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Making a Pattern From Clothes: Clone your best fitting clothes!

We’ve all got that garment we absolutely love which is cute, classic, comfy and we just can’t bear to get rid of – but you can’t find it again anywhere.

I always got compliments on my favorite floral dress, which made me wonder how I could recreate this in other fabrics by making a sewing pattern from it. I discovered that cloning items from my wardrobe is the best way to get a good fit and comfort, whilst still looking great and leaving me feeling fabulous.

If you’re wondering how you can recreate your favorite wardrobe staple, stick with me as I’ll show you everything about making a pattern from clothes you already own.

Why make your own pattern?

Patterns and Fabrics
Patterns and Fabrics

I found learning to read pictures from a shop bought patterns a little overwhelming at times with all of the terminology, markings and different pieces.

I found that making my own patterns from clothes in my current wardrobe has helped ease me into the world of pattern making by allowing me to play around with large pieces of pattern paper and learning terminology.

Making a pattern from clothes that you own means you’ll always get the exact size, whilst expanding on your sewing skills. You get to amend the style and length of a dress as you sew.

Benefit

Creating a pattern that you love, that fits’ perfectly will bring you a lot of joy – I promise! It means no more store bought clothing, and you can whip up what you want to wear in your favorite fabrics.

You’ll be more in control of what you wear, and how you look in an individual piece that only you’ll own.

You can even store the patterns to preserve them and find them anytime you wish to recreate your garments. Here’s my article about sewing pattern storage to give you options for keeping your patterns organized and accessible.

Can I make a pattern from old clothes?

Pile of Clothes
Pile of Clothes

Yes! Learning how to make patterns is one of the most fun and rewarding parts of traced pattern making, especially if it’s from an item of clothing that you already know looks great on you.

When I make my own sewing patterns I will often take an existing garment I already own and create pattern pieces from it adding a seam allowance. Even if the new garment doesn’t always look incredible, I know it’s going to fit me well.

TIP

When first learning to make patterns from garments try to make sure the fabric isn’t stretchy so you get a true fit!

How to copy existing garments?

It’s as simple as tracing over an original garment with a tracing tool or pen onto pattern paper, and drawing around the markings with a ruler or French curve and marker. Making your own pattern from clothing is a skill that can be learnt slowly.

You can add sleeve length or width to a pattern, or use symmetrical pieces just on a new fabric – most importantly never forget to add seam allowances of ¼” – ½” as you will be copying a finished garment.

TIP

When making a pattern from a t-shirt, you are looking for a top which has shoulders that hit you at the right point, so that you can use it as a guideline so you know where your shoulders should always be.

Is cloning clothes hard?

Person Tracing a Pattern
Person Tracing a Pattern

The first time you try to transform a garment into a pattern can be a little fiddly. As long as you can understand where the seams are on the item of clothing you want to make into a pattern, it isn’t too difficult.

If you follow the step by step instructions below, or look at the library of videos on YouTube you’ll be sure to get to grips with it in no time at all! The more you practise, the easier it will become.

How do I make a pattern from existing clothes?

You should first go on a wardrobe raid and find the items you really love and want to create again. Once you have your original favorite garment piece, it’s as simple as copying it out by following the seam lines onto a large piece of pattern fabric with some sewing tools.

  1. Step 1: Find the item you want to recreate.
  2. Step 2: Make a mental note of the construction of the item.
  3. Step 3: Lay the clothing down flat on a piece of tracing paper.
  4. Step 4: Use your tracing wheel to trace around each fabric block.
  5. Step 5: Remove the fabric and follow the imprint with a pen. Include a seam allowance of ¼” – ½”.

Here’s a helpful video

How to Make Patterns from Your Clothes 

Things you will need

Before you get started, have a look at the checklist below to make sure you’ve got all of the right sew tools to aid you.

Original garment to duplicate

You can use any item of your favorite clothing and use the same steps repeatedly. You will need to go on a wardrobe raid to find a dress or bottoms that fit you really well and you want to sew again.

Paper

You can use many different types of paper, from tracing, baking, mathematical paper (with markings to help measure the pattern) or whichever you find easy to see through. I like to use craft paper as it’s usually something I have lying around.

Protective surface

Using a padded surface under your pattern paper for example a cutting mat or sturdy cardboard will help you to prevent damage on your surface when you trace the pattern.

Pins or weights

Every patterner has their preference to either pin their garment to paper or weigh the garment down with sewing weights (I use weights from my vintage scales), to prevent the garment from slipping around while you trace.

Tracing wheel

Tracing Wheels, Patterns, and Fabrics
Tracing Wheels, Patterns, and Fabrics

The tracing tool should be sharp enough to mark or trace both pieces of paper through the garment.

If you don’t have a tracing wheel, you can use a marker and really carefully mark around the garment in dotted lines, which you can connect once your fabric has been removed.

Marker or pencil

You will use this to go over the trace markings made from the tracing tool before cutting out your garment paper pattern.

Ruler and optional French curve

A ruler is necessary to help draw straight lines to ensure straight cutting of the final garment pattern. A curve is useful for drawing the arm holes and sleeves, but not necessary while you are learning how to create a pattern from an old garment.

Scissors

To cut out your finished pattern pieces.

Now onto the steps…

  1. Draw a straight line on the paper you are using which is going to become the center front fold for the front pattern pieces. 
  2. Lay out the garment by folding it in half and placing the front half along the fold. You can pin straight or weigh the entire piece of fabric. 
  3. Trace half along all of the edges of the original width with a wheel e.g. the front the neckline, arm hole, trace down the side seam lines and bottom edge. 
  4. Fold the paper along the line to make sure both pattern pieces will be the same length finished.
  5. Remove the garment from the work space and draw in the markings using a pencil and ruler, or a curve tool when necessary.
  6. Don’t forget a seam allowance! As you trace around a folded piece of a pattern, you will need to go around with your ruler and add seam allowance around the edge of your pattern pieces of ¼” – ½”.

You will repeat the same process for the back pattern piece.

Some standard things to note when creating body patterns from your own clothes, is that the back is typically higher than the front.

Another thing to note is the armhole on the front typically has a much steeper curve than on the back. That’s because the front part of a body has to accommodate a bit more motion as well as your chest area as the back is a lot more flat.

For simple traced sleeves

Tracing
Tracing
  1. With a new piece of pattern paper, fold it in half, which will become the fold line which is long enough for the sleeve.
  2. Line up the long edge of the sleeve against the line, which is opposite the underarm seams when lying flat. 
  3. Using your tracing wheel trace around the cap of the sleeve and underarm seams and cuff.
  4. When you open this up, you will be able to draw around the full shoulder seam pattern. Don’t forget to add seam allowances of at least 1/2 “ again onto your fabric and make sure the seams match.

NOTE

If you plan to add a different sleeve form on your garment, or for example want excess fabric or dart legs, you can have fun playing around on your pattern pieces. You can always start again by tracing over the basic shapes.

Grain line considerations

You may want to consider in the future which way the folded edge will sit on new material to get the correct style lines.

Conclusion

There you have a simple way to trace a pattern from your wardrobe! You can add your favorite shape and length, you can get really creative and make all kinds of cool changes to your favorite outfits such as ruffled sleeves or flared legs.

You will never have to follow commercial patterns again! As long as you measure and trace the item exactly, you shouldn’t have any problems when cutting it out!

Good luck with making a pattern from clothes – I’d love to hear how you get along in the comments below!

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Kris Daub
Kris Daub
[email protected] byCurated I'm a maker at heart! I love to create and tech others to create. I particularly sewing and hand crafts like ebroidery. I also love larger home decorating projects. ✂️ 🧵