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Tips for beanie sourcing in China

by Li Zhang 

Here are, what I hope will be, helpful tips on beanie sourcing and manufacturing in China. Some places call them toboggans, or winter hats, or skullies, but we’ve found the common word for international sourcing has been beanies and that’s what we’re sticking with.

Sending an RFQ to a factory for a beanie sourcing quote? Here are some tips from our years of manufacturing that I believe will be good reminders.


As always, in the promotional product industry and branded merchandise world, attention to the logo reigns supreme.

For beanie sourcing, embroidery is going to be large point of focus when it comes to the branding. Some clients may send the supplier the stitch count. These would be brand managers or customers who are more familiar with the needs of their own logo, i.e. more in tune with their branding…as they should be!

I suggest to provide the stitch count if you can; the embroiderer or embroidering machines generally think in cost per thousand stitch. A neat factoid is that a square inch generally has 1,250 stitches.

Your stitch count is something you should have on file and between you and the production factory. This should allow the factory to be more accurate when quoting the product. But this is not a magic bullet. In beanie sourcing, many Chinese factories will need to see the artwork and make the sample themselves to get the most accurate price quote.

When working with new factories, do not assume the first quote they provide is accurate. If possible, hold out for the sample and then request the factory to reconfirm the quote.

A few quick ways to get the logo quoted and understood accurately by the factory before time is spent on sampling or before time is spent on sample…and wrong samples are made:

- Send the artwork in a proper file format.

- Send images of the quality of logo you would like to achieve.

- Describe the logo in practical terms: “higher-end,” “medium-end,” “very thick,” “standard”

- Give the measurements of the logo: “The logo is this many centimeters long and this many centimeters tall…”


This could have to do with color of the logo but more specifically, the color of the beanie material.

Many times in beanie sourcing, the quantities are not SUPER high. Since the quantities are not super high, the color of the material cannot always be dyed to Pantone spec.

Therefore, the factory must use stock or bulk material that is existing. Be prepared for this.

Do not assume new material is going to be dyed for a lower-volume order.

By no means am I saying that achieving an as-close-as-possible color is not the goal and possible in beanie sourcing. But if the start out from the assumption that it has to be this exact PMS color, then you may run in to some needless obstacles.

Solution? Send thread pieces or physical samples of color to match OR (and this second option may be the more efficient) have the vendor send you physical samples of thread to choose.

If you do not have physical samples to match and must only give a PMS #, give a PMS range if possible.

“The color needs to be PMS #_ but if it varies slightly, let it fall into the one color above range, not below” Does that make sense? You have to keep in mind that once a PMS is applied to physical material, it looks different than the cardboard Pantone card, it looks different than on a computer screen and it looks different when comparing two different materials that use the same Pantone (i.e. comparing plastic versus yarn).

Even if the quantity is high and the supplier agrees to dye the material, there is still room for variation. Therefore, whenever you give Pantone color to match, give a physical sample for the vendor to use as a reference guide….whew….that was long-winded, but needed to describe. 


Are there special material requirements you need to advise the factory?

In beanie sourcing and manufacturing, if you are not so clear on how to describe your material requirements, a practical path is to inform your factory of your budget or expected target price.

Giving the budget allows the factory to better grasp your quality expectations.

Thickness of beanie: A lower-end beanie can be 1 layer thick, a higher-end beanie can be 2layers thick.

Is there an interior lining? This is something to consider and obviously you want to inform the supplier this in the beginning quote discussions.

As always, if your material requirements are unique and you have a sample to send for duplication, send the sample to your vendor.


If you do not mention size to your supplier, they will consider what is to them a proper adult size and fit.

But be careful here. Some factories may still underestimate size. Chinese head size may be smaller? I don’t know.

Also you may have certain hang or fit you want your beanie to achieve.

- Send exact exterior measurements of the desired beanie.

- Send photos or selfies of the beanie on cool looking folks’ heads to give the factory the idea on the fit, hang or slouch you hope to achieve.


This is an important one and not to be overlooked. Most beanie orders for the promotional product industry are not super-huge quantities and the beanie needs to arrive to destination by a certain date.

Therefore air shipment comes into play and do not fall into the misconception that air shipping means super-high pricing.

Air shipping on certain quantities and for certain destinations makes more sense than sea shipping.

For sea shipping, you have the costs for LCL (light container loads), unloading costs, port charges, inland delivery. For 2,000 units, for example, there is basically a minimum cost. For air shipment of 2,000 units, again, all for example, can beat sea shipment in pricing… not to mention, anywhere from 18 to 23 days faster in transportation.

So therefore, air shipping is not only relevant for the promotional product industry but also if you’re sourcing these for Amazon sells or retail. If sea is higher cost, you want to explore air freight, but you want to do it right.

Therefore, inform your supplier that you need efficient packing for air shipping. You need the cartons efficiently packed, tightly sealed and, this is important, not overpacked/overweight. This needs to be pressed into your factories mind, “not sea shipment, but air shipment”.

Make sure the factory gives you the accurate packing specs because wrong specs mean wrong air shipping rates and going past one level of CBM unnecessarily from the supplier “loose” packing, can cause the air shipment to be unnecessarily high priced.

Bonus tips

- Think of different branding options besides embroidery: embossed patches, jacquard-style scenes or wording, sewn-on labels printed with logo

- Remind the supplier if any printed hangtags are required; inner wash label; anything specific on this bad boy?

- If the beanies are for children and have any kind of PVC decoration, you need to consider if the proper children’s testing is required. Remind your supplier this; most will not ask you. Also, if there are safety or children advisory notes to be printed on the individual polybags, inform your supplier this.

Li Zhang has worked in international manufacturing and exporting since 2003. She has served global brands such as Bayer, Coca Cola and Warner Bros. Her background is in design and engineering. Li is a native of Jiangsu Province and currently finds herself back and forth between Suzhou, China and the USA. Contact Li at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or find her penning manufacturing thoughts at her blog.


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