Project | Patterning a Favourite Garment



Pre-requisites, for this Unit you may need to refer to online Auxiliary Reference information to assist with your pattern drafting, it really is expected that you have got as far as completing Module 4 in the Threadelicious ThreadBox before attempting this Unit.




It is an amazing skill I think to be able to look at a garment in a store and then to be able to make it for yourself and not only that to be able to make it so that it fits you perfectly.


I wanted to start on a positive note for this Unit because there is a caution to give, and that is respect needs to be given to the original designer. This line of respect will be a sliding scale depending on who you are and who the original maker of the garment is.


It is a fact that nearly every possible design in fashion has already been made by someone and that gives us a wealth of inspiration to draw upon for our own creativity. To copy a design exactly although flattering to the designer is not being true to our own intrinsic worth so should really be avoided and should definitely not be allowed if you are going to sell pieces for monetary benefit, which is just not fair.


However there is absolutely nothing you can do if you have designed something and by happen chance it is the same as something that has already been designed somewhere else in the world over the past few hundred years and that was not your intention. There is no possible way that you can research this and I am not saying that you should. Just be true to yourself and work from a level of high virtues.


Patterning a garment.

There is another theme to look at that relates to this and it is the whole purpose of this Unit. Mapping out a pattern from a garment that is already in your wardrobe that you really love. Your wardrobe is a treasure trove of patterns waiting to happen and the joy of this is that on the whole they fit you (if they don’t you really need to go back and read Module 1 again!).


Sometimes we have a garment that fits so well that it has pride of place in your favourites garments list and you would like to make one just like it, maybe you want more of a good thing or maybe your favourite is simply wearing out and there is no way you can repurchase it as we know fashion changes so quickly in the stores it will simply not exist there after a couple of months.


I am sure that you will all have your own opinion on this. I want everyone to make garments that you love, that fit beautifully that suit your personality that make you look fabulous and give you confidence as you walk out. If the garment is a favourite then you have given it love and you have reaped reward from wearing it and so has the environment because by owning this favourite for so long it has kept more items out of the landfill site. So I say there are great advantages in making it again. I would not condone you copying and selling it but for your own use I say go ahead.


Having said this I would not expect anyone to do a direct copy as again this is not fair, unless the designer has given open door access to their design and process, otherwise use your creativity to change it up, try a different fabric or change a seam add pockets or other additions or improve the design even further and use this as a learning exercise.


With all of that said and it needed to be said you can learn a lot about the construction of clothes from taking a very close look at how they are put together and you will see that more if you create patterns from the garments that you really like and stretch your knowledge.


There are three main things to consider when patterning a garment and we will look at these different factors below;

  • There is more than one way to skin a cat and you need to be flexible with your approach when you are tracing off a pattern.

  • Go slowly only mark any pattern parts out that you have managed to smooth out to get a better result

  • The last and always the most important consideration is the Test Garment, test test test! Just because the original garment fits so well does not mean that your copy and any associated changes are going to work perfectly.

There are so many different garments it would be impossible to define every single pattern here so we will start with something really simple to understand the process.


We will start by having a look at a plain and simple little camisole top.


This top is very straight forward and there have possibly been a billion different versions of this made over time. It has a shaped V-Neckline and straight back, side splits in the Base and 1 ½” facings on the Neckline and Armholes, the straps are adjustable.


Before you start study the garment, its pieces and its construction. Round about now is a great time to print off a Pattern Record Card to detail each piece so that you get an idea of how many pieces you should have, how you are going to construct or any changes you would like to make to your version.


I have already determined that this version to be made will have perfectly fitted straps so they will not need to be adjustable. To simplify things the top is going to be made without the side splits and no facing will be added at this point just a binding to the upper neckline, although facings may be added on other versions of this top. Fabric choice will also be much different as this is a top that can be made in nearly any fabric you want to.


Each pattern piece is traced off independently and so in this case that means 1 x Front piece and 1 x Back piece which could be traced as a whole piece or in this case folded centrally and traced off to be cut on the fold of fabric later.


It may help to press the piece before you start.


It does not really matter which piece you work from first, sometimes working on the largest piece to smallest can help you understand construction better. Sometimes it may be best to start with the simple pieces to ease yourself into it.


Usually it helps to mark with the garment inside out so that you can clearly see the seams. Having said that this piece is so simple that I did not feel the need to turn it.


Starting with the easiest piece, the Back. The side seams are pinned together to differentiate the Back and allow it to be laid flat.


You are marking the piece off onto paper under the fabric and this can be marked in a number of ways.


  • Tracing wheel – which has the advantage of making a mark through the fabric, but ensue that it does not damage the fabric

  • Pencil – can be used on outside edges but no good for marking internal seams that are difficult to get to

  • A padded base under the paper – a foam mat is a good base, so that you can pin through the fabric to the padded base thereby making a mark on the paper in between. Pins can be placed every inch to differentiate the lines ready for firming up at a later stage. This is a really good method to trace of larger or more complicated pattern pieces as it holds the fabric in place as you smooth it along to the next area.

So using the method you prefer, smooth out the fabric flat onto the paper and trace around the edge of the pattern piece and mark off any other important areas.



With the Back here I have used a tracing wheel to trace all the way around the perimeter of the fabric. Also marking where the straps attach to the Back. Mark at the centre of the strap would work fine.







The lines are firmed up with pencil (done here in pen to make the marks clearer for the photos). Some lines you know are straight so you can firm those up easily like the Centre Back and the Neckline. For the Base and Side Seam get the best fit in with your curved ruler. You can also add a Grainline at this point parallel to Centre Back as you know this is where everything lines up.

You would usually true before adding seam allowances but as this is a very simple pattern I went ahead and added seam allowances in the Back at this point, I will simple fold them back when truing to the Front pattern piece. Seam allowances are added of ½” in Base and Side (for a French Seam) and ¼ on the Neckline ready for the Binding. Lastly you can add to cut on Fold on the Centre Back.

Onto the Front piece.

When laid out and starting from the Base smoothing upwards you can only go so far before the fabric starts to have tension. This is obviously because of the shaping for the bust, it is hard to see from this picture but there is a side dart.





So this shape has to be traced off in two passes.


It’s not too complicated in this small piece.


Weight down or pin down what you can smooth out at this point. Here I can trace off the Base the Side and three quarters of the Centre Front. Then by removing some weights and very carefully smoothing out the rest of the garment without shifting the fabric from the original traced lines the rest can be traced off including the position of the Dart (which when checking the garment was 2” Dart in total from the Side Seam).


I would like to use the shaping of the Dart for this top so the dart has to be accommodated for and there are a number of ways to do this, anyway you try to do this you will be adding in more volume so there is no exact method that I know of. A quick and easy way is to extend the Dart line out to a nearby seam which in this case is in the Neckline. Cut the Dart all the way across to the Neckline leaving a small amount to allow a hinge (cut in from the other side in the excess paper outside of the pattern) and hinge out the top part of the pattern to make way for the dart. A spare piece of paper is slipped under the pattern and taped down and the dart space of 2” is added in taping the other side of the dart into position.

You can see that this is not perfect as when the Dart is drawn in to the Dart end point that there is an amount of excess fabric that has been added when creating the dart. This will need checking in the Test Garment to make sure it fits properly in this area.



Here are the finished pattern pieces.









This gives you a quick and easy way to understand how to start to take your patterns off your garments.


As I pattern other garments I will add more examples into this Unit in the future.


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