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Textile manufacturing industry question

jatman | Posted in Fabric and Trim on

I went out of town over Christmas and found myself in a fabric store (!) where I found small bolts of fabric that were 30 inches wide.  They had apparently been cut off a larger bolt because one end was cut rather than woven.  I can’t imagine why this would be.  Do clothing manufacturers buy only certain widths and therefor this was cut down with the larger part going to the manufacturer and the remainder going to a fabric store or is there another explanation for this?  I had never seen this type of thing before and I’m really curious.




  1. starzoe | | #1

    There are some stores that carry only manufacturer's over-runs; years ago there was a franchise in Western Canada that did this, most of the fabric was sold by the pound and some great, great bargains were to be found. The fabric you saw could be in that category.It could also be the remnant of a faulty printing or weaving. With this sort of thing, take a really good look at what you are getting before buying.

    1. jatman | | #2

      Never thought about it being a second.  The rest of the merchandise in this store was really high end stuff.  Very nice and mostly pricey materials.  This was one of the few bargains to be had in their store.  I did buy several meters and I have looked at it (now!) and it seems to be fine both in fabric weave and in pattern print.  Maybe it was just a fluke.

      Thank you for the explanation.


  2. jjgg | | #3

    Were you in Houston? there is one store here (shall remain nameless) that had a flood happen upon them several years ago. Lots of fabric got wet, the owner has been known to tear off that end of the bolt and sell the rest to the unsuspecting customer. She does not sell it at a discount.

    1. jatman | | #4

      No, I was in Spain.  I have to say that if the price hadn't been really good, I wouldn't have bought a fabric that was not only not wide but was cut and not woven on one end!  I wonder if the Houston store actually has any luck selling like that?


      1. vallerand | | #5

        If it was under say, 10 Yards it may have been from one side of a cut from a manufacturer.  Or it may have had some embelishment like beading or embroidery on one side and not the other and that was all they needed.

        I worked for a company a while back that made a garment one year that used a border print, the border was only on one edge of the fabric, and try as we might, we ended up wasting a lot of fabric on that design.  (I think they STILL have mittens in the store made of of the leftover fabric, and that was about 15 years ago!)

        The garment industry is an awfully odd industry, with a lot of creative minds from the bottom to the top.  The company I work for now is very small, and I have been designing for over 25 years, and I am learning SO much from the 67 year old man who comes in to cut for us 3 days a week.  He has been in the industry his whole life, and seen it all.  He is a wealth of information, and inspiration too. 

        Sorry to get off topic a bit.


        1. jatman | | #6

          I bought 6 meters and there was way more than that left on the bolt.  It was only 2€ per meter or about $2.80 USD.  It really was a bargain.

          No - not off topic at all!  I would love to know what goes on in that industry but have never lived anywhere near where most of the action is so I have never been able to get involved.  I enjoy hearing about any aspect of it!  Do you live in CA or NY?  What do you design?  How did you get involved in that industry?  Was it a love of fashion and textiles or the engineering aspect of seeing a creation come to life or all of the above?


          1. vallerand | | #9

            I am in the manufacturing end of it, not textile, and I am a designer and patternmaker.  I got started at about age 7, my father taught me to sew.  he was a Marine and made extra $$ by tailoring the other marines uniforms and sewing the patches on for them.  He was not a tailor or anything, he was really a mechanic.

            I actually live in NH, I don't like city life too much.  I went to college in Chicago, and worked for a few different companies out there while in school.

            Right now I work for a pretty small company, we make technical outerwear for climbers and mountaineers and explorers.  Our clothing has been to both poles and to the top of Everest.  Pretty neat stuff really.  I have only worked there a short time though, so none of it is really my design, yet. 

            We also make a lot of Extreme Cold Weather Gear for the different military branches, which is very interesting for me.  They need things to be so specific, just at the right angle for pockets etc...   Very interesting and challenging, and you REALLY want to do the best job possiable for these men and women to protect them and keep them as warm as possiable. 

            I am no expert, living in NH I have drifted in and out of the industry as company after company changes their operation to overseas.  I like the technical aspect of my job, and seeing something come to be from a flat piece of fabric.  It is pretty cool to be looking through a National Geographic or some some other magazine and see something you had a hand in making. 

