Sewing is the thread that holds the fashion industry together – quite literally! Nearly every manufactured garment is a product of its fabric and the various hand-sewn or machine-made stitches, threads, and finishes that hold it together. It is essential that anyone involved in the production of apparel be ale to tell the difference between the many types of stitches used in the industry today. This brief introductory guide to basic sewing stitches will introduce and explain the most common machine and hand stitches used.
Before the Singer, the Bernina, and the many other sewing machines on the market became everyday commodities in the home and in the factory, garments were made solely by hand. This included every step of the sewing process (hemming an edge, joining two separate pieces of cloth, finishing a seam, etc.). Many garments today are still sewn by hand utilizing the following basic stitches.
The running stitch is the most basic and most commonly used stitch, in which the needle and thread simply pass over and under two pieces of fabric. It’s exactly the same as a basting stitch, except it is sewn more tightly to create a secure and permanent bind. The technique can be identified by the spaces left between each stitch on both sides of the fabric, creating a dashed line of thread.
A basting stitch is one of the simplest stitches in sewing, used to temporarily hold together two pieces of fabric. Think of it as a “rough draft” that will later be removed and replaced by a more secure and more permanent stitch. Sometimes also called a tack stitch, it is done quickly with a simple over/under motion, resulting in a long and loose stitch that is easy to remove.
The back stitch is a variation of the running stitch, but with each pass of the needle, the needle and thread doubles back on itself. This eliminates the visible spacing – the dashed effect – seen in the running stitch, and instead creates a more polished straight line of thread on the surface of the fabric.
A catch stitch, or cross-stitch, is one of the standard sewing techniques used for hemming. The use of this stitch creates a zig-zag series of X’s on the underside of a piece of fabric. Strong and flexible, these stitches are barely visible on the outside of a garment and offer a clean finish for raw edges.
The slip stitch is a strong, sturdy, and permanent way to finish a garment, and another great stitch for securing hemlines. However, unlike the catch stitch, using a slip stitch results in a nearly invisible bond on both sides of the fabric.
The advent of the sewing machine in the early 18th century completely revolutionized the apparel industry by streamlining production and changing how clothing was traditionally made. Today, almost apparel construction is done on machines. These machines often have a wide range of capabilities, but almost every machine has the ability to perform these three basic stitches.
The straight stitch is a series of straight stitches equidistant from one another, all in uniform length and spacing. It is the most common stitch that serves as the backbone for nearly all sewing machines varieties.
The backward stitch is merely the machine’s ability to carry out the straight stitch in verse. This capability is helpful for securing the beginning and end of any other stitch, keeping the thread from unraveling or losing its shape.
The zigzag stitch is a sewing technique where the needle and thread move back and forth at alternating angles. It is the second most common stitch after the running stitch and is present in nearly all sewing machines today. Due to its strength, it is often used to finish seams and raw edges, and to reinforce buttonholes and in stretchable fabrics.
Sewing machines, both industrial and home models, are also frequently attributed with the ability to make buttonholes as well as create a variety of hemming stitches and decorative stitches. It all depends on the specific machine at hand, with each brand and model offering its own unique assortment.
The Softline team is extremely proud to support the Quetico Foundation’s Ridley Wilderness Youth Program. The program provides students from across the Toronto District School Board with an immersive wilderness canoe tripping experience in Quetico Park. Check out the video below to see some images from their trip!
From the Quetico Foundation’s website:
“We get involved where the stakes are high and our value will be greatest, leveraging results through our broad base of supporters and allies.
We also recognize the power of collaboration, teaming up with like-minded organizations who share our aims. Together, we strive to help decision-makers, users and stakeholders value the Quetico wilderness – and so ensure its preservation for generations to come.”
We couldn’t agree more.
Softline’s Trade Show Guide
Capsule, FFANY, The Chicago Collective, and, of course, MAGIC in Las Vegas. Designers, manufacturers, and retailers alike utilize these fashion trade shows and others to grow their business, expand their clientele, and network among industry professionals. When utilized wisely, these shows are some of the best marketing tools around. However, mere attendance does not equate to marketing success. A business must plan before, act during, and follow up afterwards to maximize the outcome of having a booth at any of these conventions. This trade show guide will explore the best practices for making a lasting impression at trade shows.
