Checking a pattern pt.1

I’m doing a product review of a style from Dada Dress. Graciously, the designer has allowed me to share some of those details with you. Before I proceed any further into the minutia of pattern checking, I wish to make it perfectly clear that the samples I am reviewing are exemplary. This is an outstanding sample of work; the best I’ve seen from a DE in my fifteen years of working with them. Some of the details I found -specifically the asymmetrical notching system design on the contrast insets, a complex job- were so outstanding I would have hugged the designer had she been standing next to me.

But first, the basics. When checking a pattern the first thing is completeness. I don’t know if the designer read the post Sending patterns off for correction but she probably did judging from the results. Namely, I had a hard copy (oak tag) pattern, a sewn sample and a cutter’s must. The only information I didn’t get was seam allowance but I’ll qualify that by saying I could derive the information from the sample and the pattern design. In other words, if you do generally nice work with demonstrable competency, others can come behind you and make sense of what’s missing derivatively. If your work is all over the map, not following a set pattern of standard practices, people will have to come and bug you to figure it out.

Before one even begins to lay seam lines together to check pattern accuracy, a preliminary review of form and industry standard conventions is in order. The first things to check are:

  1. Medium: this designer used standard oak tag paper. Tracings on alpha-numeric paper are acceptable but oak tag is always optimal.
  2. Color coding: all of the pieces were color coded correctly.
  3. Style numbers: each piece was clearly labeled with a four digit style number. And the numbers were good, nothing goofy about them. :) (see parts one, two and three)
  4. Information Block. The pattern must have a block of information with specific information. All handwritten information must be legible, neat block lettering is preferred with as few words and letters as is possible. Specifically, the information block includes:
    • Piece ID: Each piece was given a unique piece name.
    • Fabrication: This designer indicated all shell, lining and canvas pieces correctly.
    • Cut: The number of units to cut from each piece was included.
    • Size: The size is needed. Our friend did forget to mark the size. She had told me the size by phone but do remember to always write that down.
    • Directional: If it is important that the piece be cut in only one way, this must be marked as R.S.U. or Face Up. If this is due to nap, you must write “Nap” and a short arrow indicating the grain of the pile. This was omitted in this sample pattern.
  5. Pattern or Direction Card: A pattern card or a direction card is a part of the pattern (read from the links above to see what one looks like). The designer included the cutter’s must but didn’t have one of these. This card can serve the function of a tracking device; relating the history of the style. You keep notes on the back. Anytime you fit it, you transcribe your notes there. Anytime you change the pattern, you write down what you did to it and when. It’s a style diary. You can buy these cards from Adam’s Press or Ahearn’s. You’ll have to order by phone with Adam’s Press (213-627-2151). Other suppliers sell these cards too.
  6. Grain line: Not all pieces but most of them, need a grain line. All of these pieces had grain lines.

The above concludes the basics of conventions pertaining to pattern configuration. Now I have a small lesson for you. This is one of those things that could end up taking you years to figure out because nobody will tell you about it because it’s not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things and one can feel guilty complaining about it when there’s so many other things to fret over. Specifically, the issue is the best way to draw grain lines. It’s not a big deal but down the road it can be a bit irritating to a pattern grader.

Below is a picture of two pattern pieces. I copied the piece on the right to make the duplicate you see on the left.

Regarding the original piece on the right, other than the omission of R.S.U, there is nothing wrong with the marking of the pattern piece (the designer didn’t have a notcher at the time). Technically, it’s correct but bears improvement. Specifically, your grain line should run the full length of the piece, run it off of either edge. Doing this will make it easier to cut your pieces out. If a hand marker is being made, it’s much easier to line the full length of the piece correctly. If your grainline is short and stubby, we don’t have much to work with. The longer a line, the greater the accuracy. Similarly, were you to extend the grainlines of all your pieces, you may find the lines were off and would want to correct them.

I know some people don’t mark the full length of their grainlines because they don’t have rulers that long. I recommend you get these from standard apparel suppliers; they’re two inches wide and of a nice weight. It’s such a pleasure to use nice tools. Buy one longer than your longest piece. My longest one is 96″. Spend a little less on stationary and marketing and buy some nice tools. :)

Checking a pattern pt.2

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  1. kathie says:

    speaking of nice tools, is there a good place to look for good used patternmaking tools online? i’d love to have a notcher, amoung other things (LOTS of other things…) but would love to find some of this stuff used. ebay? anything else?

  2. katie says:

    Hi Kathleen,

    I work on the same street Adam’s Press used to be on. I thought the had closed, so we have been getting our supplies from Vecchiarelli Brothers My husband will be gald to know they are still around on the net.


  3. Yahzi Rose says:

    Kathleen! thank you so much, as usual you are right on time. I’m currently having my first samples made using 3 different women in the hopes of finding someone I can develop a relationship with. This gives me a checklist to compare the work against. I feel better having something solid (your book & this article) to use as a tool because it eliminates the emotions of whether I just like one person’s personality better, etc.


  4. Elizabeth says:

    I have two questions- one- the notcher leaves a mark about 1/8″ wide so which way of the line noth does it go? Secondly, how do you transfer nothes onto fabric? Do you mark them or clip them with the nothcer/ cutter?
    Also, how do you mark dart ends onto fabric- OK, three questions.

  5. Trish says:

    I don’t know if it is okay for me to answer Keerthi but here goes….

    The notches are transferred to fabric by cutting a short slit (make sure it is shorter than the seam allowance!!) into the fabric.

    The direction of the notch can either be squared to the cutting line, or if an angle is required (for example – on a dart) angle the notch exactly as you would the dart leg.

  6. Trish says:

    Fairgate Rule Company is fine for your patternmaking tools.

    I think that you can get a 40% discount if you spend $200 or more… ask them!!!!

    Here’s the link. We use Fairgate for armhole curves, vary form cures, hip sticks and more…

  7. Heather says:

    About colour coding pattern pieces, if there is a piece which is needed in both shell and lining, are two pattern pieces cut? So there would be two identical pieces, one coded black and one green? So far in my short experience I have just wrote on instructions, i.e. cut shell, cut 1 lining. But with colour coding this would have to change..

  8. Avatar photo

    If the patterns will be digitized and a pattern plotted for cutting, doing it as you are is fine. However, if the pattern will be used manually, it is better to create two pieces.

    Note for others reading this: In North America, the color code for lining is blue.

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