Clothing Patternmaker

The main function of clothing patternmakers is to translate the fashion designers’ creations into patterns. These patterns are the starting point of a chain of activities leading to the manufacture of clothing.

Patternmakers are a vital part of the fashion and manufacturing industries.  They convert fashion and clothing designs into workable patterns by breaking them down into flat portions that may be transferred onto fabric. 

Design specifications are discussed with the designers, and their original models of the garments converted into patterns of separate parts that can be laid out on a length of fabric.  They examine sketches, sample articles and design specifications to determine the quantities, shapes and sizes of the pattern parts, and to determine the amount of material or fabric that will be needed to make a product.  First, an initial working sketch is made from the design. Patterns are created either free-hand or with computer-aided drafting software.  Patternmakers use their knowledge of fabrics, and their sewing skills and ability to alter garments to draft a pattern that replicates a design concept. They determine the best layout of pattern pieces to minimise the waste of material, and mark the fabric accordingly.  

After the pattern has been sketched and the specifications outlined, a sample garment is made up. A master pattern is then prepared for each size within a range of garment sizes, using charts, drafting instruments, computers and grading devices.  Samples and finished patterns are marked with information such as garment size, section, style, identification and sewing instructions.  Eventually a patternmaker's pattern is used by a clothing manufacturer to mass produce the garment for the clothing retailers. 

With education and experience, patternmakers could advance to careers as fashion designers, manufacturing designers and fit designers.

Personal Requirements

  • interest in fashion
  • eye for design, line, colour and detail
  • able to work accurately
  • numerical ability
  • able to work quickly and meticulously under pressure

How to Enter

School Subjects

  • Grade 10 Certificate.
  • National Senior Certificate for the university of technology courses

What to Study

Diploma N.Dip: Fashion Design or Clothing Production is offered by NMMU, WSU, CPUT, CUT, TUT, UJ, DUT, VUT, and Maluti, Northlink, Port Elizabeth and Flavius Mareka TVET Colleges. DUT and TUT also offer a BTech in Fashion and Textile Design.

Patternmaker courses are offered at Intec.

The Clothing Industry Training Board offers 1 year, part-time, in-service training courses in pattern- making.


  • clothing factories
  • manufacturing boutiques

Further Information

Textile Federation 
40 Seventh Avenue
Edenvale, 1609
Tel: (011) 454-2342

Getting Started

  • try to obtain vacation or part-time work in a clothing factory
  • arrange to speak to a clothing patternmaker about this type of career

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

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