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Sewing Business: Bright Colored Threads

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Summerset of the Pins and Needles blog commented here yesterday to the effect that even sewing a humongous, unenjoyable, number of simple curtains was better than doing nothing. She must be right: I sang to the dog all the way home last night. We even got in a few rounds of howling. Good fun and the best part was that no one got hurt LOL! At least the dog tail was wagging full time.

I have been sewing, though. I make the sewn products for our educational materals company. One of the products is a whole line of dressing lessons that allow a very young child to learn how to button, zip, snap, lace, tie, hook, and buckle, so that they can dress themselves and their brothers, sisters and dolls. Each concept is presented by a separate dressing panel so the child can focus on that single skill.

I just can’t blog about it.

1. It’s boring. Repetitive commercial sewing, producing hundreds of the several different designs, over and over. I counted up the number of buttonholes once and in a year had made over 600. That means that I machine sewed on buttons and handwrapped on over 600 buttons shanks. I can’t afford the machines that will sew a button the way I need it to be attached. Yet, that was a rather slow year for sales due to the following:

2. It will be copied! I’ve already run into a couple of Asian manufacturers with pictures of my designs on their web sites on the internet and the prices only 1/4 of my price. And I’ve even run into another manufacturer who’s sales reps had my designs at educational conferences. In all cases the companies were located in Asia and had simply done the same designs in differently colored cloth. I am sure they have purchased the sets from us and “made it their own”. My response to the company personnel I have talked to in person has been to politely ask them to stop using my designs.

Ha! To be copied is a compliment, right? To manufacture high quality consistently over years is the real test.

I ran into the same company two years later: the cloth was poor, the work shoddy, the fine details left out. The competition proved to have no staying power.

But they were still cheaper! That’s OK. You get what you pay for. Caveat Emptor.

I try to keep supplies of every thing I have used in designs over the years just in case I need to make a repair on something made years ago. I’ve not had to made any repairs yet, thank goodness since I have not been consistent in this principle.

Doing a “one off” is very easy but finding the same sources and notions in a world of changing supplies and suppliers is very difficult.

I don’t have the sales volume to buy 10,000 of anything nor the storage space for all the notions, fabrics, and threads that bulk purchasing requires. But bulk purchasing is very tempting yet problematic. Where would I put it???

I did buy 1000 buckles just to discover that the belting blanks no longer fit the new buckle style: they were both 1″ wide but now the belting was too short to work with the panel design. The belting material is vinyl and can’t be cut on the laser cutter as poisonous gas is produced (see Dont Cut Vinyl on a Laser Cutter). It had taken hours of hand cutting to produce it perfectly. Arghhhh! I “made it work”, Tim Gunn style, by redesigning the panels ever so slightly.

I’ve also found a belting material that can be cut by the laser now so now it’s even a better product. Having the challenge led to an improvement.

But when Mr. Button Manufacturer, doing his best to meet the current fashion craze, deletes his old line and redesigns to present something new and wonderful I am once again thrust into “search mode” to find the correct styles and dimensions the product demands.

This isn’t fashion sewing. It is playing with bright colored threads. I love bright colored threads.

It is painstakingly accurate work, though, and must be perfect each time. A flaw, any flaw, will distract a young child from focusing on the lesson.

It must be very durable. The product must be able to withstand being used by countless children in classrooms for years.

It must be 100% washable. The teacher has to be able to sanitize the lesson to keep it in the classroom.

And it must be attractive to a child so that they will want to use it.

Well, here you have managed to read through a perfectly obsure example of TMI (too much information). I hope it will let you know that even though I can’t post about what I’m sewing, I am sewing.

And then there are days that I try to answer the question: How Do I Quit This Job????

But it does allow me to purchase fabric.


About Mary Beth

I am fascinated by changing patterns and colored threads. I sew garments and am teaching myself to machine knit. Since selling the building that housed my workrooms, The Stitchery, I'm searching for a place to set up the knitting machines again. There must be room here somewhere!

5 responses »

  1. Thanks for the peek inside The Stitchery’s professional side, MB!

  2. Both joy and sadness. Isn’t that how life is sometimes. We sometimes tend to think that those in the business of sewing have it easy and can find, buy or have made anything they need, but obviously that’s not true. The difference is that I might be looking for 1 pair of something and you’re looking 500 pairs or more.

  3. BTW, are you working on anything for *you*, the real MB, not “MB business owner” or “MB designer and producer of exceptional educational supplies”?

  4. No, I’m sewing nothing for me right now.

    We are shipping educational materials out the door as fast as possible. It’s time for schools to be (already) set up and opened for the Fall. Many schools waited to the last minute to place their orders, probably due to uncertain economic conditions faced by small private daycares. I have to get my fashion fix at other’s blogs right now, when I can. Thank goodness for Bloglines and blogrolls!

    And, we are remodeling a daycare building with hopes to open it within the next week. So, it’s just curtains at the machines for the moment.

    I need to be making a business wardrobe for Fall conferences, yikes!!!

  5. Thanks MB for that fascinating glimpse. I know you find it boring and repetitive, but for someone who spends way way too much time taking apart and altering badly made from cheap fabrics, formals, what you’re doing is much more fascinating to read about.


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