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Manual Patterns Vs Digital Patterns

You would like to get some patterns made. You have heard about manual and digital patterns and you wan to know which one you should get made?

As you've probably guessed it's not that straight forward to answer. Manual pattern cutting is the use of paper, pencil and a ruler, and digital is the use of a computer software.

Manual pattern cutting can be done in 2 ways:

1. Flat

2. Draping

Flat pattern cutting is drafted on to paper either from scratch using specific measurements, or from a basic block.

A pattern made from a drape, is when fabric is placed/pinned on the stand (mannequin) and then it's been cut into the shape of the body, referencing your design see figure 1

Figure 1 draping

A digital pattern can be made in a few ways. You can either alter the set patterns within the software to create your desired style. You can draft the patterns from measurements in the computer or scan in basic block patterns and then alter, (if you have the necessary equipment).

So now we want to examine which is best?

With manual patterns you have the ability to get a real look and feel for the work to scale. You can use various methods as you go along, like draping and toiling if there is a specific structure or detail that is a little less unconventional.

Sometimes we may start with a basic block that we have in our collection to get the base structure. We may even toile the garment of that basic block and then put it on the stand, and start the draping process from there.

Other times we may just alter a basic block to get shape, or we start by draping.

The most important thing is that you start in the right way and manual pattern cutting allows you the flexibility to incorporate various different methods.

We have also found that with manual pattern cutting, ideas can be created with more fluidity and less rigidity.

With digital pattern cutting, if you have a database of great patterns loaded you can select one to start working from. You do have to be quite adept at understanding how scale translates from the computer to hardcopy, but we think that if you are working with quite simple shapes the computer is fine.

The great thing about working on the computer is that rectifying mistakes is very fast and the process can be generally quicker. With digital pattern cutting you have the ability to grade your patterns right there and then ready for printing. (We will explain grading in more detail in another post.)

What we prefer?

We can see the potential in the continuous development of computer aided design (CAD) and the future, and we believe that with more development will come more intuitive design development. With regards to the computer software that we have tried and tested we do not think that they are able to take over manual pattern cutting for more complex, avant-garde garments, and so currently we prefer manual pattern cutting.

I thought overseas factories use digital patterns only, I'm confused...?

A lot of overseas factories do request that brands provide a digital file, so that they can print it off in their factory. However, this does not mean that your patterns have to made by computer.

You can make your patterns manually and once fished you can scan them into a computer, grade them and then send the file to the factory. Storing your file digitally also allows for safe keeping and further referencing, as well as saving space.

What we advise?

If you find a fashion studio or pattern cutter that works only with digital patterns, ask to see what they have completed previously to get an idea of how proficient they are. If your design is simple (this can be quite subjective) a digital pattern cutter may be for you.

However, if your design is more complex we advise that you seek the help of a manual pattern cutter, unless you are certain a digital pattern cutter can help.

Let us know your experienced comment below.

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