Paper patterns, soft or hard?

[Edited 11/27/12 to update content and costs]
A selection of questions and answers about patterns. First up, Robyn writes:

After the pattern has been traced onto the fabric using the wax pencil, do I cut inside the line, cut on the line, or cut outside the line?

I’ve written about this a couple of times, there two entries; Marking and cutting and Tracing and marking, both illustrated with photos. If you don’t want to click through and will take my word for it, the short answer is cut the line away. Always. No exceptions.

Robyn also asks another question that I want to get your take on. I mean, I know what I would recommend but I’m interested in what you all think. Particularly if you already you use hard patterns because if you’re only using soft ones, it’s hard to know what you’re missing (yet).

The paper I am getting [my pattern printed out on] is a CAD print out. [The pattern maker] provides hard paper patterns at $3/per piece/per size. So I should bypass the CAD paper printout and go ahead and pay for the hard patterns? I don’t have a contractor just yet- just have home sewers right now (with industrial-type machines) Here is the pattern description:

“Output is also available on 2X manilla for those working in the leather industry or in need of manual markers. Your hard paper patterns will be labeled to your specifications and outfitted with a header card containing valuable production information such as a pattern piece/cutting list, pattern history and fit reference.”

$3 per piece is relatively inexpensive [2012 dollars]. You don’t mention whether she has a CAD system that will print out on oak tag so it could conceivably be less but then there is the overhead cost of the equipment ($6,000 for a sign cutter on up to $25K for the real deal). A fee of $3 per piece is on the low side considering the time it takes to cut them out and mark them. I used to do this job for $1 a piece but that was 20 years ago. Where did the time go? I don’t know of many pattern makers today offering this service (I still do) but the cost today is closer to a median price of $5 for each piece.

I think the “pattern description” is a little weird though. Whether you get your patterns on oak tag or not, you should get the equivalent of a “header” card (more often described as a pattern card or cutter’s must, this form is also in my book) so it’s not like you’re getting anything extra. And also, since I just happen to work in the leather trade, I can tell you we use 3X if not 4X. 2X is too lightweight. Those are for first patterns or patterns that won’t be used much. If you have a style that starts to be used a lot, cut it out of 3X before it degrades to the point that you lose some precision.

Robyn, your option can be to have the pattern maker make an extra print out for you if that is an option they offer (some don’t). You can put these on oak tag yourself (there are lots of suppliers -have I written about how to buy paper?). I don’t know how many pieces you have but you may save some money. I’m sure the pattern maker wouldn’t mind showing you how to do this (for a fee). While this job is fee generating, it’s not a fun job. As a pattern maker, you do it if you need the money but not otherwise. Also, I don’t know what kind of numbers you’re running and which styles (if you even know it at this point yet) are in the greatest demand. It may be worth it to you to put the patterns with highest usage on oak tag. As you grow, this will become increasingly important.

Personally? If it were me? I draft on oak tag. I can’t stand the flimsiness of soft paper patterns. I think it’s an occupational hazard. As a patternmaker, it’s worth it to me to use hard copy even for trial drafts but not everyone will feel this way. For me, using high quality work materials like oak tag is worth the expense; I know it’s more accurate and it’s probably more efficient. You enjoy a job more if you’re using good materials.

Related:
How to know if you need digital or paper patterns
Handmade or CAD patterns: which are better?

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