Pattern cutters work from fashion designers' plans to make the templates used for making garments. Pattern graders take the patterns made by pattern cutters and produce scaled up and scaled down versions, to produce the same garment in different sizes.
You might specialise in either cutting or grading, or both. As a pattern cutter you might:
- work from drawings of clothing designs
- refer to a library of patterns to find a pattern which you can adapt
- cut cardboard pattern pieces for each part of the garment
- use a flat cardboard 'block' which can be altered
- fit fabric to tailors' dummies and cut a pattern from the fitted pieces
- use specialist computer programmes to make pattern pieces and templates
- alternatively draw your patterns by hand (some cutters prefer this)
- attend fittings of the prototype garment and consult with designers and garment technologists about final changes needed.
As a pattern grader you might:
- take patterns made by a pattern cutter and produce scaled up or scaled down versions, enabling the garment to be reproduced in different sizes
- trace an outline of the pattern on a digitizing tablet so that the computer can use the data to adjust the size and proportions
- use a scanner to trace the pattern outline, which the computer can scale to size
- send copies of the different pattern grades to the manufacturer for them to produce finished garments in the sizes they require.
The figures below are only a guide. Actual pay rates may vary depending on:
- where you work
- the size of company or organisation you work for
- the demand for the job.
Pattern cutters and graders start between £12,000 and £18,000 a year. Experienced cutters and graders can earn between £20,000 and £28,000. Multi-skilled cutters and graders working for companies making specialist or luxury clothing may earn up to £45,000.
- You would normally work 37-40 hours a week.
- You would work in a factory or studio.
- You would be bending and stretching throughout the day.
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- It will be helpful if you do a National Certificate (NC), Higher National Certificate (HNC) or Higher National Diploma (HND) in a subject such as fashion design or fashion technology.
- Some employers may prefer you to have a degree in fashion.
- You do not need formal qualifications to get into an NC course, but you need 1 or 2 Highers for entry to HNC or HND.
- For entry to a degree you normally need 4-5 Highers.
- You may be able to get in by doing a Modern Apprenticeship in Fashion and Textiles Heritage at SCQF Levels 5 or 6/7.
Workforce Education Levels (UK)
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What Does it Take?
You need to have:
- excellent practical skills
- computer skills
- an interest in fashion
- an eye for detail.
You should be able to:
- draw and interpret other people's drawings
- use maths to measure and calculate accurately
- work under pressure
- meet deadlines
- work well with others
- work accurately for long periods.
- All new employees receive on the job training.
- If you are training on a Modern Apprenticeship you would do on the job training and study block or day release classes at college.
- You might also continue your professional development through courses offered by the Textile Institute (TI).
- Edinburgh College of Art offer workshops in fabric sewing and pattern cutting processes.
- With experience, you may move on to become a senior pattern cutter or grader, manager or designer.
- You could find work in the UK and abroad with designer labels, high street fashion retailers, clothing factories or cutting and grading firms.
The following organisations may be able to provide further information.
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