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Textile Research Journal Article

Predicting Seam Appearance Quality
Daniela Zavec Pavlinic1
Abstract The appearance of a garment is affected and Jelka Geršak
by the quality of the fabrics used in its manufac- Department of Textiles, Faculty of Mechanical
ture, as well as a number of factors determined by Engineering, University of Maribor, Institute of Textiles,
the technology of the garment manufacturing SI-2000 Maribor, Slovenia
process. Since fabric quality, as the most important
element of garment appearance, is determined by
Janez Demšar and Ivan Bratko
its mechanical properties, it is obvious that these
Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Faculty of Computer
properties directly impact fabric processing prop-
and Information Science, University of Ljubljana,
erties. It can be seen through various forms of fab-
SI-Ljubljana, Slovenia
ric behavior under the loads that occur in sewing.
Investigations of the correlations of the stress and
fabric behavior are aimed at constructing a system
to predict fabric behavior in garment manufactur-
ing processes, as well as to predict the appearance
of the garment to be manufactured. The investiga-
tion presented here deals with the impact of fabric
mechanical properties on the quality of seam
appearance, as defined by seam puckering and
work-piece flotation. Machine learning methods
included in the Orange software package were used
to establish the importance of mechanical proper-
ties with respect to fabric behavior.

Key words garment engineering, mechanical
properties, garment manufacture, seam quality,
prediction, machine learning methods

Contemporary garment manufacturing asks for the appli- important to be familiar with the loads the fabrics are
cation of new technologies and usage of increasingly more exposed to and the deformations that are the response of
demanding fabrics. The fabrics often present serious prob- the fabric mechanical properties to the loads. It is thus pos-
lems in manufacturing, primarily due to the complex prop- sible, knowing the fabric mechanical properties at a partic-
erties dictated by ever-changing fashion trends. Fabrics are ular load level, to predict its reaction behavior, investigate
key components of the garment to be made, and differ by interactions of the parameters and their correlations, as
mass, raw material content and construction parameters. well as to predict potential problems in the garment manu-
Fabrics exhibit even more diversity when their mechanical facturing processes.1
properties are investigated in relation to load–deformation The investigations described here present the continua-
behavior. tion of the development of the system for predicting seam
Loads occurring in fabric processing result in complex appearance quality. The impact of fabric mechanical prop-
mechanisms of non-linear behavior, determined by the erty parameters on the seam appearance quality is investi-
inhomogeneity of the fabric structure. A high degree of gated, as it is the basis of a prediction system. This system
deformation is often the result of even quite low loads. Fab-
rics are exposed to various levels of load in transforming
them from a two-dimensional form into the three-dimen- 1
Corresponding author: tel.: +38622207970; +38622207960;
sional (3-D) form of an article of clothing. It is extremely fax: +38622207990; e-mail:

Textile Research Journal Vol 76(3): 235–242 DOI: 10.1177/0040517506061533 © 2006 SAGE Publications
TRJ 236 Textile Research Journal 76(3)

is aimed at offering predictions for the behavior of a new, the technique used in re-shaping the fabric into an article
carefully selected fabric, for which mechanical properties of clothing, as well as upon sewing processing parameters.
have been previously determined. Having proper informa- The fabric to be sewn is affected by the technology-deter-
tion on the behavior of the fabric selected in processing, mined forces of the sewing machine on one hand, and on the
potential problems can be eliminated in advance, which forces depending on the process of processing the fabric.
will also contribute to the final appearance of the garment Fabric behavior in sewing, i.e. its resistance to the loads at
manufactured [1]. the point of sewing, sewing needle penetration force and
To establish attributes that impact the quality of the the force originating at the toothed feed element, is prima-
seam made, as well as further predictions of seam puckering rily affected by fabric elongation, surface and longitudinal
and flotation of the work-piece, we applied methods of compression properties of the fabric processed [5].
machine learning from learning examples. We primarily used On the other hand, the work-piece is exposed, in process-
the methods of regression trees and k-nearest neighbors ing the fabric into a 3-D shape, to more or less intensive ten-
(k-NN), i.e. the distance weighted k-nearest neighbors [2]. sion, bending and shear loads, as well as to compression.
Regression trees induced from data define mappings from Fabric behavior in processing depends upon its formability,
the attributes’ values to possible predictions. On the other bending rigidity, fabric elasticity and relaxation ability, shrink-
hand, the method of distance-weighted k-NN respects the ability, shear rigidity, shear hysteresis and geometrical
importance of the distance of the query point to the nearest roughness. Formability is a specific fabric property, defined
examples. This means that nearer examples are more impor- as the ability of the fabric to be re-shaped from a plane into
tant for the prediction of the class value than those faraway the 3-D form of an article of clothing. It is based on the max-
in the attribute space. The k-NN method has proved to be imum longitudinal compression that the fabric can stand
more adequate for our prediction task. Predictions are thus before buckling occurs [6]. Tension properties at low loads
made by the distance weighted k-NN. We used an imple- were used to describe longitudinal compression [4, 7]. They
mentation of k-NN included in the Orange software pack- define fabric formability (F in mm2) as a ratio of fabric
age, developed by the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, elasticity (EL = EMT/LT in %), bending rigidity by a length
Faculty of Computer and Information Science, University unit (B in cN cm2/cm), shear rigidity (G in cN/cm °) and
of Ljubljana, Slovenia [3]. During the study a high degree of shear hysteresis (2HG5 in cN/cm) at the shear angle ± 5°
correlation was found between the important attributes (equation (1)):
selected by the above machine learning methods, and the
attributes suggested for this prediction task by an expert in EMT G
the field of garment engineering. F = ------------------- ⋅ B ⋅ ---------------- (1)
F m ⋅ LT 2HG5

