Drafting to measure pattern book recommendations

Posted by Kathleen Fasanella on Nov 24, 2009 at 3:49 pm / Fit and Sizing, Patterns / Trackback

A question from my mail, I apologize my response is very lengthy:

I really like The Practical Guide to Patternmaking for Fashion Designers because it has comprehensive theory explanations. So many texts don’t give you those tidbits that you learn when you learn directly from an instructor but this one does a good job of providing more information than most. Unfortunately, it does not provide measurements that enable someone to draft a standard size using the book’s instructions. It has a very detailed measurement guide which would allow someone to draft a pattern if they had a fit model of some sort but I am getting emails from students and indie designers who want to sell clothes on Etsy and they do not fall into this category. They don’t know how to grade patterns and can not afford professional grading for clothes they will sell just on Etsy so they can only use themselves or their dressform for measurements which means they can only make clothing in one size.

I was wondering if you would be able to recommend a patternmaking book that teaches how to draft slopers in the standard sizes?

The quick and dirty answer is I don’t know of any that are likely to meet the needs of people you describe. The gamut of historical protests to the contrary, accurate drafting to measure eliminating the possibility of iteration remains the elusive holy grail.

My question is this, they can draft but they cannot grade? Pattern making is a higher level skill than grading. Learning to grade is easier than learning to make patterns. The more important point is that it is less work to grade a pattern than it is to create an entirely new draft for another size. They’re looking for a book to draft in all the various sizes when their time is better spent in learning how to grade. Put more to the point, drafting takes much longer, grading is 1/10th the time (estimated).

Put it this way. Assuming this miracle book were available, they’d have to start by drafting a block pattern. Then they’d have to make another pattern to produce the variety of styling features. Then they’d have to sew it up to test it and hope the thing came out the way they imagined. Testing the fit would be a problem if they didn’t have a body available so they’d be flying in the dark. They’d have to do this for every single size. I can’t even begin to link to every article I’ve written about sizing but this category might be helpful as will this one.

Do they know they can’t afford grading? Grading is very inexpensive, I’m guessing they’re looking in the wrong place. There are enterprising individuals who target DIY producers and charge a premium because the customer doesn’t know where to look. Perhaps those grading services are their point of comparison.

I am trying to find a textbook which will provide not only instructions but also the measurements needed to draft their beginning sloper so that they can develop their blocks and patterns in multiple sizes.

There is another problem here. There remains a huge misunderstanding about the function of pattern drafting and grading books.

  • Pattern and grading books teach concepts. They largely do not provide sizing.
  • Sizing specifications do not teach concepts of drafting or grading; they only provide data.

A grading or drafting book is not a book about sizing specifications. They’re about how to draft or grade patterns -a concept. The concepts of grading and drafting do not change and will be useful at any point in history. On the other hand, sizing specifications will need to change frequently. If you were to select a pattern book for anything other than concepts, you’d select one based on garment styling (or fabrication), features that are currently popular. I am frequently annoyed to read reviews about patterns (store-bought) or books that the reviewer claims are not any good because the patterns or drafts do not fit them personally. Look around you. Everyone is shaped differently. The day we are all sized and shaped identically is the day it is reasonable to have this expectation.

The reason you should not select a book based on sizing charts is because sizes are not static, sizes evolve just like people do. However, the process of grading (moving up or down in set increments) does not change. This is static. Grading books should not give “standard” grading charts. If you want sizing standards aka size specifications (what you expect from a book), you have to buy those separately, usually from ASTM although many people reverse engineer grades by comparing other products. A specifications book (were there such a thing, there are only charts) won’t teach you how to grade so why would one expect a grading book to give you specs?

Another reason why books cannot give sizing specifications is that there is no such thing as a standard size. The measures that constitute a given size depend on demography. Contrary to popular belief, high end apparel is sized smaller than mass market clothes. The reason is, richer people are thinner. If their clothes were sized larger, there wouldn’t be anything for them to buy. You cannot compare a Ralph Lauren purple label product to a lowest price point Ralph Lauren label sold in outlet stores because it’s intended for entirely different customers. Lifestyles matter. The average western wear size is larger than say, ballerina leotards. Even sizing within the eco apparel market is different depending on the customer’s age and profile.

