First, let’s start by defining what is a pattern grading?
Pattern grading is a process of increasing or decreasing your base pattern size to create a size range of patterns for garment production.
Your first pattern is always made in one size, the base size. During the grading process, a set of rules is applied to the pattern to increase or decrease its size on the X and Y-axis.
When should you start pattern grading?
You should only start grading when you are 100% satisfied with the fit of your sample and have your patterns amended accordingly. You also need to know the size range you are going to produce to place an order for grading sizes. Most of the grading companies will charge you according to the number of pattern pieces and pattern sizes you will be grading. Depending on the size of your pattern pieces (that can be considered when the charges are worked out by a grading bureau) and the number of pattern pieces in your pattern - it could be expensive and wasteful to grade more sizes than you require producing.
Here is an example of pattern grading charges calculations:
We checked Grade Line - London based grading company for their charges.
Their charges for 1-5 pieces of a blouse, top or skirt start from £15. Your base size is 10, You will need to reproduce your garment pattern in sizes 8,10,12,14. 4x£15 =£60 are the charges for your blouse pattern graded in 4 sizes. Most of the grading companies will count your base towards the number of sizes graded. Double-check, when placing the order, if this is the case. It can make a huge difference between seemingly high charges per size of one grading company that is not counting base into the total cost.
Nowadays, most of the patterns are graded using pattern grading software. Manual pattern grading might still exist in small ateliers, but computerized pattern grading has totally taken over. Fashion brands appreciate the accuracy and digital pattern grading. It’s also faster than a traditional manual pattern grading. Most importantly, digital patterns can be shared with a push of a button and sent across the world within seconds. All the traditional pattern grading methods and techniques are applicable, which makes digital pattern grading a definite winner.
With a wide range of pattern grading software available worldwide, it’s increasingly common even for small manufacturing units to have their own grading systems. So, before you rush to grade patterns with the grading bureau, check with your manufacturer if they provide pattern grading services. It could be a more cost-effective and flexible option.
So, your patterns are ready for grading and you are clear on the number of sizes you need to receive. Next, you should get clear what your grading rules are. Grading rules is the difference between patterns of different sizes on the X and Y axis. If you have a budget and time for research, it’s a good idea to work out your own grading rules. Well-developed grading rules will give you a competitive advantage. However, it’s time-consuming and costly research that has to be created by an experienced grader with strong knowledge of anatomy. Hence, many start-up brands stick with so-called “standard grading rules”. We will look at the standard grading rules and grading between pattern sizes in our next blog. For now, let’s carry on with the grading workflow.
When you know what grading rules you should use, you will create a grading chart or ask your grader for assistance.
And that’s pretty much it. You pass all the information to the grader and wait for your patterns to be delivered to you, either in a digital format or printed on paper or card.
Next steps- post-grading period is critical:
Before you drop off your patterns to your manufacturer, you have to check if the patterns are graded correctly. You will look at the grading between the sizes, consistency in notches and pattern markings. Even if your manufacturer is providing grading services to you, you still need to implement some form of control over your patterns. Only when you are certain that the patterns are graded correctly, you can commence bulk garment production. Can you imagine the cost implications if the patterns are not graded correctly between the sizes?
Quite often I’m being asked:
How to do pattern grading? Can I do pattern grading myself?
Yes, you can if you get adequate training. Pattern grading is not just adding extra width to the front and back-side seams, it’s more complex. When we grade the patterns, we take into account the changes all over the body. When the size increases, it’s just a simple horizontal growth of the measurements. If you want to have a well-fitted garment size range - use the help of professionals. To give an idea of how grading is made and rules applied to the patterns, we created a masterclass Pattern Grading Basics: The 101 Guide To Everything You Need To Know To Start Your Production. Follow this link to find out more about the masterclass program if you want to explore this subject deeper.
There is also a masterclass that will teach you how you can take control of your patterns and grading sets to make sure they’re ready for the next steps of the process. See more information here