What Is A Clothing Sample ?
(77-11). A clothing sample is a fully accurate prototype of your design – Essential before beginning production. An accurate sample provides a guide for the factory, and is the standard by which the production is measured.
Ideally the final sample will be absolutely correct in every detail, but there are cases where small discrepancies may be simply noted with an attached garment tag.
It is important for even small fashion brands to employ the best sample maker you can afford, because your sample needs to be as perfect as it can be. Your prototype tells the factory what level of quality you are looking for. If you provide a poor sample, the factory know what they can get away with.
An established clothing brand, producing thousands of garments for each design, would normally make two to four samples for each style. For them the sampling costs are miniscule compared to the profits to be made, or the losses due to returns.
Smaller clothing brands with limited funds cannot afford the extra cost of additional samples. They need to get their sample right first time round – Second at a push. That means providing the sample maker with as much accurate information as possible.
A good sample machinist will know exactly what information they need in order to produce an accurate prototype. They will also be able to spot imperfections in the pattern and the garment construction. Whats more important, they will point them out.
There are plenty of poor sample makers who will just ignore any imperfections, and make the garment fit together somehow.
Technical garments require more sample development than general fashion garments, so it is important to have as much information as possible from the outset.
Some specialist sportswear, or workwear may be classified as technical garments. It may be necessary to make a toile ( mock-up) of these styles before sampling.
A high quality sampling unit, using experienced pattern cutters, should be able to achieve good results, as long as they ask the right questions and are given sufficient information.
The Pattern Cutter.
Pattern cutting is an integral part of the sampling process. The pattern cutter will work closely with the machinist. It is the pattern cutter who begins the sampling process and holds the key to success for any clothing brand.
An experienced pattern cutter should have a comprehensive understanding of garment construction and the production process.
It is vitally important to have a good pattern cutter who is specialised in the genre that you are designing for.
If your pattern is poor, then you may find that you are having to make and remake your sample multiple times, whereas a good pattern cutter should get it right first time round.
The pattern provided to the machinist should have a basic working sketch with any important information detailed on the sketch.
The pattern itself should be accurate, clearly marked, notched and labelled. The machinist should be able to make the sample almost blind folded, just by matching the pattern notches.
The Sample Machinist.
A good sample machinist is like gold dust. They work very closely with the pattern cutter to produce a perfect sample.
When the sample machinist prepares to make the sample, they will look at the working sketch and check how the pattern goes together.
They will discuss the sample construction with the pattern cutter before starting work and should be able to spot any obvious problems before beginning the work.
The best sample machinists are absolutely indispensable because they not only spot any pattern errors, but they alert the pattern cutter to any problems.
Sometimes a pattern might fit together perfectly, but because the fabrics react in different ways on different grains when they are sewn together, the pattern needs to be adjusted to allow for this.
Many sample machinists unfortunately, just sew the garment together somehow. If two seams dont match, they just cut a bit off the end. Or they stretch one side to make it fit.
If the pattern cutter is not alerted to the mistakes in the pattern, those same mistakes are replicated in the grading. And consequently, in the production.
It is always advisable to have a professionally made sample by an experienced sample machinist.
The clothing factory will have to make their own factory sample using their in-house sewing machinists , but this is likely to have less scrutiny.
Experienced professional pattern cutters and sample machinists should be able to turn their hand to just about anything as long as they have the correct equipment.
But there are some types of garment that require specialist knowledge and machinery in order to produce a perfect sample.
If a sample machinist does not have the specialist machinery they may have to mock up a sample so that it looks right and serves its purpose, without necessarily being 100% correct.
This can be perfectly acceptable, as long as you are aware of the differences.
Cut And Sew.
what is cut and sew ? Although this term may apply to sample making, it is more appropriate for clothing production, to differentiate bought in garments to be customised, from ones that are bespoke made from scratch. Often new clothing brands will ask for a cut and sew service.
We at The London Pattern Cutter only use very experienced expert professionals. We are a collection of individual fashion industry freelancers and small businesses.
We are always looking for high quality sampling units, and experienced freelance sample machinists to work from home. Any enquiries we get are forwarded to the best sample machinist, sampling unit, or factory for the job. All our associated sample machinists are highly experienced and extremely.
The Sampling Process
Garment sampling is a hugely important part of the clothing production process.
It can be a very costly business if not managed correctly.
While it is very important for any business to manage their sampling costs, it is of vital importance to a smaller label with limited finances.
For these companies, sampling is a far higher percentage of the cost per garment sold.
The factory will always have to make a sample before production, unless the designer is willing to take a big risk.
The quality of production depends heavily on this factory sample.
While the big fashion brands have the ability to use offshore factories for their sampling, the small startup brand does not have this option.
For them UK sampling is their only realistic option.
Sample Maker Or Seamstress ?
What is the difference between a Sample Maker and a Seamstress ?
Outside of the fashion industry people often refer to a seamstress, when what they really mean is a Sample Machinist.
It may be that the two titles are inter-changeable, but in the fashion industry the person who makes the samples is normally referred to as a Sample Machinist, or Sample Maker.
A home sewer would more likely be titled a Seamstress, or Dress Maker.
A Sewing Machininst in a factory would be a Production Machinist, or just Machinist.
Many fashion startup owners will refer to Sample Machinists as Seamstresses and wont really understand the difference.
It is important that samples are made by specialist sample Machinists.
Because they will fully understand what is required to make a professional sample.
A Seamstress will be experienced at home dress making, but wont necessarily understand how to make a sample properly.
