How to make a sewing pattern out of existing clothing

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Tribe member Kristen shows us how to make a sewing pattern from your favorite piece of clothing, without ruining the existing piece. This method came in handy for her post-ceremony party outfit.

For my wedding, I want to have a skirt just like this black one … but it needs to be white and a few inches longer. I decided to make a wedding skirt on my own, and this is how to make a pattern out of an existing piece of clothing, without (and this is key) taking apart the original …


What you will need:


First, iron the clothing. Then, lay it out flat on a cork board. Put your pattern paper inside the article of clothing. You can buy actual pattern paper, but I prefer graph paper. The graph helps me line things up, add seam allowance, etc. If you use graph paper, you will need to tape a few sheets together.


You will be working with one panel at a time. Smooth the panel out flat, but don’t stretch it! Pin it to the cork board, with the graph paper underneath.


Next, trace over the seams with a tracing wheel. Don’t worry about seam allowance. We’ll add that later. You will need to press hard with the tracing wheel.


When you are done, unpin the clothing and remove the paper. You will see that the tracing wheel made little dots on the paper. Now we play connect-the-dots! You might need to use a ruler to get straight lines.

Then, make any modifications, like extra length, etc. Don’t worry about seam allowance yet. Take notes on the pattern so you remember what is what.


Add your seam allowance — half inch should be fine.

IMPORTANT: Make your side seams two inches wider than your new pattern calls for, to allow for alterations. Copying a pattern is not an exact science, so you need to make allowances for imperfections. It took me three tries to learn this important lesson, and it seems so obvious in retrospect.


Repeat the above steps for all remaining panels, and you have your pattern!


Cut your fabric, and you’re ready to go!

If your pattern is a bit complicated, I recommend making a trial run with scrap fabric. You don’t have to worry about pockets, decorations, etc. Just run through the basic steps and make sure everything fits before you cut your good fabric.


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