THE SEWING DIVAS sewing, design, fashion

July 7, 2007

Setting up the Lines

Filed under: Industry,Machines,Technology — georgene @ 10:18 pm


I just got back from a trip to Puebla Mexico to check out a factory that will be doing production for my current project.

I may have been in every industrial backwater in the world from Pakistan to Malaysia via China and India. This place in Mexico was wonderful in comparison to some of the manufacturing areas I have seen, where the ditches run green with effluent and wild pigs cavort in the dusty rags caught in scraggy weeds on vacant lots, next door to the pitted rusting factory. Did I mention that it might be monsoon season and you would be wading thru the muck to get there?

This factory was very clean, modern, and well lit by the skylights you can see bisecting the roof above the main floor. Someone who is much smarter than I am about the industrialization of design flew in to set up the manufacturing lines for the dresses we are about to produce.


Here is the first set up with the machines placed in the order of operation. Those bits of cardboard that you see to the side of each machine have a swatch showing the exact operation required at that machine as a reference. Each operation is timed so that the total amount of time per garment can be calculated. Only then can the real actual cost for the garment be established. Until this step is taken, its all estimated.


Here’s a line set up for a simple tee shirt running on the floor while we were there.


After the garments come off the machine, they are individually checked and loose threads clipped before going to pressing. I like the stand up angled tables this factory uses, and the fact that the mounds of finished pieces are not allowed to become overwhelming. Some places I have been there are huge ziggurats of shirts threatening to engulf the checkers. Just having that never-ending pile would be enough to depress me. In this factory, although the women are on their feet, at least the angled table makes the laying out the garment easier, and relieves neck strain from bending over the table.


We left the factory at the end of the afternoon, with the sun still shining on the cornfield next door. Within 20 minutes the seasonal daily downpour started. Once back in Puebla town, the streets were running rivers, and we had to turn back from a few intersections where cars were completely flooded out. A Mexican monsoon moment that was over almost as quickly as it had begun.


  1. my abuela was from puebla and my tio went to law school there. it’s a beautiful town, what i remember of it (i was a young teenager when we were there). nice to see the clean modern factory. hope they do a great job on your dresses.

    Comment by mamafitz — July 7, 2007 @ 11:59 pm

  2. Wow, wow, wow…. I’m absolutely speechless about the quality of this plant, having worked in a small company producing protective clothing for a few years.
    All the light and space… and those reference sheets for every operation… I wish our stitchers would have had something like it. I take it that the quality of the garments produced there are of a high quality and should you let produce there, I wish you all the best for your line.

    Comment by Karina — July 8, 2007 @ 2:22 am

  3. That factory looks great! The owners show concern for the people working there and that is something I applaud! I wish you the best of luck for your current project!

    Comment by Tany — July 8, 2007 @ 4:36 am

  4. I have worked in various factories when younger, including a bindery. Those workers are lucky that they have space, light, face masks (which the bindery did not, even with all that paper dust–I only lasted a week) and the workers that are standing have anti-fatigue mats on which to stand. Those mats make all the difference in the world. I remember going home in tears, my feet hurt so. I used to work in sales/order entry for Tennessee Mat Company maker of Wearwell[tm] Mats and I know the thought that goes into design and production of those mats. Workers in pain produce a poorer quality product. This situation looks good.

    Comment by patsijean — July 8, 2007 @ 7:36 am

  5. Congrats for finding such a nice producer for your project, Georgene. It is nice to see a producer that takes care of its workers for a change …

    Comment by lorna — July 8, 2007 @ 12:15 pm

  6. How exceedingly cool! Much nicer than some of the factories that I have worked in (they weren’t garment factories, but they had lines set up in similar fashions).

    Comment by Gorgeous Things — July 8, 2007 @ 4:20 pm

  7. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. It is such a pleasure to see a modern factory providing a decent workplace for the employees.

    Comment by Cindyann — July 8, 2007 @ 4:59 pm

  8. Thanks for the inside look at a modern factory.

    Comment by Rosemary — July 9, 2007 @ 12:29 pm

  9. yes what a bright clean facility. Did the workers seem content and happy ? You can pretty much tell what type of environment they work within, by the worker’s general demeanor.

    Is this factory producing just knits, or can they do woven ?

