The McCall printing facility in Manhattan, Kansas, which prints the tissue patterns for all of the major sewing pattern companies in the United States, has had limited operations since mid-October due to a computer systems issue. The printing plant is owned by CSS Industries, now part of IG Design Group, and is possibly the only printer in the US capable of printing the large scale tissue paper used in sewing patterns.
The Big 4 sewing pattern brands, McCalls, Vogue, Simplicity and New Look, are all printed at the facility. Many of the largest independent pattern companies print at McCall as well. This reliance on a single print factory is a vulnerability in the sewing pattern market and will soon lead to production and fulfillment delays across the supply chain.
Stacey Long, Vice President of Consumer Technology at CSS Industries, said on November 11 that the computer issue was a “network outage,” but several pattern designers I spoke with were told by the Production Coordinator at McCall that the outage was due to a malware attack on the company’s computer systems. Staff at the printing facility told these designers that the attack had rendered computers inaccessible to the point that they were unable to turn their computers on. When I called the Production Coordinator for comment she said she had been instructed not to speak with me.
The printing issues began in mid-October and have now lasted for at least seven weeks. “I’ve been told that I’m not able to get any printing jobs delivered until sometime in the new year,” says Gretchen Hirsch, owner of Charm Patterns. “The impact on my company is that we’ve run out of stock on several patterns and aren’t able to replenish as quickly as usual, and we also won’t be able to print a new design with them this year.”
The McCall printing facility in Manhattan, Kansas prints not only the Big 4 patterns but also the tissue for most of the independent pattern designers in the US.
Molly Hamilton, the owner of Folkwear Patterns, is facing similar challenges. “We have 4-5 patterns that need printing right now and are waiting for McCalls to be able to print them. We are about to run out of several patterns that are fairly popular due to waiting on McCalls,” she said.
She explains that the shutdown is especially frustrating coming on the heels of an earlier shutdown due to COVID-19. “This is the second time this year it has happened – first for stay-at-home orders in the spring and they were shut down for nearly 2 months. And now, with their computer system being hacked (what I was told), it’s been another 7 weeks of them out of commission. I am told each week that they think they will be back up and running soon, but I don’t think the employees really know.”
Heather Lou from Closet Core is concerned about a rush that will likely ensue once the facility is up and running again. “We are waiting on a pattern and have three to print in January so I’m pretty nervous about the crush once they are able to open again,” she says “How could a hacker cause such damage?!”
Although the printing plant is able to reprint orders at this time, they aren’t able to make any new plates, a process necessary for creating new patterns or reprinting older ones if a pattern needs just a minor change. Jenny Rushmore of Cashmerette Patterns explains, “Even our reprints require a change in text to say they’re a reprint so that we can track them, so we’re out of luck on everything.”
She goes on to point out that this experience has made clear a single point of vulnerability in the whole market and a real need for another printing option. Every designer I spoke with asked if I knew of another domestic large scale tissue printer since tissue is still the most economical way to print and mail multiple large scale pattern templates.
Patrick McElwee, co-owner and partner at Sew Liberated, says, “For a while, I have wondered if anyone else would offer bulk printing on large-format tissue. McCall’s raised prices substantially around 6 or 7 years ago, and I imagine it could be done profitably. I also imagine many indie pattern companies would be happy to give them business, in order to ensure that there is more than one supplier, so we don’t suddenly find ourselves with no suppliers again.”