Voiding a pattern warranty makes others crazy

tampering_voids_warrantyOne reason experienced pattern makers are reluctant to take on a new entrant is because the designer doesn’t have a clear understanding of what they should or should not do. Specifically, new designers think nothing of taking a professionally made pattern and changing a thing or two without realizing how those changes can impact the rest of the pattern’s design. The common result is that disaster strikes once it hits the contractor. The contractor will be angry or annoyed and want to know who made it. The designer will naturally say X pattern maker did the work -without mentioning their own modification- so guess who gets blamed? Unless the contractor and pattern maker have a close relationship (they prefer it to prevent this sort of thing) design modifications made by a designer can be ruinous for a freelancing pattern maker. This is a clear case of responsibility without authority and it can make anyone crazy.

Making modifications like this is akin to tampering with an item which voids its warranty. A pattern maker warrants a pattern they’ve made will suit the purposes for which it is intended. If it does not, then the pattern maker needs to repair it. But if you tamper with it, all bets are off. The warranty extended by the pattern maker is void. Unfortunately, there is no sticker on a pattern that lets others know the warranty has been voided so blame is misappropriated and reputations suffer. Or worse, the pattern maker is unaware their pattern was modified and begins to doubt their own sanity and competence in the process of repair. Obviously, CAD patterns can be a blessing to prove version history but only if the customer or employer has no access to the files to modify the originals.

A designer is both responsible and accountable for whatever transpires on their watch, whether the pattern was well made or not or whether the designer modified the pattern or someone else did it. Since the designer paid for the work and own it, they have the right to do whatever they want with it. However, the pattern maker is being held indirectly responsible for results over which they had no authority. Meaning, they’re blamed but were completely powerless to prevent the problem. Regardless of where you lie in the debate (I see it both ways), it is patently unfair to blame someone even in absentia for something over which they had no control.

I once sent a pattern for a lined vest to a start up contractor; she was motivated and did nice work but she had no industrial experience and was unfamiliar with protocols. Unfortunately, I didn’t know how much she didn’t know. When the contractor brought the garment, it looked wonderful with beautiful even stitching, everything lined up, it was properly bagged etc -but the vest hem was curling toward the inside of the garment. This was bizarre -I cut my linings longer precisely to prevent this. I mentioned the curling hem to the contractor and I swear she smirked. When she said -with a sarcastic snort- that she cut the lining off because it was too long, I nearly fainted. I couldn’t breathe out of shock. I was so angry I could barely speak so I practically whispered to explain why the lining was longer (she frequently said she never “needed” to go to college to learn to do this like I did). I paid her for sewing the sample, threw it in the trash and never spoke to her again.

In a professional environment, stitchers are never permitted to cut anything beyond seam clipping or trimming corners. That’s it. The responsibility of the outcome is the pattern maker’s. Stitchers do not have authority to make pattern changes which is what trimming pieces amounts to. The question we return to, is do you have that authority? You own it.

A colleague is dealing with a similar ruinous situation. The long time client (who is having some problems) modified a key block that affects dozens of styles. The affect of the damage is so far reaching my friend is truly adrift and has no idea what to do. As a freelancer, one can be powerless to control outcomes of their own work. I’ll say one thing for corporate environments (knock them all you will) this sort of thing rarely happens. For all their ills, corporations are better about assigning authority to the person who is responsible for the work. I’ve never had this happen to me in a professional company. Even one’s boss can’t do it. The only way one can modify a pattern made by someone else is if the responsibility is also transferred; it becomes that pattern maker’s pattern. The responsibility rests with the pattern maker who had it last so believe me, you check all of it, even the parts you didn’t mess with.

I don’t know the best way around this but it is better for all concerned that a designer realizes that the responsibility of pattern outcome lies with who ever modified it last. There is no other way to say this: tampering voids the warranty. Or in the case of patterns, the warranty transfers to whoever fiddled with it last.

As an aside, I don’t have a problem if someone modifies a pattern as long as they say they did. Sometimes they have no other choice but it’s better to mention it. I’ve gotten patterns made by other pattern makers that were terrible, only to later discover they’d been remodeled by someone other than the pattern maker before they got to me.

