Spring 2020 Registration is open

I hadn’t forgotten that Spring 2020 registration was supposed to open before now. Between “improvements” to the software used to run this site, policy changes that took time to iron out, and compelling changes we’ll make to our process moving forward (required pre-testing), registration was delayed. Thanks for being so patient. Moving on.

The project

ABQFI, a not for profit organization, trains people interested in sewn product manufacturing by manufacturing items that are donated to charity- cut and sewn from start to finish. Apparel Manufacturing Boot Camp is held twice a year, Spring and Fall. Each event is comprised of two separate sessions. The first is a smaller pre-production event that is used to test and plan for the production event, as well as to train coaches. The production event takes place three months later. Since Fall of 2015, we’ve manufactured hundreds of lined warm winter coats, dresses for senior citizens, duffle bags used for refugee resettlement, and over a thousand products used in animal rescue.

Raquel (L), Lisa (C) and Christian(R). Timing Lisa during pre-pro F2019.

The place:

410 Old Coors Dr SW, Albuquerque NM 87121 USA -a sewing factory owned by Apparel Technical Services. Designed as a model facility, it is equipped with feed rail and servo technology through out. It also may be the only sewing factory in the world that is 100% solar powered. 

Our MVPs are very special. They get tiaras!

The people: 

Volunteers come from all over the world but mostly the Americas. As no experience is required, volunteer skills range from none to hobby sewing, as well as experienced returning attendees. Volunteers are selected following the 2 week registration period after which a lottery is conducted. Those winning a coveted slot are required to complete advance preparation. In addition, as ABQFI has no grants or funding, our volunteers contribute a fee to cover the cost of materials and a portion of the operational costs to host the event.

The product for Spring 2020:

We are making lined wool children’s coats with a few design changes from Fall 2019. Instead of a two-piece front with inset pockets, we’re making a one piece front with a double welt pocket. As in the past, the winter coats will be donated to children in New Mexico, USA. 

Christian, servicing machines at ABQFI F2019

The process: 

In addition to the TWI practices we adopted previously, for Spring 2020 we’re implementing a highly unusual sewing process; one that is largely unknown in today’s US factories -essentially templates on steroids. I’ve written about template usage in The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Sewn Product Manufacturing and on the Fashion-Incubator website, and we’ve even used them in boot camp previously but not to this extent. This is an old school sewing method that’s been abandoned for so long that it’s practically forgotten. It has become a hot “new” sewing technology in Asian factories but outside of automated machines, remains completely unknown in the US. 

The problem:

As Apparel Manufacturing Boot Camp has become popular and more widely known, we’re attracting applicants who know so little that they don’t understand the importance of advance preparation. As one returning attendee said “a lot of new participants don’t take the reading list seriously. They should. Time and again participants aren’t familiar with concepts that are covered in the reading list and are needed during the course of the weekend.” Accordingly, new attendees will need to pass a quiz based on the reading six weeks before the start date. The content does matter; one won’t be able to fake it. At worst, failure to prepare could cause injury to self and others. One may also irreparably damage equipment and or ruin coats that poor families were depending on. These families are so poor they don’t have indoor plumbing or electricity -this is why we can no longer risk the ruining of product if one doesn’t make the time to prepare.  

{{{Jen}}}} (L) ,the Alaskan Canadian with Ellen. Ellen is in a class of her own -forget Lion/Tiger/Bear- she’s a Dragon!

Dates & Details: 

REGISTRATION: Nov 3, 2019 – through Nov 17, 2019

PRE-PRODUCTION: January 17-20, 2020 (Friday through Monday)
Signing up for pre-production is a commitment to attend the production event as well. You are automatically registered for production when signing up for pre-production. 
8:00 AM -5:00 PM
Slots: 10
Fee: $550 (includes production)

PRODUCTION: March 20-23, 2020 (Friday through Monday)*
Friday March 20, 7:00 AM -5:00 PM
Saturday-Monday March 21-23: 7:30 AM -5:00 PM
Slots: 25 (includes the 10 from pre-production)
Fee: $350
*One can arrive earlier by prior arrangement. Details to follow.

