A Road Map to Grading and Markers
Size grading and marker creation. While they certainly aren’t as glamorous as say, design or sampling, or even fabric sourcing, they can make or break a collection. They are instrumental in terms of proper fit, customer satisfaction, and also in cost savings. What’s more, they need to be precise. We hate to break it to you, but this is one of those times when “good enough” is definitely not enough.
In addition, they are a necessary and important step in the bulk production process of your collection. You can’t bypass the process, and you can’t do production without them.
Some manufacturers will do the size grading and create the markers for your production. To keep the manufacturing process simple, we advise you to find a manufacturer that will do it for you in the course of your production process. Otherwise, you’ll have to find a separate vendor to do size grading and create production markers for you, which will add time – and likely some expense – to your project.
One more thing before we dive in. This is a somewhat technical article, and while we’ll try to keep it simple, there might be a few industry terms that require clarification. We’ve included a glossary of these terms at the end of the article.
Size Grading Versus Fit: How They Differ
Before we dive into the particulars of grading and marker creation, this article wouldn’t be complete without a discussion about fit. Fit will inform your grading therefore we’d like to just touch on it here.
Your pattern maker will make your patterns in a “base size.” And all your samples will be sewn from this base size pattern. So to be clear here, your samples will not come in multiple sizes, unless you inform your pattern maker otherwise. Word to the wise, please do so before your samples are sewn, not after!
Then there is “fit.” Fit is not the same thing as size. But it’s another vitally important discussion to have with your pattern maker.
Fit is subjective territory. Do you want a particular style to be oversized? Do you want it to have a classic fit? Body-con fit? Have this discussion with your pattern maker before the first fit sample is sewn. Be as specific as possible so that your garments have the fit you envision.
As an aside, it’s important to note that it is common in the industry for base patterns to be created in a size small for women, and a size medium or large for men. However, this is entirely up to you. Only you can decide what will give the best representation of your collection.
Grade Rules: What Are They Exactly?
“Grading” is the process of converting your base pattern into the different sizes you have identified for each particular style. You should have a discussion with your pattern maker about the “grade rule” for your collection. Once that is determined, you’ll stick with this rule for all the styles in your collection.
Why is this important, you ask? Because in order to have a successful collection, consistency is everything! Once you have an established customer base, you don’t want to surprise them with inconsistent sizing. In other words, if they purchase a shirt from you and then decide to purchase a dress, these two items should have the same general fit. Pay attention at this point, and ask a lot of questions if your manufacturing partner is doing the grading for you.
It’s worth mentioning that there is something called “industry-standard” size grading. Many development and production houses use the sizing charts that come in the pattern grading book they’ve chosen as their house reference and will grade accordingly.
You can also buy size and measurement guides for practically every apparel category as a product in and of itself. The standard reference house for technical specifications of all industries (in the US) is known as ASTM, the American Society for Testing and Materials. If you’re interested, you can purchase industry standard sizing charts directly from their website.
As you might guess, consistency in sizing is even more important when selling your collection online. Obviously your customer will not have the opportunity to try things on, and they will order based on garments they may already own from your collection. Make it easy for your customers to buy from you (and eliminate the dreaded returned item); just keep your grading consistent!
Your grade rule is only one step in verifying that the grading is consistent. The other step is checking a nested graded pattern. A nested graded pattern shows the patterns for each size stacked together.
If you don’t understand grading well enough to review the graded nest yourself, your pattern maker will be able to assist you. Don’t feel like you need to wade through pattern grading alone. Your development and manufacturing partner goes through this process every single day, and will guide you through.
Let’s Save Some Money: Marker Math
A marker is typically created via an industry-standard computer program and then printed on plotter paper. It’s where all the necessary pattern pieces for all sizes of a particular garment are laid out almost like a jigsaw puzzle. One reason for the marker is that the cutter will need to place it onto the fabric layer to clearly see the right direction for cutting.
But the main reason to make a marker is to reduce fabric wastage which will ultimately save you money in the long run.
Look at it this way, let’s say during the sampling process, you end up wasting ¼ yard of fabric (not unusual, at all!) per sample. And let’s assume your fabric costs $12 a yard. That means you had a loss of $3.00 when sewing the garment as a sample. Not a huge deal, right?
Now extrapolate that same example into your bulk production, where you might be making upwards of 200 units of a style. If you lose that same ¼ yard ($3.00) per unit, you have now lost $600. And, to bring our example into even clearer focus, if this were to happen with every style in your 12-piece collection, you’ve lost $7,200.
If that example doesn’t clarify the need for an expert marker, nothing will!
Expert grading and marker creation, while not very glamorous, are an integral part of clothing production. Your two takeaways from this discussion should be:
- Consistency in sizing will give your customers confidence when re-ordering from you
- Expert markers will save you money on fabric consumption
If this article left you with even more questions, that’s not a surprise. If you’d like to discuss the development or production of your collection in specifics, we’re here to answer any questions you may have. Feel free to reach out to us at https://tegintl.com/get-in-touch/ or call us at 800-916-0910. We’ll talk.
Bulk Production. Bulk production is the production of a product in bulk units.
Grade Rule. A designated amount by which the pattern is made larger or smaller at any given point in order to make it fit a range of sizes.
Production Markers and Marker Creation. Pattern pieces placed onto the marker paper, indicating the grain of the material and ensuring each piece is in the best position to optimize the use of materials.
Production-Ready Patterns. Paper (or digital) pattern that is completely prepared for the pre-production process. It should include all grain lines, notches, darts, and placement instructions. Also should include a pattern card.
Size Grading. The process of taking the initial base pattern and calculating the full range of sized patterns for production.
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