Fiber to Fabric Solutions

How about infusing your day with a dose of inspiration? Imagine this: A world where eco-friendly fabrics are the norm and every product is sustainably manufactured right here in the United States. Sound impossible? Well, it’s already happening! In our second part of the series, we delve deeper into this fascinating world, exploring the tangible benefits of domestic manufacturing, and how entrepreneurs can tap into the wealth of resources available to them.

Guided by the insights from Tanya Wade, we’ll discuss in a Q&A format the nuts and bolts of local manufacturing, how her work with the Manufacturing Solutions Center and Sewn Goods Workshop empowers creators, and the role of sustainable fabrics in building resilient businesses.

Question 1

The Sewn Goods Workshop sounds amazing. And I personally kind of want to go to it, just to see you in action and learn everything. Even though I went to school for this stuff, I still want to see it because I feel like I could learn from it. But I’m in Pennsylvania. So, if there are other people like me who don’t live in your immediate area and they really want and need this program, what can they do? Are they allowed to attend? Is there a virtual version?

Answer 1

Definitely! As far as people who live outside of the Carolinas, we’ve had attendees from all over the country, even as far as Alaska. Our in-person workshop runs over two days and includes a multitude of activities, including an entrepreneurial event organized by our Chamber of Commerce. For those who can’t make it in person, we also offer virtual modules which provide the same education.

I will say the difference in those two, the virtual modules were actually videoed back during the pandemic. So, the education piece is the same except over the last two years since we filmed those, I update stuff all the time, but information has changed. Inflation has happened everywhere. So, in the video, it talks about typical cut and labor costs and it gives a range. Well, that range has now gone up. So, when it comes to the videos, there are some things on there in the last couple of years that may have changed and it’s hard to change videos, right? You don’t want to hire a film crew to come back in and film every six months or a year.

And the other big difference between in-person and videos that are online, is that hands-on piece you get when you come to the in-person workshop. Not only do you get to look through all those samples I talked about earlier, but you also do a tour of MSC on day one. You actually get to see those knitting machines that I’ve talked about. You get to see those things in action. And then on day two, the class is actually held at the Industrial Commons, which is a parent organization pretty much to the Carolina Textile District. Those folks do some amazing work and you tour a worker-owned cut and sew facility – Opportunity Threads, who was one of the other founding partners of CTD. There are hands-on experiences that you get being here in person that you’re really gonna miss out on if you just do it online. Also there is the crucial element of networking.

Question 2

That’s what I was just gonna say. You literally took the words out of my mouth. The next thing I was gonna say is while you’re there, I’m sure it’s really valuable to network with the other entrepreneurs…

Answer 2

Absolutely! Networking is a crucial part of the experience. We foster a support network among our attendees and extend it beyond the workshop by inviting them to a private Facebook group for Sewn Goods graduates. This forum allows everyone to share their progress, exchange ideas, or even find answers to shared challenges.

Question 3

That’s so cool. And then the other piece is that amazing library of fabrics that you said was 3900. Is that right?

Answer 3

Yes, we do have an extensive library of over 3900 samples of fabrics, hardware, and elastic. It’s a great resource for those who want to explore different materials firsthand.

Question 4

Ok. So, they can actually look through them and touch and feel? Ok. This is where we’re going to bridge into my neck of the woods, which is the fabric neck of the woods, and talk about Wazoodle fabric. I heard a rumor that we have our fabrics as a part of your library. Is that correct?

Answer 4

Yes. And I will tell you, Wazoodle has been phenomenal in not only providing a variety of fabrics, like I have a big basket that just has pretty much every fabric you guys had done because when I first connected with Sid back in 2016, when we started the Sewing Goods Workshop, he provided me with samples of everything. I was like, we need physical materials that people can come in and they can feel. Many people are like, “I have no clue what I want to use.” And Sid was so helpful and just so kind. He was like, “sure I’ll send you samples” and you know, that’s hard when you’re asking for a variety of pretty much everything a company carries. Most companies act like you’re asking for body parts and they’re like, “my arm” and I’m like, “I don’t want your arm. I just want your fabric, just send me a sample of all your fabrics.” For clients it’s easier because they’re only asking for one or two types of samples. I’m asking for a ton. So, it was great. Sid was so accommodating. He’s like, “yes, I’m gonna send this to you.” And then as I started talking to him I realized that Sid, Wazoodle and AKAS Textiles had it figured out.