where EMT is extension in % achieved at maximum load;
Theoretical Basis Fm = 490.35 cN/cm; and LT is linearity [8]. Seam appear-
ance quality is also affected by the ratio of fabric extension
weft wise and warp wise, denoted as α (alpha = EMT2/
Impact of Fabric Mechanical Properties on EMT1). For ladies’ outerwear this value approaches 1. Seam
Seam Quality puckering can occur with fabrics that exhibit values of
the ratio described above that are either too high or too
An article of clothing is an unmistakable part of the whole-
ness of an individual, complementing his/her personality.
In addition to fulfilling the functions of use, it should be of
an appropriate visual appeal, which is in itself a result of Seam Puckering
numerous factors occurring in the garment manufacturing Investigations of the quality of seam visual appearance from
process, including the mechanical properties of the fabrics the point of view of fabric mechanical properties, have
used. The quality of a garment as a whole can be described resulted in the awareness that seam puckering occurs in
as a harmony of the fabrics incorporated and the proper- most cases because yarns in the fabric weave are pushed
ties of these fabrics, divided into basic, end-use and process- aside, as the sewing needle with the thread inserted pushes
ing properties, as well as the techniques and mechanisms warp and weft yarns aside at each puncturing, which results
employed in processing. These can have a serious impact, in certain degree of tension due to the fact that they have
together with the fabric mechanical properties, on the full- to take up new position in the fabric. The degree depends
ness of form of the work-piece, proper drape and the fit- on the structure, construction and fineness of the fabric,
ting of the garment to the body contours [4]. its mechanical properties, sewing needle gauge and stitch
One of the key factors impacting the quality of garment length. When the sewing needle leaves the work-piece in
appearance is the visual appearance of the seams. This pri- the course of stitch formation, total or partial relaxation
marily depends upon fabric behavior in sewing and upon occurs of the warp and weft yarns in the area of the punc-
Predicting Seam Appearance Quality D. Z. Pavlinic et al. 237 TRJ

