From my mail comes a reasonable request (let’s call her Simone) worth airing for new visitors as to the process of getting a quote for children’s pattern making services:
I have designed a basic line of children’s clothing that will launch in Summer 2012. I have the sketches- not patterns- necessary for sample production. My collection includes 3 dresses, 1 skirt, 1 tank, 1 pair of shorts and a tunic/bloomer combo.
I see that your prices are $60 / hour. Can you provide a basic idea of how many hours it takes to make a child’s pattern? I know it completely depends on the drawings, but I was hoping you might have a general idea. Also, I’ll need the patterns digitized and graded for 7 sizes (from 12 months to 6 years old). Is there a price per size?
Let’s break this down by deadlines, sketches, sourcing, cost estimates, requested services, services that weren’t requested, continuity and production.
Deadlines: To know your deadlines, season is helpful but also needed is knowing how the goods will be sold. If Simone will sell the goods herself consumer direct, she’s probably okay. If she plans to sell to traditional retailers, her deadline to have everything ready (finished samples, representation, marketing materials and a contractor ) is two weeks from now.
Sketches are a starting point to get your ideas across but the quality of information they impart varies greatly. This entry shows excellent (pretty) sketches of garments that cannot be made but also shows unattractive ones that are useful. Also needed are basic specifications listing seam types, fabrication and hopefully some measurements. Designers are not expected to be experts on seam classes but they are required to describe them either with photos or illustrations so a pattern can be made for them. The necessity of the latter varies by provider, some require tech packages before they will execute the work so be sure to ask.
Sourcing of materials and trims should be well underway by the time you’re looking for a pattern maker because patterns are made specific to a given fabric. Fabrics behave very differently even if of the same weight. You will have needed to conduct shrinkage tests or ask if the pattern service will do this for you so that the pattern is adjusted for it. Contrary to what many think, you should not even design unless you’ve ordered sample fabrics (my book explains how to order as little as five yards from any supplier). Of all the advice I’ve given, this piece results in the most dissent. However, it is also the piece of advice that most people say later was true. If you have patterns made for fabric you can’t find, it’s all a waste.
The other reason to source first -and for everyone regardless of product type– is you need to learn about the sourcing calender. Specifically, when the given fabric shows for the various seasons are held. I’ve had more people than I can count tell me that it doesn’t matter for their sewn product (let’s say a table cloth) because they can sell it year round. Selling is only part of it; you often can’t buy goods except in accordance with apparel markets. Even if you don’t produce apparel, you need to know the heaviest times of apparel production or you may be out of luck with a contractor. But I digress. You need to source fabrics before anything else because you can end up wasting a lot of money on having patterns made with no fabric to use them with.
Cost estimates are impossible absent the above information. In addition to that, the provider needs to know more about your market and price points because the product outcome will depend on those two things (here’s why). In the olden days, it was common to give quotes based on product type (pants vs shirts etc) but that was in an era when most customers knew more about manufacturing. These days, it is more common to work by the hour because so much time is consumed fielding questions or dealing with oversights. Books are cost effective means to lower your costs, I recommend this one.
Another difficulty with giving estimates is based on whether one needs hard or digital patterns -which speaks to another needed bit of information, that of who or how will the production be done. CAD patterns can cost less but it’s not much of a savings if one is using a smaller contractor who needs hard patterns. While Simone mentions she needs the patterns digitized leading one to think she’s on top of this, it’s necessary to explain the details to a provider so there is mutual understanding. No ethical provider wants a client to incur unnecessary expenses.
Requested services can raise a red flag with a provider -but in this case it is good she did so for two reasons. The first reason is that Simone says she will need the patterns digitized and graded for 7 sizes (from 12 months to 6 years old). That she is requesting pattern grading is a red flag because the patterns need to be tested first (again, read this book). If she’s selling via traditional markets, some styles may be dropped (and others added at the last minute) so the money spent on grading patterns is wasted. If she’s going to sell consumer direct, she still needs to go through a few renditions and nail down her sizing specs before ordering grading services.
The second reason this request for quotation raises a red flag is the size range she’s listed, that of 12 mo to (presumably) size 6. It is a problem because it is not possible to grade a size 12 months up to a size 6 because it crosses two size breaks. Separate patterns need to be made and then each of those can be graded. For example, the first pattern grouping is infants, followed by toddlers and then children. Meaning, she will need 3 different patterns sets for each style. So rather than needing 7 patterns (for 3 dresses, 1 skirt, 1 tank, 1 pair of shorts and a tunic/bloomer combo) she will need 21 pattern sets. Separate patterns are needed because people “morph” when they grow but patterns cannot. An infant’s body is their head length divisible by four. A child’s body is their head length divided by 6. Grading a pattern means making the existing shape larger or smaller but grading cannot change shape itself.
Not requesting services: It is not a problem to fail to request complimentary services but you should probably mention why you won’t need those things so that a provider knows you know they need to happen and also, mentioning this implies you know the provider does not throw that in with the job. Specifically, Simone didn’t mention the need of prototypes and samples. For me and many providers, that a customer doesn’t need prototypes is fine as long as you have something lined up to get that done. If you are new to manufacturing, the provider will be concerned about who will provide those services because that party may not be familiar with industry conventions, seam allowances (part two) and also, that sewing instructions don’t come with the pattern. Meaning, if your sample maker sews a professional pattern and it doesn’t come out right, it is going to be a hassle to clear up the confusion. By then though, the provider’s work is done so unless you can justifiably claim the pattern maker’s work was in error, you might not get much help unless you are paying for the pattern maker’s time.
The other service you may fail to request (because you don’t need it) is a referral to a sewing contractor. It is important to mention whether you need this at the time you’re requesting services because many pattern makers don’t take certain kinds of work unless they can make a referral. It is sort of considered part of our jobs. For example, I have done little in the way of knits so I don’t have any knit contractors I can recommend. So if a customer expects me to recommend someone after the fact, it will be a bit difficult. Which is not to say I could not help someone find a suitable party but making a referral is another story (referrals are the grease in this business). As far as my practice is concerned, I don’t do knits because I have so little commercial experience with them but not every provider follows my lead.
Continuity is another concern since this tends to be the number one mistake of new designers. Simone mentions she has designed 3 dresses, 1 skirt, 1 tank, 1 pair of shorts and a tunic/bloomer combo for children. Stylistically she is probably okay but the issue of fabric continuity and design congruence remains. To keep costs low, your fabrics should mix and match. A determination of continuity can’t be made without sketch and fabrication information.
Production: Last but not least, the pattern maker will need to know how the line will be produced if it hasn’t come up by now. The pattern maker will need to make the patterns specific to the operation, their capacity and equipment. You will be expected to facilitate communication between the two parties because there is a lot of mundane details they each need to know. For example is marker making. Who will do that? If the contractor does it, the file format between the pattern maker and production will need to be compatible. If the pattern service makes the marker, they will need to know cuttable width -pulled from the bolt of fabric rather than a description and also, the length of available table for spreading. And a bunch of other stuff.
Here’s a bulleted list of what a provider needs to give a quote:
- Season you’re launching
- How the goods will be sold (retailers or consumer direct)
- Style information: sketches & tech packages
- Market & price points.
- Requested services -red flags
- Not requesting services -more red flags
- Continuity of styles and fabrication