Giving instructions to a pattern grader pt.2

You wouldn’t know it from the looks of things, but I worked on this post most of the day ~sigh~. Actually, I did a lot of the work for tomorrow’s post too, it was silly to do this one in isolation when there was so much cross over.

Anyway, today’s entry is part two of yesterday’s ribaldly popular entry on instructions you give a pattern grader. Specifically, this section covers instructions that pattern makers who understand the concepts of grading but rarely do it themselves, would give to a pattern grader. I guess this would be the intermediate level, yesterday being for beginners. Tomorrow will be the advanced portion.

Again, if you don’t know, don’t fake it. We might believe you (and that is not a message to you know who). We need to know what page you’re on so we can nudge you along which will make any future projects we do for you easier.

A guide to providing grading information: intermediate level

Depending on the styling and your confidence in the pattern grader, you could easily use the guidelines from yesterday. If you know the person to be highly qualified, that’s probably the best course in conjunction with some specs. In general, less is more. If you over control the project with your specs and the rules don’t add up, it’ll be an endless source of frustration for you both.

If you know the concepts of grading and know you want certain parameters, you can communicate that in a variety of ways. The first way is to provide a sketch and a list of desired grade rules. The sketch below shows some points marked off with POM codes.

Separately you’d list that FSL (or which ever code) equals X amount of grow per sizes 6, 8, 10 etc. Personally, I’d double check on something considering the styling of this vest. If you notice the FCL code on the horizontal, I’d probably break down my rules into center front panel and side panel separately or I’d be certain that the grader and I were on the same page and wouldn’t stick all of the front grade into only one of those two panels. In the “olden days” this wasn’t a problem but as people keep telling me, skill levels have really fallen. In sum, you might want to break up that horizontal FCL line into two measures; one for center front and another for side front. I have another sketch of this that’s much more complex but that’s for tomorrow’s advanced entry.

Another thing you can do is to number the grading points on the pattern as shown below and on a separate piece of paper, provide a list of the grade rules each point should be.

Or, you can use old-school notation and mark the actual rules on the pattern corners (below). Mini pop quiz: why does the notation below have a circle at the cross hair? Not all rules will. Heh. Now I’m really showing my age.

Now we can get into something a bit more complex speaking of the above. By the way, if you don’t know this, you probably shouldn’t be providing the grade rules.

When you grade manually, the notation is marked as in the above photo and each rules stands in isolation to itself but that’s not how computerized grading works. If the patterns are marked in such a way (as above), the grader most likely knows what you mean. This is how pattern makers used to be trained with the manual method. Venerable companies still mark their hand patterns for processing like this.

Computerized grading is done differently. From corner to corner according to relative or absolute x-y coordinates, rules are added and subtracted from each other. If you’ve graded with a machine, computers work the same way. If you’re providing a sketch and a list of rules that are not marked on the pattern, be sure to indicate whether the rules you indicate at each corner are the running tally of the moves in that direction or if they are isolated rules as one would manually mark on the pattern. Either way is fine, we just need to know what you’re doing. Generally, less is more; you really don’t need to do the adding or subtracting but if your rules are out of whack and don’t add up, we’ll try to troubleshoot thinking that’s what you did. This matters even more if your rules are complex or convoluted (see at close). If your rules are necessarily complex, it might be best to provide those in decimal notation rather than fractions (also see at close).

One thing you should not do is to send a numbered list of points in a chart on a sheet of paper and the commensurate grade rules without a sketch. The numbered points have to relate to a given position. If there’s no sketch showing placement of the each point, you cannot assume the pattern grader even uses a book, much less the book you’re using to make your chart listing the rules of each point. I have every book there is but I’m more likely to pull grades from sizing chart specs rather than a grading book. One tends to memorize proportions. At least I do. A better option is to provide a sketch and provide a separate sheet listing the desired rules (below).


  1. If you can go either way, ask the grader which kind of notation they prefer, fractions or decimals. A lot of people are doing this in spreadsheets so it’s an easy conversion for you. I prefer decimals, it’s easier to add which helps with convoluted grade rules.
  2. Reduce it down, simple is best. If you have a very loose fitting garment with only three pieces and given points of the grade rules are splintered into 17/32nds or 39/64’s and these have to be added together, this is a problem. This signals that one really doesn’t understand the assigned values or the process. In other words, unnecessarily complex or convoluted grade rules don’t indicate one is more knowledgeable or more of an expert, but that they are less of one. There is no justification for rules to be this attenuated for what amounts to SML sizing on such a simple product.

Giving instructions to a pattern grader
Giving instructions to a pattern grader pt.3

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  1. Esther says:

    The notation examples you showed are very interesting to me. One I am a CAD grader, almost exclusively, and I never learned that notation. Not in school, not on the job. I have also never seen the notation in a book on grading. I am glad you have explained it!

    Since I do children’s grading, I almost always required the designer’s measurement charts. An even better bonus is the POM charts – otherwise I feel compelled to create them. This is so I can see the grading laid out in a nice chart and make sure the grading is even, consistent, and makes sense. Children’s grading is usually all over the map with not much consistency from one designer to the next. I won’t work with designers who won’t supply measurement charts or POM charts.

  2. dosfashionistas says:

    I have never seen that notation of cross hairs with a circle either, but I am going to say it tells you that the grade is 1/8th inch in both directions so you know that nobody left out the crosswise grade. I have often seen cross hairs with the grade written at the end of each line. This works to tell you whether the grade up is the same as the grade down in both lengthwise and crosswise.

  3. Kathleen says:

    I have also never seen the notation in a book on grading.
    Mine isn’t a book on grading but I show a pattern mapped for grading and how to do it on page 174. See figure 5.74 specifically. I suspect this process is more typical (a holdover maybe) in older companies that preceded computerized grading; those that used the Dario grading machine. I *know* that’s where I’ve seen these instructions, the instruction manual (I use the term loosely, it’s all of four or so pages) for the machine showed this process. I still have copies of the manual but who knows where it is. It’d be interesting to see the instructions for a Sunny Young machine. I wonder if they did something similar.

    The point is Esther, if you saw these notations on a pattern, I think you’d know instantly what they were, what they meant and what to do, even never having seen it before.

    I have never seen that notation of cross hairs with a circle either, but I am going to say it tells you that the grade is 1/8th inch in both directions so you know that nobody left out the crosswise grade.

    Very close! Good guess Sarah. The little circle means there’s only the *one* grade rule at that point, not two and that you didn’t forget to write one for the other coordinate. The reason the circle couldn’t indicate “the grade is 1/8th inch in both directions” is that there are four directions -which would it be? Oppositional to the rule as written would equal out to zero :).

  4. Carol Kimball says:

    Another beautiful job, Kathleen. You may feel taking the time to make these things clear is tedious and unappreciated.

    We can’t keep it from being tedious, but it’s massively appreciated.


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