Spring 2019 Apparel Manufacturing Boot Camp Registration is Open

The product: TNR trap covers

In the past, we’ve made coats every Fall, and usually school pants in the Spring. This year we won’t make pants -the reasons for which to be discussed, I’ll drop a link later should it interest someone- but another sewn product that benefits charitable public service organizations. Specifically, we’re making a product used in TNR which stands for Trap Neuter Return, a program of live trapping feral cats to reduce feral cat populations, saving taxpayers millions of dollars. Really. TNR programs save lots of tax payer dollars -did you know that euthanizing one feral cat costs tax payers $350 on average? TNR programs also reduce disease and neighborhood disruption.

Melanie, cutting hook and loop for the TNR covers.

Why this project?

So maybe you don’t like cats and aren’t pumped by the challenges our Spring boot camp offers -but there is much more to this event- we’re doubling down on our production sewing organization. Specifically, our lofty goal is to plan and implement a lean sewing cell. If you’re not sure what that is or why you should be excited about it, read on. But I’m getting ahead of myself, my point is that even if you don’t like cats, you should be involved in this project because nothing has been shown to be more effective at reducing cat populations than TNR.

How TNR traps are used to reduce cat population:

The way it works is that volunteer organizations place baited live traps in known feral colonies. The cats are then collected, neutered or spayed, vaccinated and sometimes chipped, and then returned to the location they were found. Often, that location has a caretaker who feeds and tends to the colony. Over time, without new kittens being born, the cat population diminishes until no or few ferals remain and a neighborhood’s problem and public health concerns, are solved. 

Our part in this effort is to make covers for those traps. Cats won’t readily go into a naked cage and they become distraught (which injures animal control and veterinary staff, also volunteers) but with a trap cover, the cage looks like a box -and cats love boxes. Once the trap is tripped, the cover wraps around the cage which calms the animal. The cover also protects the cat from the elements until the trap is retrieved. Our trap cover design is the only one of its kind, a unique design we developed over 3 years that is literally patenable, the best on the market.

TNR cover, version 7

In fits and starts, we’ve been making these covers over the past three years for a local 501c3 organization called Street Cat Hub (SCH); it is one of the most successful programs in the country. Success can be measured by the reduction of euthanasia that counties and cities pay to provide as well decreased expenditure of taxpayer dollars to do it. For example, here in the City of Albuquerque and due to Street Cat Hub’s efforts, euthanasia dropped to 0. In dollar figures, for just one year (2016), SCH saved taxpayers at least $1.4 million dollars in direct (euthanasia) costs (see this fact sheet from 2013.) Additionally, taxpayers benefit because the Albuquerque Animal Welfare Department (AAWD) budget isn’t being drained by feral cat euthanasia so they had the space and funds to house more friendly cats available for public adoption (feral cats are not adoptable). Lastly, the impact on city workers shouldn’t be overlooked. Turnover was high as the work environment for some consisted of killing cats all day, and they’d sought the job because they loved animals. To tie this all together, the NIH also published results in a study of the effect of our local TNR project.

Despite the success of our local program, there is constant need of the trap covers as they’re misplaced, claimed by other animal organizations or destroyed. Likewise, our local project has undertaken the task of seeding new TNR programs in the state and those programs need covers too. 

Showing us how it’s done!

The scope of Spring 2019 Boot Camp

Returning to what’s in it for you aside from warm fuzzies, not only will we be pressure testing our production system set up, the sewing method organization (details below) but we’ll be doing unprecedented product testing. For example, we’ll conduct and measure wind resistance using anemometers, and water resistance -haven’t figured that part out yet but I’ll get to it once I’ve nailed down wind resistance testing. In fact, so much preparation was required to put this proposal together that it took several weeks -hence our unusually long delay in opening registration. 

Pre-Production Activities
January 25-28, 2019 8:00 AM -5:00 PM

Should you be unaware of how this event works, individuals from Pre-Production are required to also attend Production. Your duties will vary but can include coaching, training and orienting attendees for the production event. So, registering for Pre-Production means you are automatically enrolled for Production in March 2019. The fee covers both events.