Trade show success starts before the convention center doors open. Smart preparation begins in the weeks and months in advance. Taking care of all possible details beforehand gives vendors more availability for interacting with visitors. This is paramount, as ample attention paid to each potential customer is the key to earning his or her business.
Reach Out To Clients In Advance & Make Appointments
Rarely do buyers attend trade shows merely to browse. The majority of industry professionals attend trade shows with set appointments and a list of specific booths to visit. Networking ahead of time is the best way to ensure your booth is seen. Reach out to contact the prospective retailers that match with your products or service in advance and make appointments to meet with them during the event. As the event draws nearer, continue to stay in contact to keep prospective buyers interested.
Negotiate A Location
Location is everything at trade shows. A booth near the entrance or adjacent to the food court is considered prime real estate, and acquiring these locations is often as simple as asking the right people. Negotiate with the event organizers to obtain the best spot and do it early.
Generate A Following
Utilizing a variety of PR and Marketing to announce your brand’s attendance is critical. Employ multiple avenues of communication, such as postcards, print mailers, social media, emails, and phone calls. There are many avenues of communication (most of which are free) and this is one of the best ways to ensure a good turnout of prospective buyers. It will also generate a sense of urgency among and help facilitate a brand’s identity.
Book Accommodations Early
Sort out all travel, lodging, and travel plans ahead of time. Having these details worked out in advance will enable vendors with more attention and focus on the real goal during the event. Thoroughly research and plan an agenda for the trip down to parking at the event. Draft a budget ahead of time that accounts for all potential expenses that come with attending. Do this portion of the to-do list early on to avoid sold out flights or hotels and save yourself the stress of last minute booking.
At The Event
Cultivate A Unique Space
Create a visually enticing and eye-catching booth to attract the your ideal clientele. Spaces are often small at trade shows, but that doesn’t have to affect the impression you make. Vendors sometimes aim to replicate the ideal storefront that would carry a brand’s product.
There are a wide variety of other smart options available for designing a booth, but always keep it clean and clutter-free, and make sure every detail sends a succinct message that defines a brand’s image. Simplicity and clarity are crucial. The goal is to attract the right customers rather than trying to attract every customer.
Messaging & Image
Stick to concise copy – often as simple as the brand name and a brief, one-sentence tagline – and aim to convey one main point to potential customers. Many vendors fall victim to the belief that more is better, when in fact, too many visuals or graphics often times overwhelm and deter visitors.
Have a Standout Booth
A great booth is a reflection of a company’s image and product offering. It should also be a friendly place that encourages and attracts customers. Below are some potential options to achieve this goal:
- Include seating for visitors who have likely been walking all day.
- Offer candy, food, and refreshments.
- Make sure there is ample lighting.
- Set up a free WiFi zone or a spot to charge electronics.
These types of added amenities might just bring in otherwise disinterested patrons. Quality beats quantity, especially in the fashion industry.
Staff & Stock The Booth
Even the most visually astounding booth will fall flat if the staff seems disinterested, distracted, or disorganized. Enforce an electronics-free zone during the show and make sure each staff member is knowledgeable and passionate about the brand. Also, be diligent in enforcing that everyone involved practice his or her pitches ahead of time and emphasize crafting every speech to the specific nature of each and every client. Nothing is more deterring than a routine monologue. A smart salesperson aims to make every interaction a personal connection.
After The Event
Keep In Touch
Have a system for collecting business cards and contact information. Follow up after the event. It is essential for successfully turning visitors into customers. Remember that the attendees have spent hour upon hour visiting booth upon booth, and it can be easy for them to forget the details of a pitch or confuse the product being offering. Direct contact made after the event shows initiative and personal investment in potential customers.
Gear Up For Round Two
Trade shows may only occur every few months, but the end of one event means it is time to start preparing for the next. As soon as the doors close, take notice of what worked well and what could use improvement. Spend a few moments during the event to observe other popular booths. Note the successful tactics they use and consider implementing them in some way at the next event. Always be willing to try new strategies and ideas as preparations begin for future shows.