It was Suzanne’s birthday! She didn’t even tell us; she’d won MVP before we knew. Her sweetie (R).

Pre-Production Team will:

  • Test and troubleshoot the JBS’ (TWI: job breakdown sheets) and template system.
  • Familiarize themselves with the needs and fitting attributes of our “customer”.
  • Test each step of the operation assemblies and critique its methods. 
  • Complete at least one “sew-by” sample.
  • Complete 2 sets of work instructions for each assembly step that needs one.
  • Learn basic principles of industrial engineering to develop key production management skills . Specifically, the organization of assemblies, the number and flow of operations, sewing time per operation, the limitations of bottlenecks and how to resolve them, and the type of equipment, tools, and support materials needed for each process.
  • Learn the difference between QC and QA; assist in the development of QA procedures with provided tolerances.
  • Analyze the sewing skills we need to train for, and finalize a plan to manage the challenges of an unknown workforce.
  • Become familiar with cut order planning, yield calculation, master scheduling and cost limitations.
  • Supervisory skills are introduced as some pre-production attendees will assist in training and managing functions in cutting, bundling, fusing, sewing and inspection. 
The loyal pre-production crew.

Production activities:

Everything, from soup to nuts.  Or almost everything; cutting is the one exception. Volunteers will staff all other positions (but not limited to) spreading fabric, notching, sorting and expediting for shade marking then fusing. Shade marking, fusing, sorting and bundling. Assisting in feeding the sewing line; working the sewing line, incoming inspection (QA), cleaning, setting up for meals (lunch for production is catered), washing dishes, taking out the trash etc. Attending to social media is also an available position.

Nancy, cheerfully transcribes data with no complaints. PP F2019

Registration requirements: 

No previous experience is required. However, because we need an accurate picture of applicants to plan staffing and training resources, you’ll need to fill out the application with care. 

Your experience or lack of it will not affect your acceptance. However, overstating your experience and qualifications during the registration process WILL count against you. Read and respond to the questions on the registration form very carefully to make sure your responses don’t lend the impression of exaggeration. 

Qualifications are another story. If you win a slot in the lottery, you agree to become qualified six weeks before arriving, and to demonstrate your qualifications by passing a quiz.  To qualify, you agree to do the assigned work (mostly reading, some videos, extra points for completing a tutorial). The ABQFI team spends countless hours preparing for this event, and provide these resources without profit to ensure that a participant having never worked in a manufacturing facility before, can still contribute in a meaningful way. During previous boot camps, the people who did not have fulfilling jobs were people who did not do the homework. 

Sara, la estimada Salvadorena. Ojalá que vuelvas pronto.

Registration Lottery:

We use a lottery system to select participants since past boot camps have filled so quickly (in less than an hour). This year we will have a separate lottery for each level. You might term the levels as “beginner”, “intermediate” and “advanced” but this is very inaccurate. We rank people (based on scoring from the application form) in terms of the coaching resources they will need. Our categories are “Lion”, “Tiger” and “Bear”.  Theoretically, Lions need the most coaching and Bears the least. We hope that a 3 tiered lottery will improve the mix and provide a balanced proportion of each group.
At a past event, not doing a tiered lottery meant that we ended up with 60% Lions with too few Tigers and Bears to coach them -much less had Tigers and Bears available to do the jobs rated for them. And unfortunately, as Lions tend to have the least experience, they were the least likely to understand the value of preparation and did very little. This meant we could not be confident in the safety of participants and remedial training was required. As we didn’t anticipate the need of remedial training or the time needed to do it, actual training and event progress was critically impacted. Still worse, the least prepared were the least likely to have meaningful jobs as we didn’t have time to get them up to par, and they were understandably frustrated. All in all the event was enjoyable and successful but we fell short on our goals.

We’ve had to take a more pragmatic stance on requiring preparation; in fact, the registration form contains questions that can only be answered if one has read the caveats, supplies and safety policies, and accommodations pages. And why would you want to come without knowing those? Definitely read those before signing up. 

Hilary (L) and Maeve (R),taking a break @F2019 ABQFI boot camp.