Figure 1 Seam puckering as a det-
rimental factor of garment appear-

turing aperture. It depends upon the elastic properties of ric extension in the area of the seam, which is reflected as a
the warp and weft yarns, since, due to abrasion forces in gain in longitudinal length. Seam flotation is a deformation
the interlocking area of the needle and catcher thread, the of the seam that occurs because of the interaction of the
work-piece compacts in the area of the puncturing aper- shear load (affecting the fabric through the sewing thread)
ture at the moment of tightening the stitch. The deforma- and fabric extension in the area of the seam [10, 11].
tion created in this way, which is reduced in the direction
of the stitch center, can cause additional tension in warp or
weft yarns. During repeated puncturing, the sewing needle Statistical methods
must make its way between individual warp and weft yarns, Fabrics respond in different manners to the loads occurring
and the yarns are again pushed aside. As in sewing needle in garment manufacturing processes. It is extremely impor-
puncturing the puncturing point is changed at each stitch tant to have an understanding of the interactions of the
formed, in principle by the stitch length, namely 2 to 5 mm, fabric mechanical properties, to be able to study and
the same system of the warp and weft threads is established understand properly the key parameters of these proper-
at the distance of the technologically determined puncturing ties. Fabric behavior in sewing is, from the point of view of
point, e.g. stitch length. Due to repetitious pushing of the the aesthetics of seam appearance, reflected in its smooth-
warp and weft yarns, construction deformation occurs in ness. The seam that is not smooth is either puckered or
the textile surface. If the tension caused is higher than the floated [11]. The degree of correlation between seam
margin of elasticity they are seen as plastic deformation of puckering and flotation can be measured by the Pearson’s
the fabric [9]. The deformation is reflected as seam puckering correlation coefficient, as shown in equation (2) [12]:
and has a detrimental impact on the quality of the seam,
as well as on the appearance of the article of clothing as a
∑  X – X  Y – Y -
whole (Figure 1). i=1 i i
The fabrics in plain weave are more prone to seam r = ---------------------------------------------------------- (2)
( n – 1 )S x S y
puckering, due to higher density of warp and weft yarns,
which cause higher values of shear properties, primarily
where Xi and Yi are the values of variables X and Y in
shear hysteresis (2HG) at the shear angle ± 0.5°.
experiment i, X and Y are their average values, Sx and Sy
are their standard deviations and n is number of samples.
Seam Flotation
Investigations of the seam flotation, from the point of view
of fabric mechanical properties, are affected by the values of
Machine Learning Methods
bending and shear properties, the formability of the fabric Machine learning is an area of artificial intelligence that
in question, as well as by extension. Low bending rigidity is includes procedures that, from a number of learning exam-
detrimental to the seam appearance because of the resist- ples from a problem domain, discover new knowledge on
ance the fabric offers to the bending. However, too low the topic. This knowledge, represented by a formal model,
formability prevents the fabric from adapting to the forces is obtained from a kind of analysis and generalization of
occurring within it. The seam, as a joining element, causes the learning examples. The knowledge can be used to proc-
fabric shearing deformation in the area of the seam, due to ess new, previously unseen, examples. Often such discov-
the mass of the thread interlocked in the stitch. The shear ered knowledge itself is of interest to domain experts.
deformation of the fabric caused in this way results in fab- Procedures of machine learning can be used to discover
TRJ 238 Textile Research Journal 76(3)

previously unknown regularities within a set of given data. expert was conducted using the Spearman’s rank-correla-
This is often referred to as data mining, or KDD – knowl- tion coefficient [12]:
edge discovery in data bases. In this way the rules, previously
unknown to the expert in the field, but quite meaningful, N

can be discovered and statistically verified for validity. A 6 Di
model thus obtained can also be tested on some other i=1
ρ = 1– -------------------------
- (3)
examples that differ from those used for inducing the
N  N 2 – 1
model. The validity of induced models is typically meas-  
ured by their classification accuracy, sensitivity, etc. Other
qualities of a model are also of interest: its interpretability
where Di is the difference between the two ranks of the
from the expert’s point of view, its brevity, etc.
corresponding values of two variables and N is the number
In attribute-value machine learning, each learning exam-
of pairs of values.
ple is described in terms of values of attributes and the class
To assess the predictive accuracy of the induced regres-
it belongs to. Class can be categorical (in classification prob-
sion trees and the k-NN classifiers, standard ten-fold cross
lems) or numerical (in regression problems). In the case
validation was used. Examples were randomly divided into
presented here, the learning examples are the individual
ten folds and each method was tried for ten times, where the
fabrics; the attributes are the measured parameters of
examples from nine folds were used for learning and the
mechanical properties, while the associated classes are the
remaining fold was used for testing. The accuracy of the
various responses of the fabrics behavior. The task of
models induced was measured by the root of mean squared
machine learning is to find a model, i.e. function, which
error (RMSE), a standard measure for the evaluation of
could be used to predict the response of new fabrics. Two
regression models (equation (4)):
methods of machine learning have been used for the pur-
pose in our study: regression tree learning, and learning by
the k-nearest neighbors method (k-NN). The classification N 2
 x i – p i
trees method was also used in preliminary experiments, as
well as naive Bayesian classifier and locally weighted regres- ∑i=1
 
