Hire A Pattern Cutter
What Does A Pattern Cutter Do ?
(047). In the clothing business, a Pattern Cutter`s role is pivotal between designer, sample machinist and factory. An experienced pattern cutter will have an expansive range of knowledge and they are the key to your success. A pattern cutter`s role will be different working as a freelancer than working in a company as they will need to take on a number of roles on top of their own traditional one.
Working With The Designer.
For the pattern cutter, liaising with the designer is important in order to get a feel for what the designer is looking for, and what their inspirations are. They need to understand how the designer works. Interpreting their sketches can be tricky at first, as they can can often be a little flamboyant. Sometimes it can be difficult understanding what to take literally and what is artistic license.
Making The Pattern.
The pattern cutter will make a pattern by interpreting the designer`s sketch. This pattern is used to cut the fabric that is to be sewn to make the finished sample. The pattern needs to be accurately marked so that the sample cutter knows exactly how to cut the garment out, and the sample machinist knows how to make it – What fabric, how many pieces to cut and where the grain line is.
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Working With The Sample Machinist.
Pattern cutters need to liaise with the sample machinist, providing them with all the necessary information to construct the sample correctly. They may need to provide the sample machinist with a technical sketch along with necessary written instructions. The pattern itself should also provide adequate information. To make it easy for the machinist, the pattern needs to fit together accurately.
Once the sample is made, the pattern cutter would usually be involved, along with the designer in fit meetings, where the garment will be tried on a model and adjustments made by pinning. The pattern cutter would then alter the pattern accordingly. Alternatively, the pattern cutter may do the alterations from a list of instructions, illustrations and photos provided by the designer.
Pattern Cutter Or Pattern Maker ?
We are sometimes asked what the difference is between a pattern cutter and a pattern maker. There is no difference. They are the same thing. We use both terms equally.
One-Stop-Shop For Startups.
Should you choose a comprehensive service ? These days there are a lot of UK companies that offer a comprehensive service to fashion startups – Including ourselves here at The London Pattern Cutter. We offer a comprehensive array of services, classes and workshops so that our clients are in complete control.
The Pattern Cutter`s Role
Whichever approach you choose when hiring a pattern cutter, the pattern cutter`s role is the key to success, but if you are using a freelance pattern cutter, you absolutely must use an experienced freelancer.
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It is essential to find a good Pattern Cutter, very experienced specifically in the genre you aim to produce. If you are making styles for several different genres, then you may need different Pattern Cutters for each .
A very experienced freelancer should be able to cover a wide range of genres though. We have a range of very experienced pattern cutters in all genres.
Dont skimp on the pattern cutting, except to make sure that you are paying a reasonable rate commensurate to the pattern cutter`s experience and skills.
Choose one who has had a lot of experience working with start-ups and so can also act as a mentor. This way, although you may be paying more for your patterns, you should be receiving invaluable advice.
“No one ever listened themselves out of a job”
Getting The Pattern Right First Time.
While large international fashion companies can afford three or four attempts before achieving a final pattern and sample, most smaller companies with limited budgets do not have this luxury. The Pattern needs to be right first time. Or second time at worst.
The Pattern Cutter must be able to lead you to provide whatever is required to achieve this. Be prepared to supply some basic measurements, and appropriate existing garments where possible.
Your pattern cutter should be able to save you money throughout the entire process of sampling and manufacturing. Ideally they should be able to liaise between you and the factory.
In my opinion it would be a mistake to opt for a service that supplied patterns along with production. A pattern cutter needs to be independent from the factory in order to ensure that the factory is held to account if the production is below standard.
Freelance Pattern Cutters will normally charge either an hourly rate, or a per piece rate. Personally, while I would far prefer an hourly rate, the Client normally prefers to pay by the piece – and really that is what you should aim for as you will know what your costs are in advance. If you pay an hourly rate you could get a nasty shock and this way can lead to disputes.
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How Much Is A Freelance Pattern Cutter ?
Most Freelance Pattern Cutters will charge between £20 and £60 per hour, with better Pattern Cutters charging from £30 per hour. As with any other service , you get what you pay for, but be aware that there are Pattern Cutters charging a high rate who do not really warrant that rate, even if their hype may suggest otherwise.
It is counter productive to use an inexperienced but cheap pattern cutter. But you are throwing your money away if you employ an expensive pattern cutter who does not warrant a high hourly rate. I am often asked by pattern cutters how much I would charge for a particular pattern so that they can charge a similar amount. But each pattern cutter must decide their own rate.
An experienced pattern cutter should work much faster than an inexperienced one and produce better quality work. If you have to keep making repeat samples because the patterns are poor, then you are throwing money away.
A good fitting garment will sell far better than a poor fitting one and should also help save on returns. Depending on the job a good freelance pattern cutter should get it right first time, or maybe second time, with maybe a few alterations required. A bad pattern cutter may never get it right.
What To Look For In A Pattern Cutter ?
One thing to be aware of is that Pattern Cutters tend to specialise in certain narrow areas. Most will do either Menswear or Ladieswear. Some Ladieswear Pattern Cutters will do Evening wear. Others will do Tailoring, or Outerwear. Still others will do Sportswear or Lingerie, or Leather wear.
