Review: PM171 Pattern Grading Misses’ and Womenswear

A review of PM171 Pattern Grading Class, the one in which the mind boggles.

Class Description: “Introduction to manual pattern grading and marker-layout techniques. The students learn how to apply grade measurements proportionally to all the pieces within a pattern.”

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Now I have ummed and ahh’d over writing this post for many reasons, the main one being that this review is not of the most positive light. Those of you who follow me on twitter certainly read about it every Thursday evening and have an idea of where I’m about to go with this.

I have been ‘nervous’ about writing a frank and honest review. I’ve re-written this post several times, editing it down each time. It’s been a nice form of therapy and to ensure this is not a character assassination. By the time I press publish it will most likely have gone from emotional ranting into a more constructive review.

I want to point out that I was actually very excited to get some more formal training on grading from an industry perspective. Maybe not the sexiest subject for some, but I like it.

What was covered on grading (only grading 2 sizes up and down from the pattern piece given):

  • Basic women’s bodice: waist dart, side seam dart, French dart, princess seam.
  • Short sleeve kimono bodice
  • Straight skirt (like pencil skirt) and princess seam skirt
  • Basic Sleeve, 1 piece sleeve
  • Mens’ back pant/short [it’s a womenswear course & apparently there’s a difference]
  • Shirt front & placket and marking to match stripes
  • Marker making for bison pocket (welt pocket)
  • Examples of cutting layout & how to prep for a cutting layout

This list may look extensive, but it isn’t nearly as intense as it seems, especially when you consider each class is 4 hours long, for 15 weeks.

I can say with confidence that the sum of what was relevant to grading patterns and went towards the final exam could have been taught in 5 weeks. Max. Instead it was a 15 week onslaught of sitting through 3-4 hour ‘lectures’ that barely scratched the surface of grading and left a whole class of frustrated and perplexed students.

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We were told that we have to understand how the body grows in order to understand how and why the patterns grade as they do [makes sense]. However the professor then failed to follow through and explain those principles to us. It was like being left with a cliff-hanger, only there’s no season 2 to round off the story.

A few students dropped out entirely from the class. Some barely turned up, not that it mattered, homework wasn’t graded beyond the 2nd class, nor was registration taken until the Professor gave out the final exam. I could have easily not attended most of the classes and still have the same knowledge and spared myself the torture. That really sucks.

It was so bad that not long into the semester I would look around the class and see fellow students – who clearly did want to learn something- resorting to reading or watching movies on their tablets.

I would say this: the professor clearly has a lifetime of experience that is invaluable, but either lacks the ability to teach or has lost his vim to impart knowledge. We were given stories and anecdotes from his life, not always relevant to the fashion industry. Students were keen enough to try and steer the content back towards grading with useful questions, however it would fail at every attempt. In one example, he did his best to avoid answering how to grade a basic raglan sleeve, for no apparent reason.

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It is frustrating, to say the least, to spend nigh on $600, and sit through 60 hours only to come out at the end realising there was only relevant value to ⅓ of the classes. There’s been a definite bell curve of emotions from yours truly, I can tell you. I can’t even begin to think how livid I would be if I were an out-of-state student [they pay full price].

Now I hear some of you say – why didn’t you say anything? Some students did, within 3 weeks of class starting, however we were reminded not only by the professor but also by the school that he is faculty, he has been there for decades and he is also on the board… ’nuff said there, I can read between the lines.

I got to the point where I really questioned the validity of the certificate program and whether my desire for that piece of paper really even mattered. I’m not a novice at patternmaking, I have been doing this for a few years, and I’m taking these courses as validation of my skills and to pick up some more industry techniques whilst I’m able to study at FIT. It’s also not like i’m training to be a medical practitioner who would have peoples lives in my hands (now there’s a scary thought,  Mwoa ha ha!).

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Why was it so bad? A distinct lack of relevant content. An abundance of anecdotes that have little to no bearing on educating the students on the topic at hand. A person who clearly knows a lot and has decades of experience, but is not a capable teacher in any capacity and even on occasions would withhold the valuable information that would make this class worthwhile.

I’ve been pointed towards a couple of books in the FIT library that provides all the information that the class covered and more, so I headed there before my Spring pass expired and did some hardcore note-taking. Heck, I would rather have spent the course fee on 1 book rather than what I experienced in this class.

I know of a different Professor, who is to quote another student ‘some hot-shot from Theory’, that teaches every now and then and gets good feedback, so keep an eye out for that one. Or you could temporarily move and take Jen from Grainline Studio‘s class at Columbia College, Chicago.

p.s I am in email conversation with the department, imparting my thoughts and attempting to be as constructive in my criticism as possible, because I love educational institutions and I love attending classes!

4 comments

  1. Dude. That professor aught not be allowed to teach! His class was such an fucking rip off I can’t even stand it. I caught him making mistakes so often and I was the sucker who always pointed them out and asked all the hopeful questions. Le sigh. It’s over now. Next take something fun as a palette cleanser. Whatever class you take next, let me know. I think I’m going to do Fit Analysis in the fall.

  2. Wow, that sounds painful. Back in the day I took continuing education class on grading at FIT. It was only once a week during the evening hours. The professor was awesome. He was straight to the point. Basically we only had to stay for the 1 hour lecture and demonstration and bring a completed nest back to him the next class. No need to stay the full 4 hours. Easy-peasy. Basically we broke each grading method down into a formula. Super easy to follow, but maybe Professor T retired.
    I have a couple of good reference books that I can inbox you the titles of.

    1. Hi Betsy, You know I think it’s the same professor! Which leads me to think he’s probably lost the ‘joie de vivre’ for teaching. :( I’d love it if you shared with me the book titles! Would you mind emailing me on Fraufleurpatterns [@] gmail.com

  3. I’ve had the same thing happen with some of my grad school courses and it’s so incredibly frustrating, I feel your pain. Bad that they don’t even seem to take on feedback from the students but long time professors seem to often get a pass… Sigh!

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