Teaching an old dog new tricks

[Edited 9/18/2018] Before I forget, I’m out of town Thursday and Friday. I’ll be visiting Patternworks Inc in Los Angeles. I’ll be training on their new marvelous product management software that you will love. Also, if you’re in Los Angeles near LAX or can get there, a few of us are meeting for brunch on Saturday. If interested in meeting a few F-I people, email me ASAP.

This post is much shorter than I wanted it to be; I don’t have the time right now to write more but this is what I’ve been up to lately: learning CAD software. In other words, this old school pattern maker, kicking and screaming (and regressive hand flapping too but that’s another story) has been dragged into the 21st century. Did I mention kicking and screaming? You’ll have to ask my trainer about that. I’m sure the thought of strangulation crossed her mind in reference to a certain someone.

So for starters, I got the software -that as of several years ago I no longer own, I got a better one since then, StyleCAD! There it is, the official announcement of my second and better advised software choice. I bought a 44″x60″ digitizing table (Numonics; I will be telling you horror stories about their customer service) and a 72″ plotter from Ioline. In a later entry I’ll explain how I came to select the peripherals as I did.

For the short term, I don’t plan on making the main pieces in the software. That’s mostly because I have so many patterns already that need to be digitized into the software. Secondly, I’m still very old school, I actually enjoy the feel of paper, pencil and scissors. The main reason I wanted the software (in addition to grading and marking) was because I wanted something to reduce the grunt work of pattern making. By that I mean all the facings, linings and fusibles (aka “canvas” as you’ll see on the pieces). It’s the grunt, no-fun work, that a computer is useful for. Grunt work takes a lot of time.

Below is an example. I digitized in this basic vest (style #22200): There’s only four pieces here.

Knowing me as you do, this is not nearly enough pieces. No no. I like big helpings. From the pattern I digitized, I was able to make linings, fusibles and facings -plus the peripherals like welt pockets and a back tie belt. The completed pattern is shown below. A larger view is here (112kb)

Even working as slowly as I did, in fits and starts, I was able to finish this vest with the additional 16 pieces (making for a total of 20) in less than two hours. On the table, it’d probably take at least that long but not much more. Not bragging, but I’m pretty fast and this is the non-thinking stuff; it’s just tracing and cutting for the most part. Anyway, I think that once I know what I’m doing, this job should take maybe an hour to do by computer. I think the trainer was a bit surprised that I make so many pieces. Before we started, I mentioned that some of my patterns have 50 to 75 pieces (paired pieces count as 1) but I don’t think she believed me -then. I think she probably does now.

For my next project, just to get some more practice, I’ll be doing the style below. It’s a lady’s short leather jacket with contrasting yokes complete with second contrast insets.

I’ve already started it. Below, I digitized the yoke and artwork for the right side (long story but the front yokes are not a two per). I certainely anticipate learning to do artwork in the CAD system directly. Doing this by hand to say nothing of having to digitize it, takes too long.

QUIZ: Just for grins and giggles, how many pattern pieces does this jacket have? Those dashed lines are separate pieces. Also, add the pieces needed for 2 welt pockets to your total. The back that you can’t see, has one yoke, a split center back, and the side back panels split horizontally (like the front side panel). Remember, how many total different pieces, don’t count paired pieces as 2. In the even of a tie (assuming anybody guesses), the individual who submits a piece list wins. Some hints as to what some pieces might be are evident in the vest (hint: fusibles).

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  1. esther says:

    Kathleen you had me fooled! I was about to sit down tonight and do a tutorial on how to draft facings in OptiTex for you, complete with screen shots. Looks like you did just fine!

  2. Kathleen says:

    Oh Esther, believe me, I’ll be calling you. I just didn’t want to start doing it now before I’d really wear out my welcome. You’re my ace in the hole! I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your help.

  3. dosfashionistas says:

    Kathleen you can do it..You are doing it already. Great work. Just remember there are older patternmakers than you who have learned this. And you are so right that the grunt work of patternmaking is where the computer shines. That and making adjustments. If you want to add 1/8th inch to the front waistline, for instance, you can do it on computer in a fraction of the time it would take to cut a new pattern piece with the additional width. Have a good week.

    I come up with 21 pieces for the top layer. You don’t say if this is lined, and I don’t know enough about leather to figure the inside pieces. I see a need for about 8 interfacing pieces, and I am probably missing some.

    I am going to send you the long promised Sci-fi next week.

