Cutter Ringa Tapahi

Cutters lay out and cut fabric to make clothing and soft furnishings.

Cutters may do some or all of the following:

  • check pattern designs and instructions online
  • lay out patterns on fabric
  • interpret instructions from patternmakers, designers and markers
  • cut fabric by hand with electric hand-held cutting machines
  • supervise computerised cutting machines
  • make detailed notes on how much much fabric is used
  • check how much fabric is in storage
  • advise technicians and managers on how much fabric to order
  • bundle pieces of fabric together and store them in order of size and colour.

Becoming a sample cutter

To become a sample cutter you must complete the New Zealand Diploma in Fashion Technology (Level 5).

Physical Requirements

Cutters need to have good eyesight (with or without corrective lenses), normal colour vision, good hand-eye co-ordination and steady hands. Physical strength is an advantage for lifting heavy rolls of fabric.

Useful Experience

Useful experience for cutters includes:

  • community or night courses in dressmaking
  • dressmaking or tailoring
  • work in a clothing factory or workroom.

Personal Qualities

Cutters need to be:

  • patient
  • quick and neat
  • accurate, with an eye for detail
  • able to follow instructions
  • able to work well under pressure
  • good at maths so they can measure and make calculations
  • good problem-solvers.


Cutters need to have knowledge of:

  • fabric types and garment construction
  • sewing codes and symbols
  • different cutting equipment and methods
  • how to operate cutting machines
  • basic computing skills to program cutting machines and check designs online.



  • usually work regular business hours, but may sometimes work overtime
  • work in factories and workrooms, though self-employed cutters may work from home
  • work in conditions that may be dusty and noisy.

Cutters can earn around $23-$26 per hour.

Pay for cutters varies depending on experience and the type of work they do.

  • Assistant cutters usually earn minimum wage.
  • Cutters with two to five years' experience usually earn up to $24 an hour.
  • Cutters with managerial responsibilities can earn up to $26 an hour.

Some cutters are also paid performance bonuses.

Source: New Zealand Fashion Tech and Competenz, 2017.

With further training, cutters may progress to become cutting room managers, garment technicians, patternmakers or designers.

Cutters can specialise in a number of roles, including:

Leather Pattern Cutter
Leather pattern cutters cut leather to make into clothing.
Sample Cutter
Sample cutters cut fabric to be made into sample designs for designers and clients.

Cutters may also specialise in items such as:

  • clothing
  • curtains and upholstery (coverings for vehicle seats and furniture such as sofas)
  • canvas (tents, awnings).

Years Of Training

>1 year of training usually required.

There are no specific entry requirements to become a cutter. However, most employers prefer to hire people with qualifications. 

You can become qualified by completing either of the following:

  • New Zealand Certificate in Fashion Technology (Level 3) through an apprenticeship with Competenz.
  • New Zealand Certificate in Fashion Technology (Level 3) or similar at a technical institute.