How to know your patterns have been corrected

This is part two of Are you a victim of a hanger fix? so be sure to see that. Some of the comments from pattern makers were quite funny. In this portion I’ll explain how you would optimally manage your pattern design changes. It is unlikely anyone will ever hanger fix one of your styles if you use these methods, forcing honest discussion as painful as either party may find it.

Basic pattern and style iteration management
Is your pattern system manual or CAD? CAD is easier to track than manual but we’ll start with a discussion of style change and iteration first.

How are your style meetings conducted? These days, it’s common for fittings to be done absent the pattern maker’s attendance. You’re the one usually doing the fitting. First you fit the prototype and make notes which you then send off to the pattern maker. But let me ask you this, how many of you have a copy of the current pattern version? I’m guessing not many. In my opinion, you should have that. It should be released to you with the prototype to which it pertains. Now, whether it is a manual pattern or an electronic file, I can’t see a legitimate reason for this to be withheld from you. When you get your proto from the pattern maker, the pattern should be included -even if it’s only a tracing in the case of manual patterns (hard copy patterns can be heavy, increasing shipping costs). If it’s a CAD file, see if the pattern maker has a plotter (one of the things to consider when you hire one these days) and will print a copy of the pattern for you. Sending the file electronically should be free and while I’d throw in a plot of the pattern for no additional cost, I can’t presume everyone would. I think the cost of a plot should be minimal. I hesitate to include a dollar amount but I’m continually shocked by people who over charge so I’d estimate the cost to be $2 or $3 a yard or maybe a minimum fee of $5 or so if it’s short. However, if the pattern maker doesn’t have a plotter, expect to pay the prevailing rate of an outside service like Kinko’s. I’ve heard they charge a fortune. You should be provided with a copy of the invoice.


I think it’s a matter of professionalism for the pattern to be provided to you with the prototype (provided you’ve paid your bill) because this leaves you the option of going with another service if you are dissatisfied and you don’t have to beg for your property. It’s just cleaner.

Now, if you have a copy of the pattern, you fit the prototype and find you need some changes, you can return the prototype (if needed) along with your fitting notes to have the style corrected. However, if yours are manual hard patterns and you have the only copy, you will have to ship those back to the pattern maker. I advise you to make a tracing of the pattern on marker paper so you have a record of the pattern as it stands now. Sure, that can be a hassle but the alternative is worse. Be sure to date each piece.

Fast-forward to receipt of the corrected pattern and the new prototype. If your latest version seems to fit the same as before and you suspect your pattern wasn’t corrected although you were charged for it, you have a baseline from which to compare. If you asked a sleeve to be shortened, it is easy enough to compare the sleeve lengths of each version. Don’t be too intimidated to check, even if the pattern maker is standing right there. I realize that in other fields this may be offensive behavior but if your pattern maker has any production experience, they’re used to it. It’s old hat, it’s something we all do together. Now, if you grabbed a pair of scissors and just started hacking away on it, you can safely assume someone would become disgruntled but marking, measuring and comparing is fair game.

I can’t speak for every pattern maker or every customer but if my customer checks the pattern in my presence, I’m reassured, not offended. If they’re doing it wrong, then we have the opportunity of a teaching moment. If the customer is doing it really wrong, I may giggle but I couldn’t be more pleased they’re trying to understand my work and the process which is a big compliment. The more you know about how patterns work, the more confidence I’m going to have in your ability to communicate changes by phone. No good pattern maker should be upset if you try to get up close and personal with the pattern. It is your property. I could be wrong but if your pattern maker has a problem with you checking his or her work, they’re operating from a position of diffidence and need further skill refinement -or at least they believe that internally. If you’re paying for it, the work should stand the scrutiny of anyone’s examination.

One person asked

How do you check your pattern maker’s patterns to make sure they made a change you requested with out having them sew a whole new sample? Do you have them show you on the computer or on the hard copy? Do you just have blind faith? Or do you have them sew a new sample that reflects the changes?

You shouldn’t have to ask for them to show you, they should provide it, that’s what you’re paying for. It shouldn’t be a matter of blind faith; everyone makes mistakes. Heaven forbid they’ve resent the uncorrected version but it happens and you won’t know unless you check. I would definitely check first if you decide to cut a new sample. And yes, you have the option of having the pattern corrected without a new fit sample. Whether you should do that is another story. If it’s something simple, like shortening a pant leg or sleeve, you can compare the two pattern versions and hem up your existing sample to save the costs of a new sample.

