How to Produce Your First Sample: The 3 Key Steps

Transforming your design from a sketch to a sample can be incredibly exciting, but it can also be a challenging part of the process. This article will help you efficiently produce your first samples.

Before you start sampling ensure you have your ideas refined and narrowed down. If you have a sketch, prototype, image, that will make things a great deal easier for you and your Sampler. The more thought you’ve put into your sketch, the better your sample will turn out. Additionally, being able to communicate detailed instructions will help prevent any unexpected problems or changes.

Once you are ready to start sampling ensure you invest time and effort into research. It’s imperative you find the right factory for your idea and needs. For example, a factory that specializes in evening wear may not be the right fit if you’re sampling activewear.

Pro-Tip #1: Try to keep production under one roof or at least within proximity. Many service-orientated businesses work together or refer work to one another. If you work with a pattern maker, ask if they can recommend a sample maker, factory, or seamstress/tailor.

Much of my business is referrals from patternmakers.  Equally, we always try to reciprocate when someone asks for a recommendation. Good relationships are essential. Mistakes or issues can be easily resolved when a relationship exists between your patternmaker and factory.


Top image and feature image captured inside The American Knitting Company.

The 3 Key Steps in Sample Production

Step 1: Sketching & Prototyping

The more information you have on your design, the better. The more details you can provide on your project, the better. Manufacturers can’t read your mind or conceptualize your line. Manufacturers and designers should collaborate as a team aiming to achieve the same goal.

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When I was a designer working with a producer, I always provided a sample to “sew by” – this is a term a manufacturer uses often. However, some manufacturers can readily interpret sketches. Here’re a few tips to help:

  1. Make certain you have as much information and notes on the sketch as possible.
  2. Request to see samples that manufacturer has created from a sketch.
  3. Remember, not every factory has a designer and seamstress in-house.

Step 2: Pattern Making

It is important that you capture the essence of your design without a complicated pattern. Even the most seasoned seamstresses can get confused. Additionally, the simpler your design, and pattern for that design, the better. It will be more production friendly, and you can likely use it as a basic for other styles in the same or future collections.

Pro-Tip #2: If you are not a skilled patternmaker, find a patternmaker or manufacturer that can help simplify your pattern without compromising the overall look.

If you’re interested in mass producing your line remember, simplicity is everything! Also, try to keep your production in one place – changing factories frequently can hurt your final product. The fewer pattern pieces, the better and the more efficient you production will be.

Pro-Tip #3: Remember, the sampling stage is a way to work out all the kinks!

Real Life Example: We are currently working with a customer who has a jacket with 55 pieces! The original pattern was created by another manufacturer in Asia and had different samples and prototypes produced from Canada to Pakistan. Because of errors in the pattern, making the sample has been a real challenge and somewhat of a nightmare.

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Step 3: Sourcing Fabrics & Materials

Do your homework and know what fabrics you are planning to use for your samples. You’ll want to keep an eye on the cost of your fabric per yard, even if you are producing luxury items. To help you produce your range more efficiently, consider these points:

  1. Fabric stores and jobbers only sell run-offs and leftover fabrics which means it will be challenging to locate fabric again and could cause problems if you need to increase your production volume
  2. Want to use a print? There are digital printers that can print on fabric at a reasonable cost with smaller minimums for sample production. You can find them on Maker’s Row
  3. Limit your color palette so that you reduce the amount of thread color variations. Constantly changing the thread color on the limited number of machines can slow the pace of production which means longer timeframes and higher costs
  4. If you need assistance with sourcing fabrics, make it a criteria in your search to find a factory with sourcing assistance. Some factories may have relationships with sources that specifically work with emerging brands, and their prices are very reasonable in comparison to fabric stores.


Want to master the art of sourcing to find your dream factory? Sign up for the Academy  Sourcing 101 E-Course (it’s free):

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