A question I have been asked repeatedly over the years is about working with patternmakers.
By Frances Harder
Fashion for Profit Consulting
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. Don’t try and cut costs with this critical part of producing your line. Like all professions, there are good patternmakers, and then there are … 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 pre-washing 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, should 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’s your mistake because you changed your mind about any details, then you will be responsible for having the pattern remade at your expense. Therefore, it’s essential 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 to translate the flat sketch into an actual garment. A flat (technical drawing) of the clothing is sketched with finished dimensions and sewing details, such as topstitching and zipper length.
If you’re 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’ll 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’s 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 usually like to sew the first sample, as they hope that they will then be ready 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. Frequently, 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.
In the copyright law of the United States, a work made for hire (WFH) is a work subject to copyright that is created by an employee as part of his or her job, or some limited types of works for which all parties agree in writing to the WFH designation. Generally, the person who creates a work is considered its “author” and the automatic owner of the copyright in that work. However, under the work made for hire doctrine, your employer or the company that has commissioned your work, not you, are considered the author and automatic copyright owner of your work.
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