Sample cutting and sewing costs
From my mail, Ann writes:
I recently started using a professional pattern and sample service and the cost seems a little high to me. Was I out of line to request an itemize list of expenses? For one of my jackets (I had 3), the cutting was listed at 4 hours. That seems like a lot to me. The sewing was another 3 hours. Does that sound right? They are charging me $35 an hour so my sample cost is about $250. The reason I’m asking is because it didn’t take me this long to cut out this jacket when I made the practice garment.
For clarification, I asked Ann for more details about her jacket. It is a fully lined, knee length, double breasted pea coat. If the job was done well, $245 seems like a fair price. Here is how costs break down:
Typically, a lined coat pattern can take 8 hours to draft (the drafting costs weren’t mentioned). It is typical for cutting to take half that time and then sewing, if you have someone very experienced at it, can take two to three or maybe even 4 hours depending on the level of finishing (hand stitching, pressing) required.
There are several reasons that it can take longer to cut samples in a workroom than at home. The most obvious reason is that we don’t cut on folded fabric. Meaning, we don’t lay out each piece once on a double layer of fabric, cutting both pieces at the same time. This method is typically done in the home because few people have large enough tables to lay one layer of fabric down its full width. Accordingly, cutting on the fold can take half the time it would take in a shop.
There are several reasons practitioners wouldn’t cut on the fold. While the task can be called “cutting”, we are doing what amounts to a small production test which lowers your long term costs. We lay the pieces on the fabric as it will be done for larger quantities so best usage of the material is made. The customer needs an accurate figure of the amount of fabric used so the item can be costed correctly. To sum up, cutting double uses more fabric. If you use the cutting double figure for purchasing and costing, your material costs may be off, maybe as much as 15% or more -not an unreasonable estimate by any means because narrow widths are wasteful. [I'm curious what the percentage is. I think I will make a marker both ways and update this entry.]
The other thing customers often don’t understand is that cutting has a fairly high set up cost (time-wise) that remains static regardless of how many units are cut. By this I mean that the time needed to cut 100 (or 1000) identical jackets is not much more (percentage wise) than cutting one. As a crude example, it may take four hours to cut one sample but it is entirely possible that it would only take 5 hours to cut 100 of them. Meaning, your one sample cost $140 to cut but the cutting cost of each jacket in a production lot would be much less -about $1.75. The sample cutting cost is useful information because it can give you an idea of what a larger cut would cost so you can extrapolate a per unit cutting cost so you can figure product costing.
To play devil’s advocate, let’s say you wanted the sample cut double to save wage/time. Your cutting cost would be roughly half ($70) but you wouldn’t have a good figure for material usage; you could end up ordering more fabric than you need. If your fabric is $10 a yard and your utilization estimate (based on cutting double @ 2.5 yds ea) is 15% too high and you order fabric for 100 units, you’ve overspent on the order of $2,500 on fabric. Comparing the latter $2,500 to the $70 “extra” you’d pay to have the sample cut as a single ply rather than double, paying the single ply cutting fee seems like a better investment.
To be continued…