July 30, 2021

Thoughts on: Patterns and Notches

Thoughts on: Patterns and Notches

Photo: Both Nik and Tom are very busy these days patterning new designs. This photo was taken in the conference room/design office/prototype vault here at our headquarters in Seattle.

This week, Tom was patterning a reissue of a vintage bag. We asked him how it was going and here's what he told us:

For us, design / product development is an iterative process: there is no expectation that you get it “right” the first time around, or for that matter, even the tenth time around. This week, I worked with Fong and Lisa on nuancing the exact placement and utility of edge notches on the pattern parts for the vintage reissue mentioned above.

Edge notches are tiny nicks cut into the edges of the cut pieces of fabric. These notches act as guides for the sewing machine operators, signaling where a loop of webbing is to be pre-tacked into place, for example. More importantly and subtly, notches act as match points for the various panels to be joined together correctly in the final joining process. The perfect placement of notches gives us a magic combination of two crucial results: a bag that sews together easily and quickly, and a bag that looks sharp, without any gathering or wrinkles at the seams.

I really enjoy this process. Having myself spent years sewing my own designs, I appreciate when a bag is accurately patterned and cut, and I know the sewing floor feels that way too. There’s such a pleasure in assembling a bag that doesn’t require significant struggle, that sews “like butter”. This is important too because our sewing crew is not making one bag but hundreds, so minimizing that amount of wrangling and wrestling is multiplied many times over.

Yesterday, Lisa and Fong assembled a single sample of the vintage reissue, taking careful notes on the placement and angle of every notch, eventually returning to me the paper pattern pieces marked up with notes in red Sharpie. I make the changes on my laptop and we review them again.

After that, we proceed to a Pre-Production Batch (see the blog post: Synik 22/30 Pre-Production Batch), assuming we’ve got it 99% correct; any further adjustments that arise in sewing the PPB are made during that first batch. Even after the PPB, we might make a few more changes based on the feedback that the production crew share with us as they sew the bag.

(The notches all get covered by the internal binding tape in the final finish of the bag, so all this is hidden from you. You’ll just need to take our word for it!)

— Tom

2 comments

Darcy - CEO - August 2, 2021

@Ed Harp That’s a good question… so much so that we’re going to write a longer answer and share it as a new blog post. Will be up this week.

Ed Harp - August 2, 2021

How are the pieces cut from the pattern? Laser cutter?

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We're the TOM BIHN crew: we design bags, make bags, ship bags, and answer questions about bags. Oh, and we collaborate on blog posts, too.