“Every creator painfully experiences the chasm between his inner vision and its ultimate expression.”  That day I met with my 3rd manufacturer, a story that began a year before. It was the 9th American one I spoke with over the phone—the others: “We’re too busy.” “We don’t work with your fabric.” “We don’t have enough workers to take on another job.” Yes, I needed to stay flexible and carry on within an industrial conversion of my handmade prototype, but at the same time, I wanted the production outcome to be of a quality I would buy myself. It helped being able to speak intelligently about the product construction, stitch quality, and serge machinery. A year earlier, I didn’t know a pressure foot lifter from a drop feed dog lever…

I started down this road barely knowing how to sew on a button. After my initial ‘inconvenience’ on that muddy soccer field, I took out one of my only sewing needles and thread and started stabbing away at some fabric to flesh out my idea. It looked as bad as you can imagine, but it was good enough to confirm I was on to something. I was told, through a girl I bumped into along the way, that I had to journey to meet with The All-Knowing Pattern-Maker. It took months to get in to see him though, and after testing the first model he sewed up for me, I had some tweaks. It would be another month to get in to see him again.  My husband said, “You just need to go out and buy your own sewing machine.” “WHHHAAAT?”  Stitch Length, Tension, and Bobbins, Oh My… So there I sat, in-front of my new shiny apparatus. “OK, What next?” I said out loud to myself. My then 8-year old son, standing next to me, said matter-of-factly, “Umm, Mom, you have to turn it on,” as he pointed me to the power button.

Multiple months and mockups later, I had actually taught myself to expertly sew my own prototype. After positive market testing, it was time to produce it on a grander scale, to turn it over to a factory line to have them make it into a multitude. Lesson Learned– Engage in hands-on learning to understand what you are talking about in your particular field.  If I would have relied on the pattern maker to do my prototype, I would not be so intimate with apparel construction. Because of this, I have been able to suggest streamlines to my own product’s production process.

This part of my path is long and winding, with lots of bumps. I’m the Queen of Questions and Research. As my husband reminds me along the way though, “Enjoy the journey.”

~Susan Bee

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2 thoughts on “A Manufacturing Story: Perseverance and Patience

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