Make Your Own Patterns

Copy your favorite dress and remake it!

I've had two posts recently on patternmaking: Cut Up Your Patterns and Your Clothes and The Seven Patternmaking Tools I Would Take to a Deserted Island. And now maybe you are ready to dive into the deep end and start making your own patterns.

Patternmaking can include anything from making a basic template for a small gift project to the most elaborate evening gown. For your first project, you don't have to create a complicated design. In fact, the simpler the better, especially when you are beginning.

And you can start out by being a copycat. It's the best kept secret of all the great designers! (Shhhhh, don't tell anyone that I told you!)

Is there a purse you own, whose shape you admire or a dress in your closet that you have loved to death, but can't bear to part with? You don't have to! You can copy it, by tracing it off.

For an accessory, lay the item on your pattern paper, and trace the outline with your pencil. You don't have to do it perfectly; you can refine the lines later. Just get the basic shape of the bag and think of each pattern piece.

Measure the handles and approximate their width and length on paper.  After you have all your pattern pieces, mark in seam allowances, cut out your fabric, stitch it up, add your closures and you have a new favorite handbag.

For a dress or other garment, you do a rub-off by putting the paper on top of the garment and using tailor's chalk to rub off the seamlines of the garment. Work with each dress section separately to create the different pattern pieces. If you press firmly as you rub the chalk, you will see that the seamlines naturally become more distinct.

Take that rub-off and use it to trace the different parts of the dress to make the pattern pieces. Add in any darts or tucks and leave enough room around each piece to draft in the seam allowances. (Most commercial patterns use a 5/8" seam allowance, but I prefer the 1/2" seam allowance favored by fashion industry professionals.) Also, be sure to make pieces for facings.

If you are going to line the dress, create those pattern pieces as well. Make a muslin test garment first to try out the fit. Make any adjustments to your pattern. Then just sew as you would any dress pattern, including closures.

Presto! A new version of the old dress you loved, with no fitting required! 

As you can see, patternmaking is about taking basic shapes and putting them together. You can work with found objects, an idea out of your head, or embellish on an existing pattern. Did you know that many patterns in the Sew Daily shop are on sale?

These are original designs that you can use to create your handmade items or use them as a starting point for your own creations.

I would love to hear about any patterns that you have made. Tell me about it on the Sew Daily blog.

Happy stitching!


Other sewing topics you may enjoy:


Pattern Drafting

About Amber

Amber Eden is the editor of Stitch and She LOVES sewing and editing Stitch and She also loves dance, yoga, iced decaf triple espressos, and her two golden retrievers. She divides her time between Boston and New York.

4 thoughts on “Make Your Own Patterns

  1. I’ve made quite a lot of patterns over the years but the one I remember best is copying the dress a friend had. She had lent it to me and I liked the way it fitted and looked so much that I made my own version. Eventually she gave me the original as well because she got too big for it. I still have both of them

  2. This all works well for “normal” bodies. I recently made a skirt pattern and skirt. Measured, added ease, seam allowance, dart etc. Now I am square hipped, short waisted in the back, not as much in the front-sway back. All I wanted is a straight skirt without elastic as I have enough bulk there already. Just sit on the hips-no waistband only facing. It rides up, gaps in the sway back and is tight in the hips (that might be the pies’s fault rather than the pattern). Other than that it’s perfect….ha ha. I know I have to have a personal pattern…now what?

  3. Just a hint – to make a favorite pattern last longer, buy several yards of lightweight iron-on Pellon interfacing and iron your pattern pieces to it. Cut out the pattern along the cutting edges, and your pattern will be preserved for many more uses.