You have designed your tech pack. You have found a source for materials and fabrics. The next step in the process is pattern making. No matter how impressive your design may be, it does not mean much if the garment does not fit properly. Pattern making is the process of developing a blueprint for your design that reflects the fit, construction, and overall aesthetic of your finished garment. While pattern making can be taught or done on your own, it is no easy task.
Developing an accurate and effective pattern requires meticulous attention to detail and industry knowledge, usually gained through years of experience. The right pattern maker can help bring your design to life, bridging the gap between ideation and production. However, it can be difficult to find a pattern maker who can incorporate their services into your existing creative process. Another option is full-service development and production houses that includes a pattern maker as part of its package of services.
As important as it is to find the right pattern maker, it is essential to be prepared so that they can do their best work – and it’s just one part of the development process. Download the production checklist we use with all of our clients to see everything you’ll need to get started – and we’ll throw in our costing template, fabric & trim directory, and development cheatsheet too. In the meantime, here’s what you should look into before deciding on a pattern maker or production house.
Types of pattern making
There are three main types of pattern making; flat paper, drafting, and draping, and each type is used for a different purpose. Before choosing a pattern maker, you should familiarize yourself with the different methods so that you can find someone that specializes in the technique you need.
Flat pattern- The flat pattern is the simplest form of pattern making, and most commonly used in menswear. Using rulers, curves, and straight-edges, the pattern maker will sketch your design onto a flat surface from your measurements. This is called a sloper or block pattern, which is just a simple diagram of a fitted garment made of cardboard or paperboard. It does not include things like seam allowances, style details, or grading, as the primary focus is to refine the shape and fit of your garment. Once the pattern maker has a general idea of your objective, a series of mockups called muslins are designed to refine the shaper into the final blueprint for your design.
Drafting- Drafting is a reasonably simple process based on actual measurements taken from a person or mannequin. This method allows the template of your design to be tailored to the shape and size of the people who will be wearing it. Measurements are taken for hip, chest, waist, and any other relevant area then plotted onto paper then connected by lines to complete the design. This process provides a very basic foundation for your design.
Draping- Draping involves the use of actual fabric on a person or mannequin to create a basic, fitted pattern of your design. It is often used in womenswear or more complicated designs that involve different fabric cuts and weights. Draping provides a three-dimensional fabric pattern that acts as a more intricate muslin for the final design.
What should you bring to a pattern maker?
Pattern making demands specific expertise and commitment to the craft, often developed through years of experience. While pattern makers may be able to understand your vision right from the start, there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes. Pattern makers rely on your input to bring your idea to life. Without your help, you may end up disappointed. A full-service production and development house can help you avoid any obstacles. However, if you choose to go with a standalone pattern maker, here’s what you should have done in advance:
Samples of all fabrics, trims, and materials- If you plan on ordering materials directly to the pattern maker, you should already have a source and confirmation that the two can work together
Working technical sketches- This step is essential. If you are not able to draw your design accurately, consider hiring an illustrator or full-service development house
Seam & stitching details- Many new designers gloss over the construction of their garments. It is essential to know exactly how you want the seams to look. Bring pictures or samples if you are unfamiliar with seam terminology.
Measurements- Regardless of the method being used to create your pattern, it is vital to know the desired measurements of your garment. Whether you include them in your tech pack or take them on the spot, knowing the desired measurements is essential.
Samples of other features- If there are any other features you want in your pattern, bringing an example of what you are looking for is a great idea. While these details should be in your tech pack, an actual sample can make things a lot easier.
What are the biggest mistakes designers make during pattern making?
Many designers are eager to get their line into production and skip over important details in the process. It is crucial to take your time during this stage to avoid wasting precious time and money. Here are a few of the worst mistakes designers make during pattern making:
Not enough detail- Pattern makers rely on tech packs and technical sketches to develop your garment the way you desire. You have to provide enough detail so that they know exactly what you are looking for.
No budget in mind- Pattern makers can be expensive, especially if you don’t have an idea of what you need. Set a budget and be upfront with your pattern maker so that you can avoid any unnecessary spending.
No clear idea of a timeline- Developing a clothing line takes time. Try to figure out your ideal timeline so that your pattern maker can help you deliver on time.
Find the right size business- A pattern maker that is too big might not be able to cater to your needs. A smaller house might not be able to offer the connections and intel to help you grow your business.
Communicate- Be clear about what you expect from your pattern maker. Is it okay if they share your designs? Are they able to work with your specific style/sources/budget?
There’s a lot to working with a pattern maker, and it’s just one part of the development process. Download the production checklist we use with all of our clients to see everything you’ll need to get started – and we’ll throw in our costing template, fabric & trim directory, and development cheatsheet too.