Ringa Waitohu Kākahu
Patternmakers turn clothing designs into patterns.
New patternmakers usually earn
$17-$18 per hour
Experienced patternmakers usually earn
$18-$36 per hour
Source: NZ Fashion Tech and Competenz, 2017.
Pay for patternmakers varies depending on experience.
- New patternmakers usually earn between minimum wage and $18 an hour.
- Mid-level patternmakers can earn between $18 and $25 an hour.
- Senior patternmakers with more than 10 years' experience can earn up to $36 an hour.
Source: New Zealand Fashion Tech and Competenz, 2017.
- Employment New Zealand - information about minimum pay rates
- PAYE.net.nz website - use this calculator to convert pay and salary information
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Patternmakers may do some or all of the following:
- create pattern pieces by hand or on computer
- cut out the pattern by hand or print out a copy using a computer
- write garment-sewing instructions
- help with fitting sample garments
- adapt patterns for different sizes (grading).
Skills and knowledge
Clothing pattern makers need to have knowledge of:
- patternmaking, and sewing codes and symbols
- different sewing equipment and methods
- different fabrics and textiles
- body shapes
- fashion design techniques
- computer-aided design (CAD) software.
- usually work regular business hours
- work in factories and workrooms
- work in conditions that can be noisy.
What's the job really like?
Any advice for aspiring patternmakers?
"You need to find what excites you about fashion. You need that passion because fashion's a very hard industry to be in. I've tried to walk away from it but I can't. Fashion has got into my bloodstream, and now I'm a bit of an adrenaline junkie and I enjoy the buzz of fashion."
What's the main role of a patternmaker?
"Knowing and understanding what the designer is trying to do is huge because you're trying to interpret a flat drawing. Just because I'm right for this company and this designer doesn't mean I'd be right for another designer. You've got to have that rapport or it won't work.
"You're also always thinking about the best way to put a garment together from a construction point of view, and how it will work when the garment goes into production."
What's the most satisfying part?
"For me, the ultimate buzz is when we get the garments made and they're out in the stores and people start ringing and saying 'Hey it fits beautifully, it looks beautiful, and I want more.'"
Ava checks out a career in fashion with NZ Fashion Tech - 7.26 mins.
Ava: Hi, I’m Ava, I’m in Year 12 at St Mary's College and I’m interested in a career in fashion with New Zealand Fashion Tech.
Clinton: We are all surrounded by fashion. The creativity that surrounds the way we dress as an individual, culture or country, is what makes us unique.
Clinton: Ava is going to learn about a career in the fashion industry with New Zealand’s leading educator in fashion and sewn products, New Zealand Fashion Tech.
Clinton: She’s going to visit campuses in Wellington and Auckland, and then get a taste of work experience with two leading fashion brands.
Kevin: It’s a creative industry, but you’ve got to be really practical as well – it’s a good balance. It’s always changing, it’s always interesting. There’s nothing ever the same, it’s a vital industry and it’s actually, for all the look of it that it’s a glamorous industry, it’s pretty cut-throat and it’s a busy industry.
Clinton: Ava has headed first to the New Zealand Fashion Tech campus in Wellington. Tutor Verena Tilson-Scoble is on hand to show her round.
Verena: I’m Verena, nice to meet you.
Ava: Nice to meet you too.
Verena: Let’s get started!
Clinton: Both Auckland and Wellington offer three programmes – there’s garment technology, pattern design, and then an advanced diploma.
Ava: So what happens in this room here?
Verena: This is our garment technology class, and this is our first class that the students come to and they learn how to sew on the industrial machinery, so they learn to sew accurately and to time.
Ava: And roughly how long does it take to get the knack of, or pick up the industrial sewing machine?
Verena: Everybody is different! It depends on the person.
Clinton: All instruction is geared to what the fashion industry requires – a thorough knowledge of garment construction, and good basic sewing skills that can be confidently undertaken at speed.
Clinton: Here in Wellington Miriam Gibson is the garment technology course tutor.
Miriam: Keep it controlled on the straight part, don’t lose the plot on the straight part, hand in close to the back tack.
Clinton: First there’s a rundown on personal safety.
Miriam: So the first thing is you just need to tuck your necklace in, because we need to get rid of anything dangly.
Clinton: Long hair is a big no-no, and accurate operation of machine pedals is important, so flat shoes are a must too.
Clinton: First Ava’s introduced to an industrial sewing machine.
Miriam: So what happened is we ran out of bobbin thread – and as you can see my bobbin is empty, so I need to change that. So I’ve already wound our spare bobbin over here.
Miriam: On the course it’s very hands-on. Most people that come to us come because they love to make things, they’re very tactile, they love to do things, so we keep the class lessons, as we call them, to a minimum – mostly it’s all about learning by doing. It’s more of a workroom environment.
Clinton: Well, no problems for Ava here.
Miriam: There you go, you did really well!
Ava: Thank you!
Miriam: Some of the things that the students do, in the first part of the class we’re still getting to know each other, is they’ll do a weaving project where they’ll weave a basket and they’ll do a knitting project where they knit this teddy, so a lot of them haven’t done this before, and while they sort of think that it’s fun and its social and it’s creative, what the students are actually learning is how woven fabrics and knitted fabrics are constructed.
Clinton: Industrial machines run about five times faster than domestic machines, so there’s quite a learning curve here.
Miriam: That’s great, now just a little jiggle…jiggle jiggle…just to get you started. It doesn’t matter if you stop a little bit – you don’t want to start off with a surge.
Miriam: That’s really good…that’s good…can you feel that?