In other words, for a drafting book to meet the expectations of the indie and DIY producers you describe, there would need to be …oh, I don’t know, at least ten different kinds of pattern drafting books and they’d have to be updated to reflect sizing changes. There would have to be one written for fit petite misses, tall juniors, tall (or short) middle-aged women, older women (and men), young tall athletic types, women who are bottom heavy, those who are bustier …in other words, specialized books to match the given fitting profile -and it’s just not going to happen. It’s a good thing there’s no such thing as a standard size because people don’t come in a standard size. The only way you can do this is to develop one base size that mirrors the sizing characteristics of the ideal customer and to make it comparatively smaller or larger. Anything else is custom -and another story entirely (see at close).

A side jaunt, a just suppose situation about drafting to measure. The pre-1960′s sizing numbers were not arbitrarily drawn out of thin air. These numbers were a drafting reference for the pattern maker and actually meant something. A size 18 meant that the 18 on the reverse side of both the long and short arms of a tailor’s L-square, could be used as the standard derivative that was anthropometrically appropriate as a draft to fit that person. The number 18 did not represent size as much as it represented what was called “scale“. Scale was a historical standard developed by tailors and cutters over many years. Much of this information is empirical but still, one cannot deny the rough pattern that emerges considering how certain number patterns correlate expressed in terms of one given human being versus any other. These table of aliquot parts are still used in many parts of the world and form the basis of what are largely known to the rest of us as grade rules.

The numbering system evolved. It used to be based on data and was a static reminder, silk screened on every tailor’s L-square in a table of aliquot parts. Consumer and/or buyer activism changed the numbering system into something more manageable for them because “18″ meant nothing to them. It’s not as though they could multiply this by two and arrive at their full bust measure. The change in sizing designation posed a number of conflicts among manufacturers. For one thing, sizing numbers had represented scale which was printed on every tailor’s square. Now, the sizing numbers were ambiguous, representing a profile of a consumer for which there was no data (hence the growth of dress form companies!). It’s pretty dramatic if you think about it. Before, using scale, one could draft for any person given the most basic of information such as height, weight and chest measure -if that’s all the information available- and still get within a respectable spitting distance of fitting that person. Now all of the sudden, sizing numbers are not based on scale at all, the method is no longer taught and the system is in wide disarray.

It is possible that one could learn to draft to scale for custom purposes by poring over dense verbiage in archaic pattern books but this is not certain, fast or easy. My caveat remains; it would still mean drafting each style anew which is much more laborious than grading to a set profile. This would only be appropriate for producing custom garments.

If anyone is interested, here are only a few texts online that mention drafting to scale.
Ladies’ Garment Cutting and Making
T.W.Byrnes New and Improved System
Clute’s Actual Measurement System

25 Responses to “Drafting to measure pattern book recommendations”

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AJ
November 24th, 2009
4:12 PM

Fabulous post, thanks Kathleen! I think most Etsy sellers could not afford grading because they are likely only making one item out of that pattern. They are not organized designers but rather people that want to sew and sell clothes. Most either tire of it eventually or become more organized at which point they usually move off of Etsy or at the very least open their own website in addition to Etsy. The ones that get organized would most likely seek out professional grading. But the ones that are just making one or two items per pattern, well they are not going to be able to justify the cost of grading. While every body shape / target market requires a different set of measurements to create the proper sizing tables a lot of these Internet designers are looking for ways to make clothes for people who are smaller or bigger than they are, or than their dressform is and for them, even basic ones which would give the perfect fit to only one body type (and an okay but not great fit to a few others) would be preferable to not being able to do it at all.

