If you’re wondering if you need a pattern maker for your fashion/apparel business the answer is … yes. But what kind of pattern maker may be a more difficult question. 

Yes, unless you are a trained professional pattern maker yourself, you absolutely need one for your fashion design business!

What is a Pattern Maker?

Consider patterns to be the blueprint for your garments.  It is a template to be used over and over in the design room. In fact, patterns are often recycled season after season if they have mastered a particular fit and customer has responded well to the design. Pattern makers are the technical backbone to the manufacturing process and set the quality standard in production.

Quality starts with the pattern. Accuracy is important so that every seam aligns, lengths are appropriate, button holes are in their right places, collars are appropriate and crotches are the right size… just to name a few. The direction of the fabric  and the fit of the garment also depend on the patterns.

Types of Patterns

Traditionally, pattern making has been seen as both a profession, as well as an art form. Pattern makers usually work by hand and are super skilled in accuracy and quality. With the current innovations in fashion and apparel production, patterns are now  digitized. Choosing which style of pattern making that is best for you is completely subjective.

Physical Patterns

Paper patterns inclusive of envelope and instructions are made of paper of varying grades. The most important component, the tissue paper pattern, is made from the lightest and thinnest paper commercially available (it is not made at the pattern companies). It is called 7.5 lb (3.4 kg) basis paper, meaning that a ream of it (500 sheets) only weighs 7.5 lb (3.4 kg).


Digital Patterns

Digital patterns are made through CAD programs. Just like the physical patterns, accuracy is very important but unlike physical patterns, digital patterns have an advantage. They are able to fit the actual pattern on a virtual body and make adjustments immediately without needing to re-print on paper. This also helps to improve sustainability.

What Type of Patterns Should I Use?

Depending on your business capabilities you may need to hire out a patternmaker or work with a company that has one in house to take care of all of your tech design, pattern making and sample needs.

What to Look for With a Physical Pattern Maker

If you hire a pattern maker that makes physical patterns, you should look for these basic minimal industry standards on your patterns:

Color coding

  • Black Ink: Shell/Self pieces.
  • Blue Ink: Linings.
  • Red Ink: Interfacing and or canvas.
  • Green/Purple Ink: Contrast/Trims, (interchangeable).


  • Piece name
  • Grainline and or Nap line.
  • Quantity to cut of that piece
  • Size
  • Style number

Pattern markings

  • Fronts have single notches; double notches on backs.
  • Dart ends are punched and/or circled.
  • Tucks and gathers are notched, starting and ending.
  • Pockets are traced to show correct placement.

If You go With a Digital Pattern Maker Here’s Some Benefits

  1. Less Steps– 3D pattern design lessens the steps necessary in the product development phase. All prototyping is done accurately with less of the chance for human error. The automated process means updates, corrections and modifications are done in real time and translated to all the parts of the development process instantly without the need to wait for a physical fitting.
  2. Saves Our Planet– The actual physical pattern is printed out last. No extra paper is wasted and there is a possibility that the pattern may not need to be printed out at all, saving space in design rooms and lessens fashions already enormous carbon footprint.
  3. 24/7 Model– 3D design technology incorporates models 3D scanned images which eliminates the need for a person to be physically present for every fitting. Fittings can be conducted virtually which saves us all time. Most importantly I always consider how meaningful this is for accurate grading of patterns. The virtual figures can be manipulated to accurately depict weight gain on body types, in-turn creating more accurate grading on pattern pieces.
  4. Better Communication– Being able to send a 3D prototype to a factory is super useful. The directions can be translated into the language used by the workers in that particular to lessen communication errors. The factory can also view and interact with the garment virtually helping designers to waste less fabric.

Both physical pattern making and digital pattern making have great benefits. One is a dying art form while the other is a testament to innovation and efficiency. Which ever you decide understand that a pattern is one of the most important things needed for accurate and quality design.

For more information contact us!