On Teaching fashion: Is technology ready to oust traditional pattern cutting methods?

In a previous post a comment arose to me that traditional methods of pattern cutting are stepping aside in common practice, as technology and the 21st century digital age is the future. Advances in innovation are opening in many creative methodologies and practices. This month I wish to briefly consider some of the inventive methods of creating garments, 3D forms and artefacts that are immerging. In 2012 I went to a fascinating exhibition by the Craft Council called ‘Block Party,’ whose website has a brilliant array of designers, to reference in teaching, who are working with technology and a variety of methodologies in developing 3D forms from 2D materials.


Block Party Website. 

This exhibition examined the methods of converting 2D forms into 3D artefacts, but also the idea of developing 3D garments digitally eliminating the need for patterns. A specific area in this exhibition was entitled ‘pattern cutting embracing the future’ which highlights the advances in 3D printing, digital technology and laser cutting allowing a pattern block to move out from the standard 2D shape and into the digital world. Phillip Delamore particularly has researched into the developments of personalised digital printed clothing.


Evolving Textiles, Digital Manufactured Glove, 2008. 

I have also found a fascinating video about Gareth Pugh developing fine jewellery using 3D printing. I do agree with his comment about how interesting he finds using technology together with natural materials to create his pieces in this video. (link to video)

However I do feel patterns are not redundant completely, and I admit to them being a safety net for me for accuracy in construction, I find the innovative methods of freehand cutters quite exciting. All be it less digitally or technologically advanced than 3D printing and body scanning methodologies but equally as creative. Freehand cutting is mapping out your measurements directly onto the fabric, rather than drafting a pattern to cut around. I watched Chinelo Bally when she was on The Great British Sewing Bee, her confidence and use of bright colours and prints is very inspiration and something that would grab students’ attention. There are some very clear tutorials on her blog, and her book about freehand cutting is due for release soon. Another reference I discuss to contextualise methods with my students is the work of Julian Roberts and his subtraction pattern cutting methods.

So my final question refers back to the comment I started with, being ‘technology is the way forward’ and ‘traditional’ methods are sometimes overlooked in fashion educations. Yes, the digital age in upon us and is very important and exciting, however, taking the example of freehand cutting. Could this statement be phrased into considering that innovation and forward thinking methods are equally as alive without the use of computer programs? Perhaps, whether using technology or not, the important thing for students to understand first is the basic rules and measurements to have a firm grounding of pattern development. Therefore this will opened up many opportunities for students to progress forward with creativity and open minds in order to innovate even more and discover new methods for the future?

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