Finding the Seamstress of Our Dreams
A little after deciding that we wanted to sew recycled Hawaiian pockets onto shirts for our next product, we started the journey to find someone to sew for us. I have a sewing machine, but our use of it is very limited (one of our earliest pocket tee prototypes is a testament to this). Outside of doing our own sewing, the next best option was to pay someone to sew for us.
Finding a local seamstress is harder than it sounds. With our initial order, we were either too big of an operation for a home sewer (not the smelly thing), or too small to mass produce in a commercial operation. After weeks of emails to seamstresses found online, calls to sewing cooperatives, promising leads that turned into polite rejections, and stopping by local sewing stores, we finally found a group that would sew for us at a price that worked for all involved.
The route we took from Denver to Wray, CO.
While not entirely local to Denver, the Rural Colorado Apparel Manufacturing (RCAM) shop in Wray, CO promised to satisfy our sewing needs while still being in the same state (although particularly close to Nebraska and Kansas). The 3 hour drive from Denver to Wray gave us the freedom to visit the shop, meet the workers, and keep manufacturing within the state, all at the minimal cost of filling up the gas tank.
After talking to RCAM's director multiple times over a two week span, we agreed on a price and ironed out how we wanted the pockets to look. The agreement was that we would cut the pockets and provide the thread, and they would take care of all the sewing. We then set a date that we would make the drive out there and meet them. As Vivek and I both work daytime jobs, we left Denver after work at around 6 o'clock, left the city for the plains, and arrived at our motel in Wray around 10 that night after grabbing a gas station dinner at the local stop.
The Delightful, Sleepy Town of Wray
With a population of just under 3,000 people, Wray is a surprisingly pleasant place to get stuff done. We checked into the local motel and opened our room door to find it quaintly clean but swelteringly hot. Luckily, the lady at the front desk gifted us a white remote control to turn on the AC unit, although she denied my feeble request to pay less than the $70 a night charged.
Everything was going to plan and we fell asleep for the night, only to be awakened at 3am by a fire alarm's piercing dead battery squeals every 5 seconds. If you have ever encountered a hotel fire alarm, simply taking out the battery will not shut it off. Eager to get back to sleep, I tiptoed across the parking lot to the office, squinting out of contact-less eyes. The note on the door gave me Pepe's number, and after a short phone call later, Pepe arrived to sort things out.
We woke early the next morning after a good (half) night's sleep to cut our pockets out of the recycled Hawaiian shirts.
The beds, with a wood cutting board and rotary blade we had brought, proved to be a suitable workshop for the morning.
Once the pockets were cut and organized, we headed out the door to meet our sewers. After a frustrating 20 minutes driving up and down Wray's main highway, we finally found the RCAM shop nestled in next to the farm bureau. Inside were about 8 nice ladies who do the sewing and some pretty high tech looking sewing machines.
We started organizing our shirts with the pockets we wanted on each while our prototype was being made. After some trial and error, we finally decided on pocket locations for the tees, and gave the final go ahead to start on the shirts.
The Abroha team and the fine seamstresses of Wray, CO.
The final shirts were delivered about a week later; a way quicker turnaround than we expected. Quality of the pockets were also above par, especially since we were using 100% recycled clothing that not many people have experience working with. The ladies of RCAM were great to work with and were instrumental in creating the unique, recycled clothing, Hawaiian-style pocket tees we were going for. Thanks ladies!
If you ever get the chance to visit Wray, stop in to the RCAM shop and check out what local clothing manufacturing is all about.