Pop quiz #463

This really isn’t a pop quiz but it’s pop something, that’s for sure. This is from Rita (the Russian pattern maker). She’s working in technical design these days so often, her job is to parcel out work to contractors off shore. This particular vendor is from China. Rita says:

Hello Kathleen,
Here is what I was working on today. I am attaching a photo of the Front panel pattern I received from one of my vendors – this is their idea of a cowl collar. I hope you a smile out of this. I wanted to cry.

As a refresher, this is what a cowl neckline looks like; I made this top 3 or 4 years ago (I love all the old vintage stuff). Rita says that other than that this top is fitted with a side french dart, this looks similar to what she wanted.

Based on the sketch she sent, below is the pattern she got from the vendor. The little photo is difficult to see so there’s also a larger photo (100kb) to look at too.

I think you’d agree that the above is a monstrosity. Check out the placement and notching of those folds (below).

So Rita bounced it back to the contractor. Below is a sketch of the second pattern she got.

This looks better but it is still way off the mark. Compare the sketch above to another cowl pattern shown below. Although the pattern below is fitted, it wouldn’t affect those folds at the neckline so use those as points of comparison.

I can see why Rita would be frustrated by the pattern work from the vendor. This is just going to go back and forth endlessly. She ended up having to -very laboriously- explain to them to open up those tucks to allow cowl folds.

No wonder everything is so simplistic and junky today. I do not understand why companies think that just because they have their production done abroad, that they have to do their product development there too. Assuming they get style configuration details correctly, there are endless fitting problems.

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  1. Miracle says:

    I do not understand why companies think that just because they have their production done abroad, that they have to do their product development there too.

    That’s assuming that just because they do the work domestically, they can find talented and knowledgeable pattern makers. I just saw an ad in a trade paper to learn pattern making in 1 month. CAD of course. As a business, if you gotta get back poor work, best to pay as little for it as possible.

    But regarding Rita, it doesn’t make sense that Rita is not just doing the patterns. Unless the contractor is insistent that the production pattern be theirs.

    The truth of the matter is that people like you and Rita are not common, and with the way the industry has changed, who will pick up the reigns?

    And the industry solution has not been to better train patternmakers, to provide education, knowledge, mentoring and apprenticeships, the industry solution always seems to be better technology.

  2. Vesta says:

    The patterns shown are totally opaque to me, so I can’t comment specifically. But in my experience producing abroad, they’re not interested in my patterns, no matter now much I paid to have them made by talented people. They want a finished sample, then they make their own patterns from that. It still takes a couple back and forths, but hasn’t been too painful so far. So, I pay my pattern makers here, get them to sew as perfect a sample as possible, and send that along. One way or another, their skills are applied to the end product. I hope.

  3. Kathleen says:

    The truth of the matter is that people like you and Rita are not common, and with the way the industry has changed, who will pick up the reigns?

    The same people learning how to run that CAD program in a month. I mean, that’s often who’s doing it now; they’ll just be more of them.

    People like me and Rita aren’t needed anymore. If we’re doing *anything* these days, it’s technical designing or tech packages, like what she’s doing. The most complicated project I’m offered these days is a tee shirt and elastic waist pull on pants and since that’s not enough stimulation for me, I pass. Truth be told, I’ve been out of the pattern making business for quite some time now. I haven’t had an interesting project in…close to ten years. I never get offered those jobs, just commodities, things just as easily made on a cad system. And, it can’t be cost. I’m the least expensive pattern maker I know!

    So, in answer to your question, they’ll just have the one month out of training CAD operators pick up the “reigns”. How can I be extinct when I’m not even dead yet?

  4. Esther says:

    Having done lots of spec packages with Chinese factories, I can completely sympathize with Rita. Most of my pattern work is really technical design spec packages for off shore contractors too. I have never had the factories do the patterns for me. I always send my patterns already graded. The factory may make alterations based on their manufacturing processes, but at least they have a good place to start. The few times we have let the factories do the pattern making or spec’ing, we have had poor results. Also, in the last couple of years we have seen a decline in overall quality. The factories want high volume orders and they want the pre-production samples approved fast. Needless to say, there is much room for improvement in their technical skills.

  5. Malissa says:

    The first pattern looks more like and oversized turtle neck. I recently had to draft my first deep cowl neck pulled out my modern day pattern book went through 5 laborious steps and made up my sample which looked hideous. A few days later I was at a friends and she had pulled out some of her mothers pattern making books from the 40’s for me to look at. The same deep cowl was done in 2 steps, I redrafted my pattern and the only thing that need to be changed for the designer was the length. Newer is not always better, I’ve found a copy of the book from the 40’s and am buying it.

