I love my sewing machines. I’d seriously consider living as a nomad, if it weren’t for sewing machines. They weigh 150 pounds apiece, and I have three. I’ve also got several domestic ones, i.e. the little white plastic types that most homemakers have- for zigzag, buttonholes, and blind hems.
The other day a customer asked me to make a copy of the tubeshirt for her daughter, size 8 girls. I’ve never made kids clothes before, primarily because I was intimidated by the regulations called CPSIA. These are a whole set of safety rules that apply to any children’s product, they’re relatively new (last year) and very confusing. When I first read about CPSIA, there was so much information and it seemed so unformed that I thought- ‘screw this, i’ll stick to adult clothing only.’
however, I was inspired to research the topic again, primarily on fashion-incubator.com; the most informative site on the web for small-scale sewn products manufacturers. The writer, Kathleen, is a brilliant and intense lady who delves into great detail on her topics- and was an important spokesperson for small manufacturers when the CPSIA regulations were being developed.
After four or five hours of reading everything Kathleen had put together on the topic, I determined that, with my small scale setup (I almost always make one item, start to finish, and usually to order…i.e. batches of one) I could make and track properly for kids clothing as long as the inputs were only natural fabrics and thread. No screen printing (which I don’t do anyway), no zippers, no buttons, etc.
I was already set up for individually tagging fiber content; I use a laser printer labeling system, printing onto tencel ‘paper’ which is washable. This was easy to extend to CPSIA labeling. The system is not ideal, the tencel paper stuff is stiffer than I’d like; but I haven’t found any other cost effective/ time effective way for labeling one-to-one.
Back to the sewing machines: while researching fashion-incubator.com and CPSIA, I came across this article: Why Handmade is Best. Awesome and inspiring. Read it. Because, basically, for a professional with enough machines, it’s possible to construct an item faster, with better quality, in a one-garment-at-a-time production flow. And, amazingly, this goes against everything we’ve been taught to believe about manufacturing & specialization.
The more I do this sewing work, the more I love it and find it rewarding. It’s been, um, 19 years now. and it gets better every year. So to reread outside reference indicating that sewing garments one-at-a-time can keep pace and exceed batching is encouraging. Because I wonder about how it would work if I had to hire someone to sew so I could keep up- could it be cost effective, etc. I’m not at that point now; I can keep pace with everything and sew fairly fast (in the professional sense, I mean…I sew much, much faster than the average home sewer. I remember when I started out so much time was spent reading patterns, figuring out construction techniques, fixing the goddamn domestic sewing machine tension, etc. that’s almost all gone now. I mean, I never read patterns, construction is seamless unless I’m developing a new technique, and industrial machines work like a dream. I’d never recommend someone buy a domestic machine these days, except for button holes, blind hems, etc)
However: my dream this next year…to get an industrial ZIGZAG machine. To keep up with all those lingerie orders ;)