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  • 03/25/2018

Five formulas pattern makers wish all designers knew

Five formulas pattern makers wish all designers knew

1024 288 Zack Hurley

Working With a Pattern Maker

Finally. You are ready. All the designs and ideas that you have in your mind, are on paper. The time has come to make some fabulous clothes, and it is thrilling.

However, for now, this whole creativity/joy parade is a mystery to the rest of the world and the way you explain your vision to the pattern maker who will make it a reality is crucial. These are the five formulas pattern makers wish designers knew.


Vague direction= Unmet expectation

If you have a clear vision of what you want, find a simple and effective way to explain it to your pattern maker. There are many ways to do this.

  • Have a detailed hand or digital sketch, photo, or sample. A sample works best because it will also serve as a size reference.
  • Add notes to your sketch with arrows pointing to correct part of the garment indicating anything that you want to convey to your pattern maker. How would you like to finish the hem, placket or armholes? Is it lining, facing or binding? Add measurements when it is essential, for example, the skirt is 22” long, place the pocket 3” down from the waist and 2” from the side seam, use a 7” invisible side zipper, use a 1” wide waistband.

If your pattern is not clear, your pattern maker will need to contact you for clarification, and if you are not available, it could kill the flow of your pattern making process. The last thing you want is wasted time. So be concise, specific, and understand that even the best pattern makers cannot read your mind. If you say, “Attach the front to back somehow” or “I am not sure, but I can see it in my head” it is not a clear direction.

When you work with an experienced pattern maker, he or she should be able to suggest methods to make your design happen. On the flip side, they can tell you what about your design will not work and how to alter it.

Knowing how you want your design to flow and feel


Understanding of construction + Fabric + Trim = Cohesive design + Easy process

Do your homework. Learn all you can about the fabric and trim you are going to use the printing process you are going to apply, or any special techniques that you have in mind, like smocking, garment wash, or fabric dye.

Knowledge is the ultimate power in fashion! You can have the most beautiful sketch ever, but if you have no clue on how pieces come together, what kind of fit do you want, or what fabric will be best, the process of getting it right can be long and frustrating for both you and your pattern maker.

Dig deeper. Ask yourself more questions. What kind of fit do I want? Missy, contemporary, junior, athletic, loose, fitted, sexy? Does my garment have artwork or embroidery? Is my fabric knit or woven? What kind of buttons am I using? Is there elastic? Cords? Flag labels? Hook & eye? Velcro? When you know what you want, it makes it easier to present your ideas to the pattern makers and to hold them accountable, because your vision is clear.


Commitment > Fear

Stop changing your mind.


Big dream + Understanding the budget = Awesome market-friendly garment

There are so many ways to finish a neckline. Depending on your budget it can be 10 cents or 1 dollar. The more you know, the better your final product and budget will be.

Maintaining a positive relationship with your pattern maker will result in a beautiful final product


Good vibes = Beauty

A positive and open-minded attitude already scores you some big points with your pattern maker. No one wants to work with the diva.

Some real magic can happen when a designer and pattern maker work on a project. Co-creating together becomes REALLY fun. Beauty is pouring out of everywhere. Ideas are flowing, and the clothing reflects that. Everything made with love and in good spirits will look better than something tortured with doubt, indecision or distrust.

Michael Kors once said that fashion is not for sissies! It is so true! Bringing design to the mass market is a long and complicated process. Most people do not realize that the amount of paperwork that accompanies a pair of leggings by the time they go into production can be the size of an old-fashioned phonebook. A lot can go wrong: fabrics get stuck in customs, trims get lost in the mail, colors can change in printing, a garment can grow on the hanger. However, how you react to any challenge that may arise is a choice! A proactive, positive, and constructive approach to anything will get you the results you want and the respect of your team.

Pattern making is an artform. It is essentially sculpting with fabric, engineering a shape from the basic material. It is not easy. When you and your pattern maker recognize each other’s gifts and embrace them, it is a solid foundation for creative collaboration.

So, in the nutshell: be clear, focused and realistic, know your stuff, put your positive pants on and your pattern maker will love you and help you get your amazing ideas into the real world.

Indie Source