Hurricanes Wreak Havoc on Supply Chains & Infrastructure
Two of the costliest Hurricanes in U.S. History, Harvey and Irma, have decimated Southern Texas and Florida in the last two weeks. The total cost of the damage is still being calculated, but economist Michael Montgomery of HIS Markit is reporting that August and September output data will be affected by Hurricane Harvey. “Supply disruptions will rock oil refining that accounted for 3 percent of industrial production last year, and the chemical industry, responsible for 12.4% of industrial production in 2016, Montgomery said Friday.” This article will briefly explore how hurricanes are affecting manufacturing around the United States.
The U.S. Gulf Coast is home to a large amount of the oil production and many refineries that create base plastics for a large variety of industries. The disruption due to Hurricane Harvey is a major hit to supply chains all over the country, and manufacturers are struggling to find new short term suppliers. “If we get into the middle of September and we’re not back up and running and producing various plastics, even at some minimal sustainable rate, you’re going to start being concerned about the overall supply chain,” said Mark Eramo, Vice President of Global Chemical Business Development at IHS Markit.
After Harvey, Hurricane Irma was quick to follow. Irma demolished the Florida Keys, took out power for half of all customers in the state, and brought storm surges to the southern and western sides of the state that wiped out beachfront communities and crippled shipping ports. Florida is home to over 19,000 manufacturers employing more than 331,000 workers, many of whom may temporarily be out of a job. Initial estimates for the damage caused by Irma were between 150-200 billion, but have been reduced in recent days due to a change of course that caused the storm to mostly miss the most populated areas of the state, including Miami-Dade County. The total cost is still unknown.
As noted earlier, many expect supply chains to be affected in the short term. According to the survey by the Institute for Supply Management, “67 percent of survey respondents believe input materials pricing will be at least somewhat negatively impacted over the next three months… 27 percent expect prices to be negatively or very negatively impacted.” This may cause delays in deliveries, production time, and is cause for concern for economists who measure U.S. Gross Domestic Product.
The hurricanes have destroyed or crippled many businesses and permanently damaged infrastructure, which will add stress to the local and national economies. Goldman Sachs analysts warn that Hurricanes Harvey and Irma could have a “sizable” impact on the U.S. Economy. The bank reduced its GDP growth projections by 0.8% to 2%.
Due to a concentrated effort by State and Federal officials, Texas and Florida ports are already starting to open today and many have had their power restored. “In the U.S., more than 50,000 utility workers from the U.S. and Canada are descending on Florida and other states hit by the storm, part of a long stream of trucks joining returning residents on highways with loads of water, generators, food and construction materials.” There have also been an incredible amount of donations and people flooding into the areas affected. The effect on manufacturing and the economy might be short term, but local officials and residents will be cleaning up the mess made by these devastating hurricanes for months, if not years to come.
 US Manufacturing and Spending Seen Taking Short-Term Hit From Hurricane Harvey’s Impact
 Harvey has ‘paralyzed’ a critical part of US manufacturing supply chain
 Florida Manufacturing – Industry Overview
 Hurricanes Wreak Havoc on Supply Chains
 Hurricane Irma Might Have a Sizable Impact on U.S. Economy, Goldman Sachs Warns
 Top Supply Chain and Logistics News From WSJ
September U.S. Textile Manufacturing Outlook
There is optimism that the 11%increase in man-made fiber and textiles (including apparel) shipments made by the U.S textile manufacturing industry since 2009 will continue into 2017.  The last six months have taught experienced industry analysts new lessons as the economic and political climate became more unpredictable. The President and CEO of NCTO, an organization that represents U.S textile companies, suggests that despite a “stable and strong environment for about five or six years, the market has been flat for 18 months due to sluggishness in the global and U.S. economies and the uncertainty in the retail sector.”
The recent ‘sluggishness’ of the market has not greatly affected the textile manufacturing industry in the U.S. Along with China and India, it continues to be one of the big three players in the global textile industry. The United States’ 1.3% share of the $483 billion global apparel market is mainly due to exports to free trade partners, which requires that local yarns are used in production for fabrics. These partners account for 70% of the $13 billion fabric, fiber, and yarn U.S exports in 2016. Canada and Mexico bought $1.6 billion and $4.4 billion of the total respectively. Honduras, along with the Dominican Republic (members of the Dominican Republic Central America Free Trade Agreement), combined for another $2 billion. According textile industry experts, this alone accounts for over half of U.S textile exports, which account for 40% of the GDP in textiles.