It’s funny that you say grading is a lower skill…in schools it is not usually taught until the end of a program. I tried to take a course but the program director would not allow me to take it because she said I had to take all of their patternmaking courses. I had already been taught patternmaking by the same woman who TAUGHT their instructor but the program director insisted that it would be impossible for me to follow along in the grading course and would not even ALLOW me to challenge the courses — I’m pretty sure that was illegal as far as school policies go but I was tired of arguing with her so I dropped it. I bought the book that they use “Concepts of Pattern Grading” and plan to learn myself soon but I bring the story up because while you say it is a lower skill, most people think it is a terrifyingly difficult thing to do and would never think to buy a textbook to learn with on their own. They would rather draft the pattern from scratch all over again, to them that is easier. Plus, the grading book I bought was very expensive (over $100CAD at the time) — it’s on Amazon right now for $50US though.

Anyway, these people are exactly the market that needs your pattern grading for DiY’ers guide you were contemplating writing in past entries :)

Kathleen Fasanella
November 24th, 2009
5:21 PM

While every body shape / target market requires a different set of measurements to create the proper sizing tables a lot of these Internet designers are looking for ways to make clothes for people who are smaller or bigger than they are, or than their dressform is and for them, even basic ones which would give the perfect fit to only one body type (and an okay but not great fit to a few others) would be preferable to not being able to do it at all.

But the point is AJ, a drafting book cannot mirror the sizing characteristics they have in mind (their form, their body)…it’s just not possible.

It’s funny that you say grading is a lower skill…in schools it is not usually taught until the end of a program.

The reason is, most people who teach in school went through a design program. Assuming they worked in the industry, at best they made first patterns but they did not work in production or the production phase which is when grading takes place. It’s not that it’s advanced, it’s that they fear it because they don’t know it. They have little to no experience with it. Maybe only one instructor does. It was that way at my school too. With only one instructor, it’s a limited resource to offer beginning students. You have to wait further along in the curriculum to reach the point that the demand for the class matches the number of students who need to take it. So, I can totally understand why it comes later if there’s only one instructor. They have to wait until the program has weeded out the students likely to reach that level.

I bought the book that they use “Concepts of Pattern Grading” and plan to learn myself soon but I bring the story up because while you say it is a lower skill, most people think it is a terrifyingly difficult thing to do and would never think to buy a textbook to learn with on their own. They would rather draft the pattern from scratch all over again, to them that is easier. Plus, the grading book I bought was very expensive (over $100CAD at the time) — it’s on Amazon right now for $50US though.

Well, good books cost money (not necessarily implying this one is). These are professional grade texts. There is also a huge disconnect btwn ease of entry (something you can do from the kitchen table) and the rigor and demands of doing it professionally. I’d argue that people’s expectations are unreasonable. Just because you *can* do it from home doesn’t mean that other entities should be compelled to provide the material at price points that are commensurate to the scale and means at which one endeavors. Life isn’t fair. People compete based on access to information. This information is readily available for free if one chooses to wade through a lot of chaff so it becomes a trade off. If you want it free, you have to work to find and apply it. If you pay, you can get the information expedited and you can save a lot of time. It depends on one’s financial limitations.

Anyway, these people are exactly the market that needs your pattern grading for DiY’ers guide you were contemplating writing in past entries

Yes, I know. It was with this population in mind that we have designed the material (a DVD). Still, I have no illusions. I have no doubts whatsoever that people are going to say it’s “bad” because it doesn’t provide whatever customer, sizing or styling characteristics they have in mind. The other problem with a grading DVD is that they will need the DVD that comes before it. Problem is, they won’t buy it. And to top it all, they’ll complain about the price and likely file share it. And then they wonder why people don’t make this material available… Like I said, it’s already out there for free. What many want is what they want, and preferably free or so low cost as to be free. Too many people these days do not understand that someone needs an incentive to do something (make money). They hope to make money on the advice and tools so it’s fitting that the originator realizes a return as well. Strictly speaking as someone who gets tons of questions from this market who don’t see fit to buy the book that has the information in it.

