Is Automated or Hand Cutting Better? We’ve Got the Evidence
Have you ever unpacked your t-shirt order only to find big variances in what should be the same sized tee? What should be a box of “mediums” has some tees that look more like smalls. So how does this happen? Achieving consistency when making tees on a massive wholesale scale is not easy, but at BELLA+CANVAS, we’ve invested in technology through our automated cutting that has allowed us to get it down to a science. We’re going to show you the process that go into making consistent fitting t-shirts and show you what separates Us from Them.
The Construction of the Tee
You probably assume all tees are cut the same. Or even more likely, you haven’t given it much thought at all. As we mentioned in the last blog, there are two types of construction–Side Seamed and Tubular.
With tubular construction, there’s not much cutting at all, but with side-seamed construction, the precision of the cutting has everything to do with the way the pieces fit together (think like a puzzle) and also determines the consistency of the garments across batches.
The Cutting Process
There are two types of cutting processes you should know about. Laser guided automated cutting (which is what we do at BELLA+CANVAS) and hand cutting, which is what all other manufactures of side-seamed tees in our industry do.
Let’s start with what we do at BEELLA+CANVAS. On our Los Angeles cutting floor, we cut hundreds of millions of units a year. These cutting machines are the most high-tech in the world. Seriously. No one else in our industry has these.
First, fabric is spread by the automatic spreaders. Then, we create markers with proprietary software that allows us to fit as many puzzle pieces as possible into each cut, eliminating fabric waste. Marker paper is set on top of fabric stack. Then fabric is compressed and vacuum sealed to make sure nothing moves even a millimeter. Finally the laser guides this 10” blade across 150 layers of fabric, cutting it like butter. We also cut these tiny notches in every piece, signaling to the sewers where they join together. And it’s through this automated cutting process that we can create puzzle pieces that fit together perfectly every time.
Ok, so now onto the other method. This is what a hand cutter looks like.
The first problem with this is that every operator is different–you might have someone who is left-handed and another operator who is right handed, creating inconsistencies in how the fabric is cut. Second, there’s nothing to secure the stack in place. It’s just a piece of paper placed on a stack of fabric. Sometimes the paper is stuck on with some spray glue.
Now, imagine cutting a 10 layer cake with a big knife. There’s just no way the top piece is going to be the exact same as the bottom. That’s what hand cutting is like.
This is why the highest tolerance (meaning the degree of variance you can expect from garment to garment) for the hand cutters is ¼” while ours is 1/64”. This might not seem like a big deal but it’s these little variances that create imperfect puzzle pieces that don’t quite fit together as well. And this is why you’re likely to find noticeable fit differences across the exact same size and style of a garment with other brands.
Top of the Line Technology
So why doesn’t everyone use automated cutters? Because they are freaking expensive. And labor is cheap when your cut your garments in central america, which is the way most manufacturers keep their costs down. And we cut all of ours right here in Los Angeles.
It’s a short-sided plan that makes the assumption that you, the consumer, won’t notice a less-than-perfect shirt construction. At BELLA+CANVAS, our efficiencies lie in technology, not in cheap labor. By investing in top-of-the line tech like automated cutting, we are able to make better quality goods, and keep all of our cutting right here in Los Angeles.
We are all about transparency and want to show you how we make tees from start to finish, so you can see what separates US from Them.
Learn more on how a BELLA+CANVAS tee is made! Check this out.
Subscribe to our YouTube channel for more informational videos on quality apparel!
Interested in learning more about us? Check out Behind BELLA+CANVAS.
Hi, Bella+Canvas. It’s a long story, but I’m helping two teams – one from UC San Francisco, one from Stanford (where I teach) – who are trying to make DIY protective gear for healthcare workers. (UCSF says they’ll run out in a few days!)
Would Bella+Canvas cut some fabric for the cause? Check out this video for the design: https://vimeo.com/399301324. This could help everyone!
Hi Andy! Thanks for reaching out about this. We have started our own mask initiative to help solve the shortage during this time. Feel free to check them out on https://masks.bellacanvas.com.