Please DO try to make your own blocks

If you have some sewing skills -even rusty ones- and a bit of time, consider trying to make the pre-production pattern blocks for your line before hiring a professional. If you’re new to these parts,  don’t know what a block is or haven’t bought my book (tsk tsk) or even think you do know what a block is, here’s a review:

[ ] a block is not a sloper. A block is not a fitting shell either… A block is the pattern of a style that sells well for you. It sells so well for you that you use that pattern to generate new styles. If you are in the gestation of your line, you won’t have any real blocks because you haven’t sold anything yet. In such case, a block could be whatever pattern you’ve used to generate most of your products. It is the building block of your product line. Let’s call it a parent pattern. You use the parent pattern to generate styles from it or children.

Clothing manufacturing isn’t like medicine where a doctor will get upset if you try to solve your health problem [with silliness you find on the web] before you visit him or her. Going through a few or maybe even more style iterations is a win-win for you and your future pattern maker or sewing contractor. A service provider who would get upset or deprecate you for trying to work it out on your own is not someone you need to hire so why would you worry what that someone would think¹?

I think it is awesome that you develop your own blocks for several reasons:

  1. You’ll know your product much better than otherwise so your input could be pivotal  when you eventually pass it off to a production pattern maker.
  2. you’ll know how much work and time it is to develop patterns,
  3. you’ll understand the value of what a service provider will do for you,
  4. you’ll understand any constraints and difficulties that may limit your design ideas,
  5. you’ll save money².

A caveat:
Telling you to do the exploratory work of developing patterns that resemble the fit and styling of what you envision is a far cry from deciding I’ve said you can make your own patterns for sampling and production. Again, hiring a pattern maker doesn’t mean you’re less of a design professional -it means you’re more of one.

¹A service provider who would care that you do your own initial work is a provider whose average customer is very short term, only producing for one season or maybe two and you shouldn’t go to someone like that anyway.

² Yes, we do want you to save money! We need you to become a long term customer so we can depend on the revenue but you won’t have money to move ahead if you blow it all in the beginning.

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  1. Naomi P-R says:

    Ugh, I was so nervous about this for my own work. I know that I can make an okay first pattern, but I also know that I need a professional’s precision and experience. Thanks for assuring me I won’t be judged as a noob if I bring my own blocks. ^^;

  2. I just sent another one of my first patterns off to my pattern maker. It is a fully lined jacket and I haven’t really gotten the hang of a rolled collar and lapel, so I made a mock up out of muslin. I wrote so many notes on it that it looked like a failed english paper. I like finding out what is wrong with my patterns, it helps me learn and improve.

  3. M-C says:

    Not necessarily a good analogy here. A doctor only has 10mn to make a diagnosis on average, and if you know at least the basics about your condition you can help them get to the right point sooner, if only by providing more pertinent information. Also, you may well not have health insurance at all, so what you find on the net might save your life. Then again, I agree you should be careful of your sources, but not looking at all is almost worse..

  4. Marsha says:

    I have three blocks nailed down, I’m refining my fourth (a notorious dartless but figure-skimming silhouette cut on the grain) and fifth+sixth (trouser-types). Personally in my imaginations I would like to have at least 30-50 blocks in service for all sorts of garments. It’s still quite a bit of work to do so I will keep up!

  5. Yvonne Victor says:

    I’m waiting for my book to arrive but have a question. I was vetting a pattern maker who said that I needed a block for each size I plan to carry. Is that true? I thought that is what grading is for.

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