Menswear is divided into fewer specialist areas, although there is a sharp divide between Tailoring and casualwear. Few Pattern Cutters will do all types of patterns equally well, although some long term Freelancers like myself will have gained lots of experience in multiple genres.
While I will do pretty much any type of pattern, my own areas of particular skills are Mens and Ladies Tailoring, Sportswear, Leatherwear and any Menswear really.
But normally you must make sure that the Freelance Pattern Cutter you employ is a specialist in the area of pattern cutting that you require – A dress Pattern Cutter normally cannot make a professional jacket pattern. A Ladieswear Pattern Cutter normally cannot make a professional Menswear pattern.
This is really important to remember. A well established and experienced Pattern Cutter however, should know exactly what they can and cant do well. And if they are busy they will not be in need of the work anyway, so will be less inclined to take on work that they are not able to do with confidence.
But a good Pattern Cutter`s job should extends well beyond the cutting of the pattern when you are setting up a clothing business. An experienced Freelance Pattern Cutter should be your main source of advice and your link to the manufacturer.
A good Freelancer should be able to advise on the correct protocol to follow as well as production methods and advising on good U.K. factories. This part of the job is vitally important as, if the correct procedures are not followed the results can be disastrous. Your business can easily haemorrhage money if you dont follow logical and practical procedures.
A good Freelance Pattern Cutter should let you know exactly what is required in order to produce an accurate pattern. This normally requires you supplying one page with a sketch along with clear, concise written instructions, a fabric swatch, an existing garment if possible and a “look book” to give the Pattern Cutter an idea of the type of look you want to achieve.
I would suggest not complicating things by giving lots of disjointed information spread over several sheets of paper or “just one more thing” emails. Again, if information is not clear and concise this can lead to costly errors.
Employing The Right Pattern Cutter.
We have a range of pattern cutters with different skills and experience levels. Normally the more complex or specialised the pattern is, the more expensive the pattern cutter will be.
Some clients come to me with patterns made by someone who is obviously neither experienced or skilled. The patterns are awful and I would say worthless. Why waste perfectly good fabric with a bad pattern ? It is not just the ability to create great pattern shapes, but it is also understanding technically how to construct the garment. A lined jacket for instance may be brilliantly cut, but if the lining is cut incorrectly, or the fusing is wrong, it can ruin the whole garment.
But it is not just the pattern construction that is important. If the pattern has insufficient, incorrect or misleading information on it then your whole production could be at risk.
Computer Patterns Or Manual Patterns ?
As a Creative Manual Pattern Cutter, I naturally tend to have a bias toward manual pattern making, While a Computer can be a very useful tool, it cannot replicate a “hands on” approach. Computers are good for storing, printing and grading patterns, and sending pattern files round the world.
In the hands of an experienced Pattern Cutter they can work very well and are used to good effect within the Clothing Industry, but most patterns will require some element of manual pattern cutting. If your styles are quite “generic” , then a computer pattern may work well for you, as there is little need for interpretation or pattern manipulation.
There is a strong temptation to just use a generic pattern that is already in the system and that can be printed off with minimum effort and maximum profit.
If you want something more specific or complicated, then there is no replacement for a manually cut pattern using traditional methods and tools. I always create my patterns from scratch according to the specific instructions I am given. I will produce an initial pattern by hand that is normally modelled on the mannequin and that can later be digitised and graded once the style is passed for production.
Factory Made Patterns.
It can be tempting to have the factory make your patterns as it can make things easier keeping everything in one place. Sometimes the factory may be cheaper than a professional freelance Pattern Cutter. Often they are more expensive. But they are rarely of a high quality.
Factory Pattern Cutters are generally not real full time Pattern Makers at all. They are often skilled fabric cutters who do some pattern work when required by the factory. There are some exceptions to this, but in those cases the factory will generally charge very high prices for the pattern work.
Another thing to remember is that if the factory are providing the patterns then the patterns will normally belong to the factory rather than to you. If you decide to move to a different factory, you will then have to remake the patterns as near as you can to the originals , which may be very difficult if you are working with the wrong Pattern Cutter.
One of the problems facing both the seller and the buyer for any type of service is what are the terms of payment. For any Freelance service the freelancer would normally expect full payment on completion of the job. Depending on the size of the job an initial deposit along with staged payments may be required.
Obviously there can be risks from both sides so the buyer has to be reasonably confident of the Pattern Cutter`s ability to do the job correctly. But the Pattern Cutter also needs to be confident of payment.
Once the freelancer and the Client have established a working relationship this may be relaxed a little. Personally, I will always ask for a 25% – 50% deposit with staged payments and a final payment on completion for a new Client. But the Client would be free to inspect the work before handing over the final payment.
Fashion Startup Workshops.
Our most popular workshop is our bespoke 1-1 fashion startup workshop. Please feel free to ring for details and prices –
Services By The London Pattern Cutter :
- Pattern cutting
- Pattern grading
- Fashion design
- Quality control
- Fashion start-up workshops
- Video workshops
- Spec sheets
- Small production runs
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