    Did your monsoon rain episode make it possible for goods to be shipped out once completed ? How were the roads ?

    Comment by Simon — July 9, 2007 @ 3:09 pm

  10. Hi Simon

    I thought that the workers seemed reasonably happy – as a foreigner and representative of the buyer in this case, often one does not get a true read of the workers’ situation. This place was very clean and well-run, I would give it a few gold stars. Given that Mexican garment factories are closing right and left, due to pressure from Asian imports, perhaps they feel glad to have a job?

    I don’t think this unit is making wovens, but there are plenty of other places in the area that do, especially denim.

    We won’t be shipping for a couple of weeks – so far so good. The major transport thoroughfares seem to be well paved and not affected by the rain. I wasnt on any unpaved roads, not like some other countries where I have been to visit factories.

    Comment by Georgene — July 9, 2007 @ 3:19 pm

  11. Wow, what a beautiful factory – so bright and airy. I think I need some skylights in my shop!

    Comment by Gigi — July 10, 2007 @ 9:57 am

  12. Very interesting. My nicer than the cap and gown factory my grandmother used to work at here in the States that I visited before she retired. She used to run the pleating machine that makes the cartridge pleats around the yoke of graduation gowns, choir robes and the like.

    Comment by Summerset — July 10, 2007 @ 1:39 pm

  13. Most interesting. Might I inquire as to what you will be producing there? I’ve never read about this process before.
    Grateful thanks from Sweden where your blog is very much enjoyed.

    Comment by Lillian Hedbloom — July 11, 2007 @ 3:10 pm

  14. Hi Lillian,
    Our project is to produce 2 dress styles for our customer. The order is fairly big and the customer requires a factory certification stating that human rights are respected at the facility. This includes all kinds of occupational health and safety standards, as well as a required number of breaks during the day, and payment of overtime, etc.

    These are all things that one would hope would be done as a matter of course, but are sadly lacking in many factories in poorer countries, where ‘first world’ producers go to produce garments at the lowest prices. Mexico no longer qualifies as one of the lowest price producers, by the way. Their economy is suffering as more and more goods are produced further down in Central America, and in Asia (not China – think Viet Nam and Myanmar).

    Everyone loves to get a great deal on clothing, but please think of how it is being produced when you buy a low cost garment. It’s better to buy good quality and keep the garment longer, and recycle or re-fashion, than to throw an item away because it falls apart within 6 months or shrinks so badly you can no longer wear it.

    Comment by Georgene — July 11, 2007 @ 6:49 pm

  15. I’ve been so curious about the Mexican facility and am glad to see these pictures, Georgene. Look at all the room for air to circulate! and the ergonomic tables and the sewing charts. How cool!

    The original building that is now only a part of my family’s mfg plant was one of many sewing factories in TN. It was only 6000 sq feet and housed 100 women, sewing machines, pressing and packaging equipment, 5 plywood restrooms and the management’s offices with a tiny breakroom. That company closed it’s doors right before Christmas break in 1986 when Sears canceled its contracts and took all the sewing over to Korea. The employees came to work on Jan 2 to find the doors chained shut. How sad a day that must have been.

    Comment by Mary Beth — July 14, 2007 @ 12:21 pm

  16. Too bad most other Mexican factories can’t get their act together and be as organized as this one appears to be.

    Many large US apparel companies tried opening Mexican facilities, but most closed within a few years, citing the usual reasons why things in Mexico can’t be done properly and profitably.

    You must be paying very decent money to this factory owner in order to get your dress order done right and on-time. Don’t suppose you want to share this source do you ?

    Comment by Simon — July 17, 2007 @ 12:02 pm

  17. Would love to hear how you found this facility. Are you doing huge orders? Are you there overseeing the production Can we chat more?

    Comment by Iris — July 21, 2007 @ 10:32 am

  18. The company I am working with hired an experienced production manager, with a rolodex full of contacts. While I do not oversee production, I am sometimes called in to set the style, and make sure that design’s concerns are addressed in the manufacturing process. No matter what the size of the order, it’s important to ensure that the final product matches the original design sold to the customer.

    Comment by georgene — July 21, 2007 @ 12:07 pm

  19. Place looks fantastic. I am looking for a manufacturer who can make my line of clothing in the U.S. where would you recomend to look in Southern California.

