Strict Standards: Declaration of Users::findItems() should be compatible with Base::findItems() in /home/site7/public_html/dataobjects/users.php on line 9

Strict Standards: Declaration of User::login() should be compatible with Auth::login() in /home/site7/public_html/classes/user.php on line 11

Strict Standards: Declaration of User::audit() should be compatible with Auth::audit() in /home/site7/public_html/classes/user.php on line 11

Strict Standards: Declaration of Admin::login() should be compatible with Auth::login() in /home/site7/public_html/classes/admin.php on line 228

Strict Standards: Declaration of Admin::getUpdatedDate() should be compatible with Auth::getUpdatedDate($format = 'd F Y, g:i...') in /home/site7/public_html/classes/admin.php on line 228

Strict Standards: Declaration of OccupationFiles::getFrontList() should be compatible with Base::getFrontList() in /home/site7/public_html/dataobjects/occupationfiles.php on line 94
askpay

C

Clothing cutters

What they do

Strict Standards: Non-static method Support::processCustom() should not be called statically in /home/site7/public_html/templates_html/o2.html on line 145

Strict Standards: Non-static method Support::linkify() should not be called statically in /home/site7/public_html/templates_html/o2.html on line 145

Pattern cutting and grading make up the intricate process of creating the pattern templates that are used by the clothing industry to produce garments. Although two separate jobs, they can be carried out by the same person.

A pattern cutter takes a designer's drawing or modifies existing patterns to create an initial prototype pattern template. A typical technique is to cut pieces of fabric, and drape and pin them over a dummy until they all hang together correctly. Each piece is used to create a cut-out card or paper template.

Using the prototype pattern, pattern graders produce different pattern sizes so that clothing manufacturers can produce one design in a variety of sizes. They alter the proportions digitally or by hand. The different pattern grades are then sent to clothing manufacturers, enabling them to produce the finished garments.

Clothing pattern cutters/graders are usually contracted to work between 35 and 39 hours a week. They may work in small design studios or in manufacturing environments where garments are made. Cutters and graders can spend quite a lot of time on their feet. Those using technology, rather than manual cutting and grading methods, may spend long periods seated at a computer workstation.

Salaries may range from £10,000 to more than £25,000 a year.

Clothing pattern cutters/graders should have:

   • good numeracy skills for taking measurements and making calculations
   • creativity and an eye for design
   • good listening skills to clearly interpret the wishes of designers
   • technical sketching and drawing skills, both by hand and computer
   • an interest in current fashion and future trends.

It is estimated that 1,000 people in the UK clothing industry specialise in pattern cutting and grading. The main employers are clothing manufacturers who supply garments to online, mail order and High Street retailers. Good opportunities exist throughout the UK.

There are no formal academic requirements to become a pattern cutter/grader, although employers usually expect some related experience in the fashion clothing business. An Apprenticeship is a common route for young people. Relevant BTEC national and higher national awards, certificates and diplomas are also available.

Mastering the different pattern cutting and grading techniques comes with experience. Pattern cutters/graders may be able to work towards a vocational qualification such as an NVQ/SVQ Level 2 in Manufacturing Sewn Products. The London College of Fashion runs a wide range of relevant short courses and workshops.

Clothing pattern cutters/graders may progress to supervising a team as head pattern cutter or grader. With the right skills and experience, they may also be able to move into fashion design or a related field, such as retail buying. What is the work like?

Pattern cutting and grading make up the intricate process of creating the pattern templates which are used by the clothing industry to produce garments. Although two separate jobs, they can be carried out by the same person.

A clothing pattern cutter uses a designer's drawing to create a prototype template. There are three ways to do this:

   • Draping lightweight material, such as calico, over a dummy, and pinning and shaping the fabric pieces until they all hang together correctly. Each piece is used to create a cut-out card or paper template.
   • Modifying standard pattern body shapes made of flat cardboard (called blocks) to a new design and style.
   • Sourcing a similar, non-standard pattern base from a pattern library and then adapting it to a new style.

Pattern cutting can be done by hand drawing or by using a computer. Taking the prototype pattern, a sample garment is made up. At this stage, designers and garment technologists are able to make the required adjustments and alterations.

The pattern grader completes the next stage of the process. Their job involves taking the pattern template and re-sizing it. This is so clothing manufacturers can produce one design in a variety of sizes.

Pattern grading is traditionally carried out by hand, using charts to alter pattern proportions, but it is now more typically done using a computer. The two main methods involve:

   • Laying the sample pattern on to a digitised table, and using a light pen or tracing instrument to acquire the main pattern co-ordinates, including seam allowances. These co-ordinates are then fed into computers for the size and proportions to be adjusted.
   • Scanning the outline to produce very accurate, to scale pattern sizes.

After the accuracy of computerised pattern grades are checked, copies are sent to manufacturers. They then programme automated fabric-cutting machines or transfer the patterns manually on to fabrics ready for cutting, sewing and producing the finished items.

Starting salaries vary widely, ranging from around £10,000 to £18,000 a year.

Hours and environment

Clothing pattern cutters/graders are usually contracted to work between 35 and 39 hours a week. This may involve shift work. Overtime may be required to meet deadlines. Part-time work and job share may be available.

