SOP: CAD pattern making processes pt.2

This is a brief follow up to the earlier post as folks left useful suggestions that deserve more exposure.

In reference to my quest for solutions in better tracking of prototypes, muslins and samples, Lorraine suggested:

Regarding marking mock-ups–we sew in either a blank care label or will make a label cut from interfacing. Every prototype and fit sample is marked with the pattern number, date and name of the sample maker.

There were others of course but this most closely resembled what I was looking for. I also liked Dana’s suggestion of tagging which would work for me since I’m often working off of samples coming in. She said:

I designed a paper tag (string/pin) that I had printed and I attach to all samples. Gives me more room to record date, version, approval status, and any other notes about the piece.

I told her that I had been doing something very similar because most samples I receive from customers aren’t tagged with style numbers. None of my customers are attaching a paper tag but it would be so nice if they did. What is most needed is a simple tag, about the size of a shipping tag with the style number written on it. On the back, the designer’s name and any other pertinent information would be helpful (because I’m not the only one processing incoming items).

Greg asked me about the form that I mentioned I was using to track time spent on a customer’s job. To recap, I use two kinds. One is designed to be used manually and the other for the computer (in Excel format). The manual form is used to track sewing and cutting time, when one isn’t next to a computer to log in. I use the electronic form when working in the CAD system since by definition, I’m at the computer already. To bill customers, I add the tally from the manual card to the invoice (in addition to the data from the Excel form).

You’re welcome to print or recreate the manual forms for your own use but keep in mind that the formatting is deliberate. The left side has a very wide margin, I suggest leaving it there. I print these two per page, cut them apart and use packing tape to reinforce the left margin. Then I punch a hole with the pattern punch so the card can be hung with the garment and pattern. Again, this form isn’t designed to track notes on a style, just the work that was done. Even if you’re not a service provider but need to monitor sewing time for a new style, this can be a handy solution.  [Forum members can download the form from here.]

I would prefer to stick to the topic but some email correspondence I received relating to this subject requires a bit of digression. Sam writes (in reference to the photo of the form that I posted a link to -see the link above if you missed it):

What does the notation “Rub” stand for?  Marking?

This stands for rub off. This particular customer wanted us to make a copy of a garment she had made that she didn’t have a pattern for. As a rule, I don’t do rub offs but this was an exception since the designer made it.  Sam continues:

I usually make samples and custom work.  I am designing the pattern, marking, cutting and sewing the entire item myself. If my fee as a patternmaker is $65 an hour should I total all hours on the card and multiply by $65?  Should I come up with a separate fee for each process even when I am doing all of the processes myself?

What I have done even when it was just me doing it all, is charge varying rates based on the kind of service rendered.  I charge one rate for patterns ($60 p/h) and another for cutting and sewing ($25-$35 p/h). As a solo operator, this can get a bit sticky because you only have so many billable hours. What can happen is that you have disproportionately more sewing hours to the extent that it cuts into pattern work so you end up earning quite a bit less. Your option at that point may be to drop the cutting and sewing services -which can annoy customers who wish to consolidate services as much as possible. Unfortunately, you can’t do it all unless you have the fortune to find a qualified someone to help you and you have enough business to keep them on the rolls. An alternative may be to find a colleague (perhaps a small contractor) you can farm some of the sewing and cutting work to.  That’s worked pretty well for me.  I could write another entry with some suggestions for partnering with a contractor if people are interested so let me know.

Sam continues:

Do you show your client the breakdown of the charges on their receipt or is this just for internal use?

The forms I’ve shown are intended for internal use -mostly. I don’t often have customers stop by but it is nice to have the cards hanging with each style if they do come in so they can see that charges aren’t drawn from thin air and we track them pretty closely. If anything, we charge fewer hours than is what is actually shown on the tickets.  On my invoicing, I show the break down of charges per service and the time spent per style. The job card might have sewing starting and stopping at various times but I only show one line for the sewing total on the invoice.

I don’t have a problem sharing this data with customers but as always, context is everything. I had one customer who I shared the data with on one style (because she was being so contentious and we’d already cut her some slack) who then demanded to see all the data for all of the styles, electronic and manual. Well, I wasn’t going to scan all that for her. I ended up letting her go because this was just one problem with her. I refunded her money, sent her all her stuff back, kept the patterns I’d done for her and told her to never call me again. The straw that broke this camel’s back in this case was that she also started squeezing my contractor (his margins are thinner than mine -his car is ancient and his kid’s shoes are bought used ) the way she was trying to squeeze me. I can only think that was just how she thought she was supposed to conduct relations with vendors. A cultural thing? I don’t know, she was from somewhere else. But anyway, like I said, sharing data was just one item in a long list of problems with this particular customer so it was easier to let her go. It is nice to have the internal documentation in the event a customer wants occasional clarification.

FYI: the electronic job tracking template can be downloaded from here in the forum.

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  1. Sarah_H. says:

    If I were still active in the business, this is something I would be jumping on big time! Very useful information. this is something that could be useful to an in-house organization as well as a pattern contractor. I found myself reading this and mentally putting it to use at my old job, even though that ended before the turn of the century (just before).

  2. Tara says:

    I’ve been using a time tracker app on my ipod touch to track my time on individual jobs (someday I’ll upgrade to the actual grown-up version of the phone). Mostly I use it to track my time on the styles I am producing – but I’ve found it useful for the few contract jobs I’ve done.

    It has room to write job name, cost per hour, notes (style, company etc.) All the information can be exported as an excel file.

    Does anyone else use a system like this to track their hours? I wonder if it’s better to have the manual cards – where you can show the client without the fuss of exporting and printing.

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