Patternmaking is efficient. very. Work out most of the design kinks on paper, make a muslin, work out the remaining issues, make the final garment. Especially if you’ve got a stable of patterns to choose from (as I do) – it’s pretty time-efficient to make most of your adjustments and design updates derived from previous patterns for a new collection.
The quickest way to manufacture is also, of course, to work from patterns. Do all the cutting, bundle the garments together with all notions and trims, and then sew sew sew. The sewing becomes mindless and, ultimately, quicker.
This is how I’ve mostly worked over the past several years, with some deviations. (the way I work with organic wool is essentially zero-waste, another topic. I do this because the fabric is so freaking expensive.)
I’m doing something pretty different for the newer pieces. Pure draping, with the final fabric, not muslin. This means working directly on the dress-form- shaping, cutting, pinning, trimming, and then sewing little areas at a time, refitting, etc. I’m working this way because I like the finished look: it’s fluid and makes each piece unique.
it is possible, of course, to work out design approach via draping, then pattern-make, but the new pieces are deliberately not done that way.
This can be a fabric-efficient way to work, if you keep an open mind about garment shape and zero-waste in sight. I had dyed some beautiful blue silk and, working through pure draping, have only two little bits left, about 6″ square apiece. (They will become thumbhole linings, most likely)
The most important reason I’m working this way right now: it feels more creative. I have to stay engaged in the design process start to finish for each garment, rather than do what a manufacturer does, and compartmentalize the creative segment. So— working with final fabric on the mannequin is fun.
The second important reason is the uniqueness of the garments achieved. Even using the same fabric and general approach for two pieces will generate slightly different garments, because I’ll get a new idea, or there won’t be enough fabric remaining…
nothing makes me happier than beautiful one of a kind garments.