What Does A Pattern Maker Do?

A pattern maker is like an architect of fashion.

It’s their job to draw up a plan aka the pattern from a 2-dimensional flat sketch or replicate the pattern of an already existing garment.

This task can be done by hand  or via computer aided design software.

What’s that?

Making patterns doesn’t sound as interesting as being a fashion designer?

Well, here are a few quick facts for you to consider before you completely write this path off…

  • How much does a pattern maker make? A healthy average of $62,999 in United States. That’s about $5,250 a month! Not bad…
  • How do you become a pattern maker? 2-year degrees aka associate degrees and certificates are available at fashion schools.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Consider pattern making as an easier way into the fashion industry and transfer to any other department - like fashion design -  from there.

But enough from me. Let’s talk to a real pattern maker!

Michele Hornberger Pattern MakerMichele Hornberger Pattern Maker

Michele Hornberger

Education/background: FIT, ASS, Pattern making 1985 to 1987
Current: Freelance Gerber Pattern Maker 33+ years

How Did You Get Into A Career As A Pattern Maker?

I was very lucky when I started my career in 1987.  Manufacturing was thriving in the US and I was exposed to all aspects of the manufacturing process… 

Working out of a sewing room. Actually, grading sizes by hand using the grading tabletop machine.  Watching the marker makers trace the patterns onto the paper.  Seeing fabric being spread on the table 5”- 12” high to cut the garments for production. 

That experience alone helped me understand manufacturing and how I contribute to the process today.

You’re A Freelancer. Was It A Conscious Decision To Go Into Business Yourself?

I don’t consider myself a freelancer. I have a pattern service.I provide a business to business working relationship with all my clients no matter if they are start-ups or an existing business needing any of my services.

It wasn’t until I had purchased the Gerber software and a plotter that I realized I could be of service to many clients all over the world.

So, Do You Work From Home As A Pattern Maker?

Yes. I have a beautiful home office with 4 dress forms, 2 computers and a plotter.  I also have a sewing room for small projects that need samples mockup sewn.

How Do You Collaborate With Other Team Members?

I’ll have an initial phone chat with my clients about what they’re looking to do.  Sometimes, we have facetime calls when needed but I also meet with them in person.

What’s A Typical Day In The Life Of Pattern Maker?

I get up and get ready for work around 8 and make coffee.  I go into my home office and check my calendar to see what I must complete for the day.  I do break for lunch and only take calls if they're scheduled. I try not to be distracted so the client I'm working with gets my full attention.

Michele Hornberger Pattern Maker Home OfficeMichele Hornberger's Pattern Making Home Office

Do Clients Often Reach Out To You Or You To Them?

I self-promote every day.  I send a personal message to every single person that I connect with via LinkedIn. I’d say that I generate my clientele through networking and word of mouth.

Let’s Talk About The Gerber System. Is It A Must For New Pattern Makers To Learn?

The Gerber system is software that is downloaded to your computer and it runs off of a key. You can send pattern files immediately via email all over the world. I absolutely think it’s a must for a new pattern maker to learn. It is costly, but well worth it.

Touching On A Burning Issue In The Industry. What’s Your Take On Sustainable Fabrics?

I personally, haven’t worked - or even seen - sustainable fabrics.  I’m apprehensive about them.  I don’t know if the process of using plant-based fabrics or recycling goods is better than land fill.  I do know the recycled paper process is more harm than good to the environment.

You Specialize In Swimwear. When Did You Start To See The Shift In Body Positivity?

I’d say the Plus size business really started ramping up between 2008-2012 in the swimwear industry for me.

How Important Is It To Have A Niche As A Pattern Maker?

You have to do what you have a passion for.  Become efficient at one thing.  It could be knits, jackets, or swim.  Just know that inside and out.  Become the expert at one specific thing.  Don’t be a jack of all trades.

What Advice Would You Have For Those Starting Out As Pattern Makers?

Find yourself a mentor and just learn from your mistakes.  Do not fake it until you make it.  Ask questions, pay attention to details & listen.

What Top 3 Skills Should Every Pattern Maker Develop?

  1. You should focus on efficiency. 
  2. Paying attention to details. 
  3. Having the best communication with your designer is the key.

What Are Some Of The Challenges Of Being A Pattern Maker?

Lack of communication.  It always waists time and money when you don’t have proper information.  Never assume anything.  When in doubt, say something.