How sample making differs from home sewing

Treadle sewing machines are usually all that are needed to make high-end clothing.
Most high-end clothing can be made on a treadle sewing machine.

Home-sewing sewing as described in pattern packets and home-sewing instruction books.
Sample making sewing done by a sample maker who makes the entire garment using industrial procedures.

Related posts:

Why home sewing methods lag behind industrial methods.
How modern industrial sewing methods were developed.
Differences between how the industry produces high-end and mass-produced clothing. 


Home-sewing disadvantage The home sewer is making one garment. The sample maker is making a sample, the first of which, even with the considerable preparations listed below, may not be as desired. In the industry the first garment from a new style pattern is often discarded, as it is often considered no more than a test.
The home sewer hopes to have the one garment made from her pattern to be both wearable and successful. She expects far more from herself than do the professionals when making a first garment from a new pattern.

Sample making advantage  – The sample maker has the advantage of working with the design room team made up of pattern maker(s), designer(s), and fit model(s). In the industry mistakes are expected when a new pattern is being tested and sewn.

Very attractive pattern styles are available from the home sewing pattern companies.
Very attractive pattern styles are available from the home sewing pattern companies. Most commercial patterns adhere to the companies’ grade rules.

Home sewing: The style is chosen from a pattern catalogue, on line, or in a fabric store.

Designing a professional wardrobe involves coordinating what you have with what you have with what you decide to make.

Sample making: The style is part of a grouping of styles designed for a targeted customer type.
Learn how a professional uses the skills she learned in the industry to design her personal wardrobe.

Pattern size/ Fit

Home sewing: The pattern size is chosen by the bust size. Fitting is often done as the garment is sewn in the fashion fabric. Often a new pattern is used, requiring significant fit changes to the printed pattern.

Sample making: A grade-rule sample size is used. Often a pattern whose style and fit was successful on the market, has its style slightly adapted for the next year’s line. When the target market has a larger than B cup bust the sample size’s bust sizing is adjusted. The pattern is tested for fit with a muslin fitting. All fit corrections are made in the muslin before the fashion fabric is cut.
Learn more about choosing the correct pattern size.

graded front bodice slopers
The industry grades its patterns to an accuracy of 1/32 inch. A grade rule’s measurements are referred to by the pattern maker to make sure the company’s fit is consistent.

Note: Because patterns are drafted to a grade rule, if one knows how one’s body’s measurements differ from the grade rule’s chosen size, the same corrections can be used to alter the fit with all patterns drafted to that grade rule’s size. This works ONLY if the chosen pattern has been drafted correctly to the grade rule. All patterns need to be checked for accuracy before they are cut. The home sewing patterns’ true-bust points position is the most likely to be misplaced. Learn more about grading.


Home sewing: The patterns are drafted for the right side, so as to cut the garment from fabric laid on the fold. All of the printed patterns seams have 5/8 inch seam allowances printed on the patterns.

Sample making: Both the right and the left sides of the pattern are drafted as the garment will be cut on the open. The patterns have been drafted with the varying seam allowances used in the industry. Good patternmakers draft to an accuracy of 1/32 inch.

Layouts (spreading the fabric)

Home sewing: The fashion fabric is laid out on the table, folded down the center of its length. The patterns, are drafted for the right side of the garment, are laid out over the fashion fabric.

In the industry all garments are cut on the open. When these pant patterns are cut in mass-production, three pairs of pants will be cut from a length two times the length shown in this diagram. If there are six sizes in the style range, then the layout will measure four times the length of this layout.

Sample making: The fashion fabric is laid out on the open. If the fabric is fragile, it will be cut sandwiched between tracing paper. The patterns, are drafted for both sides of the garment, are laid out over the fashion fabric. Cutting patterns on the open with reduced seam allowances saves considerable fabric.

Never cut on the fold
One should NEVER cut fashion fabric on the fold.








Home sewing: The fashion fabric is cut on the fold from the fashion fabric. Most women cut the fabric straight ahead. V-notches are cut as shown on the paper patterns.

Cutting notches
Industry cuts notches 1/8 inch deep with just a snip of the shears.  V-notches mark center front, center back, and to correct notches incorrectly cut.
Industry cuts high-end samples from right-to-left. Left-to-right if left-handed. This maintains the distance from the eye to the shears.

Sample making: The fashion fabric is cut on the open from right-to-left.

Notches are snipped 1/8 inch deep. V-notches are cut at center front, center back, at the top of sleeve caps, and when a notch has been miss cut. The fashion fabric is often fused before pieces that need to be fused are cut. Those pieces are then cut from the fused fashion fabric. Learn more about layouts and cutting

Preparing to sew

Home sewing: Tailor tacks may be used to mark the circles printed on the pattern. Some home sewers mark the seams’ sewing lines on their cut garment pieces. Pieces that need to be stiffened are often fused.

Sample making: The cut pieces are wrapped up in their patterns and taken to the sewing machine.

Make a muslin.
Making a muslin ensures that the garment will fit and look good.

Home sewing: The fashion fabric is fitted as the garment is sewn.

Seams are pinned before they are sewn.

Some seams may be sewn down from the neck, others up from the hem. Because all seams are sewn on a 5/8 seam allowance, many seams need to be trimmed, then finished after they are sewn. Seams are pressed as they are sewn.
Zippers are often set after most of the other seams in the garment have been sewn.

Sample making: Because the pattern has been corrected from the muslin, the garment is sewn without any fittings.

For excellent fit, all seams MUST be sewn on gauge.

Because the pattern was adjusted before the fashion fabric was cut, seams can be finished before they are sewn.

Seams are sewn, notch-to-notch, edge-to-edge, on gauge with an accuracy of within 1/16 inch.

All seams are either sewn up from the hem (high-end) or down from the neck (less-expensive garments).

Zippers are set first, or as soon as possible.

Most seams are sewn notch-to-notch without any pinning


Home sewing: Seams are pressed as they are sewn.

Sample making: With few exceptions, most garments are not pressed until the garment is completed.


Home sewing: Finished garment may look worn from the fit alterations.

Sample making: Finished garment looks fresh and new.

Interested in learning sample making? The skirt course starts January 18, 2019.
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© Laurel Hoffmann, 2019.

1 Comment. Leave new

  • Jeannette Antry
    December 15, 2019 4:14 pm

    Another great post. So much great information. Thanks for sharing and for all your hard work to help us home sewers, for sure me, understand these very important processes and techniques. Your program and books have really added to my knowledge and skill base. I am grateful every day I found you and your site. Can’t wait to see your next post. Jnetti.


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