The Complete Shirt Making Process from Design to Delivery

Shirts are a versatile staple in most wardrobes, from basic t-shirts to formal dress shirts. But how exactly does a shirt design go from concept to finished product ready for shipment? The manufacturing process involves many steps, including design and development, material sourcing, pattern making, cutting, sewing, finishing, pressing, packing and shipping. 

Initial Design and Development

The shirt making process starts with the initial design concept. Fashion designers sketch illustrations of their vision for the shirt style, details, fit and construction. These sketches are turned into technical drawings and tech packs that provide all specifications like measurements, materials, trims, hardware, care instructions and construction methods. 

For wholesale shirt manufacturers working with brands, design development involves a collaborative back-and-forth, samples and revisions until the look is perfected. The end result of the design phase is a comprehensive technical pack that the manufacturer can use to produce the shirt accurately in bulk.

Sourcing Shirt Fabrics 

With the designs solidified, next the right fabric must be sourced. Common shirt fabrics like cotton, polyester, linen, silk, flannel and oxford cloth are widely available. The manufacturer calculates yardage needed for the wholesale order and purchases enough fabric from textile mills and suppliers. 

For cotton shirts, this means sourcing the requisite amount of cotton. One average t-shirt requires about 4 cotton plants to produce. For printed shirts, pigment printing or reactive dye printing is used to achieve the desired color and patterns. Sourcing high quality shirt fabric is essential for the best end products.

Digital Pattern Making 

The sample shirts and technical specs are used to create digital patterns that can be adjusted and graded across sizes. Modern CAD software allows for streamlined scaling and alterations. Patterns are then printed out on large format plotters onto special paper for cutting.  

Marker making maximizes efficiency by nesting patterns to optimize fabric yardage use. The marker plan breakdown how many pieces of each pattern piece are needed in which sizes. Efficient marker planning can lead to 70-80% fabric utilization.

Automated Fabric Cutting

The shirt fabric is cut according to the digital marker plan. For large wholesale orders, an automated cutting machine handles this step with precision. The cut fabric pieces are then bundled into kits for the sewing floor. Any fusing or stabilizers are applied to fabric pieces like collars at this stage as well.

Sewing Assembly Line 

Construction of the shirt begins by first sewing individual components like sleeves, cuffs, collars, plackets and pockets. These pieces are often sewn by specialized operators focused on a single task. 

The bundles of cut fabric move through the assembly line where the pieces are brought together to complete the shirt. Efficient factories utilize optimized production lines and specialized machinery to maximize output while maintaining consistency and quality.

Shirt Finishing and Detailing

Once constructed, the shirt goes through finishing. Buttons and buttonholes are added, along with any labels or tags at this stage. Loose threads are removed, and additional finishing processes like garment washing, sanding or enzyme treatments can be done for aesthetics. Repairs, replacements and alterations also occur here.

Pressing Equipment for Crisp Shirts

Proper shirt pressing equipment is a must for wholesalers. Industrial steam presses and tunnel finishers provide pressed creases and shape to the finished shirts. This creates that crisp, smooth finish customers expect from retail ready shirts.

Folding and Packaging 

The retail-ready shirts are then folded, often with the assistance of tissue paper or thin cardboard to hold the crisp shape. Price tags, brand tags or hang tags are added at this stage too. 

For wholesale orders, each folded shirt is poly-bagged then packed into shipping cartons labeled for the particular retailer or distributor. Protective tissue and cardboard may be used within boxes as well.

Outbound Shipping and Logistics

The packaged wholesale order is now ready for outgoing shipping and delivery. Clear labeling and tracking ensures efficient transport. Lead times are communicated so brands can expect delivery within the quoted timeframe.

Understanding Shirt Manufacturing

By learning the complete end-to-end shirt making process, brands and retailers can better collaborate with manufacturers. Knowing the steps and timing allows for better production planning and management. And streamlining the manufacturing process ultimately gets high quality shirts produced efficiently and delivered on time.


In conclusion, creating shirts is a complex process requiring careful coordination between design, production planning, material sourcing, efficient construction, quality control and logistics. The journey from initial sketch to packaged product involves many intricate steps. Understanding the complete manufacturing process allows brands and wholesalers to work closely with factories to achieve consistent quality and optimize production. Effectively managing the shirt making pipeline reduces delays, costs and headaches for all parties. With the right collaboration, manufacturers can deliver exceptional shirts that exceed customer expectations and maintain brand reputation. Careful attention to each phase of the process ensures ideal outcomes from start to finish.

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