  6. massa says:

    I wonder who made the 1st pattern. LoL As for the 2nd piece, I thought who the heck copied a pattern from a book at the production level and thought about a quick solution.

    I don’t know the style, and this is only my assumption. However, obviously, the pleats on the 2nd and longer shoulder seams were added only to justify the ones on the 1st pattern after the revision. Without them and the natural shoulder seam length, the pattern would make a few deep drapes naturally. Also, the revised facing is still too big for a deep cowl neck, which would be irritation. If the vendor really wants multiple drapes, it will be another story and extra work for the patternmaker.

    Good Luck

  7. Gale Joiner says:

    Your vacation! I am so jealous–reading about sewing techniques and patterns is how I entertain myself. Then I construct them in my head. God bless you. Gale

  8. Gale Joiner says:

    Your vacation! I am so jealous–reading about sewing techniques and patterns is how I entertain myself. Then I construct them in my head. God bless you. Gale

  9. Tom Willmon says:

    If I were to go back to DC area (my home for 50 years), sure I’d catch the Smithsonian. Aerospace (final home of Voyager – ’round-the-world, non-stop, non-refueled flight), and every other notable. Last I knew, Enola Gay (Hiroshima B 29) was still in storage in Suitland. Science and Technology (across Mall) has the most gorgeous steam locomotive. [This note seems to be for Eric .

    National Gallery of Art – fine collection of Impressionists, Picasso, Dali. Last I was there an orchestra was rehearsing. Lovely.

    Stay indoors – the climate is _hideous_.

    I would take my favorite canoe. There is a 2 mile piece of the Potomac that I miss, awfully. And a flatwater piece, like wilderness, where I rounded a bend and there was the Washington Monument in the distance, above the trees. Pity I never went back for a photo.

    That’s about all I miss there.

    I hope your trip is delicious!

    My best to you both.

    in the middle of New Mexico

  10. Lisa Bloodgood says:

    Wow, what a horrible pattern they did! Gag!!! I recently bought a cowl-neck top pattern (yes, I did but it was on clearance), and I still have to make a sample to see if it really works.

    Kathleen, if/when I get a bunch of capital for my business, I’d hire you or any other super talented patternmaker because, while I can do patterns, there are things I still can’t figure out. So don’t go extinct yet, please!

  11. Debra says:

    When I needed to send a 1st pattern offshore, the proto would come back not looking like the pattern I sent….we then requested a tracing of the pattern used to be sent back with every prototype. Usually it were not the pattern that was sent. A lot of time was wasted going back and forth, but one thing for sure, if I sent a diagram indicating certain specs or construction diagrams, offshore loved that. A lot of it was the language barrier, as the info gets passed down through the ranks, they don’t understand it and it always looked as though the patternmakers just winged it and also I got the feeling they were young and inexperienced…..but they love the pictures.
    and Kathleen- I was told the only good patternmakers are either old or dead….
    so since we aren’t dead, I guess we are considered old……………..sniff…sniff….
    and I do believe we will be extinct someday. Also because I don’t see anyone teaching on the table anymore…or anyone wanting to learn the “old” traditional way. Very sad.

    D.C. is great, too bad I can’t meet you, I am only 3 hrs away.
    My idea of a nice vacation,
    (besides Barnes and Noble)
    this year is the Lancaster, Pa. Renaissance Faire….the family loves it, and I go crazy over the costumes!!!

  12. Rocio says:

    A client of mine (one of the fastest growing retailers in the US )which is relatively new to imports hired me to get their sampling unit in China to a BASIC LEVEL of sample creation.

    The first thing I noticed was that every single cowl neck style over the last six months had been cancelled after rejecting at least twice as many samples as with other styles….
    Eventually I found out that there is NO CHINESE WORD FOR COWL NECK… so no chinese cowl neck + young inexperienced “patternmaker” + very limited knowledge of English = A flawless formula for abominations :-)

  13. Ed Tung says:

    To all patternmakers, especially Kathleen,
    Good news! Patternmaking the old fashioned way is NOT dead…just “outdated” in the USA..lol I am a fashion/embroidery student.. at the ripe old age of…sigh 28+..(sooo old!) and currently living/working/studying in Paris, here patterns are still done the traditional way and let me say, I PREFER it that way. Better results, better fit, and overall less stress to fine tune! Please know the extinction is mainly a US thing! Old ways here Live and well!

  14. Amrita says:

    I went to fashion school in London not so long ago and we were taught the traditional way too…we only ever got one or two classes of CAD….so maybe its just the US??

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