As you walk through a garment factory, you’ve got one thing on your mind: the satisfaction it’ll bring your customers when they buy an item from your line of shirts. With designs finalized and shipping arrangements in motion, all you’re waiting for is quality fabric from your supplier.
But there’s a problem.
That “quality” fabric you’re waiting for actually has a lot of problems. Product inspection at the fabric supplier’s facility reveals fabric defects ranging from drop stitches to color shading variation and others. The number of defects present in the fabric makes it clear that there will be a lot of wasted material as the garment manufacturer cuts around the issues.
Where do these kinds of fabric defects come from? And how can you prevent them from negatively impacting the quality of your products?
Here are five common fabric defects and how to prevent them:
1. Drop stitches
One of the most common quality issues found in raw textiles, drop stitches are holes or missed stitches that appear randomly in the fabric. Drop stitches are typically caused by:
• Incorrect set-up of yarn carriers;
• Slubs & knots;
• Yarn overfeeding or underfeeding; and
• Loose stitching during the production process.
How to prevent drop stitching
Drop stitches can be prevented by checking the yarn carrier and any other machines to verify they’re set to the right tension so the yarn isn’t too loose or too tight during production. You can minimize the occurrence of drop stitching in your fabric or textile by regulating the yarn feed rate.
2. Dye marks
Dye marks are irregular patches on the surface of raw textiles. Dye marks are typically the result of:
• Low quality base fabric;
• Improper leveling agents;
• An incorrect pH in the production process; and
• Dye machine entanglement.
How to prevent dye marks
Dye marks can be prevented by making sure there are no initial problems with the base fabric prior to stitching, as any issues missed will be present in later processing of the fabric. Other preventative measures include maintaining the correct pH level, using an appropriate dying agent and using a backup power generator to ensure production machines don’t shut down during use.
3. Horizontal lines
This fabric defect is defined by irregular lines that run from side to side. Horizontal lines are generally caused by:
• Faults in the bobbin (the barrel used to hold yarn in place); and
• Irregular thread tension.
How to prevent horizontal lines in fabric
Preventing the appearance of horizontal lines in fabric is quite straightforward. Regularly replace the bobbin and frequently check thread tension and positioning.
4. Shade variation
One of the more obvious visual defects that can be found on raw textiles, shade variation is defined by a difference in depth of shade and color from roll to roll or piece to piece. Shade variation in fabric is caused by:
• Mixing of fabrics used in production;
• Variations in the production process in regards to time and speed;
• Improper cutting, bundling, and/or numbering; and
• Unequal fabric stretching.
How to prevent shade variation in fabric
Shade variation can be effectively prevented by using the same base material and set of parameters for each production lot. When visiting a factory that manufactures raw textiles, it’s critical to observe that workers are only combining garments of the same color and not taking shortcuts when cutting and bundling. Lastly, proper numbering of textile types prevents combining cuts that vary in shade.
Stains are fairly common among dyed textiles and are defined as spots or patches of differing color that appear on textiles. Textiles are never truly safe from stains because they can occur during production, as well as afterwards if they’re not kept in an area with adequate protection.
Stains can appear on fabrics from just about any source. Dirt from the factory floor, oil from machinery and dyes are all known sources. Stains are relatively easy to identify and prevent so long as suppliers are vigilant about quality.
How to prevent stains
Stains can be prevented during production by regularly cleaning production machines and equipment to ensure no random oils, grease or dyes from previous purchase orders make their way onto the textile.
Post-production stains can be avoided by wrapping the finished rolls of fabric in plastic and storing them in a separate area away from where dying takes place.
Customers usually expect a certain level of quality when they buy a shirt, a blouse, a pair of jeans or a dress. As with any quality issues, fabric defects can negatively affect sales, as well as customer satisfaction and brand perception.
Whether you’re using fabric to produce inexpensive, promotional t-shirts or high-end furniture upholstery, knowing about which defects to look out for and avoid can help you save money on needlessly wasted materials and lost sales.
George Huang is a Client Manager at InTouch Manufacturing Services, a QC firm that performs product inspections and factory audits in Asia for clients in the US, EU and Australia.