Cutters lay out and cut fabric to make clothing and soft furnishings.
Cutters usually earn
$18-$26 per hour
Source: NZ Fashion Tech and Competenz, 2017.
Pay for cutters varies depending on experience and the type of work they do.
- Assistant cutters usually earn about $18 an hour.
- Cutters with two to five years of experience usually earn between $19 and $24 an hour.
- Cutters with managerial responsibilities can earn up to $26 an hour.
Some cutters are also paid performance bonuses.
Source: New Zealand Fashion Tech and Competenz, 2017.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Cutters may do some or all of the following:
- check pattern designs and instructions online
- lay out patterns on fabric
- interpret instructions from patternmakers, designers and markers
- cut fabric by hand with electric hand-held cutting machines
- supervise computerised cutting machines
- make detailed notes on how much much fabric is used
- check how much fabric is in storage
- advise technicians and managers on how much fabric to order
- bundle pieces of fabric together and store them in order of size and colour.
Skills and knowledge
Cutters need to have knowledge of:
- fabric types and garment construction
- sewing codes and symbols
- different cutting equipment and methods
- how to operate cutting machines
- basic computing skills to program cutting machines and check designs online.
- usually work regular business hours, but may sometimes work overtime
- work in factories and workrooms, though self-employed cutters may work from home
- work in conditions that may be dusty and noisy.
What's the job really like?
What does cutting actually involve?
"I lay out 60 to 100 sheets of fabric on the table then I put a large bit of paper on top that has all the pattern pieces marked out on it. Then I put some pins in to hold the paper down, and follow the marks with the cutter."
Is that as easy as it sounds?
"You can easily twist the fabric or mark it off-grain. Like if you are working with check material, you have to make sure the check is exactly square because if you do it wrong, the garment pieces might not match up.
"Also if you are cutting something like silk, it is very floaty and moves around, whereas something like cotton just sticks to itself and stays there – it’s like cutting paper.
"As you get more experience you start to understand cloth and how it works – it becomes automatic."
Any advice for aspiring cutters?
"Stay focused. If you are going to concentrate on cutting then you really have to know what you are doing, and you have to be quite dedicated."
There are no specific entry requirements to become a cutter. However, most employers prefer to hire people with qualifications.
You can become qualified by completing either of the following:
- New Zealand Certificate in Fashion Technology (Level 3) through an apprenticeship with Competenz.
- New Zealand Certificate in Fashion Technology (Level 3) or similar at a technical institute.
- Competenz website - information on fashion apprenticeships
- NZ Fashion Tech website - information on the Certificate in Fashion Technology
- Southern Institute of Technology website - information on the Certificate in Fashion Technology
A minimum of three years of secondary education is recommended. Useful subjects include design and visual communication (graphics), digital technologies, maths and processing technologies.
Additional requirements for specialist roles:
Becoming a sample cutter
To become a sample cutter you must complete the New Zealand Diploma in Fashion Technology (Level 5).
- Competenz website - information on fashion apprenticeships
- Eastern Institute of Technology website - information on the Diploma in Fashion Technology
- NZ Fashion Tech website - information on the Diploma in Fashion Technology
- Southern Institute of Technology website - information on the Diploma in Fashion Technology
Cutters need to be:
- quick and neat
- accurate, with an eye for detail
- able to follow instructions
- able to work well under pressure
- good at maths so they can measure and make calculations
- good problem-solvers.
You need to be patient because if you cut something out wrong then you might have 60 wrong garment pieces and a very annoyed designer. So you have to make sure that you lay out the fabric right and take your time with the cutting.
Useful experience for cutters includes:
- community or night courses in dressmaking
- dressmaking or tailoring
- work in a clothing factory or workroom.
Cutters need to have good eyesight (with or without corrective lenses), normal colour vision, good hand-eye co-ordination and steady hands. Physical strength is an advantage for lifting heavy rolls of fabric.
Find out more about training
- 0800 526 1800 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.competenz.org.nz
- Eastern Institute of Technology(EIT)
- 0800 22 55 348 - www.eit.ac.nz
- NZ FashionTech
- 0800 800 300 - email@example.com - www.nzfashiontech.ac.nz
- Southern Institute of Technology(SIT)
- 0800 86 78 839 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.sit.ac.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Cutter job numbers falling
About 300 cutters work in New Zealand. However, this number has dropped by 50% since 2007, and this trend is expected to continue. This is due to:
- increasing use of computerised cutting machines
- New Zealand businesses using overseas cutters to save on costs.
Although the number of cutters is falling, not enough people are training in this area. This means that when cutters leave the industry, employers find it difficult to replace them.
Chances best for cutters with a variety of skills
As fashion businesses are now generally smaller, cutters who have a range of skills, such as in different types of fabric, marking and patternmaking, are more likely to be hired.
Most cutter jobs not advertised
If you are interested in getting work as a cutter, it's best to approach companies yourself, as over half of new positions in the industry are not advertised.
Types of employers varied
Cutters may work for:
- small fashion houses
- large clothing manufacturers
- fashion retailers
- soft-furnishing manufacturers
- tent and canvas manufacturers
- furniture and curtain shops
- tailors and dressmakers.
Many cutters are self-employed, contracting their services out to a range of clients.
- Edmunds, S, 'New Zealand Designers Carve Out Niche to Take on Fast Fashion', 16 April 2017, (www.stuff.co.nz).
- Marshall-Smith, V, academic director, NZ Institute of Fashion Technology Ltd, Careers Directorate – Tertiary Education Commission interview, November 2017.
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, 'Occupation Outlook – Tailors and Patternmakers', accessed October 2017, (www.mbie.govt.nz).
- New Zealand Apparel, 'Is NZ-Made Dead?', 2 August 2017, (www.apparelmagazine.co.nz).
- NZ Fashion Tech, 'Changing Times', accessed October 2017, (www.nzfashiontech.ac.nz).
- NZ Fashion Tech, 'Gaining Employment', accessed October 2017, (www.nzfashiontech.ac.nz).
- NZ Fashion Tech, 'Industry Opportunities', accessed October 2017, (www.nzfashiontech.ac.nz).
- Ryan, H, 'Fashion Industry's Moment to Shine', NZ Herald, 26 August 2017, (www.nzherald.co.nz).
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
With further training, cutters may progress to become cutting room managers, garment technicians, patternmakers or designers.
Cutters can specialise in a number of roles, including:
- Leather Pattern Cutter
- Leather pattern cutters cut leather to make into clothing.
- Sample Cutter
- Sample cutters cut fabric to be made into sample designs for designers and clients.
Cutters may also specialise in items such as:
- curtains and upholstery (coverings for vehicle seats and furniture such as sofas)
- canvas (tents, awnings).
Last updated 27 November 2019