Sunday, January 25, 2009

Made in the USA

Labeling for Made in the USA

Per my earlier post, I shared the government link for garment labeling in the USA.

1. The country of origin stating Made in the USA can ONLY be used if the fabric was also made in the USA. If the fabric was made in another country, it must state Made in the USA of Imported Fabric, Or Made in the USA of Fabric from China or something similar that clearly specifies that the fabric was Not made in the USA. Most of the Big Brands and Big Retailers know these rules and follow them closely.
2. But, it’s not well known among smaller players. I don’t think anyone means to misguide the public, it’s just unknown. And thankfully, we aren’t funding a government agency to round up and issue fines to smaller start up brands for failure to comply with Country of Origin rules. That would surely back fire. You’d see a mass exit of sewing in the USA so now ALL the jobs would be out sourced to other countries and the Label would simply state Made in China. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen.
3. It reminds me of the recent “dumping” penalty that the US applied towards polyester fiber from China. The US Man Made Fiber companies went after the Chinese for selling polyester below cost. (I’ll save the topic Buying from China – Where’s the Logic in the Prices- for another post.) The companies that still blow-filled-stuffed (or what ever you want to call it) and closed pillows in the USA with Chinese fiber were forced to pay more for the Chinese polyester or use the more expensive US polyester. The big winners here were those companies that had already shut down their USA operations and out sourced the entire product. These guys are already located across the border in Mexico where they fill, stitch and close pillows using cases made in China of Chinese fabric and polyester made in China. ( Or for Many, cost or price isn't the primary issue so they make and fill all the pillows in "another country" and import into the USA.) And the label correctly states Made in Mexico. I’m sure they got a chuckle on their way to the bank. Read all about it at the government link below.

All for now,

The Underwear Maven

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Labeling Requirements for USA

I was politely but firmly told that my Knit. Tuck. Or Float post was boring, rambling and not relevant to anything. But as a student of author David Allen and his “Ready for Anything” books, I’m using my Blog to park ideas.

Still - I’ll save Body sized tee shirts verses those with a side seam, the number of needles in a machine and the corresponding ends of yarn being fed into a machine at one time, and other great facts for later.
Let’s move to apparel labeling requirements for the USA. I must commend someone in the government for their sense of humor as many of these free informative booklet's have cute titles like this one called Threading Your Way Through the Labeling Requirements Under the Textile and Wool Acts
Check it out at this link

I wish the Federal Trade Commission and their Writing a Care Label booklet and the Consumer Product Safety folks and their textile Flammable Fabrics Act (and no this isn't just for children's sleepwear) would all get together and publish one booklet.

More later, sincerely,
The Underwear Maven

Monday, January 19, 2009

Knit. Tuck. or Float

Knit Tuck or Float – Circular Weft Knitting (Part 1)

I have a chant that goes through my head over and over when I visit circular weft knitting rooms. It goes like this “Round and Round, Up and Down; Knit, Tuck or Float.” Of course, it’s much more complicated but once you get the basic science down, do you really need to know much more?
Yes, those tiny loops that are intertwined to make the moveable knit fabrics with the wonderful hand and drape are knit on circular weft knitting machines. If the loops couldn’t distort to be tall and thin or stretch from side to side to be short and fat – well- you’d have something that felt and acted more like a woven. And always remember that the Loop Length Rules. Even in China although I had to get down to the dot – dot pictures with their technical guy before I understood that we were trying to explain the same thing.
Athletic Socks, panty hose, “seamless microfiber underwear”, tee shirts, and polo or golf shirts – it’s usually all knit on those circular weft knitting machines where the “stitch length” or loop length determines and controls the performance. Some of these knitting machines are smarter than others so let’s start with the dumbest of them all, a single needle jersey for a tee shirt.
Let’s pretend we’re the big brands and we blow out tee shirts by the millions of dozens every week. We’re so cost conscious that our Single Needle Knitting machines only have 1 set of tracks in the cams. So think about it like a roller coaster and the knitting machine needles are the passengers and they ride on this roller coaster track in attached cars. The arms on these passengers in the cars can raise their hands and grab a streamer and then put their hands back down. So the roller coaster track becomes the knitting machine cam track, the roller coaster car is the bottom of the needle called the needle butt that rides on this cam track. The passengers are the top of this “latch” needle and they can grab and release. This grab and release motion will mimic the top part of the the latch needle.
I’m sorry to say but our roller coaster only goes in a circle. And yes, if we’re the passengers then we’re going to be riding Round and Round, Up and Down, and our options are to Knit (hands up and grab) Tuck (hands back down) or Float (do nothing.) “Round and Round, Up and Down; Knit, Tuck or Float”
So how many people can ride on our roller coaster at one time? How many people can grab and pull different streamers in at one time? So when my needles travel one time in my circular machine – how many rows of fabric has been knit?
Suspense got you? Check back for these answers and more!


The Underwear Maven

Thursday, January 15, 2009

How much should your undies cost?

