A question I have been asked repeatedly over the years is about working with patternmakers. Once they have finished making your patterns then make sure you get your pattern. You paid for it, so they belong to you!! –
By Frances Harder
When interviewing a potential patternmaker, it is a good idea to ask for references and to see examples of finished samples they have produced. To be able to translate a two-dimensional sketch into a three-dimensional garment, a patternmaker needs to have developed an eye for design. Their finished work will speak for itself giving you an idea as to their standard of work and their interpretive skills. Do not try and cut costs with this important part of producing your line. Like all professions, there are good patternmakers and then there are the others.
Professional patternmaking services usually have a pay scale as to how long it will take to make a particular pattern. For example, jackets would cost more than blouses and a skirt would be priced less than a pair of pants. The price is usually set for certain types of garments. A simple skirt could cost around $125, but a fully lined jacket could be as much as $700. Denim jeans may cost the most as they need two sets of specifications made for the prewashing measure and the post washing measurements.
When negotiating with the patternmaker for their rate of pay, you need to find out if they will make adjustments to the pattern if you find it to be unsatisfactory. One or two, at the most pattern adjustments are normal and should be included in the cost of making the pattern. If, however, it is your mistake because you changed your mind about any details then you will be responsible for having the pattern re-made at your expense. Therefore, it is important that you know exactly how you wish the finished garment to look. This should include all the stitching details, down to the number of buttons, the size and placement. Patternmakers should not be put into a position where they have to guess what the designer/manufacturer ultimately wants. They must be able to fully understand your design in order to translate the flat sketch into an actual garment. A flat (technical drawing) of the garment is sketched with finished dimensions and sewing details, topstitching, zipper length, etc. If you are trained in draping and patternmaking, then making your own first patterns will obviously save you a great deal of money. It is also more likely that you achieve your vision of how you would like your finished garments to look and be produced. Having to have your samples remade several times before it is to your satisfaction can be costly.
The contractor that you plan to use for your production can often also make your first samples. This has the added advantage of the contractor being able to cost the garment for production. Contractors often like to sew the first sample, as they hope that they will then be able to sew your production orders. Using this method allows the contractors to become aware of any problems involved with sewing a particular style, and it enables them to give a fair estimate of the costing. As a rule of thumb, sewing the first sample is usually two to three times the price of sewing a garment in production. Often good patternmakers are working with different types of sewing contractors for your production needs.
Word of Caution: Once you have paid for the work then YOU own the patterns. If the patternmaker keeps the patterns, you need to ask for a printout of the patterns for your own records. You should have a ‘Work for Hire’ contract with your patternmaker. Check out my Forms for Profit.