Marker questions and costs

Posted by Kathleen Fasanella on Apr 28, 2008 at 3:42 pm / Contractors, Glossary, Newbies, Operations, Patterns, Process Reviews / Trackback

[amended] Various questions from various people on markers:

I have a question regarding markers. I apologize if this seems like a silly question. Are they re-usable? In other words, once a pattern is made and graded and the marker has been made and paid for should I be paying for a marker again when a second production run is done?

First of all, a marker is a tracing of all the pattern pieces needed to cut out a given style. A given marker is not reusable. The fabric is laid out, the marker laid over it and the cutter uses the lines to cut out the pieces. The marker is cut up as the fabric is. Below is a photo (courtesy) of a marker being cut.

These days though, the definition of a marker is blurring. Most markers are made by computer and saved as a file. In this context, a marker is reusable provided none of the details (number to cut, sizes, fabric width etc) have changed. It would be a mere matter of hitting “print” to generate a new marker.


Some markers are still made by hand. This involves laying out a length of marker paper and tracing out the pattern pieces individually. If one wanted to make copies of this, one would have two options. One is to buy a particular type of paper that’d make 3 to 5 copies (you’d start with this). This is called Redi-Roll or Multi-Mark. It is fairly expensive. The other option is to -prior to cutting- take it to a reprographics place and have it copied. Or, some manufacturers still have ammonia (diazo) copiers. You’d save the copies for future identical cut orders. For the most part, I don’t recommend hand markers. I could see using and making them for a small sample run.

I feel that my contractor could have been more responsible because he didn’t mention these ongoing costs. When you have a newbie, do you mention this is a per run charge? Or do you only mention it after the fact?

(I spoke with this writer by phone) I’d say your contractor committed a litany of sins, this being but a small one. I can imagine scenarios where they’d unintentionally fail to mention this ongoing cost. I can’t imagine that I’d fail to do it (more below) but I asked Barbara at Apparel Mark and she says most contractors roll the cost of markers into the package. The reason I don’t think I’d fail to mention it is because I do an inventory of the customer’s needs. While I still love making patterns by hand, I think they should be graded and marked by computer. Nobody can beat the price. I can’t. If after I explain the costs (example below) and the customer still wants hand grading and hand markers, I don’t take them. It doesn’t make sense so they’re either out of their tree or I don’t know what but it’s certain to foretell future problems with the given client.

What should it cost to have a marker made?

[Amended, errata provided by Barbara in her comment, more is there] Barbara says:

I charge $30 to digitize a pattern and make a sample marker for those who are not ready for grading. I do not charge a digitizing fee for patterns that are ready for grading, my grading prices range from $15.00 per size for simple pants and skirts to $40.00 per size for complicated jackets and blazers that have over 40 pieces. That charge includes the digitizing and a printout of all pieces for the cutting of hard patterns. The $6.50 per size is for marker making once the pattern is graded. Marker making ranges from 6.50 per size for simple pants, skirts and tops to $17.00 per size for complex coats and jackets. My customers may pay out several hundred dollars for the grading and first markers but the second run could be as little as 5 to 10 dollars.
I definitely agree with you about the cutting table size being an issue for a contractor. Generally, the more sizes that can be mixed into a marker the better the fabric yield will be achieved. And a table that is less than 3 yards long would only allow the cutting of 4 size of pant at a time, that would definitely add to the fabric cost.

I can’t imagine anyone making hand markers or doing hand grading who can beat that rate. Just because your patterns are made by hand, doesn’t mean they can’t be graded and marked by computer. I always pass a client off to a grading and marking service. I’d consider anything less to be irresponsible. If you want to do it in house because you need it fast, that’s one thing. But I don’t think that should be a long term operational strategy. Even if you’re doing really small runs in house, have the pattern graded by computer and a copy of all the sizes shipped to you. Then you can staple it to pattern paper, cut it out and have it ready for in house use. Then when you grow and need real markers, your patterns are already in digital format. I’m telling you this because this is what I would do if I were running onesies and twosies. Before I got the CAD system, it just wasn’t worth my time to grade my own patterns manually.

I paid the same amount for two (really three) markers but the first production run was only for 20 pieces and the other production run -I needed two markers for that one and paid double for it) cut 100, of the same color and fabric. Shouldn’t my first marker have cost less?

