Pattern Grader

The Job and What's Involved

Pattern graders are an important link between the design and manufacturing stages of clothing production. They produce scaled-up and scaled-down versions of original patterns made by a pattern cutter. This allows manufacturers to make the same garment in different sizes.

As a pattern grader, you would use two main methods for grading or resizing patterns:

  • Laying the pattern on a digitising table, tracing its outline with a light pen, taking measurements at key points so the computer can adjust the size and proportions.
  • Tracing the outline with scanning equipment, which produces extremely accurate copies that can be scaled to size.

Most of your work would be done with computer software packages, which are gradually replacing traditional hand-draughting techniques and size charts.

The final part of your job would be to check that the computerised pattern correlates to the original. You would then send a copy to the manufacturer in the correct format for their fabric-cutting machinery.

The pattern grader's job is often combined with pattern cutting. See the Pattern Cutter job guide for more details about this role.

You would normally work 37 to 39 hours a week, Monday to Friday. You could be based in a workshop, or in a part of the main factory where the clothes are made.

You may work as part of a team alongside pattern cutters and sample machinists.

Starting salaries can be between £12,000 and £15,000 a year. More experienced graders can earn around £25,000 a year.

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

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Typical employers range from designer labels to high-street fashion retailers. You will have an advantage when looking for work if you also know pattern cutting.

Jobs are advertised in the press, Jobcentre Plus and on company websites.

Education and Training

A common way into this career is to start work as a pattern grading assistant. With training and experience, you could eventually work your way up to pattern grader.

You may be able to get into this career through an Apprenticeship with a clothing manufacturer or fashion design company. To get on to a scheme, employers will usually ask for at least four GCSE's (grades A-C), including maths, English and design and technology, or equivalent qualifications.

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 www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

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

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

You could also get into pattern grading after completing 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 University and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) website.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

You would usually be trained on the job, under the supervision of experienced staff. You could work towards a number of qualifications, including:

  • NVQ in Manufacturing Sewn Products at Level 2
  • NVQ in Apparel Manufacturing Technology at Level 3
  • ABC Award in Fashion and Textiles at Level 3

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

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 grader needs:

  • An interest in fashion and trends.
  • The ability to work quickly and accurately.
  • Good maths skills for measurements and calculations.
  • An eye for detail, shape and proportion.
  • Technical drawing skills.
  • IT skills.
  • Good concentration levels.
  • Excellent practical ability.
  • Good team working skills.

Your Long Term Prospects

With experience, you could be promoted to head pattern grader.

Alternatively, you could move into the design or buying side after further training.

Get Further Information

Skillset Careers
Tel: 08080 300 900 (England and Northern Ireland)
Tel: 0808 100 8094 (Scotland)
Tel: 08000 121 815 (Wales)
www.skillset.org/careers

Skillset,
Focus Point, 21 Caledonian Road,
London N1 9GB
Website: www.skillset.org

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

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