In the spreadsheet workbook version, you can modify, expand, and otherwise customize these forms.

This tech pack will help you organize and present industry expected information needed to manufacture your product. There is no industry standard version of a tech pack, just the information required. I have used a version of these forms for the last 20 years either in-house or as a package sent overseas to contractors. With the included how-to guide, there is no need to track down extra videos or tutorials. This tech pack is perfect for fashion designers, design entrepreneurs, or anyone developing a sewn product.

A Simple Tech Pack

Forms included in the Simple Tech Pack:

Cover Sheet
Style Sheet/Cutting Spec
Cost Analysis
Bill of Materials
Finished Pattern Measurements
Finished Pattern Measurement Drawings
Grade Rules
Grade Rules Blank
Sewing Instructions
Fabric Swatches
Trim Swatches
Blank Swatches

Wash Testing Guide and Form

No physical product will be shipped. You will receive 3 digital files in a zipped folder. After downloading the folder, you will need to extract the files – most computers have this option available, look for the word “extract” after double clicking on the folder.

There are no refunds on digital sales. Please contact me if you have any questions or concerns. I will do my best to help you.

In full disclosure, some of these forms are also found in my book The Organized Fashion Designer. I did not see the need to create something new when it already existed in the form needed. In addition I have added several forms not included with the book, including a bonus form for wash testing. With your purchase, you will receive these forms as a spreadsheet workbook and a PDF. You can fill out the forms in Excel, OpenOffice/LibreOffice, or by hand. Which ever way you prefer. For complete organization of your studio, you can purchase both products to compliment each other. The Organized Fashion Designer is available for purchase on Etsy, Amazon, and Lulu.com.

January 07, 2019

Free motion quilting on a Singer 503a Rocketeer

**This tutorial is a work in progress and will be updated as I practice more.

After finishing up the piecing of the Patches and Pinwheels quilt, I began debating on how to quilt it. Do I quilt it myself on my Singer Rocketeer? Do I handquilt? Do I pay someone to do it for me? I am still debating on this quilt because it is so big but I do have my smaller Hawaiian quilt that I may try.

I did buy an aftermarket free motion/embroidery foot from Amazon. The Singer Rocketeer has a slant shank and there are two versions of a free motion foot. The first is a spring design and the second use a curved piece of metal as the spring. The second version has technically been discontinued but you can pick it up on ebay. The spring design is available from various sources.

This version is made by Honeysew and is available on Amazon for about $9.00. My understanding is that as the needle bar moves, the bar at the top of the spring lifts the foot so it hops as you so. Having never used something like this, I don't know if that is true. In this case that little bar is at least a 1/2" above the needle bar and does not ever touch. In other words, it doesn't work the way I think it is supposed to work.

I had to refer to the machine manual and Amazon review comments to figure out how to make this work. The interesting thing about this Singer and many older models is that the instructions for free motion embroidery and darning instruct you to remove the presser foot and use a bare needle!

This setup requires the use of a hoop, which is not practical for a quilt. Also, it exposes your fingers to the needle much more easily if you are not paying attention! So after a bit of trial and error, I eventually figured out the best setup. The manual has instruction on a few different pages, so I missed a few key steps at first.

1. Set the pressure to the "D" setting. This dial is on the inside of the machine and the "D" and is for Darning. This setting removes all pressure off the foot. This will allow you to move the fabric under the needle.

2. Lift the feed dog plate.

3. Tension settings may need to be adjusted. I loosened it a bit only to turn it back to my normal setting. This may depend on your machine, thread, etc.

4. Bring the bobbin thread to the top and sew a little slower at first. It will take practice to determine the ideal speed for you. Also, I ended up wearing garden gloves with that nylon coating to help move the fabric under the needle.

My initial results are not pretty, but I think with a bit more practice I may be able to do free motion quilting on this machine.

If you have done free motion quilting on your sewing machine, please leave a comment on what machine you used and how it went.

*Links to Amazon are affiliate links.

January 01, 2019

Patches and Pinwheels pt. 4

I love making serious progress on a long term project on New Year's Eve and Day. This year is no exception. I have finished the piecing and borders on the Patches and Pinwheels quilt. (More pictures will come after the quilting is finished). The quilt measures about 96 x 96 inches.

I had enough yardage of the green border fabric to also use it for the backing. If I were to buy "quilt" shop quality fabric, the backing alone would have been at least $100. I did not spend anywhere near that amount. The green fabric was left over from a purchase made several years ago and I can't remember what I paid for it. I'm glad I found a project for it because the fabric had been sitting all those years. The majority of the fabrics for the pieced blocks came from DH's shirts that were worn through in the collars and cuffs, but still had good fabric in the body. I supplemented with a few shirts from the thrift store and a few white fat quarters. All told I spent about $15 for the fabric (plus whatever the green cost several years ago). All that's left is to buy a batting and then decide on the quilting. Do I pay someone to quilt it or do it myself? I am undecided there.

