Resolutions: Will this be the year you get a CAD system?

Ah -a new year and fresh beginnings. Everyone is looking for ways to get more for their time, greater efficiencies and all that. For many, this can mean the jump to buying a computer aided drafting program. But wait -as great as they can be- will technology solve your problems? Maybe or maybe not.

I mostly love technology. Between Mr. Fashion-Incubator and me, we own an embarrassing number of computers to include dedicated Linux, PC & Mac computer desktops and laptops.  We also have an iPad, Kindle Fire and several smart phones. Now with this embarrassment of technological riches, are we any less tethered or more efficient? Probably neither but then again, we’re largely happy with how we spend our personal time with neither one complaining about how much time whomever spends on the web. And if one does complain, all one need say to the other is “someone is wrong on the internet!” for a free pass.

But I digress somewhat. My point is that technology (and a CAD system) can be great but it won’t necessarily make you more efficient. Successful technology adoption often hinges on our existing habits and work processes. Meaning that if your processes are messed up, technology won’t help you be any less messed up.

Before I got a CAD system and made patterns manually, I had a very good system of vetting patterns.  Since it worked well, I continued to use that system for the CAD pattern making process too. However, as time has passed, I’ve come to see that the pattern correction and proofing system I developed for hand patterns hasn’t worked so well grafted into my CAD work processes. I had to develop a new system -and that took time (read: not as efficient). I’m still fine tuning it.

The best way to fine tune something is to create a work instruction* -assuming you know what should go in it. It takes some iteration to figure that out.  I have two main strategies currently (this may help you if you decide to go the route of CAD).

1. Create and follow a list of practices to use in CAD drafting.
I had never needed this with manual patterns because I’d been doing it so long that it was instinctual (I later created one after the fact to use as curriculum in my production pattern making classes). I didn’t need to remind myself to add seam allowances, notches, label pieces correctly or any of the most basic things. Since my work flow was disrupted with CAD, I did have to create a check list for myself. I will publish this next as a separate entry (next). I would love to get ideas from you and of course, feel free to ask any questions.

2. Create a feedback loop to document sewing or cutting problems.
Half the problem with problems is documenting you have one so they can be corrected. With respect to cutting and or sewing problems, I’m doing a variation from the manual system that seems to be working fairly well.

Previously (manual system), the cutter or sample maker made notes on the back of the pattern card to list any issues. Since I don’t have a pattern card at this stage (I’m supplying a plot so no cutter’s must is needed either), my assistant is marking needed corrections on the pattern pieces themselves with a brightly colored highlighter.

Here is a photo of a pattern with some corrections noted:


You’ll see that some notches are circled with highlighter. This means that these should be removed* because this is a fusible pattern piece.

Now in a manual system, you would never mark directly on the pattern because your patterns would get ugly very quickly and have to be remade if for only that reason. Marking notations on the pieces cut from the plot is no problem though since the latter are mostly disposable.

This is all that comes to mind for now. As I mentioned further up, I’ll now post my SOP on the CAD pattern making process.

And oh yeah, in spite of my having been less efficient during the adoption and transition to CAD pattern making (I do love my CAD system), the latter offers too many advantages to go back.  Technology is a double edged sword. First it allowed work to be done more easily at arm’s length and now it requires it.  It seems most contract production sewing companies require CAD plots these days. I suppose it became a requirement because so many people were supplying them that it became easier to expect them and gear one’s operational efficiencies to that new standard. For better or worse. Meaning that today, one either needs to have CAD themselves or to seek providers who can supply it.


*At this late date, I discover I haven’t written any entries on creating work instructions! Not to fear, this will be remedied starting this week.

**Notches should be removed from fusibles because they aren’t needed and you want to reduce unnecessary cutting costs.

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