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.
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.
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.
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!
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!