During development and even pre-production, there are times that you might get a sample back that isn’t quite how you wanted it. This is what development is for – to perfect the fit and work out all the kinks of making the style before production. But, when the sample doesn’t fit, how do you determine what caused the problem and what needs to be done to correct it?
When a sample is out of spec or doesn’t fit as intended, there are many things that could be the cause – cutting, sewing, shrinkage, markers, or the pattern itself. The best way to control all these variables and find the issues is to keep accurate measurements of your requested specs as well as pattern and sample measurements as you go along. These measurements will give you a way to gauge the accuracy at each step. Once you have a record of these measurements, you can assess each of the potential problem areas to find what caused the sample to be out-of-spec.
If the sample was cut wrong, it will be sewn wrong, and fit wrong too. Cutting is such an underrated step of the samplemaking and production process that is actually incredibly important. Good cutting (and a good pattern) is what will make the sewing easy and the samples accurate.
The best way to determine if the sample is wrong due to poor cutting is by asking to see the cut marker that was used. A marker is a sheet of paper that shows the layout of how the pattern will be cut from the fabric. During production and often during sampling as well, the marker is laid on top of the fabric and cut along with the fabric. By looking at the cut marker, then, you can see if the cut edge aligns with the printed cut line or not. If the cut edge doesn’t follow the printed cut line, you’ll know that cutting is one of the problems.
Sewing can also affect the specs of the final garment.
To determine if there was a sewing issue, the first thing to check is what seams were used. Different types of seams and stitches use different seam allowances. It could be that a different type of seam was used than what the pattern was made for. For example, if the pattern allows for ?” seams and the sample was sewn with ½” seams, then the sample could be anywhere from ½”-1 ½” smaller than it should be. To check the seams, measure the width of the seams on the inside of the garment against the pattern or the construction specs in the tech pack.
Another thing with sewing that can affect the final sample specs and fit is the machine settings. This can be a problem especially on v-necks or side seams of full skirts. These areas of a garment tend to be close to bias grain on the fabric so it is easy for them to stretch out too much during sewing if the machine tensions and feed settings aren’t set up properly for that fabric. To check for this issue, measure the contour of the pattern in these areas against that same contour on the sample. If the sample is much bigger than the pattern, you’ll know it got stretched during sewing.
Occasionally there can be a problem with the marker printing. If the printer was set up wrong or the marker was made the wrong size, the marker could have printed out at the wrong scale.
To check whether there is a marker issue, there are several things you can do. First, you could measure the printed marker pieces against the pattern specs to make sure they match. A second way to test this would be to have your patternmaker include a pattern piece that is a 10”X10” square. Label it as such in the pattern and then include it off to the side on the marker. That way, you’ll be able to measure that square on the printed marker and make sure it does indeed measure 10”X10” before cutting any fabric.
In production, fabric is cut and sewn before being washed, so extra length or width is added to a pattern to offset any shrinkage that will occur later. If the wrong amount of shrinkage was added to the pattern, this can cause the sample to be out of spec.
To control for this variable, start by doing a wash test of your fabric before starting development. Measure a precise square of unwashed fabric at least 12”X12”, then wash and dry it a few times and measure that square afterwards. Note how much it shrunk in length and width. This information is used to calculate the amount of shrinkage needed.
When checking a sample for shrinkage issues, always take complete measurements of the sample before washing it and after washing it. If the sample didn’t shrink as much as or shrunk more than your wash test, the shrinkage in the pattern will need to be adjusted.
If everything else on your sample checks out, but you don’t like the fit or size of the sample, then it is the pattern that needs adjusting.
The easiest way to rule out the other issues and know the pattern needs adjusting is to measure your sample against the specs in the tech pack. If those all match and are within tolerance, then just focus on pattern changes!
There are many steps to producing a garment and mistakes can happen at each step. Troubleshooting an out-of-spec sample can be confusing and tricky given all the variables, but taking good measurements at each step and knowing what to look for will reveal what areas need to be corrected to get a perfect sample the next time.