Types Of Sample
Sampling is a very important part of the clothing production process, where costs can escalate if not fully understood and controlled.
Sampling needs to be kept to a minimum to be cost effective for small businesses.
There are many different types of samples used throughout the garment industry, although most small clothing businesses will only use a few types sparingly.
Samples cover three phases of the production process : Design, sales and production. Types of samples are :-
A toile is a mock-up, made to test the pattern. The toile is normally made in calico – A cheap, unbleached cotton that comes in a variety of weights.
Toiles are normally unlined and not fully finished. Details such as pockets and seams may just be drawn on, rather than sewn.
Often the toile will be sewn by the pattern cutter, so you will be paying higher pattern cutting rates for the work.
I will often use the paper pattern itself as the first stage, by pinning it together and placing it on the mannequin for the designer to see. This saves time and money.
Sometimes a toile may also be needed to test the pattern further, but using the paper pattern is a quick and easy way of checking the fit and design.
I try to avoid making toiles where possible as it can be an unnecessary expense.
Sometimes though, it is absolutely necessary to make a toile, especially if the fabric is expense, or the design is complicated.
As well as generally being cheaper than a sample, a toile can be more useful, because you can easily draw on it, cut into it and adjust it. If a sample is wrong it usually needs to be remade.
A fit sample, or first sample, is made in order to test the pattern and design.
This sample is fully finished in the correct fabric, with the correct trims and finishes.
If the sample is perfect and does not need corrections, then it can be approved.
Often there will be minor corrections needed, which would ideally mean having to remake the sample.
In practise, for smaller fashion businesses, this would not be cost effective.
It is very important to keep in mind that if the pattern is poor, then you will almost certainly have to make a second sample. And probably a third.
It is vital to choose a good pattern cutter who knows how to make a good pattern and to interpret your design correctly.
Often with new designers it is necessary to gather more information to fully understand what is required.
It is essential that a factory always make their own sample before beginning production.
Although a factory will often offer a sampling service, it is far better to have a sample made by a professional sample machinist so that the factory have something accurate to work from.
The factory will often want to simplify the construction to make it easier for them.
If they are given a sample to follow, they would have to discuss this with you first, rather than just doing it.
It is important to check the factory sample thoroughly before approving it, as this is good as it will get.
I find that it is worth politely just pointing out a few minor defects just to keep them on their toes.
If they think that you are easily pleased, then they will know that you will accept poorer quality.
If they think that their sample is not quite acceptable, then they will be careful with the final production.
Size Set Sample
Whether you need size set samples can be a bit of a grey area.
I would always officially advise on having a full set of size samples, because I would not want to be held accountable if anything went wrong.
But in practise I believe that it is normally an unnecessary expensive for a small business, and it is very unlikely that there will be a problem if there are only a few sizes, as long as the grading was done professionally.
If there are a lot of sizes and the grading is uniform throughout, then it may be worth just checking the extreme sizes.
If these are correct, then the other sizes should be correct.
You may want to double check the grade by stacking all the same pieces for the different sizes one on top of the other.
I would suggest that a professional do this though.
For small businesses there is seldom a problem that cannot be easily rectified, so I wouldnt worry too much about this.
Photo Shoot Samples
A photo shoot sample needs to be made if you are intending on having them photographed for promotion.
This would normally be done in a smaller size than the base sample size.
Models tend to be quite tall, so the sample may have to be made accordingly.
I wouldnt suggest making this the base size, because it may cause problems with the sizing.
You could try using the normal sample and just pinning it to size, but this isnt ideal.
Rather than make a completely bespoke pattern though, you could compromise by using a smaller pattern and just adding to the length.
Showroom samples are not just for the showroom. They can also be used to supply magazines or other promoters.
If you are using agents to sell your designs, then you will need to supply each agent with salesman samples. Or SMS samples.
The production sample is the final, approved sample. Ideally there will be two production samples – One for the factory and one for the client.
Again, if you are on a tight budget, you may want to make do with the original factory sample if it is close enough.
Often the factory will ask you to provide a sample before they will make their own factory sample.
In order to obtain the best results it is advisable to provide the factory with your own independently made sample.
They will still have to make a factory version, but they will have something accurate to follow and will have a guide as to the quality that you want.
If you supply them with a poor sample, they will feel that they can produce an equally poor one. Then they will feel that they can get away with poor production too.
“When you make something no one hates, no one loves it” TIBOR KALMAN
I often come across clients who have had a poor sample made by a factory.
The factory may say that it was because of the pattern or the cloth, or some other factor.
This is difficult to challenge, even for an experienced technician, without a reliable sample to compare it to.
Sometimes they end up paying for several samples, and unnecessarily altering patterns before discovering the true cause of the problem.
Because the factories do not use proper pattern cutters, they can get in a muddle when trying to correct patterns.
Although your supplied sample is an important guide for the factory, it is the factory sample that provides the benchmark for the quality of the production.
The factory sample may not necessarily measure the same as yours because it has been made slightly differently with different machines, or it has been treated differently in the making process.
We can supply expertly made samples made from expertly made patterns.
If necessary we can do small production runs too.
We can also create spec sheets and tech packs, and we can liaise with the factory to ensure that you have the highest chances of success.
Our Sampling Unit.
The London Pattern Cutter has been providing a comprehensive garment sampling service for small to medium sized UK businesses since 1984.
We employ only highly skilled technicians,sewing machinists and pattern cutters, providing a high quality, cost effective service to the fashion industry.
We believe that we offer the best sampling and sewing service in London.
“Get off my back. Get out of my pocket. “ Ronald Reagan.