Principles of Patternmaking

Introduction and Overview of Patternmaking

So how do you even begin to make a pattern?

I will give a very basic overview of the process of making a pattern and the garment in the fashion industry –  the workflow and process, and the knowledge that a professional patternmaker in the fashion industry would need in order to make patterns. Of course, for home sewers making their own pattern, the process would not always be the same. 

In the remainder of the pages on this menu there is more detail, especially regarding the parts of the process that relate to the home-sewer-patternmaker. These pages follow on from each other, and should be read in order to get an understanding of the patternmaking process.

A reminder that (a) I have never worked in the garment industry, and (b) different garment places have different processes and may do things slightly differently.  These pages are for those who has no knowledge of patternmaking and want a brief overview.

The real point is for the home-sewer-patternmaker to take out of this what THEY will need to do in this patternmaking process.

The Professional Patternmaker

A professional patternmaker in the fashion industry has a very particular job, which is to make patterns.  They do not create the design, they do not cut the garment out, or sew it up.  They receive information about a pattern that is to be made, and they make the pattern.

Creating a New Garment Design

The process of the creation of a new garment design, from start to finish, is something like this (very simplified);

  • The designer draws a design; a stylized drawing, a concept.
  • Someone else creates Technical Drawing  – which is called a (Fashion) Flat from the stylized drawing.  This flat is a flat 3D representation of the garment, which clearly shows the design lines and detail. This is accompanied by a Specification Sheet which will detail things like the type of fabric being used, the hem width, the number of buttons, the length of the zip, etc, if there is trim, lining or facing, etc.
  • The patternmaker can look at the Flat and work out very quickly, or ‘see’ how many pattern pieces are needed to create the garment; any information not obvious from the Flat will be given the Specification Sheet (e.g. internal facing isn’t obvious from a Flat).
  • The patternmaker creates one pattern piece at a time,  by
    • using the appropriate block/s, 
    • referring to the Specification Sheet and Flat, and
    • applying the Principles of Patternmaking
  • All of the pattern pieces are created, notched so that the necessary information is on the pieces to join them together, and checked against each other for length and flow-through, etc.  Each pattern piece is labelled and has cutting instructions noted; grainline is marked on each pattern piece.
  • Seam allowance is added to each pattern piece, according to the guidelines of that particular company
  • The patternmaker will complete a form with all the details of the pattern (maybe the same Specification Sheet, maybe another Pattern Chart) that gives all the details of the pattern; number of pattern pieces, lining, interfacing, etc.
  • Someone else cuts a test garment (called a Sample)
  • Someone else sews up the Sample
  • The sample is put on a Fit Model to check the fit
  • Changes are made to the toile if necessary
  • The pattern pieces are altered if necessary
  • When/if the pattern is deemed successful, the pattern pieces are graded up/down to create other sizes

In the next section, we will look at one aspect of what is covered above –  Sketches & Flats.

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