Why You Need A Sample

You have a great idea, you sketched it out, and possibly went onto Adobe Illustrator to finalize it. Now what should you do? Depending on the design, some products go straight into sample making, while others go into patternmaking. Either way, to ensure the best possible product, you will need a sample.

We asked 5 manufacturers why sample making is important to the production process and here are four main takeaways:

1. Reality Check:

One of the reasons sample making is so critical is because it serves as a reality check for you as a designer. It’s the first time your ideas take a 3 dimensional form. Sample making can have surprising outcomes, both good and bad, so it is important to allow yourself the time to go through the process, and make sure the final design is in alignment with what you were seeking creatively.

2. Saving Money in the Long Run:

In the long (and short) run, a good sample can save you lots of money. Matthew and I made iPhone sleeves back in the day, and because it was a simple construction, we went straight from patternmaking to tooling. It was a huge mistake. What we found out was that even though the seam allowance was off by less than a millimeter, it created serious issues.

Sara from Spooltown details two ways a sample can save you money:

  • First, there are many details in a physical sample that aren’t apparent in a technical drawing that you’ll want to make sure you like. The last thing you want is to receive a 500 piece production order that you don’t like the look of. Once your product is made, it’s generally too late to change anything, so you really want to work out the details before heading into production.

  • Second, you get the chance to road-test the construction on a sample, which can prevent costly customer returns, and bad first impressions of your business.

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3. Necessary to do Production:

The general consensus from all of the manufacturers we spoke with was that most production houses will not move into production without a final, approved sample. Leah from OliveLoom also emphasizes how “samples allow for better communication between the designer, the production team and the sample maker.” That peace of mind is well worth the time and expense.

4. Quality Control:

Along with setting your own expectations, having a sample in hand can help increase the quality of your production run, and hold your manufacturer accountable to a certain degree of detail.

“With a sample in-hand, the designer can see the flaws and strong points of the article, and work off of that,” says Laura from Sample Sewing. Jennifer, a factory owner agrees, “sample making is what sets the foundation for production, and is your best bet to ensure a smooth process.  By working out the design, fabric, fit, and construction in development, then having sound production patterns to reflect them, you are well-equipped for a successful production run, without the countless headaches that can arise from not taking the time to do so.”

It’s the #1 reason for Marianne from  Quick Turn Clothing: “During the sample making process, the method of construction is worked out with the creative and technical teams, to ensure the design will work with the technical aspects of the sewing process at the factory level. Taking a shortcut to any of this process will definitely jeopardize the quality of production.”

Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments

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Image courtesy of: Hang Ten Gold

  • Xochil Scheer

    Nice article – *definitely* need to have a sample in all cases in order to do production!

    “Depending on the design, some products go straight into sample making, while others go into patternmaking. Either way, to ensure the best possible product, you will need a sample.”

    However – a missed point here. EVERY design needs a pattern prior to sample making. Otherwise, if the sample is “approved”, you have to go back and reverse engineer to get a pattern, and the pattern will not match the sample exactly (trust me, it’s never exact, even when you rip seams apart and trace the pieces).

  • http://www.turnitonfitness.com Juetta West

    If someone makes a sample and gets it right the first time, I venture to say they are copying someone else’s pattern/work. It usually takes several samples to get the fit, function and sewing down. Sometimes designer creativity can’t be sewn or can’t be sewn at a cost that allows the end product to compete in the marketplace. Either way, a sample will prevent these mistakes.

  • VG

    How strange. I didn’t know anyone would consider moving into production without a sample. How would you even know your sewing contractor could make the product the way you require without their making a sample first, for instance? And as Xochil said, how can you create a production-ready sample without a pattern? I feel like I’ve gone through the looking glass.

  • Vergil5

    Im a new designer in NYC , trying to get my line off the ground. Particularly jeans and T-shirts. If anyone can offer advice or can assist me on certain fashion designing, please write me. It’ll be much appreciated

  • http://www.customlabels4u.com/woven-label-custom-logo-1.shtml CustomLabels4U

    Designers frequently ask us for free samples of our wholesale woven labels to check the quality and feel. We believe this is incredibly important when attempting to establish trust with potential clients.

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  • Michaela

    I would assume sample making would also be crucial if you were considering approaching anyone for manufacturing partnership for your design.

    Any thoughts on how LONG this process usually takes? An estimate? Trying to create a proposal for a grant and need to firgure out a work plan… also need to know timing of pattern making & grading, sourcing fabric and tech pack creation…. Thanks!