Our central goal -in addition to putting out a lot of product- is to resolve existing issues from Fall 2018 as well as pressure testing product features, the sewing process, and hopefully, trialing the set up of a lean sewing cell with one piece flow to see if it is feasible for production in March 2019.  In detail:

  • Plan a production run of TNR-TC (TNR Trap Covers) for both light and heavy weather. 
  • Test TNR-TC design features to ensure they meet specific criteria such as wind resistance and permeability.  
  • Test TNR-TC engineering to ensure the product can be made as cost and time effectively as possible.
  • Test and refine the skills assessment database for sewing operators; a tool I developed to train people in a quick and efficient manner.
  • Learn to use a new decision matrix to remove the natural bias of one’s preferences to avoid what can amount to pre-determined outcomes.
  • Create an industrial engineering work study to determine the number of operations, sewing time per operation and type of equipment will we need.
  • Develop sewing instructions to a granular level never before seen in the apparel industry.  We’ll need someone with strong illustration skills to do this properly.
  • Learn to measure SAM (Standard Allowable Minutes aka sewing time) takt time, and or cycle time to refine the order of operations, and to eliminate or reduce error while getting faster results.
  • Learn how to analyze the sewing process to discover bottlenecks well before they happen, and how to modify production to resolve them without increasing costs. 
  • Assist with cut order planning (calculating yields), subsequent sourcing variables and plans for a master schedule for the event.
Katherine, sewing a TNR cover

Production Activities 
March 22-25, 2019 7:30 AM -5:00 PM (7AM on the 22nd)

Attendees will assist with:

  • Training and learning to train sewing operators
  • Practice by work samples used in the process.
  • Sewing and trimming
  • Troubleshooting and problem solving
  • Finishing and quality control
  • Preparing for order fulfillment and pick up.

There are opportunities for people who want to arrive early. Specifically, we always need help with the following:

  • Last minute cleaning and organization of the facility
  • Assisting with spreading and cutting fabric (March 21)
  • Those who come early will get to watch marker making and related tasks (March 20, 2019).
Sue and Jen, overseeing our first run of TNR trap covers in 2016.

Registration and Event Details:

Event Address: 410 Old Coors Dr SW, Albuquerque NM 87121
Contact us at (505) 877-1713 or by email.
Go to the Registration Form

Qualifications and experience required:: None. That’s right, no experience required. There is no trick to being successful if we’re staffed by people who already have skills and experience. The amazing part of what we do is training unskilled and inexperienced people. We have successfully, and repeatedly trained people who have never sewn in their lives. I can’t say this more simply but your experience or lack of it will not affect your acceptance. However, overstating your experience and qualifications can count against you. Read the questions carefully to make sure your responses don’t lend the impression of embellishment. We do need an accurate picture of applicants so we can plan staffing and training.

All that said, there is one exception for this Spring 2019 Pre-Production event. We need at least one person with solid technical illustration skills. If this describes you, you’ll be contacted for a phone interview and set aside from the lottery. A demonstration or work try out will be necessary but it won’t be anything that exceeds accepted norms of professional competency. I regret the necessity of confirmation but I’ve taken someone’s word for it before and regretted it. Now, if you’ve read all this, I’m also looking for someone with solid social media skills who can share our progress as we go along because many people are curious and I don’t have time to share photos and updates. I don’t want to highlight the latter as we’d be bombarded with applicants but the need is there. You’ll have an opportunity to explain that on the registration form and if you worry it may be overlooked, can call or phone directly. 

Rhonda, our TNR supervisor.

Registration by Lottery: Since the boot camps have filled so quickly (less than an hour), we use a lottery to process applications with a 2 week registration period, lasting from Monday October 15, 2018 to Sunday October 28, 2018. On October 29th, we draw names out of the proverbial hat and will notify everyone of their status on October 30, 2018. If you haven’t heard from us by 5 PM on October 30th, get in touch as soon as it is convenient. Once notified, you’ll need to pay the $50 deposit by November 2, 2018 (3 days). If the deposit isn’t paid by then, we pull the next name on the list.   

