How T-Shirts are made in Garment Factories?

The T-shirts displayed in retail stores might be sourced from a different part of the world. If you shop a Crew Neck Tee from a shop in New York City, that piece might be sourced from one of the Asian countries. There are big factories (small as well) where these T-shirts are made. And sourced by brands or retailers. Did you ever try to know how t-shirts are made?

In a garment factory, hundreds of T-shirts are made daily. A garment factory gets the order for making T-shirts from international buyers or brands. It performs a number of activities to make finished T-shirts. In this post, you will be shown various processes a T-shirt factory follows up to shipping of T-shirts to its buyer.

T-shirt making cutting room
Fabric layering on cutting table

Understanding buyer requirement 

This is a very crucial stage to the supplier. Factory starts working on a design after receiving Techpack (design specification) with or without physical sample. Factory reviews T-shirt sample to understand the complete requirement of the buyer. A technical sheet normally includes the following points.

  • Reviewing T-shirt construction details – Number of components are there in a T-shirt. Style analysis is done to check types of seams are used joining parts and make a finished T-shirt. Review a t-shirt sample, if there are decorative stitches, location of trims application. Need to know sewing threads quality like thickness, strength, and fibre composition etc. In production point of view what types of machines to use making the desired design. 
  • Understanding raw materials requirement – Factory makes a list of materials required for making the T-shirt. Normally a T-shirt is made with knitted fabrics and rib. In the techpack designer mentions fabric specification for the particular design. Information such as fabric weight, yarn count, construction, fabric colour, and kind of yarn processing etc are some of the fabric specifications. In a simple way, the factory should know quality and quantity requirement.
  • Process to be followed - There are varieties of T-shirt design available. The factory needs to follow a specified process to make the desired final product. Factory maps process flow after analyzing the style. If processes to be followed are not clear then it would consume longer time and higher energy to complete the order. 
  • Value-added process requirement - Does the design have any printing or embroidery work? If the value-added process is there, finding the supplier where that process can be carried out. 
  • T-shirt quality requirements - stitch quality requirement like stitch per inch, allowance of measurement variation etc. Understanding fabric quality so that right fabrics are sourced for the order.
  • Finishing and packing instruction – In the techpack or buyer quality manual, buyer mentions details of finishing, tagging, labelling and packing details. The factory needs to understand all of these.

Sourcing of raw materials

The factory receives an order confirmation with the purchase order. After receiving of the order factory starts planning and sourcing of required materials. Research and development is carried out to be better prepared for the production and understand actual requirement of materials. As listed in the above step, how much fabrics and other items (trims and accessories) to source for the given order. 

Finding right suppliers for all items, price negotiation with all vendors/suppliers and closing the deal. Fabric sourcing includes development of fabric and color approval and proving fabric quality to fabric supplier. Inside a factory, fabrics are inspected for detecting fabric defects in fabric and separating those defective fabric rolls. Fabrics segregation is done if there is fabric shade variation and lot number is provided to each shade.

Other common materials required making a T-shirt includes sewing threads, transparent elastic tape, different types of label, logos, tags, packing materials etc. Everything is sourced in advance of production start.

To meet buyer’s requirement on fabric quality and giving them assurance that quality fabrics are used in making the T-shirt, factory submits test report on fabric properties (physical and chemical) prepared by nominated Testing Labs.

T-shirt Sampling 

Factory are not allowed making bulk production without buyer approvals on samples. So, factory has to make T-shirt samples and take approval on construction, FIT and embellishment. Sampling process can be done with similar quality fabrics. Merchandising department take care of garment sampling.

Factory needs to draft patterns for t-shirt samples and needs to modify and change to get correct fit. CAD system is used to make pattern. Later production pattern are developed after sample approval and grading is done for pattern in all sizes. This patterns are used in cutting fabrics and making garment as per required measurement.

Production Planning and scheduling

A factory is divided into multiple departments based on their activities. Planning department is one those. Planning team makes production schedule for each activities to complete t-shirt production on time. Prior to bulk production start, pre-production meeting is conducted in the factory.

Cutting of Fabric Layers

In a factory multiple fabrics layers are laid on the cutting table and all layers are cut together using power driven straight knife or computerized cutting machine. While cutting, quantity of different sizes and different colors are cut as per size ratio mentioned. Factory involves quality control team to maintain cutting quality.

Stitching of T-shirts

Cutting bundles are taken to sewing floor. T-shirts are stitched in lines, where number of operators involved making a T-shirt. T-shirt sewing operations are completed one by one at different machines and garment bundles are moved forward to the following operations. T-shirts are made as per design, which may include different types of stitches. Different types of machines are used to make those specified seams. Over lock, flat lock chain stitch and single needle lock machines are few name of such sewing machines.

Various types of production systems exist for making T-shirt. Most common production system for mass production is progressive bundle system and group production system. Sewing operators are paid fixed monthly salary or on piece rate based.

Garment Quality Control

When a garment factory makes export orders they are very careful on delivering quality T-shirts. Quality control team inspects fabrics, cut panels, value- added works, stitched garments. Corrective action is taken if defective pieces are found. Measurement checking is done randomly. Quality checking is done for 100% T-shirt in finishing stage. Factory may face many issues related to quality in various stages and those are solved prior to packing by the internal team.

Finishing of T-shirts

If buyer specified washing requirement, T-shirts are washed and tumble dried prior to pressing process. Thread trimming, mending, spotting, folding; and tagging are other processes done in finishing stage. Factory packs finished t-shirts as per buyer instruction. T-shirts are then packed into bigger carton. The finished t-shirts need to pass through buyer’s quality inspection.

Thus t-shirt order is made and sent to the buyer’s warehouse. And finally T-shirts reaches to retail stores.

Prasanta Sarkar

Prasanta Sarkar is a textile engineer and a postgraduate in fashion technology from NIFT, New Delhi, India. He has authored 6 books in the field of garment manufacturing technology, garment business setup, and industrial engineering. He loves writing how-to guide articles in the fashion industry niche. He has been working in the apparel manufacturing industry since 2006. He has visited garment factories in many countries and implemented process improvement projects in numerous garment units in different continents including Asia, Europe, and South Africa. He is the founder and editor of the Online Clothing Study Blog.

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