Your company needs its own blocks. And while I'm on subject, you need fit models too.
What is a block? A block is a master pattern that fits the "medium(s)" in the size ranges for your company. Having a well-drafted, nicely fitting pattern block is your best asset when it comes to drafting your styles. If you want your designs to fit well (of course you do!) then having a nicely fitting block is your perfect head start.
Creating blocks is not a complicated process. We will need a few measurements from your model to draft your pattern. Then, we make up the muslin fitting. All in all, a block is not expensive to produce, and with a few fittings to clean it up, we can get it perfect. It then becomes the basis for the designs we make for you, or you can take it with you to another pattern maker in digital or oaktag form.
Your block can be graded according to your company's grading specifications as well.
Having your own company blocks that reflect the design & fitting specifications of your company is an exceptional asset and cost savings over the long run, and reduces wasted time and extra fittings that would otherwise occur in the final designs had we not used a block.
We recommend The Entrpreneur's Guide To Sewn Product Manufacturing by Kathleen Fasanella, for her writing on this topic, as well as every other topic she addresses. You can buy KathleenÔÇÖs Book | Designer-Entrepreneurs (designer-entrepreneurs.com) here.
The "ideal customer" is a concept used in every business, but it means something very different to a fashion designer. It's a collection of very specific pieces of information, that your pattern maker needs to know.
So, you have a great idea for a fashion line, and you are ready to get some samples made. Awesome! Here are some things that you will need to know to get started, and one of the things I like to talk about in our free consultations with prospective clients.
Every business plan will ask you to describe your ideal customer, and mostly the goal is to design your marketing and brand identity. When it comes to pattern making, and creating your product, the question "who is your ideal customer?" is more specific, in a different way.
We need to know things like:
What genders and age groups are you designing for?
Are your customers average, tall, or petite?
What is the size and body type of your ideal customer?
Are your customers North American, Asian, European, or some other nationality?
What are your customers' lifestyle habits? Do they like easy-care, wash and wear clothing, or high-end, dry clean only? Are they eco-conscious, and want only organic fibers?
What is their income level? What are your goals for the ending price point, and how you will arrive there? (We can often suggest money saving tips!)
Where will your customers most likely wear your styles? Is it an every day or special occasion piece?
What brand item currently on the market is most like the garment you are creating, in size, care, and utility?
What are your own goals for the design? Telling us how you want the garment to look and feel on your customer gives us ideas about how to incorporate things like design ease and drape to create your silhouette.
We can now use the above informaton, and translate it into numerical data, as the first step in your product development.
So, what are the first steps? We can break that down to 1-2-3.
Look for our posts on each one of these important topics, which will prepare you for action!
Every company needs to have a size chart - and actually, you need two.
The very first place to start in your product development is knowing the size range you want to produce. To do that, you need to think about what a "medium" size will look like within in your size range(s).
You can produce as many size ranges as you want to, but each range will need to have a "medium" and each of these "mediums" will need to be fit. If you haven't thought about arranging for fit models yet, this would be a great time to do that. Your garment sizes will only fit as well as they fit the size they are based on, so this initial block (or fitting shell) is REALLY important.
This might be redundant, but I'll chase it around anyway...if you are producing garments for petites, in small sizes, make sure your "medium" fits that description in every way. If you are looking for average sizes, and you are producing goods for North America, we can help you create sizing information that fits your demographic, and your company's look. See our post on Who is Your Ideal Customer? for more information on that. If you are designing for infants, the process for developing charts is different than described here. Contact us directly for information on that.
Your size charts should be unique to you. Don't copy another company's charts. You have a special look and style, and to some extent, there will be similarities, but take the time to develop your own.
A Size Range
I briefly mentioned above that you can do as many ranges as you want, but you need a "medium" fitting in every range. Now would be a good time, I think, to explain that, because in the process of making your charts, we will want to think about all the ranges you want to cover.
