Patternworks Inc

Part two of my trip report to Los Angeles is all about Patternworks Inc, which is an outfit I’d be inclined to describe as a boutique pattern making service because while their company is small (14 employees) their services are highly specialized and comprehensive with an entire palette of services ranging from the high tech to the high touch. This means an amazing array of services rarely found in pattern design firms -sounds like a lot of blah blah blah, right? Yeah, I know but it’s true; I was suitably impressed. Between them, they have 10 Lectra stations and over 200 years of experience.

I was also there to look at a top secret software program Patternworks has developed. [Amended 2/5/10: The program has been released and has been discussed at length on F-I.] As far as I know, you guys are getting the first official announcement of this brand new program. I can’t write much about it yet but I can describe it as a stand alone apparel data management tool. The best way to explain it is that this software program tracks all of your design, pattern, production and costing related paperwork in one package. You know all of those forms in the book? Well, all of it is there. Costing, spec sheets, sketch sheets, tracking information, quality control forms, cut sheets, even line sheets and a whole lot more, everything tied together in a neat little relational database. Originally, they developed this program for themselves to manage their client’s information. The program is sweet and simple with a great user interface, designed specifically for small companies without a lot of bloated features and menus that you’ll never use, assuming you could even figure out the enigmatic forms to use them. And when they say small companies, they mean you and me. Most traditional software companies define a small firm as a company generating about 50 million dollars in sales -with programs priced to match. When Patternworks says small, they mean a company with 1-20 employees like themselves. Anyway, that’s all I can say for now but I will keep you posted. They won’t let me write anything else about it until I’ve used the program but trust me, you guys are going to love love love this program. And if you’re a pattern maker or service provider who needs to manage your clients, you’re going to think you’ve died and gone to heaven. Finally, an apparel data management tool designed by product developers. Imagine that.

Before I went off tangent, I was explaining that Patternworks is a boutique pattern service offering more than just pattern services. They do everything from your basic services like patterns, grading and marking to full service spec packages and quality controls. They can also do fit testing via video conferencing except this isn’t your typical video conferencing set up. No no, the resolution is as good as being there. Really. Real high dollar stuff and for not a lot of money either. Speaking of, they publish their price list online (pdf). Remember how I’m always telling you guys that it’s more cost effective to work from blocks? Well, Patternworks gives you a 30% discount if you give them a block to start with so it’s not just my opinion if they’re backing it with a serious discount.

Speaking of services, I asked Lorraine -one of the two owners, Humberto is the other principal- if they provided pattern checking services and she said yes but they don’t do it very often. I asked this in the context of those of you who do much of your own pattern work but want another set of eyes to check your work. She says they can also correct the work but I explained that in this context, the pattern makers would be more likely to want to correct it themselves so she said yes, they could walk everything and itemize any deficits they found. Below is a picture of Lorraine and Humberto.

Here are some pictures I took of the place. First is Signe, one of the pattern makers. All of the pattern makers and graders have their own Lectra workstation.

Here is a picture of Janine, just out of design school, who’s learning the pattern side of the business. Here she is digitizing a skirt. This should give you an idea of the size of tablets we use in the apparel industry.

Here is a close up of the digitizing puck that was mentioned in Esther’s and Angela’s CAD series. You use those cross hairs to line things up precisely.

There are two people working in the sample department. First (below) is Juanita. Humberto assures me she is the best sample maker in the world, sometimes making as many as six samples a day.

Juanita has help. This is Luz. She manages the sample jobs, cuts and gets everything ready so all Juanita has to do is sew stuff up. Having a facilitator like this is a great productivity enhancer.

Here’s a picture of some bundled samples. Each style has been cut, rolled and bundled with all necessary components as well as a tracking form with specifications and details. This is definitely a practice I’ve espoused; it makes things much more organized.

They have a lot of different kinds of sewing machines in here, very surprising. Most sample shops don’t have much equipment, maybe single needle, an overlock, a blind hem. Patternworks has everything, even including a kick press in the event you need nailheads set. Boy, is that useful; all you need to do is send in your dies. I have some dies but no kickpress, maybe they can get some use out of them. Below is an entirely gratuitous photo of a flat lock machine published because I wish I had one. Of course, I do not want to pay for one or can even pretend to have need of one. A flatlock forms a joined scant overlap seam used most often in athletic performance apparel like running tights and the like. By scant, I think it’s an 1/8″ but do correct me (Christy) if I’m wrong.

Another interesting thing I saw was this child dress form. I’ve never seen one with a head. Maybe you have so it’s no big deal to you, I don’t get around much and have never worked in children’s wear. As you can imagine, a head on a child’s form can be very useful considering the disparity between their body size and their head size, the latter being nearly that of an adult’s. Still, I imagine that cutting a pull on shirt to match a child’s body rather than their head size is a mistake you only make once. Depending on the cost of the lesson that is.

Here is a picture of their plotters with Lorraine in the back. I didn’t measure these but I’m guessing the output is 72″, both are Lectra by the way. Before I forget, I asked Humberto for his opinion on selecting CAD software and he said that really, these days they’re all great. Before it might have made a difference (so do compare if you’re buying used software) but that currently, they’re all about the same and that they’re all pretty good.

Lorraine says that Humberto is a bear about these plotters and calibrates them every morning. He won’t run them if they’re 1/32nd of an inch off. When I hear stuff like that, my heart just goes pitter-patter, I feel warm all over and get all soft and squishy inside. It makes me like Humberto more and more the more I hear about him. Oh, I didn’t mention that both Lorraine and Humberto are pattern makers too. That’s how they met. They decided to team up and start Patternworks eight years ago. Other than Randy (the IT guy and Lorraine’s husband), Luz, Juanita and somebody who’s name I don’t know, all of their employees are pattern makers. What a swell place! Oh and speaking of swell places, they have full health insurance, dental, a retirement plan and all of that. They definitely want their people to stay. They’re actually short handed too and looking to hire more. Do give them a call if you think you’d be a fit or know of someone who would be. Lorraine says they’ll train if you don’t have CAD. It goes without saying you need to be strong in patterns; I think their average patternmaker has twenty years of experience.

