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Pattern grading and pattern making are two processes that serve different purposes and are performed at different stages of garment production. Moreover, they are undertaken by different team members. Yet, they are often mixed up. It is no wonder since both involve patterns and sound pretty similar as well.

Image of scissors and ruler

Let’s clear the confusion by looking at the definitions first.

 According to Wikipedia: ‘a pattern is the template from which the parts of a garment are traced onto fabric before being cut out and assembled. The process of making or cutting patterns is sometimes condensed to the one-word Patternmaking, but it can also be written pattern(-)making or pattern cutting.’ 

On the same website, we found the following definition to describe Pattern Grading: ‘Pattern Grading is the process of turning base size or sample size patterns into additional sizes using a size specification sheet or grading increments.’

So, there is a clear dependency. Still, without a fundamental understanding of the process and how they fit into garment production, it might be challenging to see how these two may differ.

We can understand better their connection and dependency by looking at the product development and manufacturing cycles.

(image of  product development/manufacturing cycles)

The start of every fashion collection is based on a creative idea. Fashion designers all over the world begin by creating blueprints for their collections. It might be a series of sketches or fabrics draped on a tailor’s dummy. Anything goes, the goal is to get a feel for what the garments will look like on a human body.  Style by style, a designer pieces together a fashion collection.

Once the collection is finalized, fabrics are sourced, and the technical sketches are completed, the designer then approaches a pattern maker to get assistance with creating patterns. From here, the pattern drafting process takes over.

It might be that there are a few pattern drafts for the same style that are created. They are usually accompanied by several toile fittings, with garment samples being the outcome. All the patterns at this stage will be made in one base size. The choice of the base size is determined by many factors: the availability of a fit model, the target audience, and the production size range among various other elements. Normally, it is up to the designer to identify the base size for the fashion collection and to present a pattern cutter with the set of measurements for the first pattern. The first sample and pattern are developed based on this set of measurements in the base size.

Now it’s time to start selling and move ahead with bulk production. Whether this production is for wholesale orders or for distributing their fashion collection directly to the end consumer, they will need to produce their garments in a range of sizes. That’s where pattern grading comes into play. The base size pattern that was created previously gets multiplied up to the desired number of sizes by a pattern grader.

I came across a particularly useful blog post called Making Sense of Pattern Grading  by Terry Horlamus . I think this post covers the basic concepts of pattern grading methods in detail. It shines a light on some important topics such as grading vs alteration and pattern measurements vs body measurements.

As it covers these issues in great detail, I will skip them for now and address instead of a few typical mistakes that we have noticed our fashion studio designers make:

1. Quite often, designers rely on so-called industry-standard grading rules without thoroughly researching the rules and whether they will work in line with their target customers.

2. Base size patterns are often selected without taking into consideration the desired product size range.

3. Designers do not fully utilize the possibilities of uneven grading rules to create better fitting garments.

We will have a close look at the implications of these three common mistakes in our next blog.

Meanwhile, if you would like to find out more about grading rules, our tech pack and diving deeper into the world of fashion production, join us at our next masterclass. Also, be sure to check out our events page to see what we have in store for you.

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