A size range is a maxium of 5 body sizes, which will be graded up and down from the "medium." Our company practice is to create ranges in maximum sets of 5 sizes, in order to refine the sizing, and therefore reduce waste. We also believe that this method produces a better customer experience.
Without getting into too many murky details about grading, keep in mind that you will want to set up your size charts with a grade rule in mind. Grade rules are the increments that your garment will grow or reduce between sizes. If you haven't given a lot of thought to that, it's ok. We can help you.
Actually, You Need Two ?
I need two? Yes, you do. Here's why. You don't want to show your customers (and your competitors) everything. And please, don't. After you have worked so hard taking measurements from your model, and going through the meticulous process of fitting, you will have one chart that has the full range of body specifications of your block pattern; and you will also have a basic, customer-facing chart with chest, waist, and hip measurements, and in some cases, length or age data.
Your internal full-body measurement specification chart is a secret document. If that were disclosed publicly, nothing would stop another company from duplicating your blocks, your styles, and or just basically taking an unfair shortcut by not having to go through all the effort and expense of fitting their own customers. I wish this was a world where such a thing didn't exist, but it does, so protect yourself. Don't show your full sizing information to anyone who doesn't need to see it.
In the beginning, all we typically show you is the customer-facing, basic size chart. This is because all the technical measurements are probably not necessary to help you picture your size ranges. But your can be sure that, as we are developing your charts, behind the scenes, we are connecting the chart to full specifications, and drafting your grade rules. We will use this information to draft your company's blocks, and later, grade the styles.
This, along with your initial fashion sketches, make up some of the first few pieces of your tech pack!
Congratulations on taking this first step! You are 1/3 of the way there!
You've got questions, we've got answers.....
What kind of printer do I need to print your patterns?
A: Any home printer will do. The pattern is provided in Letter and A4 size, which can be easily taped together to form your complete pattern. You may download the copy shop size, and have it printed wherever you like, or order the paper copy from us, which we will mail to you.
Are your pages ÔÇ£trimlessÔÇØ ?
A: Yes. Your pattern can be taped together with no overlapping, measuring, or trimming needed.
Do you offer plus sizes?
A: Yes! Most styles are offered in all sizes, to the extent that we have reliable data to do so. If you don't see your size listed, we are quite possibly still working on it, or testing it. We also offer custom sizing, in which you may purchase a pattern to your specific measurements, checked by our custom tailors for accuracy.
How do I sign up for updates and sales?
A: Please enter your email in our communication box and you will be the first to know about sales and new designs. You may opt-out at any time.
Do you have a private facebook group?
A: Yes! We love our tribe. You can join us by following this link https://www.facebook.com/groups/2583352721930279
I want to manufacture or mass produce one of your designs. Is that ok?
A: No, you may not use our home sewing patterns for production. You may only use them for home businesses in which you make the clothing yourself. If you are interested in starting your own clothing line, we are happy to work with you to create unique designs with production patterns suitable for this purpose.
Can I recommend a design, or order a custom design?
A: Feel free to show us any design ideas you like; we promise to look them over. Since it takes many, many hours to produce a sewing pattern ready for release, we can't promise that we will take every suggestion, unless we feel it has a very high potential to be popular with our customers. We don't take single orders for a custom design. If you want a custom design made, a minimum of 100 patterns must be purchased at our retail rate for that pattern.
Can I order a custom sized pattern?
A: Yes! You will see this option listed in your drop down menu for the style.
Do I need a color printer?
A: No. Our patterns sizes are shown in colors and line types, so you may print in black and white if you wish.
Do your patterns have ÔÇ£layersÔÇØ?
A: Yes, all of our pdf patterns have sizes in layers, allowing you to print only the size or sizes that you want to print.
Do you offer printed patterns?
A: Yes. If you prefer printed patterns to pdf downloads, you may order a printed pattern from the drop-down menu.
Can I sell items made from your patterns?
