How to make a sewing pattern out of existing clothing

Guest post by Kristen

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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Comments on How to make a sewing pattern out of existing clothing

  1. Thanks so much for pinteresting this! I have wanted to make a blouse from an existing one for ages……..Now I can. Best wishes.

  2. My only concern with this process (and it’s a great tutorial) is that tracing wheels have sharp points (hence the small dots) but I would expect that to be very hard on the original fabric. It’s fine if the original item is old and you just want to re-create it but what if you want to continue to wear the original? You may be able to see those points on the fabric or it could start small tears, etc. right?

    • When I learned this in school, the teacher pointed out the differences between tracing wheels being used throughout the class- some people had the common not-so-pointy ones that commonly come in sewing kits, while others (i’d gotten it the previous semester) had super-spiky ones that didn’t need as much pressure to penetrate the fabric to mark the paper. We were duplicating a pair of pants and I actually wear both the original and the copy on a pretty regular basis.

  3. hey there, no need to be rude! I do bespoke clothing and satin (which is what the material looks like) is extremely difficult to keep from puckering at the seams. She was able to accurately replicate the skirt, with the detailing intact, while changing fabrics (definitely types of fabrics, colors, possibly even from a knit to a woven) and keeping the fit as fitting. One of the only possible things that could have been done better to make it better is one of those not-well-known tricks. When sewing/cutting slippery fabrics like silk charmeuse, satin, or organza, sandwich it between layers of tissue paper. It keeps the fabric from shifting under the scissors/sewing machine foot, and keeps it moving over the feed dogs.But the author did a great job and should be super proud of herself, plus she looks super confident in it.

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