Video: Digitizing clothing patterns

Because there remains ambiguity as to the time and complexity involved in digitizing sewing patterns, I’ve created another video for you. In this video, you can watch my CAD screen while I digitize 10 pattern pieces. Including set up time—creating a file, taping the pieces to the board—digitizing 10 pieces takes all of 30 minutes.

There are actually two videos, here is the second:

In the second video, I’ve cleaned up some grainlines and some points I didn’t enter correctly.

My point in making these videos was to allay some fears people have about the costs of digitizing. I suspect that people do web searches and become appalled once they see the cost of embroidery digitizing but the latter is more complex and time consuming. I know there are some pattern companies out there that charge $20 a piece for digitizing and in my opinion, that is crazy. $20 per piece for these 10 pieces equals $200 for half an hour’s work. I don’t know any pattern makers who earn $400 an hour. So, if that’s what you’ve been quoted, keep looking.

Keep two things in mind.

1. I’ve only shown digitizing services. This does not include editing the pieces, walking them, making corrections or any of that. Pattern services run from $45 (without CAD) on up to $150. It is possible that somebody, somewhere charges more than $150 an hour but I don’t know who does. I can only say it is not typical. The average is closer to $60-$95 depending on the area of the country and ideally, you want a provider who is close to you even if they are not the lowest cost provider.

2. Minimum charges: It is not reasonable to expect a service provider to charge by the minute if your job is very small. For example, if you have two pieces to digitize, it is not reasonable to expect a bill for 10 minutes of work. Many companies, particularly those with CAD systems, have a one hour minimum charge (whatever their hourly is). Of course if you have several styles with them and this one is a small job, they will probably roll the time in with the rest of it.

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  1. Clare LaFond says:

    I’m a student who has had one semester of CAD (Optitex), and I love it. Yesterday I digitized a 21-piece jacket pattern for my final project in Leather & Fur class. The actual digitization was as easy as you demonstrate (although took a little longer because of my inexperience), but then the more time-consuming (for me) work began — truing seams and then walking each seam together and correcting it, adding and matching notches, etc. The accuracy of the digitizing depends on both a perfectly accurate and true pattern to begin with, and then perfect accuracy in clicking the digitizer mouse on the exact position on the pattern. It’s possible to be 1/16th inch off without realizing it, so I thought a good digitizing service would include truing and walking and matching notches. Is it reasonable to expect that?

  2. Hi Clare
    This is a two part question (imo).

    Your customer or employer is entitled to have digitized, whatever they had put to paper. Until you gain better accuracy, you’ll have to check your work so your customer/employer gets what they gave you. They shouldn’t have to pay for errors and omissions (imo).

    As for it being possible that you’re off 1/16th and not know it… I’m thinking something is awry. You might want to check calibration of the digitizing table because 1/16 error is quite large (imo). Have the patterns been traced with a sharpie? Those should be banned from the pattern room, the lines are too thick. With a sharpie traced or drawn pattern, it is easy to make mistakes which is why those should never be used.

    Okay, returning to my second point, whether you should correct a pattern as part of the digitizing process, let’s pretend your work is perfect and the errors are in the pattern you were given. This is something only you can decide. Personally, I won’t fix them at no cost. The customer needs to pay to have their pattern corrected. In fact, only in extremely rare circumstances will I agree to take on a job if the customer doesn’t agree to pay for correction.

    The reason is, let’s say you digitize and maybe grade it without correcting the customer’s errors because the customer didn’t want to pay for that. The customer will send your graded patterns or markers to the sewing contractor and if there are errors, YOU will be blamed, only you will never know because the customer won’t ever fess up. They’ll just tell the contractor that you had it last and if it is messed up, you are incompetent (kiss of death since we get work from contractors).

    So you have a choice: risk losing customers because you won’t agree to take a job unless the customer agrees to pay for pattern corrections or do the job without corrections, after which you won’t get work because you will get a lousy reputation. There is a third way -you could always do the corrections at no charge but then you’ll go out of business because you won’t earn enough to pay the light bill. etc.

  3. kristin says:

    Thanks so much for the videos and insights. Is this software and firmware still very expensive? I would love to have this in-house but I recall in the past it’s a bit pricey and better to outsource. However After lookiing at the fees of $20 a piece, that also gets pricey. I have jackets that are 21 pieces and up.

  4. Kathleen says:

    Expense is relative I suppose. It (StyleCAD) costs more than pocket change but it is an excellent value and lower cost than the competition. The software is about $8,000 but there is no annual licensing fee. Peripherals -you can buy used but better get expert advice. A roll up digitizer can be about $2,500. You could get by with a 36″ roll plotter (used, $100-$1000).

  5. kristin says:

    Hmm. Yeah that is pricey but I think worth the investment if you are in it for the long haul. I need to see it in action though to understand it better. I will go to the college down the street from me which has a terrific textile and fashion program. I peaked at their CAD lab the last time I was there. I used to teach there (graphics) and got to know the fashion dept pretty well. .

    Thanks as always for your posts.

  6. Cindy Marlatt says:

    I have thought of using my StyleCad system for offering the service of digitizing and printing patterns from a customer’s favorite jeans, dress, or jacket, etc. My own little knock-off service for the home sewer who just wants another pair of jeans that fit well. Has anyone heard of this service being offered?

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