A: Yes, and we encourage this. If you have a small business selling items made from our patterns, we allow you to promote only those goods made from our patterns, on our facebook pages.
I'm not happy with my pattern. May I have a refund?
A: Digital goods are not refundable, because there is simply no way to return them. However, if you are dissatisfied, please let us know. We'd like the opportunity to make it right.
I'm a beginner. Are your patterns for me?
A: We carry some beginner-friendly patterns; but most of our designs are for makers with some experience. We generally do not go into in-depth explanations of basic operations. If you have little-to-no experience, our patterns will be insufficient to teach you to sew. We suggest some of the books listed on our ÔÇ£Favorite ResourcesÔÇØ section.
I'm stuck. Do you offer support?
A: Yes, please contact us if you need help. Be patient, as we are a small shop with limited resources. We will do our best to answer your questions as soon as possible. You may also ask for help on our Facebook page, and others in our sewing community will be able to assist you.
I don't see my size in the style I want. Why?
A: Our company is one of a kind, in that we create styles based on body type. We have researched the most flattering styles for each of seven body types, and developed them around a specific block for that type. While there can be some overlap in these styles, you won't see every style in the grouping for every body type. Drop us a line, though- we might have this in the works, and it just hasn't released yet.
Will your patterns teach me to sew?
A: Our patterns are not designed to teach you to sew. We give clear instructions for how to make each item, but we don't explain how the stitches are made, or delve into basic operations. We have a YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCGIGuWQ77Xj9ncE-uBmFHRQ?view_as=subscriber
Where we demonstrate some more intermediate sewing concepts that are less available at large. We encourage you to subscribe if you want to learn more about sewing, pattern drafting, and grading.
How will I know if a pattern is right for my skill level?
A: We have a 4-tier skill level guide on each pattern description ranging from beginner to advanced. We have also listed the skills required to complete the pattern.
Do you offer Projector Files?
A: Yes! Our copyshop size file can also be used as a projector file. It is 36" wide, and the length of the pattern plot, with no breaks.
Still have questions?
A vitally important part of your tech pack are the technical drawings. Here's what you must know to get them right.
We've talked a bit about technical packages ("tech packs") and you should know that they are step 1 in the production process. If you are developing your product with AC Ashworth & Co., we can draft your patterns along with the tech packs, even if you don't have them quite ready yet. The tech pack is compiled of many parts, and it is basically a blueprint of your design, including everything your factory needs to know to put your garment together.
In this segment, we will talk about one component of the tech pack, and that is the technical sketch. When you designed your garment, you may have made a fashion sketch, or collected a picture for inspiration. It's important to know how the technical drawing differs from your fashion sketch.
A technical sketch is a flat drawing that shows the details needed to make your garment. Let me emphasize flat. The first thing that will distinguish your technical drawing from your fashion sketch is that there should be no depth, or volumetric detail.
While a fashion illustration can be used to make a technical drawing, the tech drawing must look as it would stretched out flat on a table, not how it would look on the body.
Here's an example of a flat tech drawing :
While other sketches within your tech pack may include colorways, the technical drawing should not.
There should always be a front & back view. The drawing should be 100% accurate to the design, and include all details- trim, zippers, buttons, seams and stitches.
There should be no shadows or extra lines.
These drawings will be used for the pattern specification sheet, a document that includes the measurements for each dimension.
I hope that this quick article on technical sketches has been helpful. If you have any questions or comments, let us know in the section below.
Here's something you might be asked by your pattern maker, factory, or consultant... "What stitches do you want used in your design?"
This is an important question because it effects many aspects of your design, from strength, durability, and usefulness to look and cost. If you don't have a clue about stitches, you're in the right place. And even if you do, read through to the end for some great links to some excellent tools that will help you develop your tech packs even more efficiently!