Registration Fees:
All: $50 deposit by November 2, 2018 (3 days).
Pre-Production: $500. Balance due December 7, 2018
Production: $350. Balance due February 8, 2019 
Catered lunch: $80 (4 days x $20)

We charge a nominal fee to cover some of the event expenses (the actual cost to my business including planning, equipment and work stoppage is about $500 per person over and above this fee). As a charitable organization, your fee, less the cost of food, is tax deductible in the USA (and any  additional donation is deeply appreciated). As noted above, should you win a slot in the lottery, you will be sent an invoice on October 30th, and a $50 deposit to hold your spot is due by Friday, November 2nd. Slots for which deposits have not been paid by that date will be offered to the next person on the waiting list. Please note there is no catered lunch option for Pre-Production and that the fee for Pre-Pro includes Production.

Availability: There are 10 openings for Pre-production and an additional 15 slots for the Production event itself. The people selected for Pre-Production must attend the Production event in March so there are a total of 25 staffing positions.  If you somehow missed it, here’s the link to the Registration Form




As a registered 501c3, we welcome your financial support. Thank you!

In closing, my personal experience on the TNR program: (you can skip this)

I am a caretaker of two colonies, one behind the factory and another about half a mile away. Caretaking means I feed and water them daily, monitor the health of individual cats to prevent the spread of disease and lastly, I trap twice a year. Or did. When I first started trapping at the factory, I caught 7 cats. One was a lost cat who’d taken up with the colony and with his chip, his owner was found (who relinquished him; “Diego” was re-homed with a pattern maker colleague who eventually ended up with 2 of my rescues). Three years later, my factory colony is down to 2 cats.

My favorite feral from my large colony. She disappeared about a year ago. I still hope to see her again, maybe somebody adopted her. The one behind her is still around. 

My other colony down the street was quite large, maybe 30 cats or so. I trap twice a year there and in the time I’ve been doing it, the colony has shrunk by at least 30%. Again, some of the cats I trapped were strays, not ferals, and placed in homes happy to have them. Best of all, I haven’t seen any kittens in over a year. I’ve removed sick cats for treatment and fostered to ensure the cats didn’t have something communicable because family cats will hang around feeding stations and get sick too. TNR helps keep all neighborhood cats, feral, stray or owned, and their owners families, healthier.

To address the repeated comments from people who say they can’t come because they are allergic to cats and somehow imagine that my factory is crawling with them — these cats are wild, they’re not strays, there is a big difference. You will probably never see one outside, much less in the factory. Sighting one of the factory ferals is such a rare event that staff and visitors are excited to finally see one. The closest that the ferals will let me get is about 10 feet — and I’ve been feeding them every day for more than three years. So, no cats in the factory.

Spring 2019 Registration

First, I sincerely apologize that the announcement of registration for Spring 2019 Apparel Manufacturing Boot Camp was delayed (owing to scheduling conflicts) but I have solid dates for you now. I should also mention that the dates that had been listed on the About (and Overview) page have changed; today’s announcement is precedent.  

Registration for Spring 2019 begins on Monday October 15, 2018 and will close on Sunday October 28, 2018 so you’ll have two weeks to register. Due to high demand, we have a lottery. Meaning, on the 29th of October, we will draw names for the Spring event. You will be notified either way on October 30, 2018.

We charge a nominal fee to cover some of the event expenses. As a charitable organization, your fee less the cost of food is tax deductible in the US (and any  additional donation is deeply appreciated). The fee for Pre-production which includes Production is $550, not including the expense of catered lunches. The fee for Production is $350. Should you win a slot in the lottery, you will be sent an invoice on October 30th, and a $50 deposit to hold your spot is due 3 days later, specifically by the end of the day on Friday, November 2nd. Slots for which deposits have not been paid by that date will be offered to the next person on the waiting list. 

We are filling 10 slots for Pre-production (the planning and testing event for production) and an additional 15 slots for the Production event itself. The people selected for Pre-Production must attend the Production event in March so there are a total of 25 staffing positions. Please understand that signing up for Pre-Production is a commitment to travel to our sewing factory twice, six or so weeks apart. Again, the fee for Pre-Production includes the fee for Production.

Important Dates

  • Pre-production is held January 25-28, 2019 (Friday through Monday)
  • Production takes place March 22-25, 2019 (Friday through Monday).
  • Deposits ($50) are due on November 2, 2018.
  • Final payment for Pre-production ($550, not including the expense of
    catered lunches) which includes the fee for Production, is due on December 7, 2018.
  • Payment for Production ($350, not including catered lunches) is due  February 8, 2019.
  • Payment deadlines are set up so we can back fill from the waiting list should one’s plans change.