Susan
November 24th, 2009
5:57 PM

This is the book we used to learn grading. Grading Techniques for Fashion Design Second E… by Bernard Zamkoff
5.0 out of 5 stars (1) $56.55

Brina
November 24th, 2009
7:50 PM

Threads has two quick and dirty articles on grading: June/ July 2002 Issue # 101 & June/ July 2004 Issue # 113. I haven’t read them complete, though both are focused on sizing up and down from commercial pattern. The 113 article gives an overview of what design details change, and those that probably won’t when grading and uses the changes between sizes in multi-sized patterns to create a grade rule to size up or down. The 101 Article give a grade rule and using size 12 as a base–shows basic bust, waist, hip sizes and for sizes up and down.
Most of the 101 article is online at: >http://www.threadsmagazine.com/item/4368/making-sense-of-pattern-grading> except the size breakdowns and grade rule–for that you need the hard copy magazine.
While I’m not presenting these as the end all-be all, they are a good way to get some idea of what grading entails, especially for total newbs.
When I first encountered grading I thought, Hey that’s makes sense. More recently I’ve been thinking about how to grade something like the Issey Miyake top and skirt with the twist from “Pattern Puzzle 2: Danielle” on this site or John Galliano’s union jack jacket on Show Studio
http://www.showstudio.com/project/designdownload/
click on “View Archive Project” to see the pattern.
Still, what Kathleen says about skill level–if you have a grade rule and you know where to make the increases or decreases, it’s really not as big of a deal as pattern making.

Esther
November 24th, 2009
8:07 PM

Thanks Kathleen, you’ve give me much to think about.

AJ
November 25th, 2009
3:59 AM

Susan, I have that book too :) (In the past I had a well paid job and I have a massive book collection to show for it). I have no doubt that grading can be learned, at least for my own purposes. Afterall I learned patternmaking…I just need to find the time. Ack! Time is always in the way!

Kathleen,
“What many want is what they want, and preferably free or so low cost as to be free. Too many people these days do not understand that someone needs an incentive to do something (make money). They hope to make money on the advice and tools so it’s fitting that the originator realizes a return as well. ”

Yah…*sigh*….this is a huge problem with this generation that has grown up with the Internet. They think everything should be free. I think though that in the next few years things will be really making a shift. It’s already starting to happen. The Internet has spilled over with so much free information that it’s starting to be difficult to sort the quality from the crap. Sites which offer premium content at a price are popping up and sticking around. Even with file sharing it’s happening actually. Also part of the problem is the way the younger generation expects media to be delivered. They don’t want to sit down for an hour to watch a video, they want nice 5 min chunks at a time (actually 5 min is probably too long).

Good point by the way: “You have to wait further along in the curriculum to reach the point that the demand for the class matches the number of students who need to take it.” I didn’t think of it that way; of course those 200 first year students become much smaller once they choose their specializations and start dropping out. It still doesn’t excuse the program director from not allowing me to challenge the patternmaking classes (it would have cost me the tuition but I didn’t care, I had money at the time). As you can see I’m still angry about it lol…one of those experiences I have to learn to let go of…I’m trying… ;)

As for the original topic, there are books that do offer sample tables to use to create drafts in different “standard” sizes (standard being the author’s opinion I guess). From my collection I know that Metric Patterncutting, Patternmaking for Fashion Design, as well as two older out of print ones do. I’ve also been told Patternmaking by the Flat Pattern Method does but I can not verify as I don’t own that one. I think for the home learner, someone who just wants to sell clothes on Etsy, this basic stuff is enough. For you and other professional patternmakers it is sacrilege! But people have been selling clothes they make themselves just guessing or using a dial-the-size dressform for a long time. I think the ones that want to take a more professional approach and learn even these basics should be applauded…for them it is a scary thing to attempt to learn this stuff. Of course you are right that the better approach would be to buy tables that match their demographic (though most would have no idea who that was) or to have them graded/learn to grade.

With the book mentioned in the original post btw for those interested, even if you are willing to purchase sizing guides there are measurements used in the instructions which are not always in measurement guides, or at least the guides I have seen.

