Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Copying A Favorite Garment

One of the most frequent questions I hear from budding sewists is, "I have a favorite top [pants, jacket, dress]. Can I make another one just like it?"

Yes, you can. It can be pretty easy, too!

There are several methods for making a pattern from a finished garment. The method I used for copying this top is by far the easiest and requires only the tools and materials you should already have on hand in your sewing room (or corner).

You need pins with a head on them, muslin or an old, plain bedsheet, wax chalk or a soft crayon, markers, and a ruler.

I won't get into an exhaustive tutorial here, but I'll describe the process. First, lay your garment flat. Insert pins into the seams of the garment every one or two inches, leaving the head of the pin exposed and the point of the pin pushed all the way into the wrong side of the garment.

Next, lay a fairly generous piece of muslin over one section of the garment at a time. Make sure it's all nice and flat and smooth. Now it's time to go back to your preschool days. Remember when they'd give you a piece of paper and a crayon and send you outside to do a rubbing off textured surfaces? Take your wax chalk or soft crayon and do this same thing. Rub your crayon over all the little pin heads. The outline of your pattern piece will appear!

This was fairly easy, in my case. I had to make a neck yoke, a shoulder yoke, and a bodice. The front and the back of this top are mirror images of each other.
My pattern pieces. Notice that you must draw in your grainline.
After you've done a rubbing of every piece of your garment, you must add stitching lines, grainlines, and seam allowances. You've also got to decide on an order of construction. And for what it's worth, if you've never sewn pants with fly closure, or a tailored jacket, don't make these sorts of garments the first thing you ever copy.

Here's my neck band piece, stapled to some newsprint. Notice I've added my seam allowances. Once you've tested the pattern in some cheaper fabric, you'll know how successful your copying was, and where you need to make changes. Then, make a clean copy of your pattern onto some pattern tissue or pattern marker paper.

I wanted to make sure my pattern was just right before I cut into my fabric. It's hand-screened with a Peach Berserk print.

 The finished result. Notice I left off the bottom band that the original garment had. I decided I didn't really need it. That happens a lot when you copy a garment. "It's perfect, oh but I want to change this about it … and that …"