What does it really take to make a garment?
We often get inquiries as to whether we could make this or that garment (sometimes even as individual pieces). These ideas are without exception wonderful and if the same idea starts to repeat itself from several directions, we try to take it. However, this is not always worth it or is possible, because you can't really dry clothes in a day. We decided to break this timeline into smaller pieces and open up the manufacturing time of the clothes in more detail!
Planning and planning
Designing clothes often starts with a need and an idea, sometimes along with other design, from an accident. We do a lot of experiments that never end up being sold. This phase is the most variable and flexible in terms of duration – sometimes the finished product comes quickly and sometimes the process can take up to a year. Protos, i.e. test pieces of new models, are made several times in different sizes to ensure the functionality of the model. After the formula changes, new prototypes are made and this is repeated until the model is definitely functional.
After the pattern is completed, it is digitized and serialized by our partner, so that we can use all the sizes we need. After this, we check the processes for ordering the fabrics and the patterns are also drawn as cardboard patterns for production.
This phase can take anything from 1-2 months to 6 months or sometimes (rarely for us) even up to a year. Most of the time, our formulas are based on our old formulas at least in some way, which speeds up the process.
Fabric ordering time
Ordering fabrics is also a time-consuming process. At the fastest, the fabrics arrive in Varkaus within 4-5 weeks of the order, but most often the process takes 8-10 weeks. So it can take up to 2.5 months for us to receive the fabric.
We are not yet a large company that can have kilometers of fabric in stock waiting for future production. We concentrate orders as much as possible and try to estimate costs as realistically as possible, so that there are no unsold goods standing in the warehouse. However, sometimes even the best estimates go wrong and something ends prematurely. In this case, we have to guess every time whether it is still worth ordering more of the same fabric and making the desired product, or whether it is already past the point when we would get more of the fabric. The delivery time of the fabric therefore affects our operations very much.
Cutting plan and layout
Before a garment can be sewn, it must be cut. For this, we always make a cutting plan, i.e. we lay out the patterns on the fabric so that all parts are included but there is as little waste as possible. This can be done digitally with computer programs, but at least for now, we do it ourselves entirely by hand. The width of our fabrics varies somewhat in different lots and even a difference of 5 cents from the original width can mean a new plan. So we always at least check if the cutting plan needs to be renewed and sometimes we also renew the plan. This important step in itself does not take long, a few hours at most, but it is part of the garment manufacturing process.
The cutting plan is also affected by what kind of fabric the garment is being made from. If it is only a sheet of single-colored fabrics (explained in the next section), the patterns can be placed in two directions, i.e. the pieces can be upside down in relation to each other on the fabric. This saves fabric, but the cutting plan is again different than with patterned fabric, where the pieces can mostly only be in one direction, i.e. parallel to each other.
Plastering is a surprisingly time-consuming work step. When we know how much fabric is used to make the garment, i.e. how much it costs, and we have checked the cutting plan, we can find out the total length of the garment (for example, 5 meters including the small ends*). When laying, five-meter pieces of fabric are pulled from the roll of fabric into a pile so that the edges are precisely leveled and there are no bulges left anywhere. One set* of the product to be manufactured is obtained from one five-meter piece.
We have two long tables in our sewing room, so it is basically possible for us to make two coats in one day. One sheet is usually made into one product (sometimes, for example, children's clothes or directly from our TÄHDE products can be made in between, but this again requires checking the cutting plan). In practice, however, we make two sheets a day only in exceptional cases, because the other table does not have all the necessary auxiliary tools, such as a cutter, which can also be seen in the video.
The slab should always be allowed to rest before cutting. We make our products from flexible materials and the fabrics are always slightly stretched on the roll. When they get out of the stretch, they want to shrink a bit. For this reason, Laakat rests at least one night, preferably over the weekend. The longer and heavier the slab, the more important this resting phase is. For example, the sheets of the Rento pants made for the maternity package are the size of the entire table (7 meters) and approx. 77 layers of fabric thick, which means they weigh hundreds of kilograms.
* End loss: the ends of the slab may remain slightly uneven and the shrinking phase may shrink some layers more than others. Because of this, the patterns cannot be placed starting at the very end of the sheet, but you have to leave another centimeter empty there.
* Series: one set means one size set, for example S-XXXL. So one piece of each size will be made from one layer of the slab.
Cutting and sewing
When the sheet has rested, let's lay out the patterns and cut the pieces of the future clothes. If the products were made individually to order, this step would be very inefficient. We only manufacture products in series precisely because it is possible for us to keep our sewing work in Finland - products manufactured as individual pieces are not financially profitable for us. It takes the same time to cut one or 30 layers.
The time spent on cutting depends entirely on how many different pieces have to be cut out of it. However, this has been done in one day. After cutting, the pieces go to wait for sewing. Most of the time, cutting is done in a row so that there is always something waiting to be sewn in the sewing machine. This way, the seamstresses don't have to twiddle their thumbs and wait for what to sew, but the work is done at a steady pace.
The manufacturing minutes for our different products vary, of course, depending on the model. The fastest models are ready in less than 20 minutes (including cutting, sewing and finishing) but of course this does not mean 20 minutes in one go. One product goes through its entire completion arc along with the rest of the mass, and work steps are done when they are relevant. If a total of, say, 50 pieces of the product is produced, that 20 minutes must be multiplied by fifty, i.e. a total of 1000 minutes (just under 17 hours) is used to produce the total amount. These working hours are part of all our other working hours and can therefore take place over a period of, for example, two weeks and be divided between several people.
The minutes can therefore vary depending on the model, and more complex models can take even more than 50 minutes (50 min x 50 pcs = 2500 min, approx. 41 working hours, so this type of model takes significantly more time to manufacture).
Even before ending up in the online store, the product must be finished. We iron all clothes after sewing. The ironing stage is quick steaming so that the garment is at its best for its new owner. If the product is completely new, it must also be described and set up in the online store before it can be sold.
Work steps and so-called there is a lot of hidden work in the manufacturing of clothes. We can get the garment ready the fastest if we have a ready-made model and fabric already in stock. In this case, you "just" have to paint, cut, sew and finish the products, and the process from idea to completion takes only a few weeks. If the model is completely new and fabrics are also needed for it, we are already talking about a much longer time: at least half a year, but in most cases even a year with different test phases.