Ack!! Sorry for hijacking your post with these long comments…I am so long-winded sometimes *blush*

kathleen
November 25th, 2009
4:22 AM

Of course you are right that the better approach would be to buy tables that match their demographic (though most would have no idea who that was) or to have them graded/learn to grade.

Horrors if I left the impression that one should buy tables. There’s a lot of links in that entry, one I didn’t leave was a problem with sizing studies. No, I think they should figure it out by comparing products. I did leave a link to that. There’s also a link in there about grade rules and how to and where from, to derive them. Like I said, there’s tons of free advice on the internet.

AJ
November 25th, 2009
5:09 AM

oh there it is! I was looking for that link to include it in the post but I couldn’t find it so I just deleted the part about free tables (I thought maybe you’d deleted the post or something because the tables had been taken offline — I really have to get better at searching lol)

Nancy Karpen
November 25th, 2009
6:21 AM

I am not particularly interested in grading as I only sew for myself, but I am interested in the pattern drafting book you mentioned. Can I really learn pattern drafting on my own from a book? It’s certainly cheaper than the available pattern drafting programs, which I haven’t seen as a really good creative choice for the beginner.

AJ
November 25th, 2009
7:43 AM

Nancy the answer to that question is going to depend on you yourself. If you are not technically apt you may find learning on your own extremely daunting. Try looking around close to where you live, a lot of colleges and school boards offer continuing education courses in patternmaking now because more and more hobby sewers are becoming interested. It is always preferable to learn with an instructor if possible and then to go to the books for deeper understanding. That being said, I do know several people who are completely self taught but it took a lot of work on their part. If you are looking just to learn for yourself try getting one of the books that are aimed at the home-sewing market. They do not teach every style or concept, but rather give the basics…enough for you to learn to make yourself a simple skirt or a blouse in a small handful of styles. Make Your Own Patterns by Rene Burgh is the first book I ever bought, many years ago and it is what sparked my interest and led to me finding a course. I would recommend it for a home sewer who is looking for a very simple very personal introduction. The publisher changed the cover since I bought it, which is unfortunate because now it looks like it is really technical but trust me, it is aimed at sewers and is very step-by-step with clear instructions (my edition is from late 90′s and has a picture of a woman wearing an ugly pink jacket on it).

Kathleen Fasanella
November 25th, 2009
7:51 AM

Nancy, understand my context and please follow the links I leave in this comment. I love pattern making. Because I do, I want everyone else to learn and love it too. When someone sends me an email saying I inspired them to do it, I walk on air all day long.

It is critical to know what you really want out of this. What are your expectations? I have an idea of what those may be (to be able to make anything you imagine and have it fit well) but what I got out of it was less than what I expected but also more than what I knew enough to expect. It was less because I (we, admit it) sewed less than ever because I (we) became “too rich“. It was less because that’s not how we make patterns in real life. It was more because I learned (on the job, not in books) the minutia of details that nobody seems to care about but made a 100% difference in the appearance of the work (home-made look).

[I don't want to get off topic but I KNOW people say they care about the latter and maybe they do, but not enough of them care enough to do what REALLY matters. Those elements can be found in my tutorials. It's there. It's free. It's not fancy or dramatic and a popular sewing star didn't write them but guess what, that's what matters. Most people prefer methods they "learned" from their favorite sewing personalities. I say "learned" because they then spend subsequent years trying to make it work for them. They'll read my tutorials through a filter, attempting to graft that which does not contradict their preferred authority into something that will work only it never does. Not reliably. It is largely a Miss Congeniality contest.]

You are an experienced stitcher, you don’t need a beginner’s book. You already know a great deal about patterns, the problem is you don’t know it. You don’t need to learn to draft a block because you will need many blocks (again, see how we make patterns in real life because it opens with a recital from a home sewer who dedicated ten years to learning pattern making). It will be very useful to learn to pivot and manipulate darts and fullness. It will be useful to learn how to make collars, to draft for collar stand height. Most of all, you need to learn there is no end point, it’s a practice, a life long learning experience just like sewing. If the proposition excites you, then you should really do this.

