Grading Management pt.1

I’m having some difficulty organizing my thoughts for a new series on pattern grading and I need your help. Organizing the topic is complex because of the varying needs of designers. Some of the information is necessary for those who want to do in-house grading, some is appropriate for those outsourcing the pattern grading to a service and still other information is quite advanced and suitable for companies with larger lines that need parameters to manage grading effectively and toward the development of grade rule libraries. Considering the issue of notation, I’m realizing that CAD has had a pervasive influence in the ways we plan, manage and organize apparel grading practices and for the most part, I think it’s a positive influence. For example, some of the pattern shorthand I use is actually based on system standards from Gerber. I’m not familiar with other systems but feel those universal notations should be considered too.

I’m tentatively describing the series as Grading Management and think it should fall along the same lines as style management. You know, the topics of managing style development with style numbers, spec sheets, sketches and what not. Remember the style management series I did on cutter’s musts, how blocks work, PN numbers and so on? I’m thinking of something like that. In preparation, I looked up grading management in my books and found zero, zip, zilch. Wow. Where did I learn this stuff then? While looking through the books, I necessarily had to look at the Price/Zamkoff Grading Techniques for Fashion Design book -it was painful- I really hate this book! Usability-wise, the Handford grading book has spoiled me.

Here is a list of topics I’m tentatively considering:

  • Definitions: a grade, a grade rule, grade rule table (or set), grade rule library.
  • How to pull grade rules from a measurement set such as ASTM to develop a grade for a particular item.
  • Why not all grade rules are created equal (nor should they be)
  • Why one set of grade rules cannot (or should not) be used on every item you produce.
  • Depending on line complexity, why you’ll need more than one set of grade rules.
  • The most common specifications to give a grading service.
  • How are grade rules determined?
  • Why sizing specs aren’t grade rules per se but you can break sizing specs into grade rules.
  • A discussion of Allometry (human proportionate measures).
  • A rant on why I dislike many template grade rule tables (a lack of applied allometry).
  • How to reverse engineer a grading standard from existing products.
  • How to use one grade rule set as a “block” to develop new grade rule sets.

On a related note, there’s a discussion of grading in the forum. In the interests of kicking off this series, I need your feedback. Please let me know what you need most and how you think the information could be presented best.

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  1. Stacy says:

    Before a Grading Plan can be developed,
    1. An understanding of the market is required. What is the smallest and biggest size?, etc. How many size SKUS? Size labels appropriate for the market (SMLXL) (2,4,6,8,10…) (1X, 2X, 3X) (28.30,32,34,36)??

    2. Style vs Fit. – if these styles are designed for a specific market will the designs look good on the full breadth of the sizing. For example: Childrens line offer small size ranges on certain products. The full skirted dress may not look as ‘cute’ on the tweeny girl.

    I have over my career created many Grade Plans for customers based on the above 2 concepts. Now you can reference all the ASTM charts, grading books and other grade plans to come up with one that works for your product. The ASTM charts and other sources of measurements provide an excellent source of information for manageing proportions. and for reality checks.

  2. Jane says:

    I stumbled on your website looking for standard body measurements for kids half sizes (aren’t any) I am also a patternmaker (I know…there are “patternmakers” and then there are Patternmakers)…put it this way I can draft a tailored jacket from scratch!
    I went to print out your instructions for the hinged ruler, I happen to read about it in Armstrong’s book. However, I couldn’t…check your scanner something went wrong.

    Generally with grading it is not the straight circumference measurements that the graders don’t get right, it is funky stuff like the back and front neck drop, shoulder slopes, pleats, etc.

    Setting up all new grade rule tables is not a quick easy thing. So standard rules are preferred by the graders I have worked with. However, I agree that you must have size breaks and new base patterns for each to make a range of styles look proportionate and fit well when it is all said and done (Like trying to grade a missy up past size 18 and expect it to fit…NOT)

    Can’t wait to get a copy of your book!!!