Free Trade Agreements
We are facing a new political and economic global landscape in 2017, where the promise of the Trans-Pacific Partnership is now a thing of the past. There is growing pressure to increase U.S textile exports to its profitable free-trade partners, who will no doubt account for an even greater percentage of textile GDP in 2017.
In order to achieve this, changes need to be made to NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement). By eliminating a loophole where trade-preference allows for a specified amount of yarn and fabrics to be produced outside of the region of the free trade agreement, if the clothes were still cut and sewn in the free trade countries, an increase in exports is possible. For example, Mexico is allowed to bring the equivalent of 45 million square meters of yarn and fabrics for apparel from sources outside of the free trade region.
The yarn, mainly from China, accounts for half of the fabric used in Mexican apparel manufacturing, and removing the ways out of trade-preferences should boost the state of U.S textile exports to Mexico in the near future. The impact of proposed changes may still be mitigated by the fact that the trade-preference loophole is less important to Canada, which barely used a quarter of its current 88,000,000 square meter allotment.
There are other threats to the state of U.S. textile exports that may have far-reaching consequences for textile export profitability. The state of relations between the NCTO (National Council of Textile Organizations) and WTO (World Trade Organization) is becoming tense. In a recent statement made on the 31st of July 2017, the NCTO states that the trend towards “the unfair and nonreciprocal”treatment of the WTO towards textile organizations in U.S will not be tolerated. As the WTO continues to ask for more market concessions for its other trading partners, it is placing the U.S at a “direct disadvantage”in trade with WTO partners.  This news potentially reveals that if the U.S is to combat the gradual decline of its textile industry, it needs NAFTA trading partners more than ever to combat the recent global trends. At a total of $11.5 billion, Mexico and Canada are the U.S textile industry’s largest markets for exports.
Analysis of the NCTO’s 2016 reportreveals that the true strengths of the U.S textile industry are fibers and fabrics for home furnishings and industry, with clothing only accounting for 12% of total fiber production in 2012. In contrast, production for U.S. yarn, fiber, fabric, and non-apparel textiles grew to $1.7 billion in 2015, representing a staggering 75% rise from 2009. The global strength of the U.S non-apparel textile market has grown, and the planned negotiations with NAFTA may also help alleviate the negative effects of cheap textile and fiber imports from China.
Automation & the Future
Unfortunately, this does not guarantee that jobs are coming back to the textile manufacturing industry. As new advances in automation are adopted they eliminate the need for manual work. For example, Adidas recently began using automated machines known as ‘sewbots’ to produce over 800,000 shirts a day with minimal human labor. Despite the job losses, the increase in productivity is keeping the U.S textile manufacturing industry afloat. Lower labor costs are making moving manufacturing back to the U.S. from overseas more viable.
Another potential growth area for the U.S textile industry is largely in technology and ‘smart fabrics.’ ‘Smart fabrics’ include antimicrobial yarns, water and sun proof thread, industrial level finishes, and fabrics for virtual reality with haptic sensors that allow users to ‘feel’ objects. Bob Merrill, a polymer expert at IHS Markit, says “A lot of great work is going on in the U.S. textile industry. Are these innovations going to change the textile road map, or will they just be specialty advances without a dramatic impact on fiber production?” It looks like time will tell.
  http://www.ncto.org/2017-state-of-the-u-s-textile-industry/
  https://www.apparelnews.net/news/2017/mar/30/us-textile-and-apparel-industry-inching-forward-af/
  http://www.ncto.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/2017-07-31-NCTO-Trade-Agreements-Submission.pdf
  https://shenglufashion.files.wordpress.com/2017/03/us-textile-industry-1.jpg
According to the Brainerd Dispatch, “Manufacturing is on an upward trend in Minnesota.” Based on an annual report from Enterprise Minnesota, a consulting group that works with Minnesota manufacturing companies, the report shows:
There were 319,000 manufacturing jobs in Minnesota as of last week, according to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. A 2014 study from the department projected jobs would drop from 312,000 jobs in 2014 to 297,500 jobs in 2024, but for now, it appears Minnesota has been adding jobs in the sector.