This is the biggest problem to learning independently: if there’s no one to monitor your progress, you don’t know if you really know. And it’s not just independent learners. I could NOT begin to count the number of emails I’ve gotten from people who did have supervision (studied patterns in school) and then wonder if they really know anything. There is no list of competencies they can use to compare their skills against what is typical or average. And it’s not that it’s a big secret no one wants to tell you, it’s that it’s nearly impossible to define and quantify it -altho the Aussies are trying.

I think you should go for it. I wish more experienced enthusiasts would. As far as selecting a text is concerned, the gamut of professional grade books get the basics right so any of these will do. I have all of them. They are more similar to each other than different. If you’re concerned about the nuances of differences (and I would be), here is how I review pattern books.

Terra
November 25th, 2009
8:49 AM

Nancy, I was like you a few years ago except I didn’t know how to sew. I wanted to to learn how to sew for myself and my family. I actually started out taking a continuing education class in pattern drafting and grading, along with several courses in all the “details” Kathleen is talking about that will make your clothing not only look, but actually be high end, compared to home-made. It was taught by someone who spent 30 years in the industry as a pattern maker and I found this site because she always recommended Kathleen’s book. The courses were…well, mind blowing, especially coming from some of the home sewing books I had read. Learning this stuff, in my opinion, is crucial to getting clothes to fit properly. I say that from the standpoint of someone who is thin and able to “fit” into most clothes, but by grading my patterns or making my own, people REALLY notice the difference. I loved the classes even though they were hard, and several people I went to class with actually ended up getting jobs in the industry. I would go for it, you’ll never be sorry. And Kathleen, I love this site even though half the stuff is over my head.

amanda boyd
November 25th, 2009
11:07 AM

hi kathleen,

thanks for the post…i read the whole thing though and couldn’t seem to find a reference for a good grading techniques book, did i miss something?

thank you!

Kathleen
November 25th, 2009
11:17 AM

Hi Amanda, you didn’t miss anything. This post was about drafting to measure not grading. You probably got confused because I was trying to present the argument for grading instead of drafting to measure in this context. My top grading book recommendation remains Handford‘s. It’s hard to find inexpensively.

Robyn
November 25th, 2009
12:20 PM

Thanks for this post, Kathleen. The pattern drafting classes I took at Santa Fe Community College were helpful, but they don’t even teach grading there. I found that strange. It’s like they take you to a certain point, and then leave you hanging. I bought a book on my own, and then never bothered to teach myself. Right now, messing around with pattern making and grading is not something I have time to do, but I always meant to. I really learn best when I can have someone show me, as opposed to following a book. I had at one point wanted to do the just-for-fun etsy thing, but fitting issues always plagued me. Something’s not clicking in my brain!

Jennifer Bailey
November 26th, 2009
10:39 AM

I agree about trying to learn patternmaking yourself. I tried and it was very frustrating. I do have a background in sewing and had been making my own patterns for draping that I did, and for plush toy designs, doll clothes etc. But the real deal is way different. There are many technical aspects to it that you have to wrap your brain around, while trusting your own eye for curves and proportion.
I decided to take classes at Los Angeles Trade Tech and it was the best decision I could have made. I have been very happy with the results and found that it was easier for me to grasp the concepts than those around me who didn’t have any sewing background. I am looking forward to taking Patternmaking 2 & 3!

Nancy K
November 29th, 2009
11:01 AM

Thank you. You are right, I do know a lot about patterns and I use that knowledge all the time to change patterns for design and to alter them for fit. I do have to make a lot of fit alterations. I’d love to know more. I can’t buy off the rack that fits me well, so I sew most of my clothing these days. The more I sew the better I get, but the more I know what I don’t know!

Lisa B. in Portland
December 7th, 2009
5:58 PM

We only had a couple of *days* of grading at my school. I remember understanding it but since it’s been so long, I couldn’t tell you how to do it now.