Due to the comprehensive work of ISO (International Organization for Standardization), the worldÔÇÖs largest developer of voluntary International Standards, we can use a classification of stitches that is universally understood and communicated-- using the ISO 4915 Stitch Matrix. WAIT! Don't leave.....it gets better, honest. Founded in 1947, ISO has published 23,613 International Standards covering almost all aspects of technology and business, and the standard referenced above can be really handy for you in making your tech packs. In fact, it's essential. If you got bored just now, and noticed that the acronym ISO is switched a little...(why isn't it IOS? After all, they were around waaay before Apple!), your observation is correct. The truth is, What? No, wait... seriously, don't leave, I will get to talking about what the stitches are, I really will. The International Organization for Standardization is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, and exists by a different name in every language. Rather than having several acronyms in different languages, they chose ISO as its abbreviated name. The word ISO is derived from a Greek word isos meaning equal. Aaaand, back to the topic.
So let's say you are designing an article of clothing, and you have it all sketched out, you know how it should look, and even the fabric you want. Different fabrics call for different types of stitches based on what you expect from it in terms of stretching, stability, and the type of fabric you're using. It is normal for a single garment to be comprised of many stitch types.
Stitches are broken into six main classes :
Let's take a quick look at the most common stitches within these classes, that you will likely need to know (and choose from) as you develop your product.
103 is a chain stitch that is commonly used in a blind hem. There are no visible stitches on the face side, and a chain pattern is visible on the underside. It's formed by a thread carried by a single, curved needle. AC Ashworth & Company uses the blind hemmer on our fine dresses and menswear. When designating this stitch, your production team will need to know SPI (stitches per inch) and whether or not you want a skipped stitch in between.
301 is the most common of all construction stitches. It's a straight stitch formed by a single needle and bobbin; used for seaming and top stitching. It is a strong stitch that will not stretch. You'll be asked for the SPI.
304 is a lockstitch, but in a zig-zag formation. It is used on areas that must be strong, but also stretch; such as intimate apparel and athletic wear. A special lock stitch machine is also used to create rectangular button holes. You will need to specify the width ("throw"), and the length (density), which is measured in SPI. The top and underside look similar, but are not identical.
401 is a single chainstitch. This stitch is used in combination with an overedge (see 516) to form a safety stitch in wovens, to seam and overedge in one step. Because of its excellent elasticity, it is often used in fabrics that must stretch. Used alone, it is a perfect choice for a knit or spandex seam, when the raw edges must be pressed open ( and therefore should not be serged together) such as V necks and backs. It is not quite as secure as a lockstitch, and is somewhat bulky in comparison. When choosing this stitch, specify SPI.
406 & 407 are double and triple needle bottom cover stitches. These stitches are great for hemming and coverstitching knits, and making belt loops. Most home (portable) cover stitch machines have these features. You will need to specify the needle spacing and SPI.
408 is a coverstitch with double chain stitches on the underside, comparatively the opposite of seam 406. You've probably seen this stitch connecting your pocket to the facing in jeans or chino pants. This 5-thread stitch also makes durable, flexible decorative seams in sportswear. The machines that make this stitch have a fixed width and SPI; if you are using this stitch to seam sportswear, your pattern must be cut accordingly.
503 is a simple overedge stitch, using 2 threads--one needle, and one looper. Most commonly referred to as "serging" this stitch is unsuitable for any seam or stress-bearing function. It is a good choice for finishing raw edges in unlined garments. Specify the width bite and SPI.
504 is a three-thread overedge stitch. More durable than 503, it is used to finish heavier and more fray-prone fabrics such as linen and wool. It can be used in seaming lightweight knits if little seam stress is expected. This stitch will add a bit more bulk, so is not the first choice for sheers and lightweight edge finishing. As with 504, specify width bite and SPI.
505 has the same look and configuration as 504. The difference lies in the tension: the lower looper thread is tighter, and the needle thread is looser in this stitch. Uses are the same as 504. Specify width bite and SPI.
