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What Really Happens During Sample Making?

It’s easy to assume that for an individual or company that specializes in a specific service, providing said service would be an easy endeavor. But sometimes it takes pulling back the curtain and revealing what really goes on behind the scenes - in this case, sample making - to shed some light on what it actually takes to create a first prototype.

Sample making is more than just cutting fabric from a pattern and sewing it together. Many product determinations have to be made during this time.

Does the pattern work?

Patternmaking is a serious skill based on experience, skill and lots of detailed information. But that doesn’t mean that making a pattern guarantees you have it figured out on the first try. Sometimes a pattern is revised multiple times before the fit is exactly what the client wants. Or to account for different types of fabrics. You won’t know if the pattern is right until you make the sample. As the sample is being made, copious notes are being taken and sometimes, if an issue reveals itself, especially early on, the sample is stopped so pattern revisions can be made.

Is the pattern production ready?

While we make patterns at Detroit Sewn, we do have clients who make their own patterns or have them created elsewhere. The pattern could be perfectly fine, require revisions, or need to be adjusted - specifically to change construction - so it’s “production ready.” Home sewers typically produce home sewing patterns. There’s nothing wrong with a home sewing pattern, unless you want your item produced by a sewing factory. Then you have can have a variety of issues, such as industrial machinery with different seam allowance, and available specialty machinery that would save time and reduce per-unit cost that weren’t considered when making the pattern.

What is the per-unit cost?

We provide a per-unit price range when we put together a client’s estimate, but it’s during sample making where we gather all the info to determine a final price. We conduct time tests of each step, and figure out best ways to construct the item to potentially cut down on steps (again, money savings!).

Two more notes about sample making:

  1. More often than not, more than one sample will be needed before the client approves the sample. Always budget for multiple samples. This is the most important part of the process. I know clients get excited - they want their products - but be patient, let your pre-production team go through the process, and don’t schedule a photo shoot until you have an approved sample in your hands.

  2. Clients often think that once they pay, we immediately start working on their samples. This is most definitely not the case. Sewing factories are BUSY. We typically have no less than 10 pre-production jobs ahead of you on our calendar. And some jobs have multiple garments within them. You are paying to secure your spot in line, which on average is two weeks per service. And we don’t squeeze clients in front of other clients. Big or small, all of our clients are treated equal. No one’s job gets backed up because someone else is more important. Or didn’t plan their timeline accordingly.


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