The Pattern Cutter

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ehind the creations of any designer lurk individuals who get little recognition for the essential and vital work they contribute to the fashion industry – the pattern cutters! These are the hard working, behind the scenes, an invisible team of people, who inhabit the design department of a manufacturing company. Their skill and ability will ultimately bring into existence the finished clothes worn by the buying public, from the simple skirt, the trousers, the casual shirt, the sheath dress to the prom dress or the sharp man’s suit.

Sweetheart Long Prom Dress on Pennzer
Sweetheart Long Prom Dress.

The designer produces the original illustrations, but these usually give little indication of how the pieces of a garment fit together, if at all, and may even be unworkable. The pattern cutter must then work his or her magic and translate a ‘pretty sketch’ into workable pattern pieces or templates. These are cut in calico, sewn up to create a toile and fitted over a tailors dummy to give an idea of what the garment will look like.

A pattern cutter will work closely with an expert machinist so together they can do the necessary alterations needed to the toile, before machining the final sample clothes. Only then will the fashion designer analyze the samples before deciding what pieces are wanted for the collection or should be put into production.

Other methods used by the pattern cutter include (1) draping pieces of material over a dummy, shaping and pinning them around this ‘body’ until they fit correctly (termed as draping), then cutting out a pattern from the pieces.

(2) Taking a flat standard pattern block and altering and shaping it to the desired style (3) Using an existing pattern base from a company’s pattern bank, and then modifying it as is necessary. Alternately, some pattern cutters will use computer-generated models, CAD, to get a sense of how the patterns will look or importantly see how the different shapes can best be laid on a width of fabric to make an outfit cost effective.

A pattern cutter will work with a diverse selection of fabrics, from cotton, linens, silks, wovens, jersey, knitwear and synthetics, which will be used in the manufacture of tailored garments, lingerie, casual wear across the broad spectrum of womenswear, menswear or childrenswear.

The designer may achieve fame and recognition, but the pattern cutters have the necessary talents to produce wearable, beautiful or functional garments out of a ‘sketchy’ idea. Their vital talents will encompass an interest in fashion and trends, the ability to interpret a designer’s drawing, team-working skills and be able to work quickly and accurately. Additionally, math’s skills are needed for measurements and calculations, and a good eye for detail, shape, and proportion. Finally, technical drawing skills, either those of computer or hand are needed.

The pattern cutter certainly is a person of great talent and someone to be lauded!

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