Old school grading method?

I have a question about a pattern that I got from a factory that went under a couple of years ago. I’ve shown you some of their patterns before, they’re the weird/awful ones. All of the patterns from this outfit were weird in one way or another but this one has a “feature” that has me stumped and I was wondering if one of you knew what it was or meant. This pattern (a graded set) has little holes all along the edges.


I think it has something to do with grading. The reason is, back when I was living in Albuquerque and didn’t want to mess with grading some leather patterns, I hired this guy in El Paso to do the job. He did lousy work and I ended up returning them and not paying for it so I sure didn’t want to chat with him but beside the point, the graded set came back with little holes along the edges, just like these. Here’s another photo, a close up.

Of course, now I wish I’d asked him about it. I’ve never seen anything like this. The holes don’t line up to anything. Maybe an obvious answer is that the holes line up along the seam allowance but in the photo above, the hole on the far left and far right are at different heights, not even like a seam allowance would be. Then again, maybe it was that same guy who graded these (I did buy this in El Paso). The pattern itself was made by a guy named Felix, I recognize his handwriting, a cake-mix pattern maker if I ever met one. I used to work with him, he was a real piece of work. Used to show me nudie pens and pictures of nearly naked women at work. Seriously. When I complained, management said I had to make allowances for cultural differences. Oh the heady days of the early nineties. But that’s a whole other story. I thought I’d load a piece into my Dario grading machine but the holes in the wands didn’t line up either.

Here’s a close up:

So, anybody know what or how these holes were used to grade a pattern, assuming that’s what these are?

In the meantime, I finally pulled my drape off the form (because I needed it for something else) and getting ready to put it to paper. I’d wanted to digitize the pattern into my as yet unnamed CAD system, straight from the muslin (I think that’s how my friend Sally does it) but my digitizer won’t be here for at least another week. Sob. I needed the form because I made up a dummy muslin from this pattern I got from yet another of the Japanese drafting books I haven’t mentioned yet. It’s a shrug type thing. I’m not particularly pleased with it and haven’t decided how to putz with it so I probably won’t write about it till I figure out how to fix it. Either that or I go onto another project. I’m really hot for one of those East West leather jackets and am thinking of doing a “tribute” pattern but the block I have isn’t ready to take it so I have to fix that first. Honestly, maybe I’m getting lazy in my old age but I sure do wish these things would fix themselves so I could get to the fun part.

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19 comments

  1. esther says:

    Could they be drill holes rather than grade points? I can’t imagine needing so many drill holes to match up seam lines… Do they align with corresponding pieces at all?

  2. Here’s my guess. I went into a school uniform factory that worked in plaid (tartan). They literally nailed the pattern through the fabric so it wouldn’t slip while cutting. So the holes are to assist the cutter keep the fabric from moving, ergo, they don’t line up to anything.

  3. Penny says:

    Well I’ve seen some older grading machines that have spring loaded clips on the wands that hold the pattern pieces in place. These do put a little hole in the pattern, but the hole placement would be different from the ones that are on your graded set and there would never be that many. That’s a weird one…

  4. Kassandra Maillard says:

    This is probably a rediculous idea but maybe the holes aren’t for grading but to alter the fit of the pattern. Then again this could only work for smaller sizes, and why would you need them all around the pattern piece?!

  5. Stacy Holt says:

    Based on what I see in the first picture,I believe this is to indicate Seam Allowance.
    I have seen this before, but not for a long time. Usually, the drills were used to indicate match marks in lieu of notches.
    Where the Drills are at different hieghts along the hem, I bet this is a lining piece whereby the lining seam alowance varies from the front closure to the back.
    It can be seen as an alternative way to comunicate Seam Allowance built into the pattern. And hey, it may be helpful to the sewer.

  6. dosfashionistas says:

    Do the holes line up when you walk the pattern? If so, they would have something to do with how the patternmaker checked himself…though why that large a hole is beyond me. I have put a pushpin through at corners that I couldn’t see to check myself many a time, to be sure the seams were crossing correctly.

    And if you ever find out how to make any pattern correct itself, please tell me! There are so many things I want to do, but first I have to do something in order to do what I want to, and often it goes back another step or three.

    Right now I need 8″ of purple cording so that I can start my next sewing project, so it is off to the craft store for me. Hello to all.

  7. Colette says:

    Do the holes line up if you put in the pattern piece the wrong direction, like put the bottom (waist/hip area) of that piece pictured toward the grading tool? Then turn around and do it again on the top of the pieces? Just looking at the holes and your tool. I have no knowledge of grading so don’t judge this comment too closely.

  8. J C Sprowls says:

    I wish I had a set of grading calipers. It would be so much easier to demonstrate how they are used. I know they don’t make holes this size, though. I’m stumped.

    Unless… the grader made holes at seam junctions because he added seam allowances after the new size was transferred. But, with holes that large, the accuracy would be lost.

    I’ve seen drill holes used in lieu of notches. In fact, most shirts and knits I’ve worked with were marked that way because the notch would compromise the 1/4″ seam.

  9. I vote with Ms. Barber…that the holes are to help the cutter keep the fabric from moving around. But since I’m not technical, I can’t say I’m voting with much confidence. Sounds logical, though, right?

  10. Kathleen says:

    Good questions/comments. I didn’t know the answer to all of them offhand so I had to check. I found your comments very interesting, giving me insight in the variety of ways a person can really louse something up that hadn’t occurred to me.