sion, which all proved to yield significantly less accurate RMSE = ------------------------------ (4)
results than regression trees and k-NN.
Modeling by regression trees is based on recursive parti- where the pi is a predicted value; the xi is the corresponding
tioning of the example set into ever-smaller subsets, until measured value; and N is the number of examples.
the variance in the class values obtained in the subsets is All the experiments were conducted using the compo-
below a specified threshold [13]. The division is based on nent-based machine learning system Orange [3]. It includes
the values of attributes, chosen by heuristic that is supposed a range of preprocessing algorithms (feature subset selec-
to lead to smaller and (according to the holy grail of machine tion, categorization, and feature utility estimation for
learning, the Ockham’s principle) more accurate trees. The predictive tasks), modeling techniques (classification and
induced regression trees can be shown to a domain expert, regression trees, naive Bayesian classifier, k-NN, majority
who can then decide whether they agree with the existing classifier, support vector machines, linear and logistic regres-
theoretical knowledge. sion, ensemble methods), validation procedures (cross-val-
K-nearest neighbors method (k-NN) predicts the outcome idation, random sampling, leave-one-out) and visualization
for an example by computing the average outcome over k methods.
learning examples most similar to the query example, the
so-called “nearest neighbors” [2]. Neighbors’ influence can
also be weighted with regard to their distance from the query
example. Unfortunately, k-NN models cannot be visualized, Methodology
which makes their interpretation very difficult. In order to
gain some insight into such k-NN models, we conducted a The research described here was aimed at investigating the
series of tests in which k-NN selected the most appropriate impact of parameters of fabric mechanical properties on
attribute subset for predicting a specific response. Using seam puckering and flotation of work-piece components in
such a randomized procedure, we were able to statistically the area of the seam. The aim was to construct predictive
assess the importance of individual attributes by counting models that can be used to predict the quality of the seams
the number of trials in which they were selected. To evalu- for a new randomly selected fabric, provided its mechani-
ate the compliance of the model with the expectations cal properties are known.
made by experts, we compared the attribute selections by
k-NN with those made by a domain expert. Statistical com-
parison of the attribute rankings by k-NN and a human
Predicting Seam Appearance Quality D. Z. Pavlinic et al. 239 TRJ

Figure 2 Development of predic-
tion system.

Learning Examples Scheme of Research
In the process of machine learning described, the attributes The development of the model for predicting seam quality
were the parameters of mechanical properties for the 489 was based on learning examples. The model should identify
fabrics, intended for the manufacture of ladies’ outerwear, the attributes that affect individual fabric behavior response
that were analyzed. The fabrics were selected in the course in sewing, and predict seam puckering and flotation of
of the garment manufacturing process. They differed in raw work-piece components in the area of the seam. This is one
material content, mass, weave and construction parame- of the criteria of assessing the quality of garment appear-
ters. The parameters of fabric mechanical properties were ance. The overall picture of the development a system for
determined in the area of low loads, using the KES-FB predicting seam quality can be seen in Figure 2.
measuring system at standard measuring conditions [8].
The classes in the learning subset were the fabric process-
ing properties, i.e. the fabric’s responses to sewing, which
depend on the fabric’s mechanical properties. The fabric’s Results and Discussion
responses to sewing that impact directly on the quality of
garment appearance are seam puckering (s1) and flotation Development of the system of predicting seam quality,
of work-piece components (s7). A control system, based on namely seam puckering (s1) and flotation of work-piece
determining the most important fabric behavior elements components in the area of the seam (s7) included the anal-
for seam quality, was constructed for the purpose of deter- ysis of correlation of the response of behavior described.
mining fabric response behavior, from the point of view of The correlation between the degree of seam puckering
seam quality. Each element was analyzed regarding its and flotation of work-piece components in the area of the
impact on appearance quality, e.g. smoothness of the seams, seam, as behavior response in sewing was measured by the
as well as regarding the degree of roughness (non-smooth- Pearson correlation coefficient. A Pearson coefficient of
ness), e.g. seam puckering. This was performed by following 0.533 indicates correlation that is significant at the level
the regulations of the AATCC standard, as was the case for p < 0.01.
the degree of seam flotation [14]. The grades were divided Behavior responses of the fabric were graded from 1 to
into five classes [11]: 5, high quality seam appearance; 4, 5 (no sample was graded as 1). The situation is presented in
good appearance, insignificant seam puckering or flotation; 3, Figure 3.
acceptable appearance, noticeable puckering or flotation; Based on the investigations of interaction of fabric
2, below average appearance, significant puckering or flota- mechanical properties and their impact on seam puckering
tion; 1, poor appearance, unacceptable puckering or flotation and flotation of work-piece components, experienced experts
of the seam. proposed particularly important attributes, affecting par-
ticular responses (Table 1). The attributes are given sepa-
rately for warp (mark 1) and weft wise (mark 2).
Learning sets were formed which include important
attributes for both classes as selected by the experts. The
TRJ 240 Textile Research Journal 76(3)

Table 2 Root mean squared errors of the estimates.