“We actually have not seen a downturn since 2014,” DEED spokesman Monte Hanson said, “We are almost double the national rate.”
The survey states, “Minnesota’s small- and medium-sized manufacturers are incredibly optimistic about the prospects of their companies over the coming year.” The survey combines telephone interviews with over 400 state manufacturing executives, 10 manufacturing executive focus groups, and 3 focus groups of college students in manufacturing programs.
Minnesota Manufacturing is growing, a fact Softline can attest to.
“These findings, coupled with shrinking concerns about the global economy, suggest 2017 will be a year of growth for the state’s manufacturing industry,” Enterprise Minnesota stated.
“Manufacturers preside over a job-creating engine that feeds the economic vitality of so many communities across the state, “said Bob Kill, Enterprise Minnesota president and CEO. “It was clear that Minnesota’s manufacturers are optimistic about the economy and their companies’ growth potential.”
Minnesota manufacturers are confident about the future of the industry. A DEED study released in January stated 90 percent of the respondents expect production levels will increase or stay the same this year. That’s compared with 86 percent for 2016.
“Minnesota manufacturing executives nearly unanimously—94 percent—report they are confident about the financial future of their companies, which is the highest recorded mark in the survey’s history and the fourth consecutive year that confidence has climbed,” Enterprise Minnesota reported. “Fifty-seven percent said they are very confident, up 14 percent in just one year, and a staggering 30-point improvement over the first survey in 2008.
“For the first time in the survey’s history more manufacturers predict economic expansion in the coming year over a flat economy.”
By the numbers
- One in nine workers in Minnesota are employed in manufacturing
- The industry produced 16 percent of the state’s gross domestic product in 2015, making it the second largest industry in the state.
- 319,000 Manufacturing jobs in Minnesota
- 68% of Manufacturers have a demand for new qualified workers
The manufacturing sector has faced challenges in the past, particularly during the recession. At the low point in 2010, Minnesota dropped down to 288,300 jobs in the sector.
One challenge that manufacturers could face in the coming years is worker availability, especially as baby boomers begin to retire, according to a report from manufacturing magazine Enterprise Minnesota. A poll conducted by Meeting Street Research, which is cited in the magazine, suggests 68 percent of manufacturing respondents in Minnesota found it difficult to attract qualified candidates to fill vacancies.
For all the nine years of State of Manufacturing survey, health care costs have been the top concern for manufacturers, Enterprise Minnesota reported, which also noted government policies and regulations was a distant second concern.
“The percentage of manufacturers who are having a difficult time finding ‘qualified workers’ has more than doubled since 2011,” Enterprise Minnesota reported. “The issue is even more pronounced in Greater Minnesota, with 75 percent of manufacturers reporting that it is difficult to attract and retain qualified workers compared to 62 percent of metro area manufacturers.”
Still, industry and economic leaders stated they felt manufacturing is heading in the right direction.”
May 2017 marks an 8 month low for the US Manufacturing PMI according to the IHS Markit report, falling slightly to 52.7 from 52.8 in April. Slowed growth of output, and employment confirms a downward trend that had been emerging from its 22 month peak in January at 55. While revised up from previously reported 52.5, this measurement of overall business growth and job creation in the manufacturing sector came in under the expected mark of 53.
While production volume was up, prices for manufactured goods also increased at a slower than expected rate which likely will hurt many producers’ bottom lines. Still, manufacturing output has been growing steadily in the US, having increased continually for a year as of May. One likely cause for the slowdown in growth is that retailers and resellers are cautious of consumer demand as reports emerged that consumer confidence fell more than expected in both April and May. This uneasiness could lead to a slowdown in reorders and decrease in held inventory.
Manufacturers also noted that overseas demand may be dropping, noting that exported goods sales were lower than expected. Additionally, many have found that they do not have as much work on their plate as they clear out and deliver their overdue work. This could point to an increased competition for new business.
Even with the downward trends in production, employment across the manufacturing sector expanded as payrolls increased slightly. According to the survey, “resilient business confidence and optimism about the general economic outlook had helped to underpin staff recruitment in May.”
Bottom line: Consumer Confidence retreats, inventories drop, and US Manufacturing production takes a bigger hit than expected.
Via a 5/31/2017 report by IHS Markit on US Manufacturing PMI