Inspection of textile products: what tests can be done?

Quality Control TipsMy quality control firm mostly works on inspections of textile products in China and other Asian countries. This type of goods is very particular, and it takes a specialized inspector to do the job correctly.

Quality inspections consist mainly of  three parts:

  • Looking for visual defects on the products, their labeling, and their packaging
  • Checking whether the client’s specs (including measurements) are respected
  • Performing a range of tests in the factory

List of tests that can be done on site (in the factory):

Here are the most common tests that are applicable specifically to textile products:

  • Counting the number of stitching points per inch/cm for the main stitching
  • Checking the types of stitching, and the seam allowances
  • Measuring the fabric weight, for the main fabric
  • Comparing of colors (of fabrics, accessories, and stitching threads) with a TPX or TCX Pantone book / lab dips / fabric swatches
  • Checking seam strength, by pulling in both sides with normal force
  • Checking the strength of stitches for all accessories (buttons, bows…)
  • Checking the dry color fastness, by rubbing a piece of white tissue / cotton fabric
  • For certain accessories such as fabric flowers: checking the frayability at edges
  • Doing a fitting test, to checking fitting but also to see overall outlook
  • Making sure the lining is never longer than the self fabric, and is not visible during fitting tests
  • Making sure the products look good and have no wrinkles when presented on a hanger
  • Making sure the products are as flat as possible in cartons and the foam parts (if applicable) don’t get crushed
  • Making sure there is no color shading on the same product, and no strong color shading between different products
  • Taking very clear photos of the care & content label (composition, care instructions, country of origin…)

Of course this list is not exhaustive. Depending of the type of textile product and the market of the importer, many other tests can be inserted in the inspector’s checklist:

  • Checking the direction of threads (the “grain line”) of the main fabric, compared with client’s sample or client’s pattern
  • Measuring the stretchability of fabrics and elastics, compared with client’s sample or specs
  • Counting the number of threads (i.e. the construction of the fabric)
  • Doing a shrinkage test, after normal cycle washing and natural drying
  • Checking color fastness to washing, by washing a sample with normal cycle together with a piece of white cotton fabric
  • If there are strings that could cause strangulation: measuring the length of strings
  • For some textile products such as underwear, measuring the height of the garment on the hanger (because of shelf space and outlook consistency).

And, of course, some tests are exactly the same on textile products and other consumer goods, especially concerning the labeling and the export cartons.

Is there anything that I forgot? Any suggestions?

—- Update —-

For children products, I forgot the pulling test on all accessories and snaps that are small enough to be ingested. This is the same as toys and other juvenile products and there is nothing particular to garments / textile products, but it is really important.

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Comments

  1. Renaud Anjoran says

    Antonia,
    That’s right. Checking if the zipper works, and if it is not too hard to open and close is important.
    Same thing with buttons and snaps, of course: open and close (is it too easy or too hard?)

  2. says

    Great post. Quite exhaustive. Here’s some more:

    – Hand-feel. This can be a huge problem since it is quite a subjective thing, and very difficult to measure scientifically.

    – Pilling for sweaters and knit items. In the factory, you’ll want to make sure the garments aren’t ‘hairy.’ Some yarns are naturally hairy, others aren’t. You’ll need to make sure that the ‘hairy’ garments won’t pill after some time.

    For Measurements, the inspector will need to be careful. Some customers have not spent a lot of time considering their dimensions, and will make unrealistic spec sheets with dimensions that don’t make sense. We’ve run into this one quite a few times, even with the most seasoned designers. Make sure the designer really knows their stuff before taking their spec sheets as set in stone.

    Actually, you and I should put a post together on quality issues just for knit garments as there is a whole series of things that must be checked just for knits….
    Tension of the yarn when knitting
    Lab-Dips of Yarn vs. color of knit product
    Defects during knitting

    Great post!

  3. Renaud Anjoran says

    Danny,
    Hand-feel and pilling are two big ones… Thanks a lot for the reminder!
    Re: measurements, there is not much an inspector can do, except maybe check if the client’s “perfect” sample is within tolerances.
    You are right, we could go deep into details about knits, and your suggestions are quite relevant! Looking forward to a post about this on your blog ;-)

  4. Lora Brady says

    In the toy industry particularly stuffed toys, aside from what Arnaud has mentioned, we also have the lead, flamabillity and strangulation tests. No toy should have accessories that would measure more than 12″ or the circumference of a child’s neck. In some instances a “break point is applied as part of the design by adding velcro. FYI – European brand stuffed toy companies failed to pursue manufacturing in China due to plush shedding in commonly found in China manufactured high pile plush materials.

  5. Renaud Anjoran says

    Lora,
    You are right. Many of the tests I listed above apply to plush toys, but in addition there are many checkpoints specific to children products.

  6. Freya Barber says

    Is there any tests that clothing has to undergo to do with the enviromental impact of the product? Such as biodegradability etc ?

  7. Renaud Anjoran says

    Freya,
    Yes, I guess such tests exist. They are probably focused more on the materials used and on their production process’ environmental impact. I admit I am not very familiar with these tests.
    If you want to work on environmentally-friendly products, you’ll want to take a broader approach. Cotton production is extremely resource consuming and polluting, but laboratory tests won’t tell you that.