Where and how to get markers printed

If you don’t know yet, a marker is a tracing of all the pattern pieces needed to cut out a given style. The pattern pieces are either traced out by hand or printed with a plotter. The fabric is laid out, the marker laid over it and the cutter uses the lines to cut out the pieces. If you need more information, there’s a detailed section in my book (pgs 114-120) that explains what they are, how to figure out how much fabric you need and how to make your own. I will include links of other articles I’ve published on markers at close. Below is a photo of what a marker for a tie looks like on a computer screen.

And below (courtesy), is a photo of a marker being cut.

Today’s entry was inspired by a question via email. Previously I didn’t think it would be a worthwhile topic to write about being what I thought was a minimal issue but if I’ve gotten this question several times, I should probably write about it. I never know what you don’t know or what interests you. Suzy writes:

Can you recommend a marker maker? I need a more efficient cutting process. My contractor is making hardboard patterns from the CAD pattern print outs and then tracing those onto paper. The layout isn’t optimized with some wastage and grain lines aren’t always transfered as they should be. The other problem is obviously time, it takes much too long and they could actually spend that time taking on more of my work if they didn’t have to make the markers.

Anyway, I need to find someone quickly that can accept e-mailed Gerber pattern files, make the marker and print that for me. I do want to stress my contractor is working hard to get it right but my pattern maker and I agree that having the markers sent to me that they can just cut is going to be the best option. They have an amazing facility, extremely clean, and well staffed. They’re actually set up to do products dissimilar to mine and are trying to learn what I need so this solution may actually be a relief to them.

First of all, there’s several pieces of information Suzy included in her description that are critical if you’re looking for a similar solution. We need to know:

  • Do you have patterns? Don’t laugh, I’ve had many people want to order markers and they didn’t have patterns yet.
  • What is the format of your patterns? Hard copy or CAD? Hard copy patterns will need to be shipped to someone to be digitized.
  • If CAD, what is the software used? Suzy says hers are Gerber.
  • Details about your contractor’s facility (see pgs 133-137, How to hire a sewing contractor). Marker length depends on their table length.

Anyway, because she included all the information I needed, I knew she needed someone with an over sized (60″-72″) plotter who can print Gerber files. One of the things I do when someone joins as a member, is do a survey of their skills and capacity so I keep a tally of who’s got what equipment and what software. Suzy’s pattern maker has a 36″ plotter, not nearly wide enough although it can be taped together. In this case, she had three options. One is Kinkos, some have oversized plotters, you have to call around to find out and then your pattern maker will have to send the CAD file electronically in a certain file format that a generic plotter can read. Among garment industry service providers, I had two names for her. One is in the Southwest, she runs Gerber software and prints lots of markers. Another service provider I know in Los Angeles doesn’t run Gerber natively but I know that a lot of their business is actually file conversions so they have every kind of CAD software import and export utilities -along with the large over sized plotters.

In a case such as this, the costs are pretty minimal. The patterns are already made and graded so the only work is making the marker itself. Of the whole process, patterns to grading to marker making, the latter is the lowest cost. An additional benefit is keeping a copy of your marker file at the service provider because they can print them out on demand and ship them out. Any marker service ships a lot of markers, it is very common.

Previous entries that may be useful:
Marker questions and costs
Pet Peeve: Cutters and Mixed Markers
Lessons in calculating fabric use & pattern engineering
There’s quite a lot in the forum too; see the pattern and grading section.

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