    Comment by William — July 24, 2007 @ 2:49 pm

  20. I think I’d rather work there than my current job!

    Comment by Amy — July 25, 2007 @ 10:07 pm

  21. I worked at columbia sortswear in the early 80s and I say get those people a freckin chair.

    Comment by Teresa — August 1, 2007 @ 1:33 pm

  22. what a shame you felt that you had to look outside the US to manufacture your product. Just another example of cheap labor vs profits.

    Comment by Gail — September 25, 2007 @ 5:19 pm

  23. I’m from Puebla Mexico, I worked in a factory like this after i graduated from HS with a bachelor degree of tecnical supervisor (in this area) and yes it looks really nice, but what they pay is crap like 90 dollars for Bi-weekley job from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm. I think they should value more this substantial jobs don’t you think?

    Comment by tmo — January 9, 2008 @ 8:48 pm

  24. TMO I have no knowledge of what are customary wages in your area. I do know that I have seen some factories in Asia that are the pits, terrible hellholes. At the very least this factory functions well and is clean and well lit, which I found very impressive compared to some of the places I have been.

    We are working with companies that require factory certification So working conditions, overtime practices, and human rights must be respected in order to get that certification, otherwise we cannot produce goods at that factory. If more retailers insist on certification, eventually fair labor practices become standard.

    Comment by georgene — January 9, 2008 @ 8:57 pm

  25. Georgene,
    i am currently searching for a company to sew for me in mexico. i am making cotton shopping bags. do you think this factory would sew shopping bags and can you tell me how i could contact this company? Thanks! Stephanie

    Comment by Stephanie — January 14, 2008 @ 1:11 pm

  26. Sorry Stephanie, non-disclosure policy does not allow to name the factory. Good luck with your endeavor, as cotton shopping bags are a good item to push for green conservation principles.

    Comment by georgene — January 14, 2008 @ 1:43 pm

  27. i love mexico

    Comment by loooooooop — March 13, 2008 @ 1:00 pm

  28. I am currently trying to set up a T-Shirt tailoring factory.
    Please can you advice me on what to do, who to meet and trainers and suppliers of equipment because i am currently sorta lost in what steps to take.
    thank you very Much.
    Opaluwah Akor.

    Comment by Opaluwah Akor — October 27, 2009 @ 9:42 am

    • Good luck in your endeavor, Opaluwah. I regret that I do not have any information that might guide you in setting up a factory.

      Depending on what country you are trying to start up in, there might be some advisory agency that can give you direction. Years ago I worked with some factories in Tanzania which were promoted by the central government to bring jobs into their countryside.

      The Sewing Divas salute you for your efforts!

      Comment by georgene — October 27, 2009 @ 9:52 am

  29. i really enjoyed looking at these pictures i run a clothing copany that makes african clothing for men and women that want to look and feel celebrated. i want to open a clothing factory in Africa that would be up to all the required standards,meet safety requirements and offer satisfactory salaries /wages. i need any relevant information on machines,and relevantant steps to setup, all setup requirements. i would be happy if you can provide any useful information. thank you

    Comment by SOLA BABATUNDE — October 31, 2009 @ 11:49 am

  30. It looks line a nice factory for sewing, good job.Thank you for your post.

    Comment by deanelectricguitars — December 21, 2009 @ 1:29 pm

  31. I would like to have the contact information for this company.
    Please provide.

    Comment by Judi — January 15, 2010 @ 2:22 pm

  32. Please provide me with the name of the factory and the person to contact for jobs.



    Comment by Monti — April 16, 2010 @ 6:32 pm

  33. Sorry I do not give factory references. This blogpost is not about the factory but the process.

    Comment by georgene — August 15, 2010 @ 8:52 pm

  34. I was just wondering what type of clothing that you sew and how can I get of hold of the manager or person in charge for orders.

    Thank you for your time,

    Looking forward to here from you,


    Comment by Lisa C Desmarais — November 26, 2010 @ 4:14 pm

  35. I own a Sewing mill here in mexico with about 250 workers, if you are intrested in getting intouch with me, my E-mail is

    Comment by Tim — December 2, 2010 @ 7:04 pm

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