Here’s a picture of Felipe. He’s making markers, his specialty.

Below is Pamela, another pattern maker. I’m sorry this photo shows her grimacing, she was absolutely delightful.

Here’s a picture of Claudia, another pattern maker. I swear, there’s pattern makers everywhere in this place!

Lastly, here’s a picture of Jaycia, a client who’d come in for a consult when I was there. Coincidentally, Jaycia knew who I was and said she found Patternworks here on Fashion-Incubator. She puts out a line called Jainesse.

Anyway, that’s the report on Patternworks Inc. I thank Lorraine, Humberto and Randy and their entire staff for their lovely hospitality. Do consider hiring them for whatever you need done regardless of where you live or where your production is done and I will keep you updated on their soon to be released program. Oh, they will be having a grand opening slated for April. In addition to celebrating the launch of the software, they’re moving to new digs which I also got to see. Everybody is invited to attend too. This company is really going places. Below is their contact information:

Patternworks, Inc.
1117 Baker Street, Suite A
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Tel: (714) 884-3678
Fax (714) 884-3681
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  1. Christy B. says:

    First, Patternworks sounds great. Second, it is 1/8″ seam allowance (I love watching people sew on flatlocks; that one is neat because ours had a built in stand and took up lots of space). Thirdly, I was involved in a girl’s top too-small neck incident and yes, that’s a mistake only made once. The noggin form is brilliant.

  2. colleen says:

    Thanks for this post – Patternworks sounds great!I looked at their website which clearly explains the variety of services offered and, my favorite, a price list.
    The photos really add to the report – I feel like I’ve been there and met them.

  3. Suzanne says:

    What a wonderful place! I alternately feel like I was there with you and wish I could visit! Thanks for the review and the pictures were great.

    I love the child-sized dress form. As a mother of four children, some with big heads, I know the pain of dressing a child in a shirt that won’t easily go over their head. In fact, some brands are always tight and others have annoying and fiddly snaps at the back of the neck. I avoid these at all costs.

    When exactly is the grand opening? Would it coincide with the LA show?

  4. Esther says:

    Various dress form companies sell the children’s form with heads. Usually the head is kept separate from the form because there is no way to suspend the form otherwise. A form with a head is stored standing directly on the floor, which is difficult on the form’s legs. The recommended infant head opening circumference is a minimum 20 inches (21 inches is better). Knit tops should stretch to this measurement. This requirement is why so many infant tops have snaps on the shoulder or down the back.

    Great review of Patternworks! I’ll keep their info on file.

  5. Irene says:

    I’m a pattern-maker for an athletic apparel company which uses flatlock all the time. I always leave 1/4″ seam allowance for those seams. I was leaving 1/8″ until I found out that the manufacturer always ends up cutting off at least 1/8″ while they construct those seams. No wonder all those samples were a bit smaller than I was expecting!

  6. Big Irv says:

    In my opinion, the marketplace sorely needs a computer/software program that will assist smaller designers in all aspects of apparel data management.

    As a service provider, I see many people get tripped up over real small things that an efficient system tailored to this industry would most likely prevent.

    Here in Toronto, we receive calls from “consultants” that have the next best program to manage your affairs . Sometimes we take the time to review it, to see if it would be a fit. Really haven’t found much to replace or improve upon what we currently use. In most cases, the price tag is whopping. Some try to soften the pain by providing a free supply chain analysis. I think this was one of the reasons why we consented to review their program in the first place !

    I think a system designed by people with industry experience, especially smaller apparel companies will be really well received. If it is reasonably priced, then I think they could hit the jackpot in a big way.

  7. Christy B. says:

    Hi Irene,

    Does your sample maker cut off the extra 1/8″ from each side after the seam has been sewn? The flatlock machines I’m familiar with don’t cut like overlock machines so does someone has to come by with sciccors after sewing, correct? What do you do for notches?? (I’ve had a post up in the forum for ages about them but nobody’s come to my rescue.) I’m a pattern maker for athletic apparel as well; it’d be nice to have someone like you to chat with while I’m working!!!


  8. robyn says:

    Christy, there are some flatlock machines that trim, I have never seen one either, but some of my customers require that I leave them 3/8″ seam allowance for their machinery. If I am using the wider seam allowance I put in 1/8″ slit notches because these will be trimmed off. If they are one of the customers that require 1/8″ seam allowances then we don’t put notches in. I hate to do that, but they can cause holes if a slit notch, and have to be trimmed if an external “v”.

  9. Cinzia M. I. says:

    Can someone explain why the seam allowance used in the industry for cut and sew knits is 3/8″ ??? And then an 1/8″ is cut away when serging seams together.

    Why not start with a 1/4″ seam allowance and save the knife on your overlock machine from all that cutting away.

    Still learning ……

  10. J C Sprowls says:


    This is part of manufacturing specs. Operators are taught to trim a consistent 1/8″ off when overlocking becuase it removes the bruised edge of the fabric and makes a neat seam.

    Sometimes you can get away with not using a trim allowance on firmer fabrics. But, in the case of knits, it’s better to not shortcut. Edge-lock can also help, it’s a product applied to the cut edge in the cutting room. But, there are limitations to the trade off.

    The knife is a ‘consumable’ like needles and thread. You need to include it’s lifetime cost in the product costs. For example: for every 10hrs sewing time (i.e. 10 shirts), I consume 1 needle.

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