Pattern Cutter

The Job and What's Involved

As a pattern cutter you would act as a link between the design and manufacturing stages in clothing production. You would create pattern templates from working drawings produced by a fashion designer, and work with machinists to make up samples.

You would use three different methods to create patterns:

  • Draping pieces of material over a dummy, shaping and pinning them around the 'body' until they fit correctly, then cutting out a pattern based on the pieces.
  • Altering and shaping flat, standard pattern 'blocks' into a style.
  • Modifying non-standard pattern 'bases' taken from the company's pattern library.

You might use computer design programs to make up some patterns, as well as traditional hand-drawing methods. Once you have the initial pattern, you would work closely with the in-house sample machinist or manufacturer to make up an example garment.

You would then work with designers and garment technologists to make any further adjustments or alterations to produce the final pattern. This is then passed to the pattern grader to resize as required before production begins.

You would work 37 to 40 hours a week, Monday to Friday, with the possibility of overtime. You could be based in a studio, workshop or design area set aside in a factory.

In a larger company you might work alongside pattern graders and sample machinists.

Starting salaries can be from £12,000 a year.
Experienced cutters can earn around £25,000 a year.

Multi-skilled cutters and graders working for specialist or luxury clothing companies may earn more.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Typical employers range from exclusive designer and couture houses to larger manufacturers or fashion design houses, supplying high street clothing chain stores.

Jobs are advertised through local and national press, Jobcentre Plus, Directgov (Jobseekers page), Drapers Jobs and on clothing company websites.

Education and Training

You could look for work as a pattern cutter after taking relevant training, for example:

  • ABC Certificate/Diploma in Fashion and Textiles (Pattern Cutting) levels 2 and 3.
  • City & Guilds Award in Creative Techniques in Fashion – Pattern Cutting levels 2 and 3

You could also get into this career after completing a higher level course, such as a foundation degree, BTEC HND or degree in clothing technology and production. The following universities also offer fashion design courses that will teach you the key technical skills required.

Manchester Metropolitan University
London College of Fashion
De Montfort University, Leicester
Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh
University of Manchester
Northumbria University, Newcastle

To search for foundation degrees, HND's and degrees, see the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) website.

You may be able to find an Apprenticeship with a clothing manufacturer or fashion design company. The range of Apprenticeships available in your area will depend on the local jobs market and the types of skills employers need from their workers.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work, Careers Wales; and for Northern Ireland contact

You would be expected to have good eyesight and normal colour vision for matching threads to fabrics.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Once you start working, you could take various on-the-job qualifications, including:

  • NVQ in Manufacturing Sewn Products at Level 2.
  • NVQ in Apparel Manufacturing Technology at Level 3.

The London College of Fashion offers part-time and intensive courses in subjects like pattern cutting, which may be suitable for fashion graduates looking to improve their skills.

The Textile Institute is a professional body that represents the clothing and apparel industry. They offer a range of professional qualifications, at Fellowship, Associateship and Licentiateship level.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A pattern cutter needs:

  • An interest in fashion and trends.
  • The ability to interpret a designer's drawings.
  • Good team working skills.
  • The ability to work quickly and accurately.
  • Good maths skills for measurements and calculations.
  • The ability to assess first samples.
  • An eye for detail, shape and proportion.
  • Technical drawing skills (computer and hand).
  • Good concentration levels.

Your Long Term Prospects

With experience, you could progress to head pattern cutter or grader or, with further training, fashion designer or buyer.

Get Further Information

Skillset Careers
Tel: 08080 300 900 (England and Northern Ireland)
Tel: 0808 100 8094 (Scotland)
Tel: 08000 121 815 (Wales)

Focus Point, 21 Caledonian Road,
London N1 9GB

The Textile Institute,
1st Floor, St James's Buildings,
Oxford Street, Manchester M1 6FQ
Tel: 0161 237 1188

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