Qualifications and experience required:

As before, none, nada, zilch. No experience required -we have successfully, and repeatedly, trained people who have never sewn in their lives. Your experience or lack of it will not affect your acceptance. For this reason, it is important to fill out the registration form honestly, and without embellishment (overstating your experience and qualifications will count against you). We need an accurate picture so we can plan staffing and training. 

ONE EXCEPTION for this Spring 2019 Pre-Production event, we need at least one person with solid technical illustration skills for spot illustrations. If this describes you, you’ll have the opportunity to show that during registration. A work try out is required to ensure a shared understanding of professional competencies. Tl;dr, I’ve taken someone’s word for it before and regretted it.

So, that is all for now. On October 15th, I’ll post specific details about the event (what we’re making) along with the amazing plans we have (Lean Manufacturing!). Till soon. 

Fall 2018 Apparel Manufacturing Boot Camp Registration is open

It seems I have less time than ever to post updates and I apologize if anyone is inconvenienced by it. Spring 2018 ended last month, another energizing and vibrant event spent with volunteers constructing the pants we donate to needy NM kids. I thank everyone for their love, time and contributions.

Our next event, Fall 2018, will focus on making kid’s coats (again). These are the dates:

Pre-production phase July 1-4, 2018, 8:00 AM -5:00 PM
Production phase: August 31-September 3, 2018, 7:30 AM -5:00 PM

Event Address: 410 Old Coors Dr SW, Albuquerque NM 87121
Contact us at (505) 877-1713 or factory AT abqfi DOT.com

The usual course is that I open registration to volunteers and we go from there. This time, we’re doing something a little different –Fall 2018 will be a reunion event open to past participants. Also, we’ll be inviting a few people. If you want to be invited, introduce yourself in an email at the address above.

F2018 will be staffed differently because we plan to do more than sew coats; we plan to test our processes. We’ve changed quite a few things about our operations since we first started in 2015, and we are looking for feedback from people who have attended a boot camp in the past. We want to know what is good, what’s bad, how we can be more efficient and still train people effectively and quickly.

So, if you’re an alum and haven’t gotten an invitation via email, let me know so we can rectify it. If you would like to be invited, please send an email introducing yourself and telling us why.

Registration by Lottery: Since the boot camps fill so quickly (sometimes less than an hour), we are going to a lottery system. We’ve had a lot of complaints from people who didn’t know that registration was open until it was too late so we hope this system will be better. There will be a 2 week period to sign up and then we’ll draw names out of the proverbial hat. Once you’re notified of having gotten in, you’ll need to pay a $50 deposit within 3 days time. If the deposit isn’t paid, we pull the next name on the list. 

In sum, registration is officially open. To get to the registration page, check your email or request an invitation. 

Oh, I almost forgot the best part. We’ve decided to increase the number of pre-production slots to 10 people so if you couldn’t get in before, you have a greater chance of doing so now.

To recap, these are the tasks that are completed in pre-production (if you sign up for pre-production, you are automatically enrolled in production):

Pre-production: In the first phase July 1-4, 2018, boot campers will:

    • Analyze fitting and dressing challenges for our “customer”.
    • Design for a production run for one style and 2 colorways.
    • Analyze garments with features valued by our “customer” with an emphasis on safety and utility.
    • Assist in pattern creation and complete production pattern auditing for each style.
    • Sew mock ups of each proposed style for group critique
    • Once a design is selected from the submissions, create finished samples.
    • Create an industrial engineering work study to determine the number of operations, sewing time per operation and type of equipment will we need.
    • Analyze the sewing skills we need to train for and finalize a plan to manage the challenges of an unknown workforce.
    • Assist with cut order planning (calculating yields), creating the master schedule to order goods, final costing, and generally learning how to manage production soup to nuts.
    • Finalize the sourcing plan to include the costs and inventory we need to complete the project.
  • Ideally, those attending the design phase will assume supervisory or management roles for the production phase over Labor Day (August 31-Sept 3).

We can’t wait to see you!