  4. katlin says:

    Hi Kathleen. First of, love your blog! I have a random question but when companies indicate wholesale price, is there an abbreviated version that I can use instead of ‘wholesale price’? I know for the retail price I can put MSRP (right?). THanks so much and good luck with your new project!

  5. ioanna says:

    (long story but the front yokes are not a two per) actually I think these two posts you did back when explain that, no? //fashion-incubator.com/mt/archives/poka_yoke_pattern_making.html
    and //fashion-incubator.com/mt/archives/bias_matchstripe.html
    A few months ago I got a top from Bershka (they are like Zara’s teenage sister, they’re one of Inditex’s companies–caution: the Bershka website can make you dizzy–) and had to return it because the yoke’s two sides wouldn’t match. At the store I had to go through a number of pieces to find one that did! I kept thinking KF would get a kick out of this. :)

  6. Jennifer E. says:

    I am glad to see your making some progress with the CAD program. Now most of the pattern makers I know only use CAD even those who started with card (the one I am thinking about even does gasp leather – not as ornate as what you do)
    smiles from Chilly Winnipeg

  7. kaaren hoback says:

    MY guess is 52 including lining and fusbibles.
    Fashion fabric/leather:
    Front yokes-2
    center front panel 2
    side panel 3
    collar 2
    back yoke 1
    back center 1
    side back 3
    undersleeve 3
    upper sleeve 1
    front facing 2
    back neck facing 1
    inserts 3- not sure maybe 6 as pattern may not be mirrored on yokes, Hem cuff area inserts hmm can’t see maybe 4
    welt pocket 1
    pocket bag 2
    front total 4
    sleeve 2
    back 2

    canvas and fusible:
    front 6
    sleeve hem, sleeve head, shoulder pads
    back 2
    chest shield? 1
    Nagging sense I’m missing something vital.

    Now I am too tired to continue work on the project I was doing. I need to take a break from my break visiting your site!

  8. Rachel says:

    Awesome post! I can’t even try to figure out how many pieces you would use for this jacket!

    I’m really interested in following your journey into the digital pattern-making. It’s really fascinating and I can’t wait to hear more!

  9. Kathleen says:

    Re: Base. Yeah, I found that a bit annoying until I knew what it was. You’d think it’d be obvious once I tell you what it was but it wasn’t so obvious because Optitex calls the grainline, the “baseline” -which it isn’t. Baseline is (vertically), the mirror point. So, before they told me “base” meant the base size, I thought the program was id’ing that line. The word “base” appears to indicate that the program thinks this represents the mid-point of your size spread because truly, that’s what you’re supposed to be doing. The word base disappears once you tell the program the size range of the style and which size this particular set is (which should be the medium or whichever is the midpoint of your size spread).

    Style has approx 56+ pieces. Separate pieces, pieces cut as a pair (2per) count as 1 piece. If they can’t be cut as a pair (like front yokes and lower fronts), they count as separate pieces. The collar counts for two pieces total because there’s a “top” and undercollar, of which the undercollar is a pair, it still counts as only one.

    If dies were going to be made (meaning oppositional/directional dies would be needed), I’d look for ways to reduce the number of one way pieces, opting for a slight design change to the yokes (it’s only the inset placement and notching that is different from left/right) and making the undercollar one piece. The latter two are dictates of “mass production” vs cutting smaller runs, presumably by hand.

    As such, both Kaaren’s (52) and Mack’s (61) estimates were within equal range of 56+ pieces altho Kaaren gets bonus points because she provided an itemized list. I think this is right but I’m a bit fried right now.

    Front yokes-2 (RSU, not 2per)
    center front panel 2 (not 2 per)
    side panel (2, 2per)
    collar 2
    back yoke 1
    back center 1
    side back 2 (2, 2per)
    undersleeve 3
    upper sleeve 1
    Sleeve cuff 1
    front facing 1
    back neck facing 1
    front yoke insets 2
    back yoke insets 2
    cuff insets 3, can be 4
    fringe blocks
    welt pocket 2
    26 total shell/contrast pieces

    pocket bag 1 (folds)
    front 1
    side front 1
    back 1
    side back 1
    sleeve 2

    front yoke 1
    front 1
    back (upper) 1
    back yoke 1
    collar 2
    front facing 1
    back facing 1
    upper side front 1
    upper side back 1
    lower side front (hem) 1
    lower side back (hem) 1
    back (hem) 1
    sleeve cuff 1
    under sleeve (lower, hem) 1
    insets, front 2
    insets, back 2
    insets, cuff 3/4
    welts 1
    wigan (not really a piece, but a measure of goods)
    sleeve head (ditto)

    approx 56+ pieces
    As such, both Kaaren’s and Mack’s estimates were within equal range. Kaaren gets bonus points because she provided an itemized list. Pretty good Kaaren! Now I have to figure out a prize for you!

