In my previous blog entry on this subject I discussed combining sizes to reduce the overall number of sizes produced. As I have been developing patterns for my new line of dresses, Prairie Roses, I have attempted to practice what I preach.
I have been doing all of the pattern making and grading for my new dress line entirely by hand. I do use CAD, but only for my employer who actually owns the system. I try to keep everything separate so there are no ethical questions (My patterns have different shaping and grading anyway). Also, I want to experience what most new designers experience since so few DE's can afford a CAD system. It takes soooo much time to do it all by hand, especially the grading. I am getting faster on the grading, but it is very time consuming. I have been using Jack Handford's book on grading and my graded patterns have turned out really well. The grade rules are beautiful - there is no other way to describe it. They are nice and consistent and all of the pattern measurements fall into an acceptable range.
My patterns fall into the infant-toddler size range and I have chosen to combine the 24M and 2T. I also added a 9 mo size, which is considered a half size and not usually included. I decided to let customers tell me whether they want a 9 mo or not with sales. It isn't that big of a deal to split the grade between the 6 mo and 12 mo. If it doesn't sell, it is easy enough to drop it. Anyway, my sizes break down like this.
3 - 6 - 9 - 12 - 18
24M/2T - 3T - 4T
You will notice I combined the 24M with the toddler group. This means my 24M/2T patterns will be based on grading from the 3T. I decided a 24M child has shaping more closely related to toddlers than infants.
In my infant grouping, the sample/base size turns into the 9M. Since the 9M is something I may not keep around, it doesn't make sense to sample in that size. I prefer to use a 12M as a sample size. If you move the 24M back up to the infant grouping and drop the 9M, then the 12M is the right sample size. Also, it is easier to find a more willing 12M child model than younger.
Now here is a dirty little secret in the childrenswear industry. Many childrenswear companies actually sample in the smallest size, 3M. This is because they end up making A LOT of samples and the samples are made from actual production fabric, not muslin. Sampling in the smallest size saves fabric. The dress form I made is actually a 3M, so that is my sample size too. It causes problems with drafting first patterns and grading. As soon as I can afford it, I will be buying a 12M form and sampling in that size.