Pattern graders take the patterns made by pattern cutters and produce scaled up and scaled down versions, which allow for the manufacture of the same garment, but in different sizes.
The work can be carried out by hand using traditional draughting techniques and size charts. However, many companies now use computerised technology to help carry out the task.
Computerised processes include the use of a digitising table, where the pattern is laid flat on the table surface and the grader traces a complete outline of it with a tracing instrument, such as a light pen. Key coordinates around the outline are taken and allow the computer to simultaneously adjust the pattern size and proportions.
Another method is to use scanning technology to trace the outline, which allows tracing within much smaller tolerances, therefore reproducing extremely accurate pattern copies. Again, these can be scaled to size.
The finished pattern may be printed out full size for cutting out the fabric, or passed to an automated cutting machine.
The job of a grader is often combined with that of a pattern cutter. See profile for Pattern Cutter.
Pattern graders normally work 37 to 39 hours a week, Monday to Friday. Part-time work and overtime are often available.
Pattern graders may work in a studio with the clothing designers, or in part of the main factory where the clothes are made up. Working conditions are usually warm and light, but in a factory it could be noisy.
As a clothing pattern cutter or grader you need:
Pattern graders/cutters are an important link between the design and manufacturing stages in garment production. Employers range from exclusive designer and couture houses to larger manufacturers or fashion design houses, supplying high street clothing chains. Opportunities are greater for those able to offer skills and experience across the production cycle from design transfer to manufacture.
The main promotion prospects are to become head pattern cutter or grader or, with additional training, to move in to the design or buying side. Self-employment may be possible for an experienced cutter/grader.
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