I recently copied my very first article of clothing. Normally I design from scratch using the block method but after experimenting with a few different pairs of non stretchy pants patterns I wanted to take a page out of Deadly Dames books. Their cigarette pants are so close to perfect and I've always wanted to try copying a commercial pattern.
Soooo after nearly wearing out my pair of black cigarette pants I decided to re-design them so they're more suited to my body and personal style. I actually couldn't find a ton of information on copying pants so I thought I'd document what I did in case anyone else out there in the land of sewing wanted to take on a similar project.
A lot of my non sewing friends believe that in order to copy a pattern from an old favourite that you have to take it apart. Not so! Here I'll show you how, with a little bit of patience, you can copy an existing article of clothing from your very own closet.
Supplies required are as follows!
- A tracing wheel
- A metric ton of pins if you don't have a tracing wheel. (A metric ton is too much. Just get a case from your local fabric shop)
- Pattern weights (This can be anything from paperweights, to jars, to water bottles. Just get crafty and find something that will stabilize your garment.)
- Measuring tape
- Grid ruler
- French curve or hip curve ruler....or if you're brave a steady, steady, hand.
- Newsprint or craft paper
- A soft surface to work on such as carpet, a foam board, or a table you don't mind dinging up a bit.
1. Lay out your craft paper or news print. I have a giant roll of craft paper I picked up from Staples but you can also tape together paper from your printer or use news print. I used to just take some of the free daily papers and tape those together to form a big enough pattern making surface. However, sometimes the actual print on said news print can interfere with your pin and pen marks so if you can work on a blank surface then I highly recommend it.
2. Analyze your garment. Where do the seams all connect, and how many pieces come together to make the whole of the garment? My pants consisted of 4 pieces. One piece for the front leg, two pieces to make up the back leg, and the waistband. Once you've studied your garment, pick a place to start tracing. I decided to trace off the front pant first. It was the biggest piece by far and seemed like an easy spot to start. I laid it out as flat as I could over top of my craft paper using weight to stabilize it and being conscious of keeping it on grain. I traced what I could with just my pen (gasp! Pen?....you can totally use a pencil if you prefer), then used my tracing wheel to trace off the inner areas such as the rise, the dart, and up to the waistband. If you don't have a tracing wheel and are doing this on a soft surface such as carpet or foam board then this is where your pins come in handy. Use your pins in lieu of a tracing wheel to puncture through the fabric and transfer the markings to your paper. Follow carefully along each curve and be generous with those pins to get an accurate transfer of pattern.
Also be conscious of keeping your pattern straight and on grain as you'll want to add this line into your pattern afterwards as well.
3. What about the dart? This part is tricky but not too tricky. Basically, trace the dart exactly as it is right now. Follow the line to its end then cross mark it. We'll come back to this part but in the mean time just make sure you've traced it using your wheel or pins.
4. Remove pant from paper! You'll be left with an outline of what you traced with your pen along with perforated marks from your tracing wheel or pins. Connect the perforated dots and you'll see the shape of your first pattern piece!
5. Now back to that dart! It requires a bit of patience and measuring. Measure the dart take up from the inside of your garment. Mine was 1" which is pretty standard. To get an accurate positioning of where the dart take up starts I measured on my actual pair of pants from the side seam to the dart and then from the centre seam to the dart. I made adjustments to the inseam to account for the extra fabric required. Between what you've traced, and the check measure, you should have an accurate positioning of your dart. I should also caution that this method is only good for pants where the dart sits relatively flat when tracing. I would mark something like a bust dart a little differently by flattening the dart to one side, then mark, then flatting to the other side, and mark - also checking measurements along the way! True up your dart at this point as well too by folding the leg closest to the centre on to the leg closest to the side seam and tracing over this bulk of paper with your wheel or pins.
I'll also take this time to note that you should be double checking your measurements through out this entire process. I measured the rise, the pant length, the waist, the leg opening, the leg width, and various other parts of the pattern as I went, comparing them to what I traced and adjusting as required. Be patient, and if something doesn't look right, or you're not sure, then measure, measure, measure. It's the best way to get the most accurate results.
6. Between your pencil and pin/tracing wheel marks you're pattern is likely looking a little unpolished at this point. This is where I grabbed my handy dandy ruler and french curve to clean up these lines. Use a steady hand and your best judgement in this case. The pattern will only be as good as you make it so do your best to clean and square up any lines that require it. Add your grain-line in at this point too.
7. Repeat these steps for the remaining pieces. The back of my pants has two part to it as this provides the best fit and shaping for a cigarette pant. Anytime you want to hug a curve, in this case the butt, the only way to do so is with darts/curved seams. My pattern pieces did look a tad funny but I trusted they would work out.
7. The waistband can also be traced in this method but I chose to simply make a straight waist band from scratch as it seemed far more simpler. I wanted the waist band to be 2 inches instead of one so I would be re-designing this part anyway. I simply measured the waist on the pattern I just copied and created the band from these numbers.
8. Once all of my pieces were traced off I made design changes to them by adding length at the ankles, and height at the waist. I then added seam allowances. I would recommend adding at least 5/8ths or 1.5cm in seam allowance. This should give you plenty of room to play if adjustments are required. Don't forget to measure your side seam and inseams too. You want to make sure that the pieces your sewing together are the same length. Nothing sucks more than having one piece be an inch longer than the one you're trying to sew it too.
9. Make your muslin, test fit, and adjust as necessary. All in all, don't be shy about copying your favourite article of clothing from your closet. I was hesitant at first but am glad I finally gave this method of pattern making a try. There's definitely some patience, and trial and error required but ultimately all that hard work will lead to a great fitting garment that is uniquely yours.
See the final results here.
Thanks for following along. If you have any questions about this post or copying your own patterns feel free to comment below.
Nicole A Go Go