Question 5

“Have it figured out.” What do you mean?

 

Answer 5

So, I’m teaching a class to entrepreneurs and startups and they don’t want to go to a mill and have to purchase 1000 yards per color, right? But they also don’t want to go to a wholesaler where they find a fabric they love, but then when they need to order a larger quantity, then they’re starting over to find that source. At Wazoodle and Akas textiles, if you want cut yardage, you go to wazoodle.com and at the time, if you wanted wholesale rolls like 50-yard bolts, you go to wholesale.wazoodle.com. And then when you get to where maybe you’ve been purchasing from Wazoodle and you love the fabric, but you want it a little heavier, when you get to the point that you can do a 1000 yards per color, at that point, you can send them on over to AKAS Textiles and they will do custom. The great thing is, it’s all here in the US. That is the part where you can grow with Wazoodle and AKAS. You’re not looking, once you grow out of that cut yardage and the wholesale, once you decide you want to do custom, you’re not starting over looking for a mill to do that. You grow with you guys. That’s the amazing thing that I tell everybody in my class. So, when I show them your samples, I’m like, OK, so maybe that’s a little lighter than what you want. But you can start with this, right? And when you get to where you can do 1000 yards per color, you give a call and you’re like, “I’ve been using this for a year and it’s a five-ounce per square yard weight and now I’m wanting something that’s four ounces”. That’s the amazing thing about Wazoodle and AKAS other than the fact that you guys are domestic, for sure.

Question 6

We have the same or similar clients. How would you say our missions kind of align? Like if there was a Venn diagram of two circles and they cross in the middle, what’s that middle part where we’re kind of synchronous together?

Answer 6

The fabric journey that Wazoodle offers is truly remarkable. It begins with a swatch that allows you to feel and see the fabric. Once you’re satisfied, you move up to ordering yards, and as your business grows, you graduate to ordering rolls and eventually pallets. This progression allows businesses to evolve at their own pace. The additional capabilities of custom color, custom prints, and even storage solutions make Wazoodle and AKAS a valuable partner for startups and established brands alike. All of this, combined with their commitment to sustainability and eco-friendly manufacturing, makes their offer almost too good to be true, but it is!

As I mentioned earlier, one of the things is we’re all about domestic made, all about made in the US. So that’s of course one of the big ones that aligns with Wazoodle. It’s all about having it made here in the US. The other piece of it too is the sustainable, eco-friendly one. We are trying to rebuild some of these communities. So, it’s not just sustainable eco-friendly, but the ethical piece, right, trying to rebuild some of these communities that were hit hard back when everything went overseas and our partners like CTD and the Industrial Commons, those folks also align with that. It’s all about building on our local heritage and skills and helping the manufacturers. We, I would say, revitalize the industry in a different way. So, it’s not gonna be the same. But again, it touches on that eco-friendly piece of it, the sustainable piece of it, but also the ethical piece of it.

Question 7

How do your mission and Wazoodle’s mission align, particularly in the context of sustainable and domestic manufacturing?

Answer 7

Our core alignments stem from a shared commitment to domestic manufacturing and sustainability. We believe in revitalizing the industry in a sustainable and ethical way, aiming to uplift communities hit hard when manufacturing moved overseas. Together, we’re striving to foster an environment that supports the growth of brands and manufacturers who wish to re-shore their operations and contribute to a more sustainable, ethical, and domestic textile industry.

We have a domestic resource lab here. That is all about helping the brands who want to restore as well as the entrepreneurs and the manufacturers who are looking specifically for domestic sources. I have the CTD source in the library and that’s what I use for the Sewing Goods workshop because there are some wholesalers and stuff in there as well. That’s a small quantity and that’s what a lot of my Sewing Goods people have to start with, right? Is that small quantity and then grow. And this domestic, this PPE textile resource lab we have in this new MSC facility,  it is all about domestic. So, a lot of it’s going to be mills, it’s going be the higher minimums, but that’s going to be great and will work fine for those brands who have been producing overseas and now they want to re-shore or manufacturers who have clients that they’ve been working with, who have the potential that they can order the larger quantities. We have the best practices cut and sew downstairs and that is where companies can come in and see some of the automated and semi-automated equipment. We do have a problem right now with finding skilled labor. That’s something that, when everything went overseas, people that could retire early, retired. Creating a skills gap.

