Have you ever heard the term “production pattern” and wondered what that really meant? A production pattern doesn’t just mean the pattern you are going into production with. There are actually clear differences between just any regular pattern and one that is production-ready. Let’s look at the ways that a production pattern is different – and why you don’t want to (and sometimes can’t) go into production with just any pattern.
A production pattern is one that is set up to be optimized, efficient, and as foolproof as possible for production cutting and sewing. If you are just making one one-off garment in your studio, you can use any pattern or even drape the design with no formal pattern at all. If you plan to produce the design with a factory and get it made in bulk, the pattern needs to be set up to do so. Going into production with a pattern that is not production-ready can mean poor fit, poor sewing quality, increased costs, and more mistakes. So what differentiates production-ready patterns?
The biggest differentiator is pattern quality. The quality of the pattern directly affects the quality of the final product. Production-ready patterns need to be tested for good fit. If it is a graded pattern, the grade and fit of each size needs to be tested and confirmed before bulk production to guarantee that the final pieces will be up to your standards.
Quality production patterns need to be walked (in all sizes) and tested to make sure the seam lines all match up in sewing and the pattern yields the intended design result. If the pattern goes to production and seams don’t line up in sewing, it will slow down the production line and thus increase your cost. Leaving it up to individual sewers to troubleshoot poorly made patterns means an inconsistent end product. Like a quality puzzle, a quality pattern is made so that the only way it fits together is the way it is supposed to go together. The pieces line up the design with unbroken edges without having to force anything.
The size and shape of seam allowances is another key detail that makes production-ready patterns different from just any pattern. In production, seam allowances are determined by the type of seam being sewn. There is no “sew everything at ? inch and then trim back the seam allowance to ¼ inch” in production sewing like there is in home sewing. There are rules for what widths of seam allowances go where and certain machinery only uses one size of seam allowance. If your patterns aren’t set up with correct seam allowances for the type of seam specified, your final garment might end up wonky and out of spec.
Beyond just the seam allowance width, the shape of the corners matters in production patternmaking. The corner shaping or mitering makes it so that not only the sew lines match up perfectly, but the cut edges do too. This requires an understanding of how garments are sewn in production and what order they are assembled in. Seams that are sewn first versus second might have different seam mitering to facilitate this order of operations. Production sewing is all about efficiency, so seam allowances on production patterns are set up so that sewing operators don’t have to even really think about how the garment is assembled. The correct assembly method is easy and obvious with a production-ready pattern.
Having a production-ready pattern is important not only for sewing, but for cutting. The layout of the pattern pieces on the fabric is dictated by the pattern itself. The grainline, direction, orientation, and any match-stripes are all annotations within the pattern. Production patterns also need to be checked to make sure that the pattern pieces in all sizes fit the width of the final fabric.
Production-ready patterns are particularly important if your factory is using a digital cutter. Within a digital pattern file, the patternmaker will set what lines are to be cut, which are sewing lines, and which are just notes. Your fabric can be ruined if, for example, the grainlines for each piece end up being cut.
Just like with cut lines and settings, production patterns include certain annotations that need to import correctly into factory software. If notches, sew lines, darts, piece names, etc. aren’t in a standard production format, it can slow down the process, cause errors in the final product, or even be unsuitable for production at your factory.
Production patterns need to include all the final pieces and guides for the style, too. During sampling or development, the pattern is just a draft and won’t necessarily have each piece, fabric, and guide finalized yet. For production, though, pattern pieces need to be detailed and specific to the fabric. Interfacings not cut as block fusing need their own pattern pieces. Any buttons need a guide for placement. Trims need a guide piece that indicates the cut length. Piece names need to be specific, unique, but short. Any added shrinkage amount needs to be included and noted on the pattern pieces.
Last, but not least, the form or file type of production patterns differs from just any pattern. In order to include all this cutting, sewing, and piece information, the pattern needs to be in an industry-compatible file type or be a hard-copy maker that includes all these details. DXF/RUL or AAMA format is the most common digital file type that contains all this detailed information that almost all factories can open. Each software has its own file type, too, which can be used if both your patternmaker and factory use the same software.
Making a pattern production-ready means that it has been tested and checked for fit and quality, refined for production sewing efficiency, and detailed pattern information is saved in an industry-standard format. While the differences may seem small between a regular pattern and a production one, the results of using them are quite different. Production-ready patterns will give you higher quality, more control, and better pricing when you produce your design.