Pop Quiz: notching challenge pt.2

So tragic. We only had three participants to the challenge. No matter, what we got was useful enough.

Our first submission was from Sharon Denaro, a production patternmaker with over 20 years of experience, she’s new here so say hi (Hi Sharon). Second was Lisa Blank, enthusiast extraordinaire and last was me. Being that I’m in charge, I’m going to call a winner. And that would be Lisa. ha ha. 50 years of experience loses out!

Now I’ll show you why -based on the earlier entries on notching and from my book, you know that the fewer the number of notches, the better. If you use too many, it confuses stitchers and annoys cutters. Annoyed cutters will “forget” to notch a pattern with too many notches so your stuff may not be sewn as you had anticipated. Here’s the notch count:

  • Sharon: 10
  • Lisa: 8
  • KF: 13 (embarrassing, eh?)

Notches aren’t the whole story of course. Let’s discuss the finer points by introducing the entries:




First we’ll analyze Sharon’s entry.

Since notches should be placed in such a way as to eliminate ambiguity -no piece should be able to be sewn to a wrong piece- the distance between notches can be critical. Generally, notches should be offset by half an inch or more. Now it is difficult to get a complete picture of the measurement of Sharon’s placement because she did not (could not) do it digitally. In real life, I strongly suspect the gap between her notches would have been greater but owing to scale, the distances are not evident. Which means her entry looks worse than it really is or would be in real life. However, I don’t think (or at least I hope not) Sharon will be upset if I use her entry as an example of things to avoid mostly because we need one. Again, this is not representative of what an experienced production pattern maker would do in full scale.


sharon_denaro_analysis2The distances between the notch of seam 2+3 appear to be similar. I printed it out and read a difference of almost 1/4 in this tiny scale. In real life, it would be at least three times that so it is well outside the half inch window. Let me explain what I mean. Assume pieces 2 and 3 are mis-matched. The upper end of piece #3 is aligned to the lower section of piece #2. At right is the image.

sharon_denaro_analysis3Continuing with our disservice to Sharon, we have a similar situation with the seam between pieces 3 and 4. If one of these pieces were flipped, the distance between notches is not distinct enough. Again, Sharon didn’t have the benefit of her CAD system (she uses Lectra) to measure these distances.

The lesson here is, never assume your pieces will be joined as you imagined. Do not assume the stitchers have seen the prototype. Do not assume they’ve had the chance to inspect the pattern. Do not assume they’ve seen a sketch. Again, the one thing that we do assume that less experienced people do not, is that notches are exact. As I mentioned in this entry, we will assume we have the piece mis-aligned if it is off. If the pattern maker has a good reputation and is known for good patterns, a quarter inch is sufficient to raise a red flag. But in any event, if notches are off an inch, everything comes to a screeching halt.

Now let’s discuss Lisa’s entry. In a nutshell she won because she doesn’t know the rules. Or if she does, she doesn’t need no stinkin’ rules.

Speaking of rules, experienced pattern makers have rules embedded in their brains (which was why we lost). When you have a bunch of adjoining pieces that look very similar (think an 8 gore skirt), the rough protocol is this:

  • PC#1: 1 single notch
  • PC#2: 2 single notches spaced apart
  • PC#3: 3 single notches spaced apart (space permitting)
  • PC#4: 1 single notch and a pair of double notches
  • PC#4: alternatively, a pair of double notches
  • PC#5: 2 pair of double notches spaced apart
  • PC#6: 3 pair of double notches spaced apart
  • PC#7: Hmm. Maybe we should mirror Pcs 1 + 2… otherwise this style is too expensive and will be dropped.
  • PC#8: Take a break. Notch it somehow. Then pray and hide from the cutter and stitchers.

Before I digressed, Lisa’s entry didn’t follow the notching rules. On a garment this would matter (single notches to the front, double notches on the back). On a bag it doesn’t matter because there is no front or back or if there is, the two are so different it makes little difference.

lisa_notch_quiz_2You might have to scroll up again but there is no ambiguity in Lisa’s notching. The only place there is a potential conflict is the single notch near the bottom of seam 1 & 2 and the outer edge of seam 5 & 6. The distance between these notches and their respective cut edges are very similar. However, it does not matter because the total seam lengths are so different. The total seam lengths of pieces 1 & 2 are much shorter than the seam lengths of pieces 5 & 6 so there is no way to line them up (shown at right).

Being the clear loser of this challenge, the less said about my entry the better. In my defense, this pattern was designed as an exercise in notching according to that bulleted list above. However, after this challenge, it has become another sort of lesson -let’s call it necessary de-programming. I think it will be better to come up with another design (a six or eight gore skirt) to illustrate the notching protocol. As a practical matter, I’ll redesign the notching of this pattern to be more like Lisa’s and Sharon’s. And gratefully so. All those notches were driving me batty. Annoying they were.

Oh, and the notching of the quarter circle piece? This is yet another lesson but for another day. The notches these ladies used were fine if it were constructed in the manner they had imagined it to be but I do it another way. It is best defined as a future sewing lesson.

There are 18 comments Leave a comment

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *