Pattern Cutters, or Pattern Makers as they are often known, bring designs and sketches to life. Patterns allow designs to be replicated and produced on a large scale, ensuring consistency between each item made.
Pattern cutting is a job that requires skill and talent; being able to transform drawings into a wearable garment. To do this, they must have an excellent understanding of garment construction and materials, and be able to offer expert insight to help realise the designer’s vision.
To be a pattern cutter, you need to be highly creative but also mathematical and accurate. Usually working in house for fashion brands or designers, the job of a pattern maker can be fast paced and pressured, but also extremely rewarding.
Our careers guide to pattern cutting explores what it takes to become a pattern cutter, expected salary and job responsibilities.
WHAT IS A PATTERN CUTTER?
A pattern cutter creates templates for garments, based on a drawing or design, in order to allow garment construction and reproduction. Patterns will be used by manufacturers, machinists and ateliers to create pieces in various sizes and/or colour ways to then be sold.
A pattern may go through various iterations before the final pattern is created. Both the designer and pattern maker may make multiple adjustments to ensure the end product achieves the desired impact. If the design is altered, the pattern will then also need to be updated.
A pattern cutter must be mathematical and accurate to create a template that achieves the correct silhouette and fit. They must also be creative in order to achieve the flair intended by the designer.
WHAT DOES A PATTERN CUTTER DO?
The end goal for a pattern cutter is to create a usable template from which to make a garment. There are lots of smaller day to day tasks that will need to be done in order to achieve this however.
A pattern cutter will need to be in frequent communication with the designer to understand the vision and requirements of the piece. The pattern cutter may need to drape and pin material to achieve the desired fit an create several iterations of a pattern before it is complete. They will sketch, map and cut out patterns from scratch, as well as modifying standard pattern blocks or non-standard patterns from a company archive.
In addition to this, as a pattern cutter you will work with machinists to create samples, use Computer Aided Design software, as well as traditional pattern making techniques, all to create a master pattern ready for the production process.
PATTERN CUTTER JOB DESCRIPTION
The job description of a pattern cutter is wide ranging; you will need an array of skills to effectively fulfill the duties described above. Skills required vary from the technical to the creative.
Discover what it takes to be a successful pattern cutter.
PATTERN CUTTER SKILLS
A pattern cutter will need to liaise with fashion designers, manufacturers and machinists to ensure the end garment meets the designer’s vision. They should have a good understanding of materials and garment construction to be able to provide suggestions and recommendations on how the pattern should be formed to create the end goal. Pattern cutters will not only need to be able to communicate effectively with others, but should also be able to take on board feedback and make adjustments accordingly.
2. Design Knowledge
Pattern cutters need to understand the inner workings of garment design. They should be aware of what shapes and construction methods will result in which silhouettes and effects. Pattern making is as much an engineering process as it is a creative one. A strong background in garment technology and a thorough understanding of materials and their properties is therefore essential.
3. Attention to Detail
The smallest mistake in a pattern can stop a garment from fitting correctly and can ruin the overall design and appearance. Pattern cutters need to be extremely precise when drawing out patterns. They should be prepared to do many iterations of a pattern before the master pattern is complete. Even the smallest adjustment can have a big impact on the finished piece.
4. Computer Skills
As well as using traditional pattern making techniques, as a pattern cutter you may also be required to use CAD software. This is one of the roles in the fashion industry combining new technologies and traditional methods to innovate and drive the practice forward.
Precision and accuracy is key for pattern makers but without creativity, finished pieces are in danger of falling flat. There is an intangible element to pattern design whereby the template must incorporate and captures the designer’s flair and vision. Pattern makers may also have to come up with creative solutions to achieve a look taking into account intended material choices and fit.
PATTERN CUTTER SALARY
A pattern cutter salary varies from around £18,000 - £30,000 depending on experience.
- Assistant pattern maker = around £18,000 - £26,000
- Pattern Maker = around £30,000
Some pattern makers also choose to progress into roles such as Pattern Grading or even Fashion Design!
HOW TO BECOME A PATTERN CUTTER
There are entry routes into pattern cutting through qualifications and experience but, a combination of both is usually best. You could complete a dedicated or related fashion course, complete an apprenticeship or find relevant work experience.
To become a pattern cutter you do not necessarily need to be degree educated. There are a number of college and diploma courses that can prepare you for a career in pattern making. Completing a related qualification is recommended as it can help you to build the fundamental skills and theory required for the role, giving you a solid foundation when entering the working world.
In addition to this, your qualification level may determine your starting salary and future progression opportunities. Diploma courses such as our Level 3 Fashion Design and Level 4 Garment Technology courses are the perfect starting point for aspiring pattern makers. These courses can also help to prepare you for further education at university level.
Internships and Work Experience
Combing qualifications with real work experience can help you to stand out in a competitive job market. Through experience, you can build skills that cannot be built in the classroom and gain a deeper understanding of the industry and the requirements of the role.
By choosing the FRA, you can have the best of both worlds. Working with over 140 retail partners, we pride ourselves on tailoring courses to centre around real world briefs and issues. We also offer the opportunity for students to complete a 3 week work placement to put your knowledge into practice.
Think a role as a pattern cutter is right for you? Take the first step to your dream career and study with the Fashion Retail Academy.
Read our guide How To Get Started In The Fashion Industry for more information.
If you have any more questions about any of the courses on offer at the Fashion Retail Academy, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you!
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