There is 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 by the date listed below. If the deposit isn’t paid, we pull the next name on the list. We do not run after people with reminders. We have NO paid staff. This is the ugly truth of it: based on experience we’ve learned that people we have to remind to pay tend to have other issues that we are better off avoiding.. 

On the lottery notification date (November 18, 2019) you will be notified whether you got in or not and for which event (s). Again, if you sign up for pre-production, you are automatically enrolled in, and are required to attend production. I am so tired of getting emails from people who ask if they need to sign up for both that emailing to ask will disqualify a candidate. If one can’t read enough to learn that, they’re not going to prepare in full either. 

There’s only one Justine; Pre-Pro trooper and tester.

Important dates: 

  • November 3-17, 2019; Two week registration period.
  • November 18, 2019: Lottery notification date.
  • November 21, 2019 @ 5PM MST: Deposit due.
  • December 19, 2019: Pre-production fee balance is due
  • December 19, 2019: Pre-production quiz and assignments must be completed.
  • February 13, 2020: Production fee balance is due
  • February 13, 2020: Production quiz and assignments must be completed
  • January 17-20, 2020: Pre-production for S2020
  • March 20-23, 2020: Production S2020


  • Pre-production: $550
  • Production: $350
  • Catered lunch: $80 (4 days x $20; pre-production doesn’t have catered lunch)

As we have no funding, we charge a nominal fee to cover some of the event expenses. The actual cost to my business (Apparel Technical Services) including planning, equipment, and work stoppage is about $500 per person over and above this fee. As ABQFI is a not for profit organization, your fee, less the cost of food, is tax-deductible in the USA. Our 501(c)3  tax ID appears on your invoice. In this vein, any additional donations or support is greatly appreciated. Many employers offer donation matching so if this applies to you, please think of us. 

The inimitable Jamie Hirano; @F2019 ABQFI boot camp.

The Application:

New registrants: You need to fill out Section 1, 2 & 4, skipping section 3.
Alums: If you’ve attended 2 or more boot camps previously, you can skip many questions by selecting the “Alum” option or writing in “Alum”. You will fill out Section 1, 3 & 4. skipping section 2.

The sections are marked, just a heads up. You can edit your application later if you don’t finish right now. Remember to complete the application by November 17th in order to enter the lottery. 

In sum, registration is officially open!

Keith, carefully tracking IE data. ABQFI Fall 2019 pre-production

We’re becoming a Not for Profit! And, a 2017 Summary of Good Works

At the end of this year, we want to provide an update to everyone who is interested in the ABQFI community and mission.

Our mission is to produce first quality sewn products for donation to charities and underserved communities in New Mexico; these products are made by volunteers during events that we host twice each year. We call these events “Apparel Manufacturing Bootcamps”, during which volunteers may experience everything from design through final inspection in a real factory environment.

To date, here is a list of the bootcamps, the number of volunteers, and a synopsis of the items produced and donated:

Boot Camp EventVolunteers
Fall 2015435104 coats
Spring 2016830270 house dresses
Fall 2016525105 coats
100 cat trap covers*
Spring 2017722100 pants
360 napkins**
Fall 2017629100 coats
86 pants
75 Cat trap covers*

Total: 5 camps including 4 pre-production camps


>100 volunteers

Including many returning alumni


Total Production:

309 coats
270 house dresses
186 pants
360 napkins
175 cat trap covers

Read More

Fall 2017 Coat Production -another win!

Our Fall 2017 Apparel Manufacturing Boot Camp was successful beyond expectations. By our second day of sewing coats (that we’ll donate to needy New Mexico kids), we were so far ahead that attendees had time to get bored and look for something else to do. Thus, we started spreading and cutting 200+ more live trap covers tor our local TNR program (Street Cat Hub). This is our fifth event in two years, and once we’ve finished, our running tally of products we’ve manufactured for donation will be:

325 winter coats for needy kids
375 live trap covers used to neuter wild cats, 85 liners for feral boxes that the city of Albuquerque uses, as well as dog beds donated to the city and other local 501c3 rescue operations.
270 dresses for senior citizens
200+ pairs of school pants for elementary school children
360 luxury grade (22″x22″) cloth napkins donated to Karma Cafe

Gwen, demonstrating the coats.

Read More