Miriam: Yeah, then we bring this hand down to here as you move, so it’s like a spider walking, it’s like – you know those little robots that you get, and their feet go creak, creak, creak, like that?
Miriam: It’s like that OK? That’s what you’re going to be like but it’s going to come towards you.
Ava: Righto! Alright!
Miriam: Speed is very important so we have to be constantly trying to strike that balance between quality and time.
Clinton: There is also an introduction to the spec sheet, the all-important document which records the information about a garment. Measurements, quantities, work minutes required, costs, all relevant facts required to produce a garment commercially.
Miriam: So what’s happening is all the students are working through their production workbook, which has all the exercise in it that you need to cover in CGT. They’re all at different stages, so you can see we’ve got Saskia over here working on her little mini T-shirts, and she’s going to be doing 40 of those, and we do 40 so you can have a lot of practice and get the repetition you really learn the exercise well.
Kevin: We teach our students communication, they work in teams, they learn to develop their own learning styles, recognise their learning styles and develop other learning styles. We teach them how to present ideas clearly and concisely across to other people as well as the technical skills so they’re sort of learning all aspects of their development and the most successful students come from the fact that we have an absolute maximum of students for each tutor in a class.
Miriam: OK, so once you’ve learnt all the basic operations, we put them together into garment construction. So once you’ve finished your overlocking, you’re going to make a T-shirt like this, you’ll learn how to put the rib on and finish that off. You’re going to make a shirt so each garment shows you how we can use different techniques.
Miriam: So this is the pattern-designing area, which is our second course and the students learn how to draft patterns, from the start, they also grade everything they make as well, as well as spec sheet and they get to sew everything as well.
Clinton: Doula Matheos is tutor for the Pattern Design Certificate course.
Doula: So the first job you’re going to do is to make a cover for your set-square.
Clinton: And Ava’s going to use a pattern that she’s drawn up to do that.
Clinton: The shape is accurately measured out and then drawn…
Clinton: …then this first draft is transferred to the much stronger pattern card using pinpricks as markers…
Clinton: …and the pattern sheet can then be drawn and cut.
Kevin: The second programme certificate of pattern design is teaching all the skills involved for making patterns for men’s, women’s and children’s patterning, because each of those have different rules, and then all of the design adaptations that are possible, so making a straight skirt into a flared one or a flounced one or gores or pleats or whatever.
Doula: OK, so now we’re going to chalk around and cut it out…
Doula: …but you’re not going to be using scissors today, you’re going to be using this thing here.
Clinton: Cutters like this are fast and powerful, they have to be used with steel mesh gloves.
Doula: Very nice…well done.
Ava: It’s quite fun!
Kevin: The exciting thing about the fashion industry is that there are different jobs that we’ve sort of managed to itemise at the moment. It’s such a diverse industry, because throughout all the glamour and the shoots and the styling and that sort of presentation, backed up with that is the fact that the deadline is next Friday and if this range isn’t prepared in time and gotten to the customer by next Friday, they’re going to cancel that order.
Verena: How’s it been going?
Ava: Really good! It’s been really interesting – I’ve learnt so much.
Verena: We’ve got more to show you up at our Auckland Campus.
To become a patternmaker you need to have a New Zealand Diploma in Fashion Technology (Level 5) or equivalent. You can learn to become a patternmaker through a course or through a Competenz apprenticeship.
- Eastern Institute of Technology (EIT) website - information on the Diploma in Fashion Technology
- Competenz website - information on fashion apprenticeships
- NZ Fashion Tech website - information on the Diploma in Fashion Technology
- Southern Institute of Technology - information on the Diploma 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.
Patternmakers 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.
Useful experience for patternmakers includes:
- community or night courses in dressmaking
- dressmaking or tailoring
- drawing or design work
- work in a clothing factory or workroom.
Patternmakers need to have good eyesight (with or without corrective lenses), normal colour vision, good hand-eye co-ordination and steady hands. You also need to be comfortable standing for long periods.
Find out more about training
- 0800 526 1800 - email@example.com - www.competenz.org.nz
- Eastern Institute of Technology(EIT)
- 0800 22 55 348 - www.eit.ac.nz
- NZ FashionTech
- 0800 800 300 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.nzfashiontech.ac.nz
- Southern Institute of Technology(SIT)
- 0800 86 78 839 - email@example.com - www.sit.ac.nz
Check out related courses
What are the chances of getting a job?
Patternmaker job numbers falling
About 50 patternmakers work in New Zealand. This number has dropped by 50% since 2007, and this trend is expected to continue. This is due to:
- increasing use of computerised patternmaking machines
- New Zealand businesses using overseas patternmakers to save on costs.
Although the number of patternmakers is falling, not enough people are training in this area. This means that when patternmakers leave the industry, employers find it difficult to replace them.
Chances best for qualified patternmakers
Most employers prefer to take on patternmakers with tertiary training. However, some employers will train people working in other areas of the industry, such as sewing machinists, if they show initiative and ability.
Most patternmaker jobs not advertised
If you are interested in getting work as a patternmaker, it's best to approach companies yourself, as over half of new positions in the industry are not advertised.
Types of employers varied
Patternmakers may work for:
- small fashion houses
- large clothing manufacturers
- fashion retailers
- tailors and dressmakers.
Many pattern makers 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, patternmakers may become senior patternmakers, product developers or clothing designers. They may also become self-employed.
Patternmakers can specialise in a number of roles, including:
- Marker Maker
- Marker makers transfer graded patterns to thick paper, with sewing codes.
- Pattern Grader
- Pattern graders put patterns into a range of sizes.
Last updated 10 April 2018