Maybe. Maybe not. If the only difference was the number of plies, it wouldn’t matter. A marker for a sample run of one size could cost the same for a marker of X number of units -provided they were all the same size. If the marker was the same for the larger plies, I’d have questions about the contractor’s table size. Some people claim they’re contractors but their table is only eight feet long. If a contractor is sewing apparel and they only have an eight foot table, I wouldn’t consider them to be professional (and I apologize if that offends anyone). If you have to have a cut order spread in two markers because of table size, that contractor is wasting a lot of your money. It sounds like this is what happened for the larger run. They didn’t have a long enough table to cut a longer marker.

Excuse the sales pitch but there is a lot more about markers in my book, including how to design them according to sales. Even if you won’t make your own markers, the information will be useful -if a contractor doesn’t ask those questions, run! If you do plan to make hand markers and give those to the cutter, you must read Production Cutting: Making Markers pp 114-120. Lastly, if the contractor doesn’t make markers, there are specific questions you must ask them before you can have the marker service make them. The man in the example above could have purchased the book and knowing the costs, paid $30 or so for the marking and would have had enough money left over to buy four more copies of the book for what he originally paid in marker making. I don’t understand why people are so penny wise and pound foolish.

8 Responses to “Marker questions and costs”

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Sara
April 29th, 2008
9:50 AM

I came across your site on a google search where I was looking for regulatory information on country of origin labelling in catalogs for US companies. Your writing is very clear and I appreciate what you’ve put together with this blog/website!

I’m a home sewer myself, in addition to being a conscientious shopper who cares where her clothing and other items that I purchase, are made, and under what conditions. So I appreciate your blog for its behind-the-scenes practical information on the garment industry — it is definitely part of my effort to stay informed. Thank you!

Helen
April 29th, 2008
2:17 PM

I love the hand-held rotary saw as shown in the picture especially much because it has a lovely finger guard. The ones I have seen in practice, however, did not. Eek.

barbara at Apparel Mark
April 29th, 2008
4:56 PM

Kathleen,
I want to clarify a few things about my prices from our conversation yesterday. I charge $30 to digitize a pattern and make a sample marker for those who are not ready for grading. I do not charge a digitizing fee for patterns that are ready for grading, my grading prices range from $15.00 per size for simple pants and skirts to $40.00 per size for complicated jackets and blazers that have over 40 pieces. That charge includes the digitizing and a printout of all pieces for the cutting of hard patterns. The $6.50 per size is for marker making once the pattern is graded. Marker making ranges from 6.50 per size for simple pants, skirts and tops to $17.00 per size for complex coats and jackets. My customers may pay out several hundred dollars for the grading and first markers but the second run could be as little as 5 to 10 dollars.
I definitely agree with you about the cutting table size being an issue for a contractor. Generally, the more sizes that can be mixed into a marker the better the fabric yield will be achieved. And a table that is less than 3 yards long would only allow the cutting of 4 size of pant at a time, that would definitely add to the fabric cost.
Thank you kathleen for your wondrefull work and site.
Barbara

Annika
May 5th, 2008
5:23 PM

This was a great story to stumble across.
I’m currently working for a wholesale manufacturer, and one of my many jobs is making and printing computerized markers.
I’m feeling a little underpaid for the position, and have been trying to figure out what a marker would cost if it was outsourced. Great info here :)
Any idea what a professional marker maker would charge if it was an hourly rate?
Thanks!

Colette
May 8th, 2008
3:59 AM

Did you know that you can get duplicate paper – The cutter in your photo has seen a marker that has been done manually on a duplicate paper – so that you have an extra marker if needed. So I am sure there must be a duplicate paper you could get for a digitalize computer marker.

Paula McDevitt
March 4th, 2009
8:06 AM

I am an author for Fairchild books writing a college text and would love to use an image from your site for a new text.
I can send you a release form and give you proper identification.
Please get back to me at your earliest convenience.
Thanks,
Paula McDevitt
Author

Kathleen
March 4th, 2009
10:33 AM

Hi Paula, I tried emailing you at the address you left but it’s bouncing (no such email address). Hopefully you’ll monitor this entry for my response. Feel free to contact me. I’m leaving the country tomorrow for a week but will be accessible via email kathleenATfashion-incubatorDOTcom if you don’t get back to me today. Note: electronic documents would be ideal for me. Tel: MST 575-525-1577

How to check for nap & one-ways
June 8th, 2009
1:54 PM

[…] fabric a one-way because it can only be cut one way. The topic of cutting and laying fabrics (making markers) is quite involved so I can’t go into it but there’s a whole chapter on it in my book. […]

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