Pattern makers know best

Via Signal vs. Noise comes the head’s up on how to create a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day balloon.

Macy’s site outlines the process of creating a new balloon, from the initial concept drawing and pattern cutting to the final balloon seen on Thanksgiving Day.

While the provided details are skimpy, I note -with a great deal of satisfaction- that even on an object of that size, the balloon’s designers are working in 1:1 scale which beats to a pulp, the perennial argument that CAD is a viable replacement solution for complex pattern making. Note I said complex -in other words, not typical “push” products. Also note I said pattern making and not grading, marking, spread design or allocation. That sure goes a long way to explaining why 85% of companies rely on hand pattern making and of those using CAD, nearly all of them use their systems for marking and grading only. It is possible that pattern makers do know best. I just mention that in the event others try to convince you you’re living in the stone age if you’re not using CAD.

Obviously, I won’t have CAD advertisers beating down my door…

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  1. Rocio says:

    This got my attention because I have a client that manufactures “bouncy castles” for kid’s parties…
    By using CAD, I cut the development cycle from 7 weeks to 2.

    Due to the time (and expense) it takes to work with actual size samples, we make the prototypes at 1/4 scale and once they are approved, or changes are finalised I scale them up to true size and make the markes.

    While I agree that the results would leave a lot to be desired if I didn’t have a strong pattern making background, the savings from cutting down the development cycle and lower sampling costs have already paid for the CAD system in 3 months…

    The biggest misconception is to think of a CAD system as anything other than a tool!
    Trying to execute a complex design, I would usually drape the parts I don’t have a block for first instead of trying to come up with a flat pattern on paper (in the days when I used to work by hand), so now I would still drape the complex features and DIGITISE THEM into the CAD system where I can use existing blocks to finalise it in a fraction of the time.

  2. hannah says:

    I started patternmaking fairly recently and it seems that everyone — whether they know anything about patternmaking or not — wants to tell me that I am living in the stone age and my skills will be useless in the very near future. So good to hear someone whose experience and knowledge I respect say differently. Thanks!

  3. J C Sprowls says:

    What I liked most about this article is the reference to Tuka’s article. In it, Ram is not trying to persuade buyers that CAD will magically solve their problems, that it’s a powerful tool. Not only for price; but, also for functionality and philosophy, I’m almost certain that Tuka will be the system I purchase in late ’08 or early ’09.

    I’ve used student (i.e. pared-down) versions of commercial CAD system and a few of the hobby systems to generate patterns, before. We still have to analyze (i.e. walk pieces, fold out darts & pleats, etc.) and test (i.e. sew up a dummy or sample) the pattern in order to prove it for production. These steps are frequently overlooked, especially by the overly-confident and the overly-eager.

    I agree w/ Rocio. Scale models are absolutely essential to work out problems, to study complex features or learn the properties of the materials that will be used. I do the same when working with materials that are new to me.

  4. Laura says:

    There is really no reason to demonize CAD systems. The problem comes from most peoples assumptions that the the computer “makes” the pattern. As a patternmaker coming up in the early 90’s I was trained to make patterns on a Gerber. It is my pencil, my ruler and my curve stick. My patterns do not fit worse because they were created on a CAD, they still reqire 1 to 2 prototypes before approval – just like patterns created on the table. It’s just a more efficient way to store and revise patterns, that is if you are properly trained. I have know many hand pattern makers who had difficulty making the transistion, and as I too find it more difficult to adjust to new software releases etc. So I think it’s all in what you learn on.
    A last note. I have a digitizer, but I oly use it when I have a request to copy a garment. I rub off the sample – then digitize the rub off and grade from there.

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