Piece naming in CAD

I neglected to mention, I’m training this week. Or rather, I’m being trained this week. The training started yesterday and will run through next Tuesday so my responses to any who write me will be delayed.

I’m learning a pattern CAD program called StyleCad. It has some nice features, particularly I like the grading module because it works closest to the way one would do it manually -if you’re an old school pattern maker like yours truly. Actually, many of the functions are complimentary to someone who has a long history of manual drafting experience. Here’s one video sample of how to draft a front lining but there are many more.

Anyway, in the course of the training, I thought to mention that piece naming for manual patterns and CAD are different. Pattern names for manual patterns can be more lengthy without much consequence. However, in CAD, printing out lengthy piece names on markers may annoy any number of people it usually does not pay to annoy (supervisors, graders, marker makers etc) because it takes so much longer. Usually, piece names are abbreviated. Depending on the workplace, there may be prescribed abbreviations (official standard) or there are usual practices you learn from working there. Most abbreviations are obvious. Here are a few examples:

Sleeve: Slv
Front: FRT
Back: BCK
Bodice (top): TP
Front top (bodice): FTP
Back Bodice (or back top) BTP
Facing: FC
Front Facing: FFC
Back Facing: BFC

You’ll notice that some letter duplicates are deleted when combined. For example, Front alone is FRT but if combined with Top, it becomes FTP rather than FRTTP.

Another thing to keep in mind is that if the pattern is for a top, it’s not necessary to say “front top” (bodice) because you can use FRT alone and everyone will know what you mean.

If you have hired someone to clean up or grade a pattern you’ve made, you don’t need to worry about changing the piece names for whoever is doing the CAD side of it. They will shorten the piece name and may not even think to mention it.

One additional reason to know this is for tech packages, sewing instructions and piece rate tickets (if you make those). Piece names and sewing instructions have to be abbreviated because the number of characters for each field describing the sewing operation is very tiny on piece rate tickets -sometimes the instruction becomes downright cryptic. Here’s one example: Pc slvs set brd. Clear as mud, eh? That means “piece sleeves” (they are suit sleeves) “and set the bird” (a bird is a kind of facing). The other day I was looking at an old set of piece rate tickets from one place I used to work and I’m still trying to figure out what “REB” meant…

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  1. I have used, and abbreviated (limited to 9 characters), file names for years (decades even). Recently was asked to change to longer piece (and variant, model) names for clarification outside the pattern and marking area. So I changed all the parameters to 32 (characters). And already I see problems. Problems which can be worked out, but still. Such as retraining the marker makers, working through the software used to plot. No one in marking, nor myself, really wants or needs the longer names, but the engineers and cutting room want them and I am trying to oblige. Our Toronto affiliate was already using longer names so I called them. They were thrilled as usually I am the teacher.
    I started this week with longer names and so far, no big problems. It slows down the fly pen plotter a bit, but the ink jet plotter doesn’t notice.
    I will be working out a naming system (to be consistent) and may report back to you how it is going.
    Let’s say I have ABCDBTMBK (lot or model number ABCD, bottom back). Even the cutting room knows what that is, sewing floor and beyond, not so much (but why would they need to?)
    Now I can name something along the lines of “So_Cal_Cannister_kevlar” (southern Calif cannister pocket out of kevlar).
    I will revisit this, as I am winging this right now (but couldn’t resist). Looking forward to reading other’s comments. martin

  2. Esther says:

    One company had a master list of abbreviations, which is helpful for standardization. Don’t want employees to make up things on the fly because as patterns multiply, so do the abbreviations. I also combine my abbreviations with a style number for even easier back tracing. Perhaps I should post examples in the forum?

  3. I agree, we too had a listing of standard abbreviations. In the 80s Gerber called them “SPN’s”, which I always thought stood for Special Piece Number, with a cheat sheet for reference. I carried that practice with me through the years with my marking depts for both descriptive abbreviations and fabric codes (for which I was limited to a 2 character system). But now that I am expanding my file name length I may revisit it a bit.
    Somewhere in a file drawer around here I still have much of my 80s Gerber AM5 files. A bit of history.

  4. Lorraine says:

    Hi Martin,
    We have been using Lectra from many years too. We use the comment field to write out the description and combine the analytical code with the pattern number for the piece name.
    So 12345FR would be piece name and the description would be FRONT. In the plot options we select the pattern number (12345) and the description (FRONT) and leave out off the piece name (12345FR). That way no one has to guess what the abbreviation means on the piece.

    If anyone is wondering why we would bother to name the pieces with the pattern number and
    code (12345FR) it is for exporting reasons. When you export files into certain formats the pieces within the pattern become ungrouped. It is easier to re-group when you can spot the pieces that belong together by seeing the pattern number. Also, since we do a lot of export/import we like to export in batches rather than one file at time. Without the pattern number in the piece name we would be rewriting over pieces in different patterns that shared a name (FRONT would write over FRONT from another pattern).

