The Fundamentals of Pattern making for Brands

Photo  byRubin  at  Clinton-Park .

Within the Apparel Industry are many moving parts and specialization.  On the product side alone, there may be more than a dozen people that come together to contribute to the making of a single garment.  A diverse skill set is helpful to understand what is going right or wrong in the development and manufacturing of products.  Many designers have some background in pattern making but do not specialize in it.  I won’t explain in this post how to create your own patterns.  I will talk about some basic terms you should know and how to get the job done.

Let’s assume that the first revision of the design process has been completed.  The collection has been designed, the tech packs are ready, and it’s time to request samples.

Tech Packs are usually several sheets of information that dictates what materials and trims you are using on a garment.  The tech pack usually includes a technical flat drawing of the garment and design measurement specifications.

Technical Flat Drawings are a very specific type of garment drawing.  The garment is drawn as flat as possible to give a full visualization of design details.

Design Measurements and Garment Measurement are used differently.  The tech pack generally includes drawings which layout design measurements visually.  The garment measurements are usually in a separate measurement chart which refers to standard measurement points.  This is not always immediately obvious to new designers.

There are four scenarios that might be true.  You are either making first patterns yourself, contracting them to a patternmaking, have an in-house pattern maker or work with a patternmaker that is on site at the factory.  The more information you give to your pattern maker and factory about what you’re trying to make, the better results.  Giving them example garments to show design details goes a long way.

The Tech Pack

The first few page of your tech pack might look like the image below. It gives basic instructions about what the garment should look like when it is completed.  The pattern maker needs details about what fabrics are being used for a number of reasons.  They need this information because if multiple fabrics are being used in the garment, this is usually annotated on the pattern piece and different cut markers are made for different fabrics.  Also, if the fabric shrinks, the pattern maker can adjust it so that the pattern is increased by the percentage of shrink factor.   That was a lot of jargon, see the breakdown below!

Shrink factor is how much the fabric shrink when exposed to water, heat, and agitation (aka: the wash).

Calculating shrink factor is easy.  Usually, I use a square of fabric with a 10″ x 10″ box and the grainline drawn inside it with a permanent marker.  Wash the fabric, press it, work it a little bit, and then remeasure the box.  You can calculate the difference into a percentage or just let your patternmaker know so they can calculate it. Here’s an example.

Markers are guides for cutting.  They’re usually basic outlines printed on paper, laid on top of a pile of fabric, and the cutter cuts along the line made for each fabric in a garment.  A bunch more information about markers can be found at the fashion-incubator.

Plotters are the large printers that print markers.

Grain refers to the orientation of the warp and weft threads.  The straight grain or grainline refers to the length or warp of the fabric.  Cross grain runs along the horizontal, also referred to as the weft from selvedge to selvedge.  Selvedge refers to the width-wise edges of the fabric.  The third orientation to be aware of is thebias, which denotes the 45-degree angle across the fabric.

Below is a picture of a plotter printing a marker.

Photo  byRubin  at  Clinton-Park .

But wait! There’s more to include in your tech pack.  You should note important measurements as they pertain to design features only.

And show any details that are hidden in your flats as close ups.  You may also supplement your tech pack with images of similar garments if they have desired construction details.

This page would reiterate fabric selection and show fabric selection if there are multiple colorways.

Colorways are the range of colors that a style is available in.  Below, this tech pack denotes having two colorways: Blue and Tan.

The page below is incomplete.  It does not show the measurements necessary to complete this pattern.  The entire chart doesn’t necessarily need to be filed out, but key measurements should be expressed underneath the column that shows sample size.

Sample size is the size of your sample and should fit your fit model.

If you’re using non-standard measurements like “Neck_Half Moon Length” you might want to be more specific.  Also, do not try to create your own sizing system like this shows “Size A, B, C, D” people will not have a clue which size they are and you will limit yourself from being able to use off-the-shelf labels and tags.

These are useful abbreviations to note:

CF– Center Front, CB – Center Back, AH– Armhole, SS– Side Seam

The rest of the chart will be filled out based on a grading rule.  Here’s a different example of how a grading rule works based on grading increments.


The image below is showing a marked up sample revision request.  On this sample, the designers use masking tape to make notes directly on the garment.  This helps the pattern maker to know exactly where the designer intends to put style lines, seams, and design features.  Often, the designer needs to see the garment on the human body in order to determine specific details about placement.

Style lines are seams for visual effect.  They do not have a purpose for fit and are purely for aesthetic.  Necklines and hems can also be considered style lines.

Seams are used to join two or more pieces of fabric together.  That might seem obvious, but the selection of seam type is critical to the durability, aesthetic, and comfort of a garment.

Design Features include pockets, trimmings, and other surface ornamentation.

Photo  byRubin  at  Clinton-Park .

Alright, that get’s you through pattern making for the first sample.  Stay tuned for what’s next!