Do you farm an animal that produces fleece? Have you dreamed of turning the fleece into a wearable product? How exactly do you get your garment from paddock to wardrobe?
Firstly, it is NOT just as easy as buying a knitting machine and producing a garment. If it was that simple, we’d be out of business. Even if you have someone trained to run your knitting machine, you need so much more than just the one machine. To give you some idea, we will use our bestselling Outdoor jumper as an example:
- It takes three knitting machines to knit our Outdoor Jumper – one machine knits the sleeves to shape; another knits the panels and another knits the neck band – each of these machines requires bi-annual maintenance and consumable parts specific to them such as needles – not to mention each machine is program specific and what you make on one machine can’t be easily transposed to another without re-writing the program;
- These pieces need to be pressed on one of our two steam beds which are run by a boiler. The boiler requires annual safety checks and maintenance which has it pulled apart and out of service for one week each year;
- The pieces are then cut to a pattern. Our cutting station is equipped with state of the art cutting machines (to cut through several pieces at one time); solvent guns (to remove any machine oil stains) and of course an assortment of fabric cutting implements;
- In the case of our Outdoor Jumper, it then requires plain sewing and overlocking (two separate sewing machines) and depending on the style it may require buttons and button holes (another machine) or have a neckband applied using a combination of our zigzag machine and Quasar (two more machines) and all jumpers need bar tacking (another machine);
- Because we use a blended yarn for our Outdoor jumpers of recycled yarn and nylon, we then send these garments to a local commercial laundry to be machine washed and tumble dried – this ensures the garment won’t grow or shrink after being purchased. This is another cost in the process of creating a garment if your yarn might require it;
- When the garments are returned they are then pressed into shape and checked for any manufacturing faults before being tagged and packed.
The entire process of creating this garment has involved no less than eight separate persons, each qualified in their own area. It would take a very talented person to perform each of these tasks by themselves (especially to produce saleable volumes) and again, simply owning a knitting machine is only a very small part of the process. Also, our Outdoor garment is one of the easiest and fastest garments we produce here at Interknit, it has a relatively simple knit and doesn’t require any further specialised processes such as cup seaming or linking.
If you’re still following along and curious about how to get your fleece into a garment – read on to see what is required.
The process of commissioning a new knitted piece is multi-faceted. If this is your first time enquiring and you’re not really sure what is involved, please take a moment to consider the below points:
- Materials –
- Will you be supplying your own yarn or using yarn from our stocks?
- If you are supplying your own yarn, is it suitable for machine knitting? We have our Australian Merino yarn spun in India at one of the largest commercial spinning mills in the world. They are superb at commercial spinning and get it right each and every time while also professionally supplying us with certificates of authenticity proving which farms they purchased the greasy wool from. Some of our commission knitting customers have their yarns spun at other reputable spinners in Italy, New Zealand and for smaller volumes, even Australia. There is no way to determine if your yarn will be suitable for machine knitting without testing it as the list of variables are huge.
Problems we’ve encountered before are:
- Insufficiencies in the yarn such as it being twisted too tight or too loose;
- Imperfections in the yarn such as small bits of fluff or even little woodchips that break our machine needles;
- Needing to rewind the yarn;
- It doesn’t matter which ply or micron (thickness) your yarn is as we do have many different gauge machines and one of them will be suitable for the thickness of your yarn – the biggest thing to affect your garment yield will be the quality of the yarn;
- Can it be washed and dried? Will it need to be washed and dried after knitting and before sale? Is it colourfast? How many kilos will you be supplying at one time? Are you prepared to pay storage fees (including fumigation surcharges) if your yarn lives in our factory? Have you considered the nuances of a factory where there might be wastage due to a needle breaking on a machine for example or wastage due to new pattern testing? There is also a bit of wastage when cutting around a pattern. If your completed design weighs one kilogram and you supply one hundred kilograms of yarn, you will certainly not get one hundred finished garments.
- Design –
- Do you have a unique design? We work very hard to ensure there is no conflict of interest between our commission knitting customers and our own fashion ranges. We already make clothing; blankets and accessories for our own ranges as well as for some commission knitting customers. If your design idea closely resembles any existing pattern we will be unable to proceed with the job. It is best to have thought of a unique design that suits your brand and materials before approaching us;
- Have you made a prototype, if not, do you know the measurements of the finished garment? If it’s a blanket, please consider the flatbed knitting machines have a limited maximum width and if your design is extra-large you may need a middle seam etc.
- Do you need a size range? Do you have a cardboard pattern made up for cutting and sewing? Is this something you would need us to organise for you?
- What type of sewing is required? We can plain-sew; overlock; cup-seam and link however each of these styles give you a different finish and have different costings;
- You also need to consider machine gauge; stitch type; finished ply of your garment or how many ‘ends’ or cones of yarn are required on the machine at the same time;
- Do you have different colours?
- Incidentals –
- Care and content labels will be required. Do you know the care instructions for the materials you’ve chosen? Do you have a brand name you need on a label? Will you source your own label or do you require us to source it?
- Machine pattern design time is one of your greatest set-up costs. Your pattern needs to be painstakingly uploaded to the corresponding machine’s program stitch by stitch. If you plan on making frequent changes to your pattern (such as incorporating a word in a blanket that changes frequently) you will be incurring a lot of set-up costs. This is not a process that can be outsourced;
- Technician time is billed per minute at a minimum of $60/hr. If you haven’t got your design working the way you want it to and need to spend time with a technician to tweak it, please expect to be charged for this.
- Volumes –
- What do you anticipate your first order to be? 20 units? 200 units? 2,000 units? In general, the greater the unit number, the more cost effective the process and so a better price overall. If you are considering producing less than 50 units just to ‘see how they go’ it may be a very expensive process for you;
- What timeframes have you allowed for product testing and order completion? If you are planning to have product available to take to an event next month, your timeframe may not be reasonable.
- Costings –
- How much does your yarn cost you per kilo until it is ready to go onto our machines?
- How much does each garment cost to produce once you have incorporated the knitting machine set-up fees?
- How much are your competitors selling a similar style garment for?
- If you price your garments to suit the market, will you be making a profit? Will the venture be worth it?