Behind the Scenes: Fabric Yields


There are lots of reasons to try and get the most out of things. We strive to get the most out of our day and certainly our vacation. We organize our lives and values so as not to waste time or waste money. We think waste is bad and should be avoided if possible - so we tote our reusable bags and suck our iced coffee from paper and metal straws.

It is astounding how much waste goes on behind the scenes in manufacturing. Throughout the apparel industry, speed and profitability reign at the expense of environmental and human health. From the billions of gallons of water used for washing and dying fabric, to the tons of fabric scrap and overproduction, which often end up in landfills, making clothing can be massively wasteful. While we wait for global industry to develop into a more considerate machine, here in San Francisco we are working with our little operation to design and manufacture clothing in ways that generate less waste and are better quality. 


One of the ways that we minimize our waste is by cutting our garments as efficiently as possible, improving our fabric yields. We want a high yield, meaning we use less fabric per garment.

We design our patterns by hand, in house. To be able to cut many garments at once, in a factory, a pattern has to be made into a Marker, a stencil which a cutter will use to cut pieces from stacked layers of fabric. Since a lot of fabric is cut at once, any areas in a Marker that don’t have a pattern piece become waste, and that wasted fabric adds up fast!

We work with our Marker Maker to position each pattern piece strategically to get a high yield. When we’ve done all we can with arranging the existing pattern pieces and the yield still isn’t as good as we want it, we can consider changing the pattern pieces. Ever wondered why you dress or shirt has a seam in the back? It was probably less of a design choice and more of an efficiency choice. When you turn one large panel into two, it gives you more to play with and can cut down on fabric waste significantly. 

Another way we try to reduce waste is to design products that fit in typical “waste” areas. Our Gravel & Gold pouches are an example of this and are cut from otherwise wasted pieces of fabric. 


Here is a before and after shot of how we improved yield with a little creativity:
Pretty neat. That's how we're makin' more out of less!

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