SOP: CAD pattern making processes

As I mentioned in the previous entry, I needed to create a list of reminders for myself to navigate the differences between making CAD and manual patterns. Some of you may find this list to be a bit funny since you’ve never made patterns any other way than with CAD but I sincerely hope you will add suggestions and refinements.  I’d appreciate it very much.

SOP (standard operating procedure) pre-flight checklist for CAD patterns:


  1. Name file as style xxxx-A (for archive). Before starting pattern corrections, create a new file without “A” and copy pieces from the archive file -which leaves the original intact.
  2. Check size range, change sizes if needed. Confirm base size.

Cleaning patterns:
These are things that need to be done, not necessarily in order.

  1. Remove seam allowances (digitized hard copy patterns only).
  2. Mirror pieces.
  3. Remake rectangular pieces.
  4. Straighten lines.
  5. Edit points (straight to curve) as needed. With Gerber imports, delete the many many superfluous points.
  6. Redraw grainlines.
  7. Check that all seam lines match.
  8. True darts and tucks.
  9. True hems.
  10. That you have added hems!
  11. Check that all punches line up to dart, pocket or whatever.
  12. Create fusibles (copy/paste shell and reduce seam allowances by 1/8th).
  13. ADD NOTCHES*! The planet will not implode if there are SOME notches on longer seams!
  14. Once pattern is mostly done, create pattern card; make sure all parts are made (belts, shoulder pads, chest pads etc)

Before plotting:

  1. Check pattern piece properties. [Piece name, Piece count (cut quantity/pairing), Fabrication]
  2. Confirm that sizes are congruent, that the size I’m working on is in fact what I said it was instead of M/10 etc.
  3. Go to View >notches. Remove notches from fusibles. Remove unnecessary corner notches.
  4. That darts and tucks are notched, not just points (!)
  5. That hems are notched.
  6. Check seam corner properties. Bevel or true as needed.
  7. Before plotting (in pattern plot manager), check “fabric” width

After plotting/Before hand off to cutting:

  1. Create fuse map if needed.
  2. Screen cap of seam allowances.

Documentation: Cutting & Sewing

  1. During cutting, mark any errors found (notches on fusible pieces for example)
  2. If a sewing issue is found, mark that portion of the pattern with a highlighter.

Unresolved issues:

  1. Yield isn’t being documented. I don’t have a clear strategy for this yet. Either I’m not collecting the information prior to plotting (because I don’t have a place to keep it?) or Martha isn’t (ditto).

Starting a new correction cycle (of my pattern)
In the program:

  1. Rename existing file Style #xxxx-V.x (append with version no)
  2. Create new file with the next version number in the sequence [so far, that hasn’t been more than 3 (once), knock on wood]. Copy pieces from antecedent file version.
  3. Get the paper pattern used in cutting and go through each piece, correcting each highlighted item.
    Once done, stack and staple all pieces together. Mark version number (V.x) if not already marked then punch and hang. With a sharpie, mark mock up garments (if on hand) with the pattern version number that goes to them.

The last item -marking mock ups with a sharpie is not as neat as I like. I’ve been thinking of ordering labels to sew into customer’s mock ups which would have spaces to fill in with version number. What do you think of that idea? Already doing something similar?

Your ideas and suggestions to add to this list are appreciated. Thanks!

*I don’t dislike notches; it’s that so many designer (or inexperienced pattern maker) made patterns have so many of them that it amounts to cognitive clutter and gets in the way of walking seam lines so I prefer to remove all of them and start over. Anyway, I often don’t remember to add notches again because that is the last or near last thing I do with a pattern file.

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  1. Sarah_H. says:

    Re Marking the mock=up garment: We used to rip off a piece of muslin and write what was needed on it and sew it to the garment.

  2. Lorraine says:

    Hi Kathleen,
    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.

  3. Re: labeling garments

    After 20 years I have finally settled on a method for this that works pretty well.

    Auto numbering stamp. I have a self-inking stamp that gives me a new number each time I stamp it. It goes up to 6 number positions, and I use the first two numbers for the year. This way I always know what year the item was labeled. This year begins with the number 130000.

    Tyvek. I save all used shipping envelopes made out of that great papery/plasticy paper that doesn’t seem to tear or rip or wear thin. If I run out of envelopes I also have 5 yards of Tyvek I keep handy.

    I stamp a unique number on each tag, affix it to the sample with the designer’s info and pattern version that was used to make it. With my Android phone, I easily take and upload a picture and comments to Evernote. Evernote has character recognition built in, so even if the tag is hand scribbled with “Pattern number T242 v1”, it will still pop up when I do a search and show me the entry and it’s related photos, notes, files.

    For sample fittings (or almost any development meeting) I VIDEO recap the highlights and they auto post from my phone to private Google account. This way I don’t have to waste too much time scribbling notes (and may not remember what I meant by them later)… just watch the video!

  4. Dana says:

    RE: Labeling
    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.

  5. Dana, re: paper tags
    These are fine in earlier versions. When you have mockups (prototype wannabes) going to field tests, you need something that will stand up to repeated washings.

  6. Kathleen says:

    Heidi: Translation can be awkward (All: Heidi is posting from Germany). The most common meaning of “line” is that it is straight but “sewing line” or “seam line” implies line length regardless of its shape. So yes, curved seams must be measured for greatest accuracy.

    Lorraine: This suggestion is perfect. I started using the interfacing since you posted your suggestion.

    Catina: Sounds like too much work :). Seriously, I had been using a Bates machine to number job cards (to track cutting and sewing time for customer’s items away from the computer) but the ubiquity of computing these days makes it excessive to make them up. If I ever get around to it, I think the better solution for me would be to create a card template with auto numbering in excel. For now, I have a half page form to track time that is hole punched and hung with each pattern/sample/garment set.

    I was hot for Evernote but had to get a refund when I couldn’t use it due to the 50MB limitation. I’d hoped to use the program to integrate/sync a lot of content so I was pretty disappointed. Hopefully they’ll change the file size limitation for paid accounts.

    Dana: I have been doing something very similar to this until now. It still seems to make the most sense when it comes to processing samples I receive from customers because there are no style #s on them just the designer’s label. Larger customers will have a style no on the care label if the item had previously been released for production but still, I use a manila tag because the number is too small and you have to fiddle looking for it. None of my customers are doing what you are (attaching a paper tag) but it would be nice if they would. If you don’t mind, I will email you privately about your tag. I think it would be a useful tool for my customers if you’re willing to share it (not obligatory).

    Thanks for your suggestions everyone!

  7. Dana says:

    Happy to share. I like exterior tags because I can quickly figure out what sample is what without having to find something inside the garment.

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