How to Get a Professional Finish [The Order of Operations]


We’re back on track this week! Last week we did a little side step and I showed you some throw back photos from my trip to Shanghai a few years back. If you’d like to see some photos of the sewing factory I visited and get a behind the scenes look, watch this!

This week’s video is all about what is referred to in the industry as “the order of operations”. The order of operations is essentially a set of garment assembly instructions. It is the step-by-step process of putting a specific garment together in the most efficient way possible.

In the fashion industry these sewing instructions aren’t written out in detail like they are in the home sewing industry. If they are written down at all they will look like a short bullet list of tasks, similar to how you might write a to do list.

Sewing factories divide the garment assembly process into bulk tasks. The workers who are most skilled at that particular task can then complete it quickly and efficiently.

A simplified version looks like this: Cutting, Bundling, Sewing, Finishing

Cutting is the process of laying out the fabric and cutting out the pattern. In the industry the fabric is laid out in a single layer with many layers stacked on top of each other so that hundreds of garments can be cut at the same time. Obviously you don’t need to cut several of the same garment but you can create cutting efficiency by doing all of you’re cutting for several projects in one session.

Bundling is the next step in the process. This is the point where each of the cut pieces are ticketed and bundled to prepare them for the sewing process. The ticketing organizes the pieces into batches so that the garment can move from one sewing station to the other in an organized way.

Bundling is what I call “prepping the pieces”. If you’ve ever sewn one of my patterns you’ll find that the first step is called "sewing prep". This walks you through the pre-sewing steps for that particular garment. These include transferring all of your pattern markings, applying interfacings and pre-folding and pressing fold lines and hemlines.

When this pre-sewing work is done before you start the sewing process the sewing naturally goes a lot more quickly because you don’t have to interrupt the sewing process to do other tasks. Once again, you can prep your pieces for several projects at one time so that when you’re ready to sew, it really is a sewing day!

Once all your pieces are prepped, the sewing process can begin. This is where the order of operations really comes into play. As I said, factories don’t use sewing instructions like we do because they have already been trained in the construction technique they will be doing. Actually, quite a few sewing pattern companies also assume this of you, so it’s a good idea to learn the general order of work for each garment type.

The important thing to remember about the order of operations is that you want to keep the garment flat for as long as possible. This makes each of the sewing processes easier to manipulate and complete on a machine. It also ensures that each section of the garment is handled less which keep the garment fresh and clean. When you have this in mind you’ll see that all garments are generally constructed in the same order.

  1. Darts/Tucks/Pleats
  2. Style lines: princess seams, yoke seams
  3. Pockets
  4. Zippers
  5. Shoulder Seams
  6. Side Seams and Inseams
  7. Waistbands/Facings for Skirts/Pants
  8. Collars
  9. Sleeves
  10. Hems
  11. Closures-Buttons/Button Holes

Of course there are exceptions to this list, but this is a good general guideline. Watch the video to see how the order of operations flows in the In-House Patterns Ellen pant so you can see more clearly how this works.

After you've watched the video, tell me, do you batch your cutting and prep your pieces in advance? If not, I encourage you to try it. You’ll probably find that you can complete more than one sewing project in a day using this method.

If you’d like to get some guidance on how to adopt this to your sewing routine, you can find my sewing patterns at The assembly instructions will walk you through this efficient process step by step. You'll also find the zipper setting tutorial I told you about HERE.

Next week, I’ll be taking a break from the videos but if you’re on my email list, I’m going to send you something special so keep your eye out for that. If you're not on my email list SIGN UP HERE, you'll get a free fitting workbook and weekly emails that will elevate your sewing!

I hope you enjoy the video!

All My Best,