Which brings me to the cost of quilting fabric today. I know for many this is a fun hobby, but the cost of quilting fabric is just so crazy high right now. $12-$15/yard for fabric! I know there are some alternatives and I can shop sales, but yikes! This is why I have turned to the thrift store and scrappy quilts. I don't have a problem using clothing for quilting fabric. It's what our mothers and grandmothers did years ago out of necessity. Now, I wonder if it is wasteful just to toss our old clothes? Sure, some are suitable for donation (and I do donate a lot). But there are some things that could be useful for something like this. This quilt project has definitely made me look at thrift stores as a new source for supplies.

This is a Bonnie Hunter design. I chose to try one of Bonnie's designs to better understand her process. I think she designs quilts in two different ways. I do think many of her designs are created using eQuilter. While she does incorporate scraps into her designs, the overall visual affect can only be achieved by using a design tool like eQuilter (She has dropped hints that she does use the software). Her method of using standard piece sizes also makes a difference in efficiency and utilization of both time and fabric. Other quilt designs are a bit more freeform. In other words, she doesn't start in eQuilter, but rather puts pieces together (such as leader and ender piecing) that eventually are put together into blocks and then quilts. Because she uses standard sizes, everything eventually finds its way into a finished quilt top. It is a very smart way of utilizing scraps.

This design is one of Bonnie's free quilt patterns at her website. The instructions are more of a tutorial without specific piece counts and yardage requirements. I think it could be a bit of challenge for a beginner. The small piece sizes and precision sewing is also a challenge. I had a fair bit of fixing to do because of either cutting and/or sewing errors. The patterns published on Bonnie's website, while I know they are free, could use a bit of editing. I do appreciate the effort and work it takes to put something like this together. I wonder if her published books/patterns are more polished. She does take her mystery projects down and provides them for sale after the mystery is over. I hope the "sale" versions are better edited and presented over the free-form versions given on the website.

I don't know if I will make another Bonnie Hunter quilt. I am pleased with how this quilt came out and I am glad I made it. Now that I understand the process, I think I can design my own scrappy quilts. That should be a fun challenge.

December 17, 2018

A question on the drawstring rule and children's clothing

I received a question about drawstrings* and elastic waists.
I want to design skirts with elastic waists and a ties that are sewn in by the hem, which then connect to a bow. Is this not acceptable to the Drawstring rule CPSIA? So confused on this. If isn't acceptable, can I do a skirt with elastic waists and sew a bow in the middle?
In the United States there is a safety rule about drawstrings on children's upper outerwear.** This rule does not allow drawstrings in hoods or waists of jackets or hoodies, for example. A drawstring is a cord with or without a toggle that is inserted in a channel. The intent of a drawstring is to cinch up a waist or hood opening to make it smaller. This rule was enacted because children have died when the toggle or knot on the drawstring became entangled on playground equipment and bus doors. It appears the CPSC has added a bit of clarity to the original rule. You actually can have drawstrings so long as the drawstring does not extend more than three inches and has been securely stitched through in the middle of the channel so it cannot be pulled out.

This hoodie uses ribbing to help it fit closer around the head, instead of a drawstring.

But if I were you, I would avoid using drawstrings altogether in children's clothing. The reason is rather simple. There continue to be drawstring recalls even with almost no reports of injury or death. As of 2012, there have been more than 130 recalls involving drawstrings. The most recent is of a rain poncho. In this example it's clear there are no toggles or knots on the drawstring, the string is just too long (no reports of injury). The rule covers children 2T-16, but there have been recalls on infant clothing too. There was an odd recall of an elastic waist belt on a jacket (no injuries).

The recent rule revision appears to focus almost entirely on upper outerwear like jackets, sweaters, and hoodies. But historically there have been recalls on pants with drawstring waists. For this reason, I do not recommend drawstrings on any children's clothing. The risk is too great. Even though the majority of the recalls in the last 10 years have had no injuries or death, there have been a few. Also, the CPSC seems to inconsistently apply the rule, including the apparent exception of a three inch extension. There is just no way to predict what might happen.

To answer the first question above, I would try to avoid sewing things onto the ends of ties. That seems to fall into the drawstring with toggles or knots category. I think a bow sewn securely through on top of an elastic waist should be ok.

Waist ties and belts have not been involved in any product recalls, as far as I know, and are not included in this rule. Girls dresses, in particular, frequently have waist ties or belts. Even though the rule excludes this type of application, I would still exercise caution. Waist ties should only be long enough to tie with tails that are not too long. The tail of a belt or waist tie should not extend below the hem of a dress or touch the floor - it could become a trip hazard. Also, be sure there are no knots or toggles on the ends.

BTW, there is an ASTM standard for drawstrings, ASTM F1816. It costs $42 to buy a copy of this rule.

*I'm not a lawyer. The statements above are my opinion and should not be construed as legal advice on how to comply with government regulations. If you are manufacturing children's products, you should seek legal advice, follow all applicable rules, and seek out a certified testing laboratory as required.

**The CPSC has updated their website since I last visited and they have made it even more difficult to find safety rules with their "robot regulator". You have to jump through a questionnaire to find the safety rule you are looking for. This is the direct link to the drawstring rule, however long it remains a valid link.