    One last comment about piece names–if they are too long the pieces will not import properly into some CAD systems. I just had this happen this morning. The DXF pattern had 10 pieces but only 7 pieces imported correctly. The others were distorted because the names were too long.

  5. Lorraine, I am glad you reminded me about the pitfalls of longer names, especially as they react to other systems and programs… before I get too deep in re-naming files. I deal with contractors in TN and Honduras, both with Gerber systems. And last summer for a client I tried to import files from a system in China. They named their pieces using Chinese characters. That wrecked havoc and I lost several pieces in each model after conversion.
    I will be giving my assigned re-naming project much (more) thought after this interaction with you, thanks.
    On a (somewhat) related note, we lose what Lectra calls “Special Grade” (I forget offhand what Gerber calls it) when importing/exporting (converting) files between systems – .mod (Gerber), .dxf (other). I always ask for a measurement spec and simply re-grade things (usually the 1st size line grade remains intact). Do you know a remedy? (Lectra help desk doesn’t seem to…. I usually deal with the folks in Marietta, Ga when I have questions).

  6. Lorraine, after responding here just now I clicked on your name, and it led me to your website – which I have long admired. I have on my to-do list to pull in the trail version of StyleFile (I chatted a bit with Kathleen about it via email), just awaiting time (which as you know, may never arrive in our line of work). I work full time for LION (http://www.lionprotects.com/) and have a pattern service at my little cabin (http://www.taylorpatterns.com/). Lectra at both (haven’t been on a Gerber since the mid 90s, and then, an AM5).
    Did you ever use Microdynamics? (just curious, it was my favorite- I used it in the late 80s/early 90s, but alas Gerber bought them and eventually did away with it).
    I will hush now,

  7. dosfashionistas says:

    Martin, I trained on Microdynamics as part of a Beta test group in the late 80’s when I was working for Sunny South in Dallas. Worked with it there and later at National Spirit Group (don’t ask), and retired just before Gerber shut that system down and I had to learn Gerber. If I were to invest in a new system for a business of my own, what of the systems you have worked on do you think would do for an old woman who knows patterns but pretty much zilch about computers? I looked through the StyleCad videos and they looked doable. (And it is pretty much a pipedream anyway….I am pushing 70. Like I need a new pattern system.) But I would admire to hear from another Microd fan.

  8. Hi, our paths may have crossed. I spent a week in Dallas with Microdynamics in ’88. That week I met Jane Harriss who was the pattenrmaker for TC² at the time. We married about 1 1/2 years later (didn’t last however, alas).
    Loved that system, though I was only on it 2 years (during my time at Ruff Hewn). I remember it had a 15 key stroke buffer which I thought too slow, so I changed it to 64 (had to use a DOS edit tool to get to the file/parameters). Typing ahead of the program had its pitfalls if you made one typo… you wouldn’t know until the program caught up :) But it was fun for showing off.
    I remember reading that Gerber bought them. So I called Gerber, they told me they would keep the system available. But immediately I noticed that side-by-side gerber/microd. same set up, the latter was priced way higher. So I knew they intended to scrap it.
    I spent most of my career using Lectra. I have never used a ‘modern’ Gerber system… I did spend 6 years using their AM-5 system (which I loved, but I would never all it “user friendly”).
    I am just starting to research Optitex (and others) as my Lectra plotter has died (it is rather old) and I thought I would look around, though most likely I will simply repair or replace the plotter (¿anyone know of a plotter for sale?).
    I have read good things about Optitex and some of Kathleen’s comments on the system.
    Lectra is a good system- but Lectra, like Gerber, target large companies who can afford their price tag. I remember Assyt Systems targeted smaller companies, and individuals (about 20 yrs ago), but they are apparently no longer in the US.
    So I can only vouch for Lectra these days. Maybe Kathleen can share her experience with Optitex?
    Should you go with Lectra I’d be happy to share how-to’s with you.
    Different subject: the week I spent in Dallas I noticed a dance which was very similar to the Carolina “Shag” (a dance associated with ‘beach music’…. both North and South Carolina used to “fight” over which could claim it as their state dance….I never learned who won). The couple dancing spotted at a Country/Western night club in Dallas. After watching them I asked a local and was told it was the “Texas Ten Step”. Of course very different music, but the same dance.
    Good luck with your decision!

  9. dosfashionistas says:

    Hi Martin

    I know Texas Two-step and Texas Three-step, but I have great doubts that most people who go out boot-scootin’ are going to remember ten steps after a beer or three. I asked DH, who is much more of a c&w dancer than I and he does not know it.
    But great thanks for the system talk. I have heard many people say they like Lectra. Very much doubt any such thing is in my future, but I like to dream sometimes. Have you talked to Lectra about plotters for sale? Last time NSG got a newer plotter they located it through Gerber and got it from another company that ran Gerber systems.