I like patternmaking and am glad I know what I know. I get a lot of comments on stuff I’ve made for myself, even if I did use a commercial pattern that happened to fit or require only something like shortening the sleeve. I’d like to know more, though. And have enough money to keep myself supplied with lots of oak tag.

Stuart Anderson
December 8th, 2009
9:55 PM

Hi Kathleen. I love reading your site as it brings up so many memories … it reads like a history of all the mistakes I’ve made over the years … I really wish I’d read your stuff 20 years ago!

Anyway, I just wanted to add a couple of things on grading and patternmaking. As a subcontract pattern maker of 20 years I’m yet to find a company who, when specifying a grading rule set, does so in any systematic method. Most smaller companies expect me to tell them what standard sizing is and just grade accordingly … all they want is a set of patterns from one size to another. These type of people don’t last long in business.

Those who’ve been doing it a while and are really only subcontracting my services for interum reasons (their patternmaker is on maternity leave etc), not only provide me with a fixed (often outdated) set of measurements, but somewhat perculiar grading rules for the sizes not in the original set. And here’s the issue. Fit is an almost impossible task when the companies either provide only one size and an outdated set of grading rules, or a full set of sizes that don’t refect their target demographic (ie; a size 8 teenager is significantly different in shape to a size 8 senior citizen).

Companies just don’t seem to look at the implications of demographics. For example I’ve been told by one particular production team that they have strong sales in their size 6-10 group and weak sales in their size 12 group. To them that means their demographic is the 6-10 group. They criticised me for suggesting they’d failed to grade their size 12 correctly for the wider demographic. Their evidence was that the various franchises had returned stock with the “unsold/excess” box checked. As they obviously did not include a “poor fit for size” box on the returns docket I suggested they call a few of the franchises and ask what happened when ladies tried the size 12 and 14 … after much deliberation they immediately sent a work experience student (you call them interns over there) off to make the calls. A hour later I was contracted to redraft their grading rules (including a few fit tweaks on the larger sizes that can’t be built into the grading rules … another problem too difficult for students straight out of school).

I guess what I’m trying to say is that while the actual task of grading is extremely simple when working only to a fixed set of numbers … it’s getting that set of numbers and knowing how to manipulate it in an often non-linear manner that takes an enormous amount of wisdom and data collection. All my grading is a simple button click that takes just a nano second (literally) so is done well pre-production. Whether or not it’s accurate depends not on my skills or anything learned from a book, but on the information supplied to me by the client.

Pattern making may well be a taught skill in the early days of ones career, but to succeed at it requires an artists understanding of body shape and the amount of shape variation ateach size rather than an understanding of a table of sizes contributing to a fixed shape across the board.

I’ve always believed that a comprehensive understanding of demographics is required before any patternmaking or grading course can be taught … it’s absence from most courses is probably the reason grading is taught last … just way too many considerations for the average student without experience! This is why I bore people to death with demographics and market assesment information on my site before the pattern making section!!!

Again my compliments on everything you’re doing for the students!

Polaire
December 22nd, 2009
2:54 PM

Kathleen,

It’s funny that you say grading is a lower skill…in schools it is not usually taught until the end of a program.

In my experience, as an evening student at a large fashion design school, most of the students (evening and day) are far more interested in using their time to learn to design and sew for Size 6 and Size 8 mannequins. There are two basic pattern making courses and four sequential draping courses. Grading is offered as an elective, but I don’t know many people who take it; I imagine they regard it as something they can learn in the workplace (assuming they can find a job). They want to be “creative” now and have fun.

Of course my background is nothing to yours, but I’d always read that grading was in fact a fairly subtle process, especially once one grades up more than a couple of sizes. Now if one has two to four years of training at rigorous design school, it may not be that hard. But I can’t imagine doing any serious grading without a serious pattern making background.