Prediction by Regression k-nearest
average tree neighbors
s1 0.726 0.693 0.561
s7 0.784 0.897 0.569

The results obtained by the experiments for response
s1, show that regression trees are marginally better than
prediction by the average value (Wilcoxon test for paired
observations shows difference with the significance < 5%).
For both responses, s1 and s7, the best learning method for
our problem seemed to be k-NN, which by far outper-
formed the other two methods.
Table 3 shows the results of the experiments in which
k-NN was run on 30 randomly selected subsets of the exam-
ples described by the initial, complete set of attributes.
To confirm the correlation between the results obtained
using the k-NN method and the attributes given by the
Figure 3 Correlation of seam puckering (s1) and flotation experts, these attributes were given rank following their
of work-piece components (s7). importance for a particular response. The rank of the
attributes was thus obtained. In the experts-proposed list of
attributes, the most important attribute for a particular
response was ranked as the first, and so on. When sorting the
attributes obtained using the k-NN method, the most impor-
tant one for a particular response was the one that was used
Table 1 Important attributes affecting seam puckering most frequently in the course of the 30 experiments. The
(s1) and work-piece flotation in the area of the seam (s7). results thus obtained indicate that the parameter α was the
most important one for seam puckering, as it offered the
Response Attributes selected for a particular response
ratio of fabric elongation weftwise and warpwise. Properties
s1 EMT-1, RT-1*, alpha, 2HG-2, 2HG5-2, EL-1 exhibited weftwise, particularly bending rigidity B, shear
s7 EMT-2, RT-2*, alpha, G-2, 2HG-2, 2HG5-2, B-2 hysteresis 2HG and tensile resilience RT, are the properties
* tensile resilience in % [8] that have the highest impact on work-piece flotation in the
area of the seam. The Spearman’s rank-correlation coef-
ficient was then established between the two ranks obtained
in the above manner [equation (3) (significance level p <
root mean squared error (RMSE; equation (4)) of the 0.05); Table 4].
models constructed are given in Table 2. The models com- The results for the Spearman’s rank-correlation coeffi-
pared in this table are: regression tree model, k-NN predic- cient show a high degree of correlation among the attributes
tor, and the trivial model which always predicts the average selected as important by the experts and those selected by
class values. the k-NN method. This indicates that the k-NN method is

Table 3 Number of trials (out of 30) in which the attributes were selected. The attributes that were used in less than four
times are omitted for the sake of claritya.

Responses EMT-1 EMT-2 RT-1 RT-2 a G-2 2HG-2 2HG5-2 EL-1 EL-2 B-1 B-2
s1 19 29 30 9
s7 28 18 11 28 14 28
Justification for this threshold is that if the probability of the attribute to be chosen at random is 0.5, the probability that an attribute is
chosen in four or more trials is less than p = 0.05. Therefore, attributes occurring in less than four trials can be considered statistically
Predicting Seam Appearance Quality D. Z. Pavlinic et al. 241 TRJ

Table 4 Spearman’s rank-correlation coefficient. resenting one of the key criteria for assessing the quality of
garment appearance, is a proper basis for constructing the
Responses Spearman’s rank-correlation coefficient system for predicting garment appearance quality. Using k-
NN, the software package Orange enables successful deter-
s1 0.943
s7 0.815 mination of the mechanical property parameters that impact
seam puckering and work-piece component flotation in the
area of the seam. The selection of important attributes is
appropriate and can be used to find the attributes that specific for a particular response of fabric behavior, and
affect fabric behavior in sewing processes. can be used to predict the degree of seam puckering and
work-piece component flotation, so that the proper fabric
can be selected just by knowing its mechanical property
Conclusion parameters. Such an approach to solving the problem of
seam puckering and work-piece component flotation, even
The results obtained in constructing a model for predicting before the actual process of garment manufacture has started,
seam quality using machine learning, indicate that in solv- is of considerable importance in the process of designing
ing these problems the k-NN algorithm is more appropri- high-quality garments. It offers, apart from savings in the
ate for the purpose than regression trees. Despite the fact amount of the fabric to be used, clear criteria for the required
that regression trees offer, in principle, the formation of fabric quality parameters.
more complex models for prediction, and that the interac-
tions among the attributes can be more clearly seen, the
trees yield poor results. The k-NN method uses learning
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