 

Question 8

How are you helping makers navigate what has been termed the “skills gap”?

Answer 8

In the past, many trades weren’t passed down to the next generation, creating a skills gap. To bridge this gap, we’re using both traditional and innovative methods. On one hand, we’re teaching industrial sewing classes, passing on the essential craft and skill of sewing. On the other hand, we’re also focusing on training with semi-automated equipment to meet the needs of larger companies that require more automation. It’s essential that we don’t lose our heritage, the craft, the skill of sewing, while also helping the industry grow using automated technologies.

Question 9

Industrial sewing versus home sewing machines – what’s the difference and why does it matter?

Answer 9

It definitely helps people just to understand how their product is made. So, even if they take the sewing class, not with the intent of working in a cut and sew or producing their own product consistently or continuously. But just to be able to understand how their product is made. A lot of the manufacturer’s love people who have made their prototypes or samples because they then understand that if it’s small, it doesn’t mean it’s gonna be cheap. Sometimes your smaller things are more complex and what some people might think is, a quick, easy change is not always a quick, simple thing. So yeah, manufacturers tell me all the time. We love working with people who know their product well, like they know how it’s so they know how it’s put together. When we talk about possible changes, they completely understand this isn’t something that’s just gonna be a simple change and that there are steps involved. So, yeah, and then they also have a crafted production where they teach people that want to start their own cut and sew how to do that, how to set up machines and work with clients. So yeah, a ton of different education pieces at MSC. We have Stoll M1 training here where we can teach people how to program those Stoll flatbed knitting machines. We do that here. We have a Hosiery 101 class we teach at MSC. Between the Manufacturing Solution Center, the Carolina Textile District, and then we have another partner, the Textile Technology Center at Gaston. They have actual textile college classes. There’s a lot going on here in the Carolinas to help rebuild the textile industry and revitalize it and help rebuild it in a different way, a better way.

Question 10

Is there anything that you wanted to mention that maybe we didn’t hit yet?

Answer 10

Yeah, I think, I barely touched on some of the partners that we have but definitely checking out the Carolina Textile District, the Industrial Commons, and the Textile Technology Center at Gaston. Those are some partners of ours that do some pretty amazing stuff as well, especially some are more focused on the education piece whereas some are more on the manufacturing or actually in the industry. And then as far as the other thing is just how to reach out to MSC or CTD. If you go to the Manufacturing Solution Center’s website, we have everybody start with an application. And the reason we do that is because there’s information needed on the product or the project, we get that detailed information and that just saves everybody a ton of time. Plus there are different teams if you will, different people who handle different types of products. So we don’t want everybody calling me because I’m not gonna handle the knitted products and the person who does the knitting machines and that product development production is not the same person who does the Santoni knitting machines. I think the big thing is just anybody interested in having any type of product produced. As I mentioned, we have non-textile engineers as well. All of the applications, even the one for the Carolina Textile District, all of those can be found on the Manufacturing Solutions Center’s website at manufacturingsolutionscenter.org

If they have questions, they can email me directly at TWade@manufacturingsolutionscenter.org. Like I said, if it’s a question that it’s not something that I handle, I can at least refer them to somebody who can answer that question or somebody who can help them in that department.

 

Conclusion

As we wrap up this enlightening Q&A, it’s clear that investing in U.S. manufacturing and sustainable fabrics made in the USA is a choice that yields impressive results for the environment, businesses, and the economy.

Understanding the value of using sustainable, eco-friendly fabrics made in the USA, as well as the benefits of local manufacturing, is the first step towards making a positive impact. The resources provided by the Manufacturing Solutions Center and the Sewn Goods Workshop are invaluable for entrepreneurs and creators eager to learn and grow.

We encourage you to consider these choices and their benefits in your own life and business. Should you feel inspired to start your own journey of creating products sourced and manufactured in the United States, don’t hesitate to reach out to the Manufacturing Solutions Center. And remember, when it comes to choosing the best fabrics for your products, Wazoodle fabrics are an excellent choice for their sustainability and quality.

 

Contact 

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. 

https://www.manufacturingsolutionscenter.org/index.html

Looking to start your journey with education? Reach out to the Carolina Textile District and inquire about attending the Sewn Goods Workshop.

https://www.carolinatextiledistrict.com/

Have questions specific to our fabrics? No problem, connect with us using the email address below. 

support@wazoodle.com

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