We’ve all been there – you snag a new piece of clothing, eager to wear it on your night out, only to spot that one glaring defect that leaves you annoyed. As customers, it’s frustrating to encounter fabric flaws in our fashion finds. But those pesky defects are not only annoying for customers, but also to us fashion designers who worked so hard making the garments behind the scenes.
So, in this article, we’ll cover the most common fabric defects in garments, their causes, and how to make sure you prevent them during bulk production (so they don’t end up in the reject pile!).
Fabric is the backbone of a garment and its importance goes just beyond aesthetics.
The fabric you use for your garments determines how it will fit, feel against the skin, and stand the test of time. High-quality fabrics make a garment even more special, enhancing its overall look and feel that customers happily pay extra for.
And here’s the kicker – when it comes to maintaining quality in your garments, your brand’s reputation is also on the line. This is why attention to detail during the product development process is crucial to avoid such pitfalls.
Now, let’s explore the most common culprits and their causes to better equip ourselves in overcoming these issues.
These unwelcome blemishes, such as oil spills, food stains, or ink marks can mar the beauty of a garment and disappoint customers. (I know it seems crazy, but yes, blemished fabric can make its way through the production line.)
Common causes of fabric stains: mishandling during sewing, transportation, or storage
I admit, this one is tricky to spot! Uneven color in garments manifests through mismatch shades on certain areas of the clothing.
Imagine your sleeve piece being shades off from your body piece. Unless you’re (intentionally) color-blocking, then that’s a definite no-no!
Common causes of uneven fabric color: errors during the dyeing process, exposure to sun, improper storage
Ever washed your colored clothes together and they all ended up red? This fabric defect is one of the most common headaches fashion designers and customers encounter.
If not prevented earlier, it can cause a lot of problems for the consumer when maintaining the garment (so their other garments don’t end up all in one hue 🙃).
Common causes of color bleeding: use of low-quality dyes, incorrect dyeing processes, fabric used does not absorb color well
Another post-wash dilemma, fabric shrinkage is one of the most heart-breaking fabric defects in garments. This happens when the fibers contract due to exposure like heat (think drying) or moisture.
Those who have experienced this know the pain of purchasing a well-fitted garment only to have it shrink into a completely different size after the first wash. Like when your t-shirt turned to a crop top.
Common causes of fabric shrinkage: inadequate fabric pre-treatment, improper care instructions regarding washing and drying
These issues often arise in more sensitive fabrics like silk, nylon, and rayon. They not only compromise the overall quality of the garment but also require careful handling to avoid further damage.
Common causes of holes, snags, and runs: improper handling and storage, poor quality yarns, manufacturing defects
Another defect that requires a precise eye – fabric distortions come in different forms such as skewing, bowing, and warping. These distortions might not seem like a big deal from afar, but ultimately affect the quality and fit of your garments. (Ever had a t-shirt or pants that over time sort of started twisting around your waist or leg? That’s fabric distortion!)
Common causes of fabric distortions: lack of pre-treatment, improper handling during yarn/fabric production, excessive loom weaving machine tension
Seen through missing or broken yarns, faulty yarns, uneven yarn size, knots – fabric yarn defects directly affect fabric quality and can cause weakened areas, compromising its overall integrity and durability.
Common causes of fabric yarn defects: flaws in yarn production, incorrect tension while weaving, use of low quality materials
Now that we’ve explored the common fabric defects in garments and their causes, you might be thinking, “But these things are beyond my control!”
Well, you’re not entirely wrong. And I’m not suggesting you rush to the factory to dye fabrics yourself. You see, every defect has a story behind it – an uneven dye here, a hole there – all point to mishaps during the manufacturing or finishing process long before they reach you.
The key lies in being eagle-eyed in defect detection when checking samples during evaluation. More importantly, making sure to clearly communicate these findings to your manufacturers.
While fabric defects might appear isolated in samples, it’s crucial to ensure they don’t affect the entire fabric lot, avoiding potential disasters during bulk production.
So, let me guide you on the best ways to steer clear of potential production troubles.
Remember the age-old saying – “prevention is better than cure.” To ensure good fabric quality, you need to detect these fabric defects early through thorough inspections during the sample making process.
Upon receiving the sample, take a good look at it inside and out. Make sure that you do your inspection under optimal lighting conditions so you won’t miss any details.
Not all of these fabric defects are obvious upfront so you need sharp trained eyes to spot them. In addition to this, inspect the garment not only up close but also as a whole. Remember the uneven fabric color defect we talked about earlier? This is one good way to catch it!
This is your chance to take control! Make sure to call out all your fabric defect concerns in your sample evaluation notes.
Include a clear explanation and photos of the fabric defects that you’re pointing out. As these defects may be teeny tiny and difficult to spot sometimes, my advice is to provide a clear photo of the defect and include an arrow pointing at it. Don’t just slap a zoomed out photo there and call it a day!
Pro tip: Use stickers or tape to mark fabric defects on your physical samples. It’s a great way for you to trace back later on without having to whip out your magnifying lens yet again. If there’s an opportunity, you can send back these marked samples to your manufacturer so they have a visual guide of what to look out for.
When working with outsourced manufacturers, there are several essential quality control measures you can implement.
Bigger fashion brands usually hire a third-party quality control service or inspection agency to visit the manufacturing facility on their behalf. These services conduct random checks on fabrics and finished garments, ensuring they meet your specified standards.
But for those working in start-up fashion brands with limited capacity, there are other ways to ensure fabric quality without outsourcing someone else. Most manufacturers actually have their own quality control teams whom you can leverage to help make sure your products are top notch.
To be extra sure, you can request fabric testing for crucial points like colorfastness, shrinkage, and strength. These tests help identify potential fabric defects during production or after garment care.
If you want to go the extra mile, simple versions of these tests can also be done at home. When I was working as a remote freelance fashion designer, I conducted some of the wash testing myself.
Request two copies of one size from your manufacturer or measure the sample beforehand. Then, follow the recommended washing procedure and check for any differences in measurements. For an added assurance, toss a white piece of cloth into the wash to see if it gets stained by the sample’s color, testing for bleeding.
One thing to keep in mind is that manufacturers often source their fabrics from various suppliers. Making sure that they are partnering with reliable and reputable suppliers is crucial to ensure consistent fabric quality.
Working with trusted suppliers not only ensures that you receive high-quality fabrics but also reduces the risk of encountering unexpected defects or inconsistencies in the materials later on.
Pro tip: Ask the manufacturer to keep fabric swatches from each production batch, and also keep your own copy in hand. By having fabric swatches on hand, you can cross-check the fabric quality if any issues arise after the garments are shipped.
Remember, fabric quality reflects not only your work as a fashion designer but also the reputation of your brand as a whole.
And while some aspects of fabric quality may be beyond your direct control, such as manufacturing processes or fabric sourcing, you still play a vital role in maintaining high standards.
By being proactive in identifying and addressing fabric defects during the sample evaluation process, you can avoid bigger troubles in the production process.