What to Check on a Factory Sample

You look through your mail and see a package from your factory. Excitedly –  like a kid on Christmas morning – you open the package and pull out the sample. There it is: your design! It looks just how you envisioned it. You hold it up and stare at it for a minute proud of the result of all the time and effort it took to get to this point. Then it’s back to business mode. You need to evaluate the sample and approve it for production. Here are all the things you should check on your samples to make sure the production order doesn’t disappoint.

Seams and Construction

Look at the seams on the inside of the sample as well as neckline finishes and hems. If you don’t know much about sewing, compare the seams to those of an approved fit sample or look at the technical sketches in the tech pack. Does the factory sample’s seams and finishes look the same?

Also look at the stitching itself. The stitch lines should look straight and individual stitches themselves should be very similar in length. The stitching shouldn’t be pulling the fabric tight (except if it is supposed to be gathered) or stretching it out. If it is, that is a sign that the stitch tension needs to be adjusted on the factory’s machines to handle your fabric. Hems and edge finishes should be an even height from the folded edge. Look over the garment for loose threads or snags in the stitching. A few loose threads can just be clipped, but an excessive amount of hanging threads should be noted to the factory.


Lay the sample flat on a table and get out a measuring tape and the spec chart page of the tech pack. Measure each point and compare it to the spec chart. All measurements need to be within the stated tolerance for that point of measurement. (I keep a page in my tech packs for each sample that automatically calculates any difference between the spec chart measurement and the sample measurement for each point.)

Labels and Label Placement

Make sure that any labels and hang tags are correct and in the right spots on the garment. Don’t just check for the branded main label, but also look on the inside to make sure that the care and content label is included and that the information is correct. Reference the label artwork and tech pack to make sure the fabric content written on the label matches that of the fabric. If the measurements were off when you measured the sample, the size might have been mislabeled. Make sure the size label matches the size the garment actually measures.

Fabric Quality

This one should be pretty easy to tell if it is wrong, but don’t forget to double check that the correct fabric was used. Compare the look, feel, and weight of the sample fabric to that of any approved samples or swatches that you have.

Print Artwork or Colorway

If you are using a custom print or specific fabric colorway, make sure that the print and color are what you expected. Compare the sample to an approved lab dip, printed swatch, or Pantone color chip. If the fabric is printed, pay attention to the printing quality and look over the sample for any printing mistakes, blurry sections, offset colors, or graininess that shouldn’t be there.


If your factory sample is a pre-production or photoshoot sample, you should have already approved the fit of the design through previous samples, but it doesn’t hurt to double check the fit and make sure that the correct pattern was used to cut your factory sample. If possible, try the sample on a real person. It should fit and feel the same as your approved fit sample.

Document and Organize

Once you are done checking your sample, take a photo of the front and back of the sample as well as any details or issues you want to let the factory know about. (I put these photos in the sample page of the tech pack where you put the sample’s measurements.) Make sure to label your sample with a tag that includes the style name, size, date, season, factory, and whether or not it is approved for production. This way you can easily reference the sample and the notes later.

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