  10. laurie says:

    Glad you chose Optitex, it’s very user friendly. Once you get the hang of it you will never want to go back to manual patternmaking. I never thought I would say that about myself but it’s true.

  11. Mike says:

    Howdy all – I would like to know if anyone could recommend a decent CAD system for under $500. I know its probably a lot to ask, but it always worth a try.

    I make bags and I would love to try stuff virtually before I cut and sew expensive material… I’m still very new to all of this.

    Take care,


  12. Kathleen says:

    I would like to know if anyone could recommend a decent CAD system for under $500.

    You can’t buy even a non-apparel specific program for under $500.

    I make bags and I would love to try stuff virtually before I cut and sew expensive material

    Ouch, that really ups the ante…virtual modeling (another animal altogether) packages start at 6-7,000 but since they have to be rolled into a cad program to run, you’re talking 13,000 easy.

    DH mentions sourceforge and asks whether you know C++. :)

  13. Esther says:

    Since bags don’t require grading, you could try a simple CAD program like TurboCAD (used to be about $100). Although inexpensive, it would be tedious and difficult. I would rather draft by hand. Either way, it all has to be tested in the fabric eventually.

    BTW, I keep checking sourceforge for an apparel specific, open source CAD program. I keep hoping someone will pick up the banner and force competition among the apparel CAD creators. Of course, I may have to bone up on coding and do it myself….either that or save up enough cash to buy what I want. ;-)

  14. Jane says:

    Hi Kathleen,

    I am in the process of buying a CAD program and am deciding between Optitex and PAD. I am wondering why you chose Optitex. It seemed a little more complicated to me (as well as a little more expensive). Any help you could give me would be greatly appreciated as I feel very stuck with my decision making process!

    Thanks, Jane

  15. kathleen says:

    Sorry I’m taking so long to respond.

    This was a very difficult decision to make, investing in a CAD platform to adopt for years to come. In the end, I dropped PAD from consideration for strategic reasons even tho I got great feedback on it from two people who’s opinions I value.

    By strategic reasons I mean that PAD was acquired by an Asian firm. I don’t have a problem with foreign ownership (!); the issue was the direction in which the firm would be likely to concentrate their product development. For the most part, Asia didn’t have a CAD system but now they do. The market is ripe for the pickings and I have no doubt they’ll clean up. It’s a total win situation. However, resource limitations being what they are and in comparison to the potentiality of profit of the given specific market regions, it makes little sense strategically to continue to invest the resources in the U.S. market. Competition for the CAD pie here is too competitive. Iow, if I owned the company, I’d employ greater expenditures in development (and marketing) toward the Asian market, not here. The situation is such at this point that I imagine that sales are quite brisk there and growing. Infrastructure (training, translations etc) should rightfully be directed toward the market of greatest potential.

    As I imagine sales are brisk (maybe they are not, I don’t know) and with a lot of work on their plates (to get there if they’re not), further enhancements have not been developed in the PAD system. Specifically, all the other leading CAD companies now have 3D modules -not that I’d use it- but the failure to have implemented 3D modeling at this late date, speaks to the general state of the development of the software. Again, not that I’d need it but by all indicators, development is lagging. Frankly, if I owned PAD, I would be unconcerned about adding modeling at this point. I’d have a huge untapped market on my home turf and it’d be kind of dumb to do something “sexy” (as Miracle describes it) for a foreign segment of the market where my sales were already lagging and is increasingly competitive, just to keep up.

    Summary: As I didn’t want to risk the potential of having to reinvest in another product down the road depending on what may or may not come down their pipeline later, it was easier to eliminate PAD from consideration. Like I said, my reasons were strategic, it had nothing to do with the quality of their software.

  16. Jane says:

    Thanks so much for your response! I did end up going with Optitex (but I chose the 3 month rental to test drive the program first). In the end I had some of the same concerns as you did with regards to software development. I am not using 3-D virtual simulation, but maybe someday I will want that option. It was a difficult decision because I really like some of the features of PAD and it was a little less expensive. I spent quite a while trying to find feedback from people who had purchased either of the programs with very little success so …… thanks again!

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