  3. Miss Twiss says:

    I’ve noticed in some basic pattern books grading is mentioned only briefly. And they offer the instruction in three increments: 4cm, (5cm), (6cm). Basics are important, but I need something that considers design beyond the basics, like:
    Gathers, Ruffles, Bias, Yokes, Seams in unusual places (horizontal and vertical), Stylized necklines, Linings, etc.. Then there are knits, (XS, S, M, L, XL), Gathers, Ruffles, Bias, Yokes, Seams in unusual places… etc.
    I agree with the first commenter about size vs. fit. Discussion is important.
    But most important to me is, I need it in Metric. I would invest in yours, however I have a BIG feeling it is in Imperial Measurement. Grading requires engough concentration, it would be another factor to deal with fractions instead of hole numbers. Would you recommend a decent grading book in Metric, perhaps one from the UK?

    ~BTW I really enjoy reading this blog. It is very difficult to find any discussion in the little Canadian city I live in.

  4. Marnie says:

    In your book, there’s a brief paragraph that mentions radial grading. It’s the only reference I’ve ever seen to it, and I’d like to learn more, especially how it pertains to bras. Also, if there are other grading methods used for bras and similar garments, that would be useful too. It isn’t a subject that is frequently covered.

  5. marilyn says:

    Where does bra cup size fit into this equation? The baby boomer generation has a mature (plumper) figure often with bosoms larger than a B cup. Can this be incorporated too? Thanks

  6. Dragana Edwards says:

    Where can I get metric grading rules or what book would you recommend for me to buil the grading rules. I am a patternmaker but do not understand grading. Would like to apply it to computer patterns not manual. Need your help desperately.

  7. Ilia Encinosa says:

    I need to grade large sizes up to size 5X for ladies. where can I find the grade that goes up that hi. thanks,

  8. Jody says:

    Hi Kathleen,
    I know this is an older post, but in case you’re watching new comments…
    I’ve been working on teaching myself patternmaking and grading from the Hanford books (I have one on each subject) and Winifred Aldrich. As I was looking over your list, it occurs to me that some of this is in the forum discussion and some of this is in your book. What would really be a great thing for folks like me would be for you to do another book….just whip one up over the weekend ;) Seriously though, I have a hunch based on what I’ve seen here on the forum that there is a real need (and market) for a book covering the finer stuff in your list above should you ever wanted to undertake such an edeavor.

    Right now, if you don’t have access to a forrmal class, you have to gather the necessary instruction from a variety of sources. I’ve done that and have enough of a basic understanding to jump into a learning-by-doing mode. But, there are still a lot of details that I don’t really grasp. I would love to have a fasenella-esque treatment of this information in one resource.
    I can tell you that there isn’t a single subject on your list above that wouldn’t be enormously helpful to someone like me who is starting from scratch w/little access to formal training.

    I just offer this suggestion as food for thought. I’m guessing that if you polled your membership, you’d find a lot more people like me who need this information (i.e self starters who don’t have access to training or who are not at a point where they can hire a patternmaker and/or grader). I know that DEs are reluctant to spend money. But, I also know that many of us have learned the hard way that a little money spent on the front end is money saved in time and mistakes avoided.

    I would pre-order if you ever decided to publish a sequel to your first hit :)

  9. Sandra says:

    I’ve just stumbled across this website. All be it 5 years after it was first posted. But better late than never.

    I am in the process of starting my own business where I plan to offer a pattern / grading bureau service plus CAD consultancy to companies and individuals and I was really was just looking to see what else is out there with a bit of random googling.

    I’ve worked on Gerber CAD systems for the last 25 years. Predominantly in that time I have been always been a grader and I have worked in all areas of ladies fashion – lingerie to couture.

    A book can only give you an outline of how grading works. But it is so much more than an X + Y coordinate. To understand grading you need to understand how a body shapes change as they get bigger plus understand the pattern making / sewing process. With the end result being that on the hanger different sizes all look proportionally the same to the base size.

    I can’t wait to share my experience with the world…


  10. Janet Morrin says:

    Which book would you recommend besides the Handford? I can’t find it anywhere. I know a little about grading but do need a set pf guidelines.

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