Pattern cutters/graders may work in small design studios or in manufacturing environments where garments are made. Many work alongside or near clothing designers, fabric cutters and sample machinists. This can make the working environment quite noisy.

Although stationed at pattern tables, cutters and graders can spend quite a lot of time on their feet, using tailors' dummies and taking measurements. This can involve some stretching and bending. Those using technology, rather than manual cutting and grading methods, may spend long periods seated at a computer workstation.

Salary and other benefits

These figures are only a guide, as actual rates of pay may vary, depending on the employer and where people live.

   • The starting salary for clothing pattern cutters/graders may range from around £10,000 for an apprentice up to £18,000 a year for an assistant.
   • With experience, pattern cutters/graders may earn up to £20,000 a year.
   • Multiskilled pattern cutters/graders or supervisors may earn £25,000 or more.

Skills and personal qualities

A clothing pattern cutter/grader should have:

   • good numeracy skills for taking measurements and making calculations
   • creativity and an eye for design
   • good listening skills to clearly interpret the wishes of designers
   • technical sketching and drawing skills, both by hand and using a computer
   • good manual dexterity and hand-to-eye co-ordination
   • an understanding of how different garments are constructed
   • the ability to be focused and pay attention to detail
   • patience for working with fine measurements
   • the ability to take the initiative, and also work well in a larger team
   • good eyesight and normal colour vision.

Interests

It is important to have an interest in:

   • current fashion and future trends
   • how fabric and patterns affect the shapes, designs and proportions of garments.

Getting in

Between 4,000 and 5,000 people in the UK clothing industry are employed in clothing cutter roles. It is estimated that 1,000 of these specialise in pattern cutting and grading.

The main employers are clothing manufacturers who supply garments to online, mail order and High Street retailers. Opportunities also exist in the more exclusive designer fashion houses.

Good opportunities exist throughout the UK, although there tends to be a higher concentration of jobs in the East and West Midlands, North West England and London. With more vacancies than applicants, there is a shortage of skilled pattern cutters/graders.

Vacancies may be advertised in local newspapers and in specialist trade publications, such as Drapers. Clothing manufacturers may advertise positions on their websites, and speculative applications may also lead to employment.

Entry for young people

There are no formal academic requirements to become a pattern cutter/grader, although employers usually require people working in this role to have some related experience in the fashion clothing business.

An Apprenticeship is a common route for young people. Academic entry requirements are usually four GCSEs/S grades (A-C/1-3). English, maths, art and design, and design and technology are useful subjects.

Apprenticeships which may be available in England are Young Apprenticeships, Pre-Apprenticeships, Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships. To find out which one is most appropriate log onto www.apprenticeships.org.uk or contact your local Connexions Partnership.

It is important to bear in mind that pay rates for Apprenticeships do vary from area to area and between industry sectors.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. For further information contact Careers Scotland www.careers-scotland.org.uk, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact COIU www.delni.gov.uk.

It is also possible to study for a related qualification such as a BTEC national or higher national award, certificate or diploma in art and design (textiles), art and design (fashion and clothing), clothing/fashion design technology or production, or design and craft.

The London College of Fashion (part of the University of the Arts London) also offers a range of courses in pattern technology and related topics.

Entry for adults

Some industry experience in fashion design, manufacturing or production is a definite advantage.

Training

Mastering the different pattern cutting and grading techniques comes with experience. The combination of working alongside skilled pattern cutters/graders and attending various courses can also enhance practical knowledge.

Pattern cutters/graders may be able to work towards a vocational qualification, including:

   • ABC Levels 2 and 3 Certificates in Pattern Cutting
   • NVQ/SVQ Level 2 in Manufacturing Sewn Products
   • ABC Level 2 Certificate and Level 3 Diploma in Apparel/Footwear Production.

The London College of Fashion runs a wide range of short courses and workshops in pattern cutting and related techniques.

City & Guilds offers a vocational fashion certificate, with various design and craft modules, including pattern cutting and computer pattern grading. Each module can be studied individually and may lead to a certificate in its own right.

Getting on

Promotion opportunities within large manufacturing companies and fashion houses may be available. Clothing pattern cutters/graders may progress to supervising a team as head pattern cutter or grader.

With the right skills and experience, pattern cutters/graders may also be able to move into fashion design or a related field, such as retail buying.

Self-employment may be possible.

Further information

London College of Fashion, 20 John Princes' Street, London W1G 0BJ. Full-time courses and part-time degree enquiries: 020 7514 7344. Short course enquiries: 020 7514 7566. Website: www.fashion.arts.ac.uk

Skillfast-UK, Richmond House, Lawnswood Business Park, Leeds LS16 6RD. 0113 239 9600. Websites: www.skillfast-uk.org and www.canucutit.co.uk

The Textile Institute, 1st Floor, St James' Buildings, Oxford Street, Manchester M1 6FQ. 0161 237 1188. Website: www.textileinstitute.org

Textile Centre of Excellence, Textile House, Red Doles Lane, Huddersfield HD2 1YF. 01484 346500. Website: www.textilehouse.co.uk

back