            Maybe if you start a new thread asking specific questions about the apparel industry you could get a 'real' designer from one of the big names to answer.  You never know!

            Thanks for letting me share a little about me.


          2. jatman | | #10

            Thank you for sharing!  I was afraid we had scared you away with all of our questions.  The fact that you don't live in either US city that I associate with fashion gives me hope.  In fact, when I think of designing I always think fashion and not necessarily utility which is certainly more important than fashion.  Part of what has always turned me off about 'high fashion' is the unwearability of most of it.  If it's not useful on some practical level it just doesn't matter how unique/beautiful/dazzling it is.  I would consider you to be a real designer!

            I can only imagine what a career high it must be to see people needing and using the things you have had a hand in designing.  Congratulations and thank you for letting us have a glimpse into your world.


          3. vallerand | | #11

            If you REALLY want to get into designing and patternmaking there are small manufacturers EVERYWHERE!  Where do you live?  I bet I could find some small company nearby that makes SOMETHING.

            I never liked the glitzy glam in school, I always had the most boreing and unglam garments, but, then when I was done I could wear all of mine...   Being a poor college student that really helped me out.

            You CERTAINLY do not need a degree in design to work in the industry either.  I have met a lot of people who just sort of fell into it from homesewing. 

            If it really is your passion, you will find a way.

            I am an 'outdoor' kind of girl, I winter hike and camp and ski and skijour with my dog.  So I use the things I make.  For the most part I have made Outerwear and gear over the past 25 years.  I hate to admit how many coats I have... 

            I also make bags on the side, since working in a small town for a small manufacturer it doesn't quite pay the bills.  I have always made things on 'the side' for people and stores, and probably always will.  I use a computer at work to do the patternmaking, but I like to make patterns at home by hand, I still just love the process.

            Over the years I have made wedding gowns, circus tents, awnings, wing covers for airplanes, teddy bears, high end sample making, alterations, luggage, tents, handbags, and recently I turned down a much better paying job to design high end mens handsewn shoes.  You name it, you can find a place making it.  

            I love making outerwear because I like making things that are useful and keep people safe and warm.  (My friends think I was a Polar Bear in an earlier life)

            I like a challenge, let me know where you live, and I bet I can find someone making something nearby!


          4. jatman | | #12

            Thank you!  I actually live in Göteborg, Sweden right now.  I will be here only another 9 months or so and then back to Royal Oak, Michigan which is where I lived before moving here.  Do you know of any manufacturer in that part of the US?  While I'm here I'm trying to sew and learn.  I'm an accountant by trade - creativity is somewhat frowned on in that career (!) so the creative part of sewing has been a welcome switch for me.  It's nice to know that you don't have to have a degree in textiles/design/fashion/etc. to find a job in the industry.  That gives me hope.  My last accounting job left a little to be desired so I'd like to explore some other options. 

            I have to ask - what is skijour?  I don't think I have any idea what that is!  It sounds like you have made a bit of everything.  Very cool!  What a wide and varied career you have had.  Is there any one thing that has been more satisfying than anything else?  Is it the outdoor stuff because that is your passion?  or the airplane wing covers because it was so unique?  was the wedding dress for a friend or for a customer - and would it have made a difference in the satisfaction of making the garment?  are the handbags your own design or made to spec?  and how did men's shoes get into the mix and are you glad you turned it down?

            So sorry to have bombarded you with more questions, I'm just really surprised at the many different things you have made and have to admit that most of them I don't really think of someone actually making - like they come from a faceless manufacturer somewhere with no human input!

            Again, I really appreciate you sharing your world with me. 


          5. vallerand | | #13

            Well, you are in the HEART of Skijouring!  It is cross country skiing with your dog.  The dog is in a harness, the same as if dog sledding, and you are attached at the waist with a long lead that has bungee in it so as not to tug on you or the dog.  Very fun and great exercise for both you and the dog.

            I made wedding gowns commercially and for friends and family.  That is a tough industry, brides ALL think they will lose 20 pounds before the wedding, but they usually GAIN it.  Mother of the brides are generally the hardest to deal with...  needless to say, wedding gowns should all be cut with very large seam allowances.  You can always take something in, but not the reverse.