512 & 514 are both 2-needle, 4 thread configurations. Stitch 512 presents as a mock safety stitch, providing a flexible seam and overedge finish for medium weight knits and light to medium wovens. Stitch 514 has an extended loop, which places the needle threads inside the stitching. Specify SPI.
516 is a 5-thread safety stitch perfect for seaming and finishing midweight to heavy knits and wovens. It is formed by combining a chain stitch and an overedge stitch. Plan seam allowances for the width of this stitch; and be sure the design does not require the seams to be pressed open. This stitch will make impressions on thinner fabrics, and is more expensive to process due to thread consumption. When properly applied, 516 remains as an industry standard for strong, flexible seams and durability. Specify needle spacing bite, and SPI.
Moving on to the 600 class, we have the 2, 3, and 4 needle cover stitches. These stitches add a decorative touch to binding, lap seams, and coverseams in sportswear, underwear and fleece. Specify needle spacing for 602 & 605, and SPI for all.
I hope this has been helpful in planning your designs! As always, if you have questions or need help in planning your line, contact us today!
Lastly, here's a place to download a quick-reference list of all the common stitch class types. http://www.amefird.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/Stitch-Type-Matrix.pdf
I found it helpful to print the matrix, laminate, and hang on a hook near my work area.
Another great reference tool I use often is a book called "101 Seams" by ABC Seams. While the numerical designations are different from ISO, the book does an excellent job of explaining many types of seams and what their best uses are. You can purchase or download a copy here https://abcseams.com/products/book-101-sewing-seams/
And lastly, as you prepare your costing sheets and plan for how much thread you need for your production run, these thread consumption calculating spreasheets ("anacalc") will save you time and frustration! Just plug in the information from your pattern specification sheet and it does all the hard work for you! http://www.amefird.com/technical-tools/thread-consumption/anecalc/
All the best!
If you own a serger or overlocker, I'm sure you have noticed the excess buildup of lint and dust on your machine. You should know that this lint can accumulate to the point of damaging the performance of your machine. Here's how to clean it. As you can see, when I open the machine, there are a lot of clumps of lint. With all the mechanisms in the serger, I want to make sure I don't do anything to damage it. It's important that you don't clean it with something that will remove the oil, because this serger, the Babylock Ovation, has oiled components that should only be serviced by a qualified technician. For this reason, we will use brushes to clean the blades, needle bar, and loopers, and the feed dog mechanism, and other interior areas. The cutting blade of the serger creates much more lint than a conventional sewing machine.
The first thing I do, is dust the exterior of the machine with a feather duster. I don't use this near the inside, because feathers can (and do) pop off, and you don't need the bother of picking them out from inside your machine. It does a great job around the thread cones and stands, and allows me to clean it without unthreading the machine.
You might have a little brush that came with the machine- but I also recommend getting a long flexible brush, with stiff, circular bristles on one end, and long straight bristles on the other. You'll see why in a minute. You can get these brushes at a sewing supply store, or online at Wawak.
Next, unplug the machine, and open the front and side covers.
Use the flexible brush to pick up lint in the tight places in the bottom area of the machine. The wire allows you to get deep into the machine, cleaning as you go.
Use the long bristled end in the areas where you can see clumps of lint, and pick them up with the brush.
There will still be traces of lint that you are unable to capture. To remove the remaining lint, use a vacuum with a crevice tool attachment.
WARNING! Do not use compressed air to clean your machines. This will drive the lint further into the machine, where it will continue to build up.
If your machine has a magnetic plate in the bottom area, don't forget to pull that out, and clean any debris that may have collected.
Finally, wipe the exterior of your machine with a soft cloth, and close it up. You should schedule a thorough cleaning of your serger every 3 projects, or sooner, if you notice a lint buildup. And remember to change your needles with every project! You will love the difference it makes to have a nice, sharp needle with your new project, and you will be sure you have the right size needle for the job.