As fashion designers, it’s crucial to have an eagle eye for spotting stitching defects in garments. It’s like playing a game of “Where’s Waldo” – but with fabric and thread.
In a previous article, I discussed the common types of garment stitches and how to call them out. Now, we will learn the most common sewing defects that may come up during the sampling and production process, their causes, and how to troubleshoot them like a pro.
While there are fabric defects, garment defects and fabric construction issues, to look out for as well, in this article we’ll focus specifically on stitch defects.
To ensure high-quality finished garments, it is crucial to address any concerns – including stitching and construction defects early on in the sample-making process. These defects go just beyond aesthetics and directly impact the fit, durability, and overall quality of your designs. No one wants to invest in a $200 dress only to find loose threads or see it unravel after a few wears.
By addressing these sewing issues upfront, you can refine your designs, optimize production efficiency, and maintain consistent quality standards in the apparel industry. Don’t wait until it’s too late; take proactive steps to troubleshoot garment stitching defects as it will save you a lot of pain in the butt later on!
Whether you’re working in-house or as a freelance fashion designer reviewing prototypes for clients, these are the sewing defects you need to watch out for.
Now, let’s take a closer look at these culprits.
Uneven stitching refers to wobbly or inconsistent stitches along a seam line. It can give a garment an unprofessional appearance and compromise its structural integrity.
In photo: wobbly stitching
Causes of uneven stitching: Uneven stitching can be attributed to factors such as machine issues, improper fabric handling, or just operator error. Faulty machine settings, inadequate maintenance, insufficient fabric control, and lack of experience or training can all contribute to this sewing defect.
This occurs when the stitching line is interrupted, resulting in incomplete or fragmented stitches. Not only does it give the garment an unprofessional look, but it can also lead to open seams and compromised durability.
In photo: skipped stitches (circled in yellow)
Causes of broken or skipped stitches: These can be caused by various factors, including using the wrong needle size, poor thread quality, incorrect machine settings, or inadequate tension control.
Thread tension issues encompass both loose and tight stitches and can result in various problems such as puckering or gathering of fabric.
In photo: fabric puckering caused by incorrect tension
Causes of thread tension issues: Thread tension issues can arise from incorrect tension settings, improper threading of the machine, or using unsuitable sewing techniques.
Untrimmed threads refer to excess thread tails left behind after stitching, which can detract from the garment’s appearance and give the impression of poor craftsmanship.
In photo: untrimmed threads on side seam
Causes of untrimmed threads: Honestly, this is most likely just because of oversight in the sewing or quality control process. It’s generally no biggie but it’s essential to pay attention to detail and remind the factory to trim excess threads for a clean and professional finish.
SPI refers to the number of stitches per inch along a seam. Deviations from the intended SPI can affect seam strength, appearance, and overall fit.
In photo: SPI too loose
Causes of incorrect SPI: Incorrect SPI can occur due to inaccurate sewing machine settings, human error, or inconsistencies in the sewing process.
Now that you are equipped with all the info, let’s learn how to address these quality issues.
Depending on the size of the design team, it is usually the technical designer or quality control team who calls out these defects upfront.
While those working in-house can directly communicate with sewers to resolve these defects, it’s not as simple for other designers who work with outsourced manufacturers or remote freelance fashion designers, or technical designers who have to communicate from the other side of the world.
Take a close look at every element of the garment, including seams (both inside and out), hems, edges, collars, cuffs, and finishing techniques like serging and binding. Pay special attention to the stitching and look out for issues like skipped stitches, misaligned seams, or puckering fabric caused by incorrect thread tension.
Keep in mind that the sample-making team may differ from the bulk production team, so addressing defects early on is vital. Remember, even the smallest irregularities at this stage can be indicative of larger problems in the production process.
When you spot a stitching problem, it’s crucial to communicate the issue clearly with your manufacturing team. Provide specific details about the location and nature of the defect, use photos if possible, and suggest solutions.
Avoid vague statements such as “fix the open seams” Instead, provide clear direction by taking a zoomed-in photo, and explaining it in detail, such as “The left side seam of garment #123 has broken stitches starting from 5 inches below the armhole.” You can also suggest solutions like “Insure proper machine maintenance and check needle size to help in minimizing unraveled stitches.”
Pro tip: Don’t hesitate to communicate directly with your manufacturers or ask them for advice; they often have the answers, even if you’re unsure. “I think I see a stitch defect here, but am not sure what’s wrong or causing it. Can you help?”!
In the garment industry, quality control is critical during the manufacturing process. Some brands have in-house or outsourced quality control teams, but if it’s accessible enough, this is something you can also do yourself. One valuable experience I had while working directly with manufacturers was conducting factory site visits. These visits provided insights into how the apparel industry works on the manufacturing side, and allowed me to observe sewing operators in action, working on my garments.
Furthermore, it’s essential to remind your factory to ensure proper machine maintenance and provide training to sewing operators. These measures will help minimize sewing defects and ensure higher quality in your final finished garment products.
One of the things I learned while working a corporate fashion job was to provide manufacturers with a guidebook outlining your quality tolerance and expectations. Maintaining open and detailed communication with your suppliers is crucial to resolve any confusion or miscommunications during the sewing process and production process.
I’ve had my fair share of experiences with hard-headed manufacturers who wouldn’t take responsibility for their faults or who aren’t properly training sewing operators. Having a well-documented guidebook to support your quality standards is a way to protect yourself and cover your butt during the production process. It gives you the ability to counter resistance and hold manufacturers accountable for their faults. Trust me on this one!
Your job doesn’t end with providing feedback; follow up regularly until all issues have been resolved. Stay engaged and maintain open lines of communication to ensure that the necessary corrections are made before moving forward with production.
And remember, if you encounter persistent issues or find that a manufacturer is consistently unable to meet your quality requirements, it may be time to find other suppliers.
Finding the right manufacturer is like finding the perfect partner. It may take a few tries to find the one that truly understands and meets your needs. Just like in relationships, you don’t want to settle for anything less than exceptional. If you feel like you’re not being treated right, or quality isn’t meeting your standards, it may be time to “break up” and explore other options.
Don’t worry, the right match is out there! Trust your instincts and know when it’s the right time to walk away and move on.