            Making wing covers was great fun, mainly because I was living in Alaska at the time, but also because my boss was such a hoot and crawling around on planes taking measurements and making everything was unique to the plane.  Fun times.

            The handbags are my own design, I go to fabric stores and just buy small pieces of different fabrics and usually only make 3 or 6 of each, so they are all pretty different.

            I was offered the job to design the shoes kind of as a fluke.  I actually got the interview through Kelly Services, a temp agancy when I was looking for, you won't believe this, an accounting job!  (My X thought that he didn't want to be married to someone who worked in a 'factory', so I went to school and got my degree in accounting too.  I hated it, but it did pay the bills.  Then I got cancer, he walked out, and I started designing again.)  Long story, but I am happier now.  I am glad I turned it down, because of the location, I am much happier here in NH in the mountains.  Money is obviously not my motivation, and being a cancer survivor has only made that more so.

            Let me look and ask around a bit, I bet I can find something made near you in MI, you would be amazed. 

            Living in Sweden must be awesome!  Europeans have such a different sense of style, I love to see the differences.  US manufacturers have different slopers for US and European markets for the same products because Europeans wear things so much more fitted and tailored than we do in the US.  Some day I will get to Europe, someday...  

            Now lets see about getting you a job that feeds your passion!


          6. jatman | | #14

            OK, I've never heard or seen skijouring.  How fun!  And I can only imagine how sore I would be the day after doing that for the first time.  I may have to get a dog.....

            There was a discussion on this board a few months ago started by someone who did bridal alterations.  Several stories were exchanged about brides and their families when fitting time came around.  It didn't sound like fun.  However, I can imagine that  doing bridal fittings would teach a lot about fitting and altering all clothing as well as some techniques that could only improve sewing skills in general.

            Your job doing airplane wing covers sounds really fun.  I've never been to Alaska but it's on my list!  You must have sewn on an industrial machine in a room big enough to hold all that material?  One thing that terrifies me about industrial machine is the ease at which I could injure myself.  Can you tell I'm a klutz at heart?

            Any chance of you uploading some pictures of your handbags?

            Too funny on the accounting thing!  Yes, it does pay the bills.  I've had jobs that were wonderful and ones that were not so wonderful.  Mostly I loved the work but my last one was really not much fun at all and made me think about what I'd really like to do in the future.  Geez - cancer.  That'll make you think about what's important, won't it?  I hope you are on the road to recovery, if you aren't already there.  Nothing like an illness to weed out the people who are permanent in your life from the temps, is there?

            Europe is awesome.  I've loved every minute of it.  It will be hard to come home from here.  I don't have a car - I walk everywhere or I take a tram or a train.  There are little boutiques everywhere.  Most of the time when you walk into a little shop you are either talking to the person who made what they sell or the person who owns the store and does all the buying.  It's very cool that way.  The clothes really do fit differently here.  Things seem to be smaller and I can't buy pants here at all.  The cut is just so weird and I have no idea why (I always think my butt is big but honestly it's not THAT big!).

            I'm sure I'll come up with more industry questions for you (and I'm also sure I won't be the only one!).  In the mean time, thank you for the info and I'd love to know if there is any place near Detroit that actually manufactures clothing, etc.  Thank you for all the info!


          7. vallerand | | #15

            Near Detroit, I am sure I can find something!

            Have you ever thought about accounting for a manufacturer?  That way you could see the way the industry really works and see if you would like it or not.

            I have to warn you though, accounting for small clothing companies is tough, there is never enough cash flow, you have to juggle everything and work a lot of deals to meet payroll and vendors demands and unfortunately there seems to be a lot of collection calls...  At least it has been my limited experience.

            Enjoy every second in Sweden, look for skiijouring there, I am sure they must have competitions and such.  Done right it is very graceful and beautiful.  ( I just kind of look like I am trying to run over my dog with skiis on, we have fun though!)


        2. GailAnn | | #7

          I second Jatman's motion.  Maybe you could start a new thread and tell us some of the secrets known only to the industry folks.  Gail

        3. MaryinColorado | | #8

          We want to pick your brain!  Dish, girl!  What other little gems of knowledge have you got tucked away?  Would love to hear more!  Mary

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