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  1. Rocio says:

    Well… funny that you posted this today…
    We’ve only had to deal with a “tampering” situation twice (in four years) but in both cases, it was the same “personality type”… Coincidence?… I think not

    After the first incident we decided to close the loopholes that would allow for such situation again and last week we got a chance to do a “test run” with a now former client
    This former client is threatening “legal action” due to his “production problems” (even though every pattern piece was clearly labelled PROTOTYPE STAGE, and we have never seen a sewn prototype or even a swatch of the fabric he is using for “production”)

    This is our process:
    – Our Service Agreement has a clause that SPECIFICALLY ADDRESSES in plain language the “tampering issue”
    – We e-mail the files to the client once the pattern or marker has been released or production run has been completed
    – We supply a printout of the files and each pattern piece and direction card is clearly labelled with the stage of the pattern (Prototype, Sales sample, Production)
    *** For this second former client specifically we’ve also taken the precaution of mailing and self addressing a printout of all the patterns and a DVD of all the files his order included
    The box will remain sealed just in case it needs to be used as evidence :-)

  2. Caitlin says:

    As a costume designer/technician, I have encountered all these challenges in all capacities, patternmakers who misunderstand directions, designers who don’t their way around a drape or pattern, stitchers who redesign patterns and pieces to suit their own tastes to the way they think it should be—I have learned it is in my best interests to keep up with the different people and transference of jobs in the process. A simple “how is it going” works wonders to let others involved know I am still in the game. Likewise, asking someone questions about a project I am starting helps clear up misconception. Basically, feedback is good, even if it bad..so problems can be addressed or nipped in the bud and no one feels adrift in the process and/or feels they have to “fix” it themselves and ruin someone else’s job!

  3. Sarah_H. says:

    Kathleen and Rocio- I am sitting over here in the corner grinning, “I’m retired, I’m retired. Of course I have got an entire new set of problems with retail customers to learn to deal with so I am not sure what I am grinning about. Guess I had better go pack up this morning’s boxes and get them shipped.

  4. Cheryl says:

    Hi, I have learned ALOT reading this blog. This week I ran into what I KNOW is a pattern/and or design flaw. THANK YOU KATHLEEN…. A prom gown customer called me and had a MAJOR issue with the fit of a $450 gown. In my area of Southeastern Ohio, that is BIG MONEY….She wanted me to look at the gown, she was willing to pay a $25 return/re-stock charge at the dress shop 50 miles away if I couldn’t ‘fix it’. I have deduced the gown front was cut approximately 2 ENTIRE INCHES too long in the torso. They said ALL of the other sizes of that style fit the same. My teen is nicely, proportionately shaped. The BACK LENGTH of the gown fits PERFECTLY. I altered the front of the gown, tapering to the side seams. What is SCAREY is….the OWNER of the bridal shop recommended REMOVING THE BONING to alleviate the problem. ARGH! On a strapless gown! ARGH! I am SO GLAD they called me. Thus, I have witnessed..FIRST HAND…a pattern or design MAJOR FLAW… NONE of those gowns in that style run will FIT. THANK YOU for this blog. It has helped me, PLUS, I have educated my customers who now think I am a ‘miracle worker’. I AM a miracle worker by the way. You would be AMAZED at the sewing feats I have accomplished with LITTLE CASH to work with. That is GREAT for business. THANK YOU THANK YOU. Safe journey from Cheryl .

  5. Lisa Bloodgood says:

    Yay, Cheryl! I’m sure you are!

    I make custom vests all the time and made one with the lining accidentally too short, so it did the same thing that Kathleen’s did. So I took it out and recut the lining and it was fine. Then I changed the pattern, but since it’s just me here, I had authorization to change the pattern. :-)

    However, I want to become larger scale and I know there are certain things you do and certain things you don’t do. I wish I could kick that “contractor” ‘s butt! I worked for a place a while ago…the designer got different fabric but didn’t change the pattern or rather, have a new pattern made for it, so when I was sewing the garment, which were already cut for me, part of it didn’t work right. I was told to “make it work.” And I had to cut extra off so it would. It was frustrating.

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