    Could they be drill holes rather than grade points? I can’t imagine needing so many drill holes to match up seam lines… Do they align with corresponding pieces at all?
    They could be drill holes but they’re kind of small for that. Too small to have been made by an awl, a smallish nail maybe? This is a leather pattern which you don’t drill (single ply) like you do fabric (multi ply). Not only do the holes not align in a discernable pattern with corresponding pieces, they don’t align with the graded pairs they match to either.

    They literally nailed the pattern through the fabric so it wouldn’t slip while cutting. So the holes are to assist the cutter keep the fabric from moving, ergo, they don’t line up to anything.
    That’s a good guess but again, this is leather.

    maybe the holes aren’t for grading but to alter the fit of the pattern. Then again this could only work for smaller sizes, and why would you need them all around the pattern piece?!
    The pattern is a graded set, 38-52 and it was manufactured rather than made custom to an individual. I wonder how it is that the holes could be used to alter the fit tho.

    could they be for filing purposes?
    Patterns are “filed” by hanging through a 3/4″ punch hole and cord and organized on a rack by number.

    Might the guy from El Paso have tacked the pieces to the work surface in lieu of using tape or weights?
    Who knows what that guy did. His table would have to have more holes in it than mine. I don’t know why he would have nailed it to the table tho, you need the piece to move freely from point to point when grading.

    I believe this is to indicate Seam Allowance. Usually, the drills were used to indicate match marks in lieu of notches.
    Where the Drills are at different hieghts along the hem, I bet this is a lining piece whereby the lining seam alowance varies from the front closure to the back.

    This is just as likely as anything but the big argument against it is that the seam allowance on the hem portion, should be straight going across along the bottom of the piece of which I did the close up. I mean, if the hem sewing seam allowance is .5″ on the left, it should be the same on the right but it’s not (this is a back side panel portion). However, these are cruddy patterns. One should not assume the allowances are correct. ~sigh~. The other thing is, this company wasn’t known for precision or diligence. Notches are easier than marking all these little holes so why would they employ the more labor intensive marking method?

    Do the holes line up when you walk the pattern? have put a pushpin through at corners that I couldn’t see to check myself many a time, to be sure the seams were crossing correctly.
    Nah, these don’t line up (see above). I’ve also used push pins as you have but this is inordinate.

    Do the holes line up if you put in the pattern piece the wrong direction, like put the bottom (waist/hip area) of that piece pictured toward the grading tool?
    Hmm, hadn’t thought of that so I had to check (it’d be a weird way to grade but I guess it’s possible). Nope, don’t line up and we have lots of extra holes too.

    I wish I had a set of grading calipers.
    I wish I knew what they were. That’s a new one for me. Picture please?

    that the holes are to help the cutter keep the fabric from moving around.
    Possible but I don’t think so. Leather is pretty sticky, it’s grabby, particularly suede. While you do/should have to weight it down to mark around it, pattern pieces don’t slide around on it easily. Too toothy.

  11. Kerstin says:

    Hello,
    I read in some books and online boards that some people like to hang their pattern pieces on a clothes hanger. They use cardboad or similar for the pieces, so they would be sturdy enough, then pull a thread through all the holes and then hang them up. That way the pieces don´t need much space and they can´t get lost or mixed up. Maybe it´s just that? :-)

  12. Abigail says:

    Ok, my guess sounds a little weird even to me. But it has not been brought up yet. Maybe the holes are some type of topstitching guide. I’ve seen in leather crafts holes made completely down a side for handstitching. Maybe this is some type of factory guide for machine topstitching but holes do not need to be made at every spot the needle will be inserted. I also notice there are not holes on every side, which would indicate only certain sides were topstitched.

  13. Georges says:

    ok..here’s the skinny on ur pattern holes….
    ur guy tried t use a very old grading method based on apex’s..usually done in french couture houses..it is based on the finished lengths of each seam in the finished garment..u use a protractor and swing the pattern on the paper..& use a yardstick to mark the grading increments on each seam..if u don’t know this method inside out and what each grade seams finished measurements are to be..then the pattern doesn’t work…
    u want grades done right?..u need to have in-house finished measurements for each size u supply to the patternamker.. and these measurements shouldco-incide with the retailer’s in-house de rigeour measurements for each size they buy..they usually have this available if u ask the buyer office
    If u measure the space between each hole on a seam it should be symetrical to a base line down the middle of the pattern & a 30 degree to a 45 degree angle off the corners…& u try to grade more than 3 sizes off a base pattern and u end up with a sloppy,mishapen garment…
    Best to grade with a ruler in 1/32″ to 2″ increments..How do u people get thru design school without knowing how to grade ur own line?
    email me if u want…

  14. Barbara says:

    How do u people get thru design school without knowing how to grade ur own line?

    How did you get through school and not know how to write?

  15. Shermane says:

    Thanks Georges, I really appreciate the explanation. In America, unless you go to a school where the instructors have worked within the industry you don’t learn anything that prepares you to work in the industry. Judging by your knowledge and comment, you are French or French Canadian and were taught in France. European Schools teach practical application. Unless you go to New York or Los Angeles, you go a University which gives you a four year bachelors degree in Fashion Design taught by educators with a Masters or a Doctorate in Design. One does not learn practical application from anyone with a Masters or Doctorate, because these folks have learned how to teach not worked within the industry. Hope that helps answer you question about how anyone gets through design school without knowing how to grade your own line.

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