You aren't imagining things. It is harder. I still don't have drapes in the room I am sitting in as the last five fabrics I have searched and chosen have been discontinued while I am contemplating the sample I was sent - once in the time it took to mail it to me! On the supplier end, two of the three mills in the USA that I have dealt with for silk fabrics for my courses have gone bankrupt. Those kits are no longer in my line. The last ten years of world economic recession has dealt a death blow to so many medium and niche businesses that didn't have the ability to wait out for an upswing. If they have survived, they have reacted by cutting down production, product lines and only weaving/spinning the minimum they have to do to turn on the machines.
That is the word you hear routinely now. From me, from the shop owners, from the distributors, and from the manufacturers.
What? From them too? What does that even mean - They make the stuff!?
What that means is that textile businesses today have seen their market shrink so much since the 1980s that they no longer have the capital to run their machines to make the 500 yards it takes to turn the machine on to fill the order for 50 yards because they will have to put the other 450 yards on the shelf and it might take years to sell that. Effectively they would be spending more to make it than the sale. So they put the order on backorder. They wait until a few other people order 20, then 50, then 30 yards, etc. Then when they have 250 yards on order, they can turn on the machine as that 'run' is paid for. The 250 yards on the shelf will be the profit that comes in over the longer period and then that cycle starts again.
That is why we seem to see this feast or famine behavior in our threads.
|Visiting a Gold Thread maker to understand |
the machine capabilities and minimums
Custom manufacturing means that I come to them with an idea. I want that pattern in a color they don't make. Or I want silk wrapped purl. Or some linen dyed wode green blue. I know they can do it, but it will take a bit of work. They will have to invest a bit of engineering, sample making, dying of three ways to get a decision from me. It means that they can't put half the manufacturing run on the shelf as it doesn't exist in their color cards, swatch books, etc. So they can't sell it in a reasonable time. And who is going to pay for that time invested in figuring it out? So Custom Manufacturing means that you are going to buy everything they make of this idea. And that means knowing what the minimum order is.
that is called the minimum. If you expect a fabric to cost about $50/yard and it take 20 yards of weaving to get all the tension correct, etc - you have to weave enough fabric to absorb the cost of the 20 yards of waste fabric raw materials in the cost. If you had only wanted 20 yards, the fabric would have cost $100/yard. So there are minimums to make it cost effective to turn the machine on. Minimums vary by what and machine. Sometimes it is the amount of silk thread that goes into the dye pot. Sometimes it is the waste on the braiding machine before the tension is set just right. It is common to find at least 250 yards in woven goods and at least 10,000 yards in thread. To custom manufacture -- you need capital. That means cash to invest and some plan on how you are going to convert that material back into cash so you can make the next thing.
There have been complaints on the internet of 'why' do European threads have to come to the USA to
then be sent back abroad for orders. Because they wouldn't be made otherwise. That's why. They are all custom and unless you can bring a partially engineered thread to them to copy, order 10,000 yards and pay for it - it doesn't get made. Almost nothing in high end embroidery threads is made 'on spec' today. Meaning, no manufacturer holds stock if they can help it. They make a bit more every time they make something to fill back orders so they can get a little farther and that is it. And certainly they don't invent a new thread as they don't have the capacity in these days of lean, recession times to send out samples and try to advertise something new.
Tomorrow I will give you a glimpse into the Why the Time is Now to make new threads. The economy is bad... isn't it? Yes it is, but we have no time to wait! The clock is ticking...