Career Profile: Fabric and Apparel Patternmakers
When you see someone wearing a dress or shirt with a unique shape or interesting design, do you ever wonder how these clothes were made? Or do you wonder how clothes are made in large numbers yet are all exactly the same? Fashion designers might be the inspiration for cool clothes, but the patternmakers are the real stars–taking a clothing design from a picture, and turning it into a wearable piece of clothing.
Fabric and apparel patternmakers create the master pattern for making a piece of clothing, and this pattern will be used by a factory or seamstress/tailor to cut fabric into the right shape and then sew all the pieces together to make a shirt or dress. Patternmakers measure a clothing design or model, draw out all the shapes to cut the fabric into, and will make instructions on how the pieces fit together into a piece of clothing. This is the master pattern, which will be used to make many copies of the same clothes.
If you want to work as a patternmaker, you will need to know lots of information about different fabrics, how to use scissors and exacto knives, how to measure and draw, and how to sew by hand and using a sewing machine. Most jobs in patternmaking only need a high-school diploma, though if you take classes on fashion or sewing at a college it can help you get jobs that pay more or give you better opportunities. Patternmakers find their jobs anywhere clothes are being made, such as clothing factories, costume design companies, or directly with fashion designers.
While most patternmaking used to be done by hand with tape measures and paper, these days much of a patternmaker’s job will be on the computer working with digital models of clothing designs. This means you also need to know how to use a computer to create patterns, which you can learn by taking classes or getting a job that will train you when you start working there.
If you want to get a job as a patternmaker when you’re an adult, it’s a good idea to start learning some of the skills you will need as early as you can. Even if you’re in elementary school, there are lots of ways to start! Learning to sew by hand is easy for someone to learn at any age, and it is an inexpensive hobby since all you need are some needles, thread, and fabric.
Your local library will have lots of books that can teach you how to draw a clothing pattern, and then all you need to do is practice! For example, you can start with designing patterns for your own Halloween costumes, and get your parents or older siblings to help you put it all together. You can also practice creating patterns for clothes to dress your action figures and dolls–and this is a great way to learn because you will only need small amounts of fabric, which keeps things less expensive.
You can also look for a local community group or school club that enjoys fashion, clothes-making, crafting, or sewing, because this is a great way to meet people who share your interest and can teach you new tricks or help you practice.