Drafting a Pattern

There’s nothing like finding a piece of clothing that fits just right.  I have been known to buy the same thing in 7 different colors because I like how it fits!  But that’s not always possible – and sometimes you want to make something a little different based on that well-fitting garment.  Enter one of a seamstress’s greatest skills: drafting a pattern from something you already have.

As I’ve mentioned several times before, I am no artist.  And items that are 3-dimensional are scary to me.  But if you can manipulate your item well enough to trace it, you can copy it!  My example here is a pair of shorts.

So first I tape a couple pieces of paper together to create a larger space to work on.  Then I examine my article, and decide the best way to trace it.  In this case, I turned the shorts inside out and folded in half.


I realize they’re upside down… but it doesn’t really matter!

You’ll notice that the waistband doesn’t meet at the fold.  That’s because a kid’s bum is bigger than their front (so are adults’, but in kids it’s even more exaggerated by their diapers).  So, to start off with, I traced the back side of the shorts, so it’s pretty much the outline of the folded garment.  Then, I flipped the shorts over left to right, like turning the page of a book backwards (pretend the spine is the right side of the shorts in the picture above).  Then I traced the front side of the shorts, so it was a little smaller on the right side.


See how the right side slants to be shorter? That’s so the bum side is bigger and the front side is smaller.

Now, if you were to cut fabric out and make a garment from this pattern, it would be too small… you need to add seam allowances.  I’ve found my sewing gauge to be a most useful tool in this.  You can use a tape measure or ruler, too, this is just my preference.  I added a 1/2″ seam allowance because it’s clothing.  Just mark 1/2″ larger than your original tracing at regular intervals all around your pattern.


I ended up extending the length of the shorts, so I added more paper

And that’s it!  When I cut out my pattern, I saw that my tracing job wasn’t quite perfect, so I adjusted the bottom of the shorts so they’d match when I sewed them together (measured from the point that will be in the crotch).  It’s not a perfect science, but you’ll get a pretty good replica!

IMG_2415And one more picture, to show that the front really is shorter than the back on the original shorts…


I lined up the hem on the bottom of the legs. The tag shows that I used Gymboree 12-18 month pajama shorts (I wanted a snug fit for my final product, so this seemed like a good choice).

By drafting your own pattern, you can also adjust from the original; for example, I lengthened the shorts in this case.  You can make waistbands bigger or smaller, sleeves longer or shorter, or any other adjustments you need.  I’ve found it’s helpful for me (with a short and wide stature) and Monster (who somehow got some recessive long and skinny gene).

You are now empowered to design your own, well, anything!  This isn’t just for clothes – another great application would be to re-cover an odd-shaped pillow.  The sky’s the limit!


2 thoughts on “Drafting a Pattern

  1. Pingback: Ruffle Shorts – Serger Basics | Project Mama

  2. Pingback: Easy Maxi Dress | Project Mama

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