Penny summed up the practices of most professionals with this:

My personal feeling is that nothing should go off to production without a perfect approved sample. Of course this is not always possible, and if it’s something simple like the hem was overlocked and top stitched instead of clean finished, you can tape over the area with a note referring to the correct finish desired.

If it’s more major fit issues, definitely re-sew the garment to check. Maybe it’s something simple like the back collar needs to be spread a little in order to roll properly. In this case they can just rip off the old collar and re-sew the new one on to check. Sometimes corrections are incorrectly done that don’t fix the problems and create new ones. Sometimes pattern makers can forget to do a correction.

If I’m correcting a pattern for a client that requires a lot of corrections, I will list on the back of the face card all the corrections I did and the date they were applied. That way it is easy to track the progress of the pattern and to see if all corrections were addressed by the pattern maker.

JC said much the same:

I always fit with the pattern next to me and make notes directly on the pattern where changes need to be made. The next time I pick up the pattern, I can see precisely what I need to do. If the note is still there, the change hasn’t been done.

I re-sew most corrections but it depends …If the entire jacket body isn’t bad, I would take it apart or just set on a new collar or sleeve and re-fit. If corrections were extensive, then I would strike a whole new pattern and sew a new sample. In fact, some corrections need to be made before others because they impact other changes, so it may require another iteration.

Some corrections are so minor I don’t see the need to re-sew a sample. If it’s a last-minute minor change, then taping it out with notes is OK because it’s not a good enough reason to spend the customer’s money or materials. An example of a change I would not re-sew is if the pocket flap needs to be longer or shorter.

JC does mention “auditing someone’s work becomes problematic and could create stress on a relationship” but we can only operate from the position that everyone is professional, the pattern maker is competent and the designer isn’t a prima donna. If the relationship heads off the rails, a designer could be in for some real trouble in the form of malicious compliance. Malicious compliance usually means someone is ticked off enough that they’ll do exactly what you say. You might think that’s what you want but it rarely is. Remember Midas? Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.

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3 comments

  1. AJ says:

    old entry but I have a question because some of the wording has got me confused…

    You say that a patternmaker should provide the client with a copy of the pattern, then the client can keep this copy and compare to the new one with corrections. Okay I follow that and I would think that is common sense and not worthy of you mentioning but I guess not everyone follows common sense. What I am confused with is what you actually say: “[the pattern] should be released to you with the prototype to which it pertains.”

    I’m confused because this sounds like the patternmaker should be providing the prototype…but then you say: “you won’t know unless you check [the corrected pattern]. I would definitely check first if you decide to cut a new sample.”

    So now I’m a bit confused…Is it common for patternmakers to give clients prototypes but not patterns? Isn’t the job of a patternmaker to make a pattern, not a prototype? How could the client in the second quote cut a new sample if a pattern hadn’t been provided? For those clients that are not receiving the patterns, what on earth are they getting?

    I feel stupid for not following, but I don’t! lol

  2. Kathleen says:

    What I am confused with is what you actually say: “[the pattern] should be released to you with the prototype to which it pertains.” I’m confused because this sounds like the patternmaker should be providing the prototype…

    When you go to a pattern service, there’s a menu of services to pick and choose from. We all have varying relationships with our clients. I rarely provide a prototype but that is related to the clients I work with or the type of service I provide. They usually have staff on hand to do the sewing. It’s better they do it. One, by sewing, they check that the pattern is aligned to their processes and skill level. Two, you have to sew one anyway (or someone does, a contractor perhaps) for checking and costing.

    If I’m just cleaning up a style (what I do more often than not), a prototype (read: initial rendering of a style to see that it works) is not necessary because that was already done before it got to me.

    So now I’m a bit confused…Is it common for patternmakers to give clients prototypes but not patterns? Isn’t the job of a patternmaker to make a pattern, not a prototype? …For those clients that are not receiving the patterns, what on earth are they getting?

    Sadly, these days it is all too common that clients will get the proto/sample but not the pattern. I consistently beat my head against a wall telling designers that they are entitled to the pattern. If the pattern maker won’t provide it, the designer should go elsewhere.

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