A.C. Baker Apparel

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Saturday, August 19, 2006

Oh, woa is my Saturday Night

I can say that my life consists of working selling advertising, working sewing handbags, working being a mother and wife, and working to keep my sanity amongst all this working. I haven't forgotten about our dear friend Jean, but haven't found the time to explore.

Last weekend I spent an entire day sewing and planning with Deb, my stalwart Jiminy Cricket. She keeps me real, yo. Someone remind me to post a picture of her. The great thing about Debbie is that she has been in the production realm of this business for a long time. She is creative, patient (has to be with me hangin' around) and mostly willing to at least entertain many of my crazy ideas. She has a way of laying down logic so that you truly understand how she came to her conclusions. I rarely if ever disagree with her, and those of you that know me, know that I will argue ANYTHING. (sad).

Speaking of Debbie, I have to digress and tell you about a project we did together. The back story to this is that I am trying to get really good at production sewing; not because I want to do it as a profession, but because I want to know exactly what folks who work for me are doing and how to be completely reasonable to work with in my expectations of production.

A few weeks ago we jointly did a production run of pleated skirts for another designer here in town. Quite a lovely project. I won't name anyone in the interest of being completely respectful of the designer. The goal of the project was to walk a mile in production's shoes (and make some extra $$).

Debbie was great, she put me on serging and pleating while she did the finishing. I did do some hemming on a few pieces, but mostly she took care of the final steps. I was really paranoid about doing a good job and I messed up a couple pieces that had to be redone. When I asked Debbie if I really was useful to the process, she said something that struck me as profound; she said that you have to put people on the line where they will do the best, and although I messed up a couple pieces, she could see the improvement of my work over the course of five or six peices. It made me feel good to have shown improvement, and by the end I could pleat with the best of them.

We had to also determine a work schedule. We had to have 130 skirts done in a two week time table, so we had to detemine how many a day we could collectively finish. I was able to put out about 12 skirts a day (my steps) and Debbie was able to put out about 15 finished skirts a day. This meant that I had to have all my steps done before she could do hers. It was gruelling....but gratifying at the same time. When you look at a pile of sewing sans errors you get this strange sense of pride and accomplishment. There are a lot of things that can go wrong when you set a work schedule...kids get sick, cars break down, sewing machines break. It's not the same thing as punching a clock. You are on deadline because your designer is on deadline. If they have to eat it, so do you...so you work until midnight and after your day job (if you are a real production person, you don't have a different day job). It's incredibly intense and the stakes are high.

Working for a designer is a trip. I didn't interact directly with the designer (although I know her), Debbie was the project leader, so she did all the negotiating, price setting, etc. There are a few things that inevitably happen

1) Fabric doesn't come in on time: This cut our time frame down from 4 weeks to 2 weeks. Thankfully the designer adjusted her numbers. We couldn't have done 250 skirts in 2 weeks between 2 people.
2) Certain fabrics don't work with the fabrication: Again, this designer is seasoned and flexible. We opted not to do those skirts and it was fine. This designer likes to roll up her sleaves and help to get the job done, as well.
3) Changes at the last minute: This wasn't my favorite thing to have happen, although Debbie handled it with aplomb. Even though it seems like a simple change (adding buttons), it adds time onto the production of the thing which increases the price of the garment, etc.

When doing a production run, there is definitely a heirarchy. This isn't a bad thing at all. The phrase "Too many cooks spoil the soup"comes to mind in a situation like this. Debbie ran the whole thing like a well oiled machine. She knew just where to put me and how to navigate around my work schedule. She new my skill level, and she had worked with the designer before and was able to pretty much predict all the little snafu's. I was greatful that I could take direction and leave the rest up to her. I didn't have to figure anything out. I bring this up because often people want to fight for supremecy. In a production line it would hurt the process. You absolutely have to have a production manager; someone to make sure all the pieces are in place and the work flow is smooth.

I learned so much from this experience and I truly thank Debbie for training me and throwing me some work. I can't say that I could handle a run on my own, but I can certainly sew better than I did before, and I have a far deeper appreciati0n for contract sewing.



Blogger Andrea said...

just testing the comments. I heard that they aren't working correctly.

6:51 PM  

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