AJ
December 23rd, 2009
4:54 AM

Stuart, what would your suggestion be for a new company that does not have the capabilities of conducting their own measurement survey within their target market? I see only two options that would be thought of by a new company: either use a purchased or given measurement table (hand-me-downs) or bring the finalized pattern in one size and a description of the target market and assume the grader can figure it out.

What could that new company do to help the grader produce a better result?

Alison Cummins
December 23rd, 2009
6:14 AM

AJ, Kathleen has written on this a few times. See http://www.fashion-incubator.com/archive/giving_instructions_to_a_pattern_grader/ and follow the internal links. There’s also a Part 2 of this article. Does this help?

AJ
December 23rd, 2009
6:44 AM

Alison, thanks for the quick reply and links :) To be honest I thought I had read all of Kathleen’s grading articles but I don’t recognize those ones!

What I wonder is if brand new designer comes to the pattern grader and thinks they have everything… They’ve got their finalized pattern in their size 8 and want it graded up and down. They tell the pattern grader they are making clothing for women after children, age 35-50. They have not conducted a measurement survey either because it’s out of their budget/resources or because they are unaware it is something they should do (they are a new grad for instance and were always under the impression they just give the pattern to someone and get new sizes). Essentially they would be coming to Stuart without enough information but according to Kathleen in that article a newbie can say just a one or two inch grade and from Stuart’s post it also sounds like he would prefer much more. I’m wondering what would be ideal (given the new designer’s limited experience / abilities).

I’m gonna go ask a question on that article…thanks for the link, I don’t know how I missed that one.

Kathleen
December 23rd, 2009
8:19 AM

They tell the pattern grader they are making clothing for women after children, age 35-50. They have not conducted a measurement survey either because it’s out of their budget/resources or because they are unaware it is something they should do.

The information needed depends on the customer; much of which is demography and the market (in my book, there’s a full page form on page 40 that helps determine this). If somebody says they’re hoping to hit X brand’s customer, that says a lot. Disposable income matters too.

Essentially they would be coming to Stuart without enough information but according to Kathleen in that article a newbie can say just a one or two inch grade and from Stuart’s post it also sounds like he would prefer much more.

The difference btwn Stuart’s advice and mine is context. Every customer is different. Some need a lot of hand holding, some don’t. If the customer is experienced, a grader needs a lot less information (in other entries I go into a great deal of detail as Stuart has). Personally? If the customer is new and not proven, I want a lot more information, not less. This is better described as butt covering. If the designer doesn’t know that much and a grader does the work properly, the customer may not know enough to know the work was done well. So, if you get more info, a grader always has that to fall back on so they are not blamed for the client’s possibly questionable decisions.

As far as grading itself, grade rules don’t vary that much between market segments, grading is not morphing! The fit characteristics are built into the stock size pattern. Grading only makes that fitting profile larger or smaller. This difference in these concepts is often misunderstood. Sizing characteristics, iow, the measures that constitute a given fitting profile are not the same thing as grade rules.

I’m wondering what would be ideal (given the new designer’s limited experience / abilities).

Again, there is no easy answer to this (and why I’ve written over 30 different articles about sizing and grading). It’s a difficult dance. Some designers don’t know much and they know it; some don’t know but think they do and others think they don’t but do. The situation is as variable as clothing itself. It’s all the not-knowing where ever it lay, that causes high costs.

I had one customer who thought he was an expert. Oh my, what an expert he led everyone to believe he was (a former forum member) -to the extent that he sent me detailed sizing specs of which the grade rules broke down into 39/64ths or 63/64ths and even, 67/128ths. Did I mention these specs were for karate uniforms? Seriously. Three piece patterns of wrap over tops and two piece elastic waist pull on pants. Because I’m stupid, I spent a week going back and forth with him, that it was not workable and that matters such as 63/64th amounted to calculation errors but he insisted. So in the end, I just sent it back. I wasn’t going to be responsible for this mess. All the time I spent was a waste of my time and money.

AJ
December 23rd, 2009
8:25 AM

Kathleen thanks for the detailed reply!

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