The cost of your underwear comes down to three main items. How much for the raw materials, how much material do you use and how much labor is used to transform the raw materials to garments.
1. For this example, let's stick to cotton underwear. (If you're into fossil fuels like polyester or regenerated wood pulp... hello it's modal, bamboo, and good old fashion rayon- it's the same principal only different starting numbers.) Cotton's a commodity and prices all over the world are easily found. Of course the USA has a HUGE subsidy which is usually a HUGE issue in World Trade Organization talks but I'll save that for a later post. I like Textile World on line magazine for a quick snap shot of cotton and yarn prices in the US.
2. How much fabric is used to make the garment. For knits this is called the Block Weight.
3. How much time does it take to sew the garment. Big companies have engineers that determine the best way to put the garment together or the Sew Method and then time each operator and operations for the Standard Allowed Minutes or SAMs.
4. Email me if you'd like a copy of my Excel Spreadsheet so you can play around with the Google document below. The current labor and overhead costs in blue are for USA. Labor can be cut significantly for lower wage countries and there's room for fixed overhead costs to come down - especially when it's related to buildings and supervisory costs - not machine repair parts.

Lea’s Knit Tee Shirt Cost Estimator - Used a cotton tee shirt so there's no need to account for elastic and or strip rubber or spandex in the legs. Also used a body sized tee so the number of sewing minutes is low since there's no side seam.

Red = Major cost trigger: Cotton per lb, dye or bleach stuff, block weights
Blue = Direct Labor Triggers Current blue are for USA direct labor cost. (Can also cut some overhead cost- especially in cut and sew operations.)
Black = process loss or waste and Fixed and Variable overhead (utilities, parts, etc.)
Green=Locked cells as these are calculated for above row


The Underwear Maven

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Dozens and Dollars of undies imported to USA

Now that we have our Harmonized Tariff Number or HTS which is 6701.11.00.10 we can enter the United States Office of apparel and Textiles or OTEXA at and look up the volume and dollars for imports. I used the common format which is for years 2006, 2007 and 12 months ending Oct 2008 but you can look up years of history if you want too!

I've organized the data on the Google Document in the link below.

Some of my highlight's and assumptions based on Dozens of Men's cotton brief imports to the USA 12 months ending Oct 2008
1. 42,218717 dozens were imported at a total imported value of $602,921,084 US dollars.
2. The big guys like Hanes Brands and Fruit of the Loom along with notable local factories are still in Central America and Dominican Republic.
3. 21% of the Total dozens were from Honduras with an average value of $9.36 a dozen, followed by El Salvador with 18% of the total volume and a value of $11.93.
4. Dominican Republic was in 4th place with 15% of the volume and a value of $10.89 a dozen.
5. Think of these as the the current CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operations) of the underwear business churning out pound after pound playing with Preferential Trade Programs to eliminate the 7.2% duty rate. Can bet that there's lots of US cotton (or cotton yarn) being hauled to these countries and then returned to the good ole USA as your Mass produced undies.
6. I love India and I'm glad to see that they are continuing to grow in volume. In 2006 they had 11.5% of volume, 2007 13% and 2008 up to 16%. Most of these companies in India are not the mindless CAFOs but still take the time to think about what they are making and how to improve the lives of their people and country. I still see the wind mill farms on the road from Tirupur going south to the port.
7. So, where's China. Actually China still had volume restraints so the big guys in Latin America could get their production established. In 2008, less than 2.5% of the men's cotton briefs came from China at a whopping average cost of $22.86. If China decides to play in the lowest cost commodity brief business - watch out Honduras, El Salvador and Dominican Republic because the 7.2% duty rate won't stop China.

All for today but please check out the official government link for additional data. And you can look up data for any and everything.

And if you want to know how much your cotton tee shirt should cost or something similar, check back tomorrow. It's all in the cost of cotton, the weight of the garment and how long it takes to sew it up.

bye for today,
The Underwear Maven

Lordy Where did they get your Underwear?

Lordy, Lordy, I declare Where’d they get your Underwear?

Thanks to the internet and government statistics, it’s rather easy to find out what countries are importing your undies into the USA and how much they cost. Let’s start by looking at men’s chief value cotton underwear bottoms. This would include knit briefs, thongs, and boxer briefs that are over 50% in weight of cotton (does not include any elastic bands.)
A cut and paste below directly from the United States International Trade Commission Website

Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (2009)
Annotated for Statistical Reporting Purposes
Heading/ Stat. Unit Rates of Duty
Subheading Suf- Article Description of 1 2
fix Quantity General Special
6107 Men's or boys' underpants, briefs, nightshirts, pajamas,
bathrobes, dressing gowns and similar articles, knitted or
Underpants and briefs:
6107.11.00 Of cotton . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7.4%
10 Men's (352) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . doz.

20 Boys' (352) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . doz.

OK, so maybe this is a little boring but corporate America actually paid me to do this so I’m sharing it for free with you! We need this HTS number for our next step at yet another free government web site called the Office of Textile and Apparel or (OTEXA)

So tomorrow we’ll check out the top countries and corresponding costs!
Bye for now,
The Underwear Maven