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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
To search for foundation degrees, HND's and degrees, see the University and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) website.
You would usually be trained on the job, under the supervision of experienced staff. You could work towards a number of qualifications, including:
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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A pattern grader needs:
With experience, you could be promoted to head pattern grader.
Alternatively, you could move into the design or buying side after further training.
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
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.