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9 Top Tips to Get the Best Out of Your Pattern Cutter

A pattern cutter should be viewed as the fashion designers engineer. It’s a misconception that their role and place in fashion is secondary to that of the designer for many pattern cutters have a vast knowledge of design and construction. Both necessary skills that are required to breathe life into a two-dimensional drawing.

How to get the best out of your pattern cutter should be at the forefront of your mind if you’re about to embark on developing a fashion range.

However, if you’re new to the fashion industry understanding how to find the ‘best’ pattern cutter is, could be hard to decipher.

In the first instance, a pattern cutter will need some information from you and our selection of Top Tips will clarify what that information should be.

1. Sketches and Flat Drawings

In order not to waste time and to be able to get the best out of your pattern cutter, clear, detailed flat drawings are the first items you need to collate for your first meeting.

These should include front and back views with ALL seam and design details. The type of seams you require should also be listed as seam allowances vary from seam to seam. Topstitching details should be clearly drawn on every seam that requires them.

For example, are you after an edge stitch or a foot stitch? Details such as pocket types, collar shapes and front fly details should be magnified, annotated and highlighted and include all measurements.

All dart placements should also be drawn on your flats or discussed with the pattern cutter if you’re unsure of the best type of dart to use or its placement on the garment. In fact, I would suggest that you overdo it by including too much information as this will enable your pattern cutter to give you a fair estimate for their time.

2. Measurements: Body

If your pattern cutter is using their own blocks you will need to give them your sample size measurements. Your measurements will be based on your ideal customers sizing. These measurements will be compared to the standard size block measurements your pattern cutter has and tweaked accordingly.

get the best out of your pattern cutter - pattern cutting body measuring chart
Chart illustrating how to measure the human body for pattern cutting purposes.

3. Measurements: Garments

A full set of measurements must be included on your drawings to detail things such as the collar, button placket and cuff widths. Trouser leg and skirt widths should also be noted on your drawings. How low should the v-neck on your dress be and how long or short are your sleeves? Don’t leave it to your pattern cutter to guess as it will inevitably end up costing you should pattern amends be required.

4. The Overall Fit of Garments

Good communication with your pattern cutter is imperative.

To get the best out of your pattern cutter, let your pattern cutter know whether you’re after a very fitted look or something a bit more relaxed.

This information will ensure that your garments have the correct amount of ease in the pattern and fit will fit your client body shape correctly.

5. Pattern Blocks

Pattern blocks are the templates that your pattern cutter will use to create your designer patterns.

Some designers have these made, in their sample size, by a pattern cutter at the start of their business and then go on to have toiles made from the block in future new design developments.

This ensures that the patterns are perfect for your ideal customer before you have your designer patterns made.

The majority of pattern cutters will have their own blocks also, but if you have already created your own, then please give them to the pattern cutter to work from.

Related reading: Why are Pattern Cutters even important? Can I do away with them?

6. Final Product Material

It would be pointless to work on patterns unless you know exactly what material you will be making your product in. Different materials and different material compositions have different properties that will have an effect on the final pattern cut.

Therefore, your pattern cutter will need to know the type of material you’ll be using. This information will help them make decisions such as whether facings should be made separately or they’re grown on (part of the front jacket pattern, for example).

If your design is to be made in a very fine silk then a French seam would be more appropriate than a plain seam. The pattern markings for these two seams are different so your pattern cutter will need to be aware of this.

Material width is another important factor that your pattern cutter must be informed of. This knowledge will allow them to create pattern pieces that are not wider than the material, thus preventing the need to join pieces once cut.

This will also allow you to make things easier for a factory and even make savings when cutting your materials.

7. Fastenings

Devil is in the details. Whoever said this was so right. If you wanted to get the best out of your pattern cutter, then it is really important to consider the design details you want to be included in your design and advise the pattern cutter at your meeting. Even discuss it with them, as something they may advise you against a particular detail due to technical considerations you may not be aware of.

Zip lengths, button and press stud sizing must be included on the flat drawings as well as placement details for all of these items. In regards to button sizing, if you were having a shirt pattern created the button size will determine the width of the button placket and therefore the pattern pieces.

8. Manufacturing Budget

Many designers will have a budget in mind that they’d like to pay for manufacturing. If you are not sure what the cost price for your product should be, use this handy calculator to find out.

For example, I work with a company that uses a factory that pays a living wage of £15 per hour to its machinists.

In order for them to make a profit and to sell their products, they need to be made within certain time constraints. If your patterns are very detailed then this would be almost impossible to achieve. We achieved this by creating a faux cuff on the sleeve of a kimono and replaced the initial designer’s idea of a double front facing to a single one.

It’s important to employ a pattern cutter who has a design background in order for them to think creatively to develop solutions.

9. Digitize the pattern

Many pattern cutters still work the old fashioned way – with pencil and card paper. While it is great and handy to have your patterns on a card and easily accessible should you need them, it is important to always keep a digital copy. Often paper patterns get lost or damaged or ruined over time with use. Having a digital copy of your basic block and final patterns is useful, especially if over time you amass many patterns and over time you want to go back and re-use an old pattern.

There are many pattern cutters who will now cut a pattern and provide you with both – card pattern and digital file. But if that is not the case, there are many pattern cutting studios that will provide you with this service too.

To give yourself a head start and in order to get the best out of your pattern cutter, remember that good pattern cutters specialize in different product categories, so ensure that you select the right one for your particular needs.

Secondly give them as much information about your materials, garment shape and fit and your manufacturing budget. This will enable them to deliver a great service that’s accurate and within your budget.

Good luck.

If you have any questions about this article or general feedback then please do not hesitate to let us know in the comments below.