This is a bit off topic but when has that ever stopped me? Seriously, I don’t know of any resources on the web that provide both comprehensive and legitimate information. I’ve gotten several questions on this, here’s the latest:
Kathleen, maybe I’m off my rocker for wanting to do this but I am interested in starting a small independent pattern company. My search for someone to develop the patterns for the home sewer has come up empty. I find lots of information for people and companies like yourself.
I don’t think you’re off your rocker, this a great business option. While not without its challenges, there’s still room in the market depending on your product quality, USP, styling, demography and marketing.
The point of not being able to find “someone to develop the patterns for the home sewer” is probably the one thing that gets me going. There’s no reason you can’t use industry services too. Having reviewed the range of products from more independent home sewing companies than I can count, quality can be a problem and among those who provide services to them, fees are exorbitant. Most “home drafters” don’t know accepted standards of practice and will think they’re entitled to royalties. I don’t see why you have to find and hire a “home drafter”. I have to give you points though, most people who start these companies feel they must be their own pattern maker and that’s silly. If you started a restaurant, would you be the only cook? You’d never sleep. The writer continues:
I don’t have a problem with garment industry construction techniques because I know it is more efficient, but the pattern drafter would have to be able to give instructions for someone who is not going to necessarily have a serger available.
There are several things going on here. First, it doesn’t necessarily hold that the pattern maker is the one who writes instructions. I wouldn’t say none do, just that most don’t. It’s not our job. Not to say we can’t but you’ll most likely have to contract for that in addition to the job. In the usual course of affairs, we’re making patterns for customers who already know how to sew. Any instructions -at best- amount to a list of seam specifications for a given seam. I wouldn’t let this stop you though. If you hired the right service that was using the right software, instruction making is dramatically simplified. You could also do it yourself. How comfortable are you with software? Patternworks Inc is softly launching Style File that will perform these functions. If this isn’t your speed or within your budget, you can hire an illustrator. It’s best to hire one who sews and can make patterns. I recommend Danielle. Your last option is to take photos as you make one (you will have to test those patterns no matter who makes them) and put it out on CD. Create a pdf and let users print it out if they want. I don’t know why nobody’s doing that. That’s what I’d do.
Second, the matter of not having a serger is a red herring. Just as your sizing cannot be all things to all people, neither can your pattern nor design of construction. One problem with the big four pattern companies is that they’re too broadly-based. Independents are successful for targeting niches. A case in point is Kwik Sew. Lack of sergers doesn’t seem to be hurting them any. Why must your patterns be designed to cover every possible contingency? I think that’s what’s wrong with the big four. I understand the tendency of people to want to attempt to garner the largest possible share of the market by covering as many bases as possible but you can’t, so why try? If DEs are most successful if they’re highly targeting their market, why would home pattern companies be any different?
Third, industrial pattern makers are accustomed to designing patterns specific to equipment. Just as a designer must provide information about the equipment being used to sew, so must you. You have two choices. One is to specify the standard allowance of 5/8″ or you consider one aspect of USP (below) and vary them.
Fourth -regarding the issue of USP– is specificity because prolepsis is an exercise in futility. While there’s dunces in any crowd, home sewers aren’t stupid. Those who don’t have sergers and who are likely to buy independent patterns, have already figured the work arounds for serger dearth. If they haven’t, or they don’t have sergers, they’re not likely to be a customer you want based on your product description (later). You know, you could do something different and have production quality patterns. A unique proposition is that your styles would sew up better and faster. Of course you’d have to learn how to do what you didn’t know but what’s the harm in that? It’d give you a leg up over so many others. Our methods aren’t harder, they’re easier. And like I said, based on your product type, you should shoot for a better class of sewer.
With respect to targeting your customer demography, in my book, I make designers fill out a worksheet on customer demography and needs. I suggest you do the same. What kind of equipment does your customer have? What are their fitting needs? What are their sizing needs? How much money do they have? These are all things to consider when marketing your patterns.
I’m just now getting back into sewing and found the lack of glamorous evening wear (i.e. nightgowns, peignoirs, robes, etc.) disappointing. What has happened to it.? As a married forty something I would love to have beautiful things to wear at home and have that 1940’s sophistication.
Personally, I like your product idea. I think your customer should be more sophisticated in both skills and tastes. Done well -meaning you get a reputation for quality- you’ll be fine. You won’t have a problem getting someone to try them out (that doesn’t mean giving them away, I recommend you don’t). The ladies on Pattern Review jockey amongst themselves to be the first discoverers of anything new pattern-wise and they’ll race each other to sew something of yours up before anyone else, all in the name of friendly competition. I wouldn’t even worry that a bad review would hurt you (unless it’s valid and goes uncorrected) because an unnamed party says she got slews of bad reviews and everybody had to buy them just to see why there were so bad. Not that I recommend crap of course.
In sum, while it’s not common, there’s no reason you can’t hire an apparel industry pattern maker. There’s many advantages to it. I don’t know how much money you have, how many you plan to print or how you plan to print them. I recommend using someone with CAD. The print out is very clean and neat. Figuring out allocation is practically mindless. No one will expect royalties because it’s assumed you want to use it for commercial purposes. Why else would you hire us?
If it were me, I’d produce very exclusive and complex designs for a sophisticated customer with well above average income. I would charge at least two or three times as much as existing patterns. I would stay far away from the customer who sews to save money because my customer’s primary aspiration would be to acquire better skills. Most patterns for enthusiasts aren’t that great, they are perceived as a commodity and you can buy them for a dollar on sale at Wal-Mart. Coffee is a commodity too but consumer perception of its commodity status has changed. Coffee can be pricey (Starbucks) or inexpensive (Denny’s). As with coffee, I think there’s room in the market for a premium pattern line. I imagine a lot of consumers would squeal over pricing but I would limit my liability by not committing to a large print run without any sales (guidelines for patterns and clothes are no different; see my book). Considering the price I’d be charging, I wouldn’t have a lot of orders at the outset so I could print them on my plotter to order. Having these plotted isn’t very expensive. While I can do it less expensively myself, I have a friend who will plot for $1 a linear yard. I don’t know how much capital you have to put into it, but this could be an option for you too.
I can also tell you I wouldn’t spend anything on envelope art, or even marketing at the outset beyond a website. Since I’d only be selling over the web, customers would buy based on the illustration or photos on the website. At most I’d provide a black and white technical sketch for the pattern. My plan probably wouldn’t work for you but I’m sure you can find some middle ground between the two extremes.
Starting a home sewing pattern company pt.2
Using CAD to produce home sewing patterns
Why pattern makers don’t want to grade patterns
Sending patterns off for correction
Sending patterns off for digitizing