  10. Rocio says:

    All of the comments (and logic behind abbreviating) makes sense up to a point…

    For me that point is when some practices that were created to work around technological limitations (with Gerber, Lectra or Microdynamics) simply don’t make so much sense if all parties involved are using a CAD systems that supports more than the silly 6 or 8 character limitation

    While I know first hand how tricky DXF conversions can be… I think it’s important to mention that some of these possible issues will (mainly) be relevant to companies using Lectra, Gerber or some other CAD that may not necessarily support the same number of characters

    I haven’t had that sort of problem with the CAD System we use (PAD System) and even though a large number of our accounts are producing off shore (China and Latin America) , the systems most commonly used by those factories don’t have a problem interpreting the output from Pad System (DXF, Lectra or Gerber)… If anything, most of the time is a “user” problem (not having been trained on how to use their own system properly) :-(

  11. Nina Zheleva says:

    Hello there.
    My name is Nina and I am CAD Applications & Training Manager at the US office of Assyst. Our office is located in Cary, NC. I was surprised to find out that people think we are no longer in the country.
    Te company was recently purchased by HUMAN SOLUTIONS GmbH and now we operate as HUMAN SOLUTIONS d/b/a assyst.
    I would like to invite everybody interested in our products to visit our web site http://www.assyst.de and/or contact us for more information or demos.

    In the sense of this post, I would like to add that CAD.assyst supports 60-characters piece naming convention, as well as input of country specific characters. The output of the piece name could be customized for each different device or application. For example, 60 characters name will appear partially in the nesting application, and independently from that, another part/s of the name could be plotted.

    Best regards,

    Nina Zheleva
    Manager CAD Applications & Training
    HUMAN SOLUTIONS d/b/a assyst
    1857 Evans Rd.
    Cary, NC 27513
    phone: 919-741-6130 x139
    fax: 919-677-1900

  12. hi Nina, gosh, sorry, I was one who thought Assyst was no longer here in the US. I recently ‘googled’ the name and found a UK site, but no US site (and the .de implies a German site I think). My old plotter broke down (turns out to be a fuse, it seems) and I looked around over the weekend for a fix (and possibly a new system) – but both will have to wait unfortunately.
    I travel to Cary about twice a year (sister lives there, and Mom stays with her a lot).
    I haven’t visited TC² since they were in Raleigh on Hillsborough St. (tells you how long that has been!). Are you associated with them? With NCSU? Does A. Jones still work for Assyst? (that was many years ago when she did).
    Thanks for setting me straight.

  13. Nina Zheleva says:


    Please, visit us next time you come to town.
    Yes, we are associated with TC², we are members and do a lot of events together.
    And I’m sorry, but I do not know A. Jones. Will ask the old colleagues and let you know.

    We used to have assyst-us web site, but we shut it down after we were bought by Human Solutions. We refer to the German site for now.

    Please, let me know if I can assist you with something for the future.

    Have a nice day,


  14. Anna says:

    I work for a large company that manufactures women’s clothing and our piece “names” are numbers. We have another facility we bought out many years ago that still uses their naming system that is similar to the abbreviations described in this post, but only for single/first patterns. I may be biased or just comfortable with how our system is, but I prefer numbers to letters for piece names. I feel the same way with piece numbers/name as style numbers/names; numbers are more efficient to organize and the easiest to identify in a fast passed environment. In production our numbers are unique, so no two styles will have the same piece numbers until we cycle through the six digit numbers combinations. Maybe this is not common, and like I said I’m used to this system so I like it, but it seems I’m the only one who saves pieces this way on this posting? Or maybe I got confused and am missing something (posting makes me nervous so I won’t eliminate that as a possibility).

  15. Hi Anna, I believe the use of numbers for piece names goes back to the early days of CAD systems …Camsco, which became Gerber Camsco (Gerber bought them?), then Gerber dropped the name…
    I remember the Camsco 5000!; my 1st hands-on system was the Gerber AM5.
    I watched a Camsco in use as late as 1991, still using punch cards! – in Waco TX at a jeans manufacturing plant.

    Using numbers is a great idea!

    Reading your comment I tried to recall when I abandoned them… and can’t!
    Probably in the early 90s when systems evolved (a la Microdynamics, Gerber’s Accumark and the evolving Lectra system).
    Nowadays I notice the use of symbols in file names, and that bugs me. Years ago use of symbols (such as #) was not allowed. Certain symbols are still not permitted in files names (such “.” , * , “?” and the forward slash – those symbols have specific meanings to the operating systems).
    Strangest thing I have seen (strange to me) is the use of an asterisk in a password. I called the IT dept thinking someone had made a boo-boo. An asterisk is a wildcard for multiple characters (a “?” is a wildcard for a single character place holding)…I am getting off subject….

    I will give using numbers some thought, thanks!

  16. Nina Zheleva says:

    Using numbers for piece name is not a bad idea, at all. However, I always recommend using both – numbers and letters. This way user easily could differentiate sections of the piece name, in case it’s a little long- for example, letters for the season, number for the style, another letter for fabric type, number for piece position, etc.
    I do not understand the use of special characters, too. Even if your system allows them, please keep in mind, that AAMA standard do not support them. There are certain limits for different type of information that this format could carry on. If someone is interested, I could provide details.

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