Imagine being able to create products that not only look and feel great but also leave a minimal footprint on the environment. Picture being part of a revolution that is redefining the American textile industry, weaving sustainability and eco-friendliness into every thread. In this deep dive, we explore these possibilities through a stimulating conversation with Tanya Wade, the Resource Lab Manager at the Manufacturing Solutions Center (MSC) in North Carolina. Wade shares her insights on sustainable manufacturing in the U.S., the benefits of using eco-friendly Wazoodle fabrics (explored more in part 2 – stay tuned for the upcoming second half of this two-part blog series.), and the power of education via the Sewn Goods Workshop. Grab a cup of your favorite brew and let’s jump right into this informative Q&A!
What is Manufacturing Solution Center, and what role does it play in supporting domestic manufacturing and the use of sustainable fabrics made in the USA?
Manufacturing Solution Center (MSC) began its journey as the Hosiery Technology Center in 1990, focusing primarily on the hosiery industry. However, over time, it expanded to cater to various manufacturing sectors. MSC now supports testing, prototyping, and R&D facilities for a range of industries.
As part of Catawba Valley Community College, MSC’s mission is to help domestic manufacturers meet demand, increase sales, and improve quality and efficiency. Ultimately, it’s about creating and retaining jobs within the United States. Additionally, MSC emphasizes the value of using sustainable fabrics and has an arsenal of resources to help brands and entrepreneurs, especially those keen on sustainability.
What can a budding entrepreneur expect from the Manufacturing Solution Center in terms of support, especially if they’re focused on sustainable fashion?
As an entrepreneur or a small brand, if you’re passionate about sustainable fashion and eco-friendly fabrics, MSC is a treasure chest of resources. One of the core services is sourcing assistance. I handle sourcing, and can also connect brands with additional resources for various aspects of product development.
MSC houses state-of-the-art knitting machines and assists clients with product development and small-run productions. They also have collaborations, like the one with Nova Knits, that specialize in technical products. By working with MSC, entrepreneurs have access to immense knowledge, technology, and networking opportunities.
Can you shed some light on the Sewn Goods Workshop through the Carolina Textile District and how it can benefit entrepreneurs?
The Carolina Textile District, of which MSC is a founding member, plays a significant role in connecting entrepreneurs with domestic cut-and-sew facilities. For those who are into cut-and-sew products, the Sewn Goods Workshop is an invaluable resource.
The Sewn Goods Workshop provides entrepreneurs with knowledge, skills, and networking opportunities crucial to navigating the textile industry. By attending the workshop, budding fashion entrepreneurs can gain insights into the supply chain, sourcing, and production processes, especially focusing on sustainable and organic fabrics.
So as the resource lab manager, at MSC, what exactly is your role to help people to facilitate success for them? What do you do to help navigate this terrain?
The Resource Lab at MSC helps startups and brands source the necessary materials such as fabric, narrow trims, or hardware elastic for their products. When entrepreneurs are looking to produce textile products, like socks on a knitting machine, I direct them to our application process. However, for cut and sew assistance, we refer them to the Carolina Textile District. We also accommodate non-textile projects with our engineering department. Whether you are looking to test structural furniture or want to prototype using our 3D printers and CNC routers, MSC has you covered!
So really you can help a variety of people, not just people looking to go into the textile realm.
Absolutely! We are a comprehensive resource, guiding individuals to other helpful contacts within and outside MSC. Additionally, I teach at the Carolina Textile District’s Sewn Goods Workshop, providing a valuable learning opportunity for those venturing into the textile industry.
What happens if I go to the Sewn Goods Workshop?
The Sewn Goods Workshop was born out of a need to better educate startups and entrepreneurs. In the workshop, we cover five different modules: material sourcing, finishing and printing, design, and pattern making. The goal is to empower attendees with the knowledge they need to streamline their manufacturing process and ensure they’re prepared for the realities of manufacturing in the U.S.
Do you actually generate any patterns like any oak tag, like patterns or anything like that or it’s just a matter of explaining the difference between, here’s the person who conceptualizes it and makes the flat and the flat has all the technical information on it and then it gets put into, you know, oak tag or what have you into the actual cutting patterns themselves. That they’ll put on the fabric and actually cut around. Is that more of what you educate on?
Absolutely. Our workshops are all about educating, but we take it a step further. We teach attendees the difference between knits and woven, various types of fibers, and how to source materials. Each participant receives a detailed sourcing list, categorized by fabric type and including contact information for mills, manufacturers, wholesalers, and converters. This is to ensure that they reach out to the right source according to their needs and budget, saving both their time and that of potential suppliers.
When it comes to pattern makers, we understand the nuances between them and designers, and how each can play a unique role depending on the product, which is where the Carolina Textile District comes in. We match our clients to the appropriate designer and production companies, ensuring that both parties are not just capable, but also interested in the project.
For price points, for the final, like the retail price point. Is that what you mean?
Actually, it’s more about the cut and sew costs. One of the key aspects we teach in our workshop is the roles and responsibilities when working with a manufacturing company in the US. Typically, the client provides most of the materials, with the manufacturer contributing only the basic thread. Therefore, the main cost a client should be concerned about is the cut and sew cost, which is heavily influenced by their choice of materials.
You’re talking about like, I want a specific size for this small. I want the sleeve to be more of a three-quarter on my t-shirt versus a cap. I want it to be a crop versus an elongation like those sorts of customized pieces. Ok.
Exactly. In custom production, you choose your own fabric, measurements, and style, which distinguishes it from blanks where the manufacturer chooses the fabric and measurements. Therefore, the cost can significantly vary.
And that’s per size. Correct?
It depends on the company. Some allow multiple sizes and colorways within their minimums, while others go per style per size. Our class focuses on teaching all the different aspects that these companies offer, highlighting the variety of services available.
So that’s just the cut and sew, that’s not the fabric, that’s not anything else. That’s just to have them cut and put together the T-shirt is between $6 to $15.
Yes, that’s correct. The prices can vary based on the company’s hourly rates and their minimums. For example, if they have higher minimums, they can offer cheaper rates.
Our mission is to educate and help potential entrepreneurs to understand this landscape, the differences between pattern makers and designers, and the varying services offered by production companies. It’s key to remember that while all these companies are in the US, their terms, conditions, and services can significantly differ.
Our conversation with Tanya Wade emphasizes the value of domestic manufacturing, especially when it comes to using sustainable fabrics like those offered by Wazoodle. The benefits of manufacturing in the U.S., from superior quality control to environmental sustainability, are immense. Whether you’re an entrepreneur in the textile industry or a curious maker looking to prototype a non-textile product, the Manufacturing Solutions Center can provide you with invaluable resources.
If you’re feeling inspired to create sustainable products using U.S. manufactured eco-friendly fabrics, we encourage you to reach out to the Manufacturing Solutions Center. Don’t forget to check out the Carolina Textile District’s Sewn Goods Workshop for a comprehensive learning experience. Keep making, keep creating, and let’s continue to weave sustainability into the fabric of our future.
Ready to start your creative journey and connect with the Manufacturing Solutions Center? It’s simple. Just click the link below and complete the intake form that is applicable to you and your goals.
Looking to start your journey with education? Reach out to the Carolina Textile District and inquire about attending the Sewn Goods Workshop.
Have questions specific to our fabrics? No problem, connect with us using the email address below.