Our guide to pattern cutting
Jane McGuire

Our guide to pattern cutting

Our guide to pattern cutting

Published December 16 2015

When you think about the fashion industry, a pattern cutter is probably not the first job you think of, yet it is actually one of the most important. A vital link between the sketches of the designer and the manufacturing stages of clothing production, without the trained pattern cutters, the clothes on the catwalk would not exist. If you are interested in finding out more, a course is always a good place to start, but we have also explained some of the key points below so you can read a bit more before you browse.


What does a pattern cutter do?

In very simple terms, a pattern cutter will look at a drawing of a garment and work out how it can be mass produced. They will create pattern templates and then work with machinists to mock up samples for the designer to make final changes to. There are three main methods to pattern cutting and it is not unusual for a pattern cutter to use more than one of these methods in their work.


Flat patterning – this method begins with the creation of a block. This is a term you will hear a lot in pattern cutting and basically means a basic pattern, usually made from cardboard, from which many different styles can be developed. Once your block is finalised, it will become your go-to and you will be able to make patterns from many styles of garments with various necklines, sleeves and darts from it.


Pattern draping – pretty much what it says on the tin, pattern draping involves creating a muslin mock-up (also called a toile) by pinning fabric directly on to a dummy. The pattern cutter will shape and pin the garment around the ‘body’ until it fits correctly. They will then cut out a pattern based on these pieces altered on the dummy, or transfer them onto paper.


Pattern grading – an essential part of pattern making, pattern grading rules will determine how the pattern increases or decreases to create different sizes. Fabric type will also be considered at this stage.


What skills will I need to learn?

A course will teach you how to properly implement all the methods above and successfully follow the process of pattern cutting from the beginning sketch to the final product. All courses will be hands on and involve real life practise creating a garment. Learning the professional tools, you will be trained in all elements of pattern cutting and draping techniques. From taking measurements from the body to create a block, to adapting a pattern to the body, the course will cover all elements of dressmaking in-depth.

More advanced courses may also teach you how to use computer programmes to produce patterns, whilst others will focus on the more traditional hand-drawing techniques. What’s more, if you are looking to study pattern cutting for your CV, rather than a hobby, it is worth ensuring the course has a recognised certificate upon completion.


What are the career opportunities out there?

There is no one simple route into pattern cutting, with many people choosing to complete an apprenticeship or degree as a first step into the industry. This does not mean however that having relevant work experience and a short course under your belt would not lead to a job.

Pattern cutters usually work for a fashion house or label and will work a pretty standard nine till five job, usually in a studio as part of a creative team. 

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