Sample Machinist

The Job and What's Involved

Sample machinists are a key part of the design team in clothing manufacturing. Their work involves producing samples or 'mock-ups' of garments to show designers or customers how the finished items will look. They work with a variety of materials, such as cotton, wool and leather.

As a sample machinist, you may work on a number of different product lines or concentrate on a particular style, for example sportswear.

When creating a sample garment, you would:

  • Follow fabric, colour and size instructions from the designer, pattern cutter and garment technologist.
  • Stitch sections together and add labels to each section
    press the garment to give it a 'finished' appearance.

Once you have made a 'mock-up' garment, you would:

  • Advise the design team about the best way to construct it.
  • Discuss any 'tweaks' to the design instructions before the item goes into production.
  • Return the sample for final approval before manufacturing begins.

With experience, you would carry out quality control checks during a production run and you may help other machinists during busy periods. You may also work directly with customers who supply their own design details.

You would usually work around 37 hours a week. Occasionally, you may need to cover additional hours to meet deadlines.

You would work alongside the design team in an office, away from the main production area, to allow you to share ideas quickly and easily.

Sample machinists may earn between £12,000 and £18,000 a year. With experience, this may rise to between £20,000 and £30,000.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Typical employers range from exclusive designer and couture houses to larger manufacturers or fashion design houses, supplying high street clothing chain stores.

Jobs can be advertised in the local press, Jobcentre Plus offices, through Directgov (Jobseekers page), in industry magazines like Textile Horizons and Textile Month and on websites such as Drapers.

Education and Training

You would normally move into this job after gaining experience as a sewing machinist on a production line (see the Sewing Machinist job guide for more details).

Alternatively, you could take a college course in creative arts, which would cover some of the skills needed to get started in this career.

Courses like the City & Guilds Certificate/Diploma in Creative Techniques in Fashion at levels 1 to 3, includes options in:

- Sewing Machine Techniques
- Machine Knit Textiles
- Machine Embroidery
- Tailoring
- Pattern Cutting

You may also be able to get into this work through an Apprenticeship scheme with a clothing manufacturer or textiles company. Some companies may ask for a number of GCSE's before offering you a place.

The range of Apprenticeships available in your area will depend on the local jobs market and the types of skills employers need from their workers.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Once working, your employer may provide training covering different production methods, techniques, fabrics and product types.

You could go on to take a range of courses that may help your career prospects, such as the qualifications awarded by the ABC exam board in subjects such as:

- Manufacturing Sewn Products Level 2
- Fashion and Textile awards
- ABC Diploma in Apparel, Footwear, Leather or Textile
- Production, levels 2 and 3

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A sample machinist needs:

  • Excellent sewing skills (hand and machine).
  • A flexible and creative approach.
  • A knowledge of production methods.
  • An understanding of fabric types and their uses.
  • An interest in design and basic understanding of design methods.
  • The ability to communicate ideas clearly.
  • Good listening skills.

Your Long Term Prospects

With the right experience, you may get the opportunity to progress to higher-level technical roles or quality control (see the Garment Technologist and Quality Control Technician job guides for more information).

Alternatively, you could use your knowledge of the production process to move into clothing design.

Get Further Information

Skillset Careers
Tel: 08080 300 900 (England and Northern Ireland)
Tel: 0808 100 8094 (Scotland)
Tel: 08000 121 815 (Wales)

Focus Point, 21 Caledonian Road,
London N1 9GB

The Textile Institute,
1st Floor, St James's Buildings,
Oxford Street, Manchester M1 6FQ
Tel: 0161 237 1188

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