Going from prototype to production sewing pt.2
The topic of the too-short table height generated many suggestions, useful if you’re just starting out or have limited space. I thought it would be appropriate to mention the kind of table I have which is designed for the apparel industry. If you have space, it’s better to buy these (Philocraft). New tables are expensive but you can buy used ones for much less than the cost of lumber and hassle of building your own. These knock down so you can store them until needed.
These are often called spreading or cutting tables. These come in various widths, in four foot sections so you can add on as needed. They are very heavy, a 48″x66″ section weighs about 150 lbs. These are everywhere in a factory and are used for everything from cutting, to pattern drafting or even sorting and marking.
When you select a table, the width is important (but height is not). Optimally, you should select a table that is 6″ wider than the widest fabric you intend to use. The reason is so you can run a spreader. A spreader (on wheels) carries a bolt of fabric up and down the length of the table, laying it just so. The table in this spreading video has an apron. An apron is a little ledge that is part of the table frame along one side. The wheels of the spreader roll along in the apron like a trolley car so the fabric is lain more evenly. It breaks my heart when someone has gone to great expense to build long tables that can’t be used with a spreader or they build them too narrow.
You don’t have to worry about table height because industrial tables are adjustable. The standard height is 33.5″ but each leg has an extension 7″ long. If you need your table to be higher than 40″, there’s longer extensions.
Anyway, considering the length of my long table (20 feet) and the weight (750 lbs), the only way I can think of to raise the table height is to use long sections of lumber with car jacks. Once raised to the proper height, I can then tighten the leg extenders so I don’t need a permanent add on to keep them up. The problem is the height of the leg brace (8.5″ up from the floor) under which I’d place the lumber. I can only use the low profile jacks mechanics use, not the one that comes with your car because most of those are too high. The way they do this in factories (on obviously shorter table lengths) is with a pair of pallet jacks and lumber. Long story short, I shouldn’t have been in such a hurry when I set up these tables because setting them to a proper height is difficult after the fact. That’s a lesson you can learn at my expense. And you know, I knew better. If in doubt, don’t. That’s good advice for nearly everything in life.
Dispensing with tables, let’s move along to lighting and electricity.
I like Kristen’s suggestion of a floor-to-ceiling pole to which one can attach lighting. She suggested halogens but those run hot. I’m thinking clamp on lights would work well too.
Regarding the electrical load, my error was describing the swamp cooler as an “air conditioner”. In NM, that is what we call it (sorry). We call a real air conditioner, “refrigerated air”. Only fancy houses have those and most of us are poor. Even work places are commonly cooled with swamp coolers. Refrigerated air is relatively uncommon but I always keep a sweater in my car for mall trips or government offices just in case because it makes my skin hurt. The long and short of it is, swamp coolers (what I have) only draw only 25% of the power needed to run refrigerated air meaning my electrical problem is worse than some may have guessed. I haven’t talked to my landlady yet. Eric is down in the dumps over his unanticipated week end plans. Actually, that’s not true. He is also a very cheerful person who likes to make himself useful. I consider myself fortunate and proud to be married to an electrical engineer. He’s the brains in this outfit.
Finally, the fun part. I did three different test seams. I cut 6 fabric strips in the same direction and of the same length. I sewed one with the regular foot as a point of comparison. I did another with a zipper foot (solution proposed here on the forum) and the last I sewed with a strip of wax paper between the velvet layers. I had read somewhere on the internet that using a layer of waxed paper would help. I was sure that would work because sewing with paper usually works very well. With velvet, it didn’t. Or maybe it’s just me. I got the worst result with it. If you want gory details, a larger version of this photo is here (156 kb).
Before I got the feedback from Andrew and Lorraine who confirmed a needle feed machine was the way to go (thank you very much, confirmation helps), Humberto at Patternworks called to drop the name of their machine repair people who they say are very good. So I called Wayne at Orange County Industrial Sewing to chat about possible machine solutions, most likely established by this time to be a needle-feed machine. Here’s video of a needle feed set up for denim hemming. Halfway through (it’s short), it slows down so you can see the needle moving forward.
Let me digress a moment. How many of you have never called an industrial supplier? In my experience, it is easy to know who’s good or bad based on a conversation and it has nothing to do with their interpersonal skills. [I fear some of you are never going to learn that]. The difference between a good supplier and a bad one is that the good supplier will ask you all kinds of questions, what are you making, what kinds of materials, what’s the application, price points etc. Many newbies are very threatened by these questions. Nobody is going to hop on a plane, rent a car, drive to your house and peek in your windows to get the lowdown on your concept because nobody is that important. A good supplier is someone who sells you what you NEED. Need, not want. Need, not what you think you need or somebody may have mentioned you need (if your friends aren’t experts, better make some new friends). So, because I know all this -and stubbornly insist on doing it myself- I volunteer it to the salesman. I explain what I’ve been doing and am comfortable with, what I’d like to be doing now, explained my test runs and the product I’m making. I even sent him a link to the blog entry so he could see the product.
So we get to talking. I did mention that others said a walking foot would do the job too but that it seemed rather brutal to me. Like sweeping your kitchen floor with a big shop broom or something. He agreed. He also said -which made me say “duh” out loud and slap the side of my head- that the reason the walking foot works is because it is also a needle feed. Boy, did I feel stupid. Was Wayne ready to sell me this machine? No, he was not. A good supplier shouldn’t. Not if you haven’t actually tested one on your materials. So, I had to send him some fabric samples by mail which I did yesterday. He’ll do a test sew and get back to me.
A bad supplier is the equivalent of an order taker at a call center. While they may be as cheery as Pollyanna at Sunday School, they just want the model number and quantity. They won’t ask you any questions about your product or anything else meaning you may end up with something you can’t use. This is just one of the myriad ways that paranoia costs you.
A note to Celeste (who offered to pick up the overlock) I wrote you but have not heard back. I actually have two overlocks. One is for home sewing that my MIL gave me to find a good home for and the other is an older Singer industrial. If I don’t hear from you by Saturday, I will be taking them to the Habitat for Humanity thrift store. Sorry, I need the space now.