This past weekend, I spent both Saturday and Sunday mornings cutting out lightly waxed canvas fabric for my tote bags (my husband and parents took care of my little man, so I could do some work). I wanted to document how much waste is involved in my production method and share that with you.
I cut enough material for 6 medium size totes and 8 small size totes. I’m proud to say that VERY little is thrown away.
So for 14 bags, only a tiny pile of lightly waxed canvas fabric is garbage. It’s hard to tell from the picture on the left how much that really is, so I put it in a sandwich bag to show you the scale. I love this textile so much that I don’t want to waste any part of it, if I can, and it’s important that my business doesn’t impact the environment negatively.
The reason why I can make the bags with very little waste is really about planning the pattern placement. I utilize as much of the fabric as possible by placing the pattern pieces and marking them right next to each other. Then they are cut by hand one piece at a time. You won’t ever see this done in a factory setting. Why? Because it takes much too long. They have highly computerized machinery for the cutting.
I could have used a cloth cutter. It’s a small hand-held electric fabric cutter that can cut several layers at a time. This reduces the amount of time greatly, as I can mark my pattern once and then stack layers of fabric underneath it and cut it all at once. This is a pretty good method for small business production. However, there is still a bit more fabric waste involved. When I cut each pattern piece by hand, I have more control of how precise each piece turns out.
I always make my bags in small batches. Here, I just cut out material for 14 bags. People have asked me how long it takes to make one bag and I usually have a hard time giving them a specific answer because I usually never make just one bag alone, unless it’s a sample. I would usually have a a task in mind for the day, such as, cutting all the pattern pieces, sewing up all the zippers, setting all the brass rivets, etc. This way of small production makes it much more efficient.
These are the small fabric scraps that are left over. I don’t throw these away. They are kept in a box for things I might make in the future. The only garbage that is thrown away is the little sandwich bag full you saw from the picture on top.
Please visit the Modern Coup shop if you’re interested in seeing more pictures of the bags or to purchase.