One of the biggest discoveries that I made about commercial sewing patterns was that I didn't have to stick to the pattern. I could change it.
I was sewing for years before I learned this valuable lesson. I wanted to sew the fashions that I saw in the magazines, and I couldn't always find these styles in the pattern books.
For instance, I longed for a cropped jacket with a nipped waist, but all I could find were more traditionally boxy jackets that ended determinedly at the hipline.
It wasn't until I started studying fashion design that I realized all the possibilities for altering patterns. Consider converting the traditional blazer to a more feminine, cropped silhouette. Here's how:
- Choose a pattern that is similar in style lines to the look that you want—the simpler the pattern, the better. You don't want something that is too complex or different from the style you want to achieve.
- Lay your front and back pattern pieces out flat. It helps to iron them.
- Using an 18-inch clear ruler, carefully mark your new desired hemline from the bottom of the jacket pattern, moving along the edge and side curves. (If your jacket pattern has a straight center front bottom edge and you want a curve, you can add this, too!)
- With your ruler and a French curve, mark the new hemline. Blend the new hemline into the center front edge.
- Using your French curve or just your eye and freehand drawing, draft in the desired waistline. Don't make too the change too drastic and keep in mind the ease and fit of the pattern. Even a 1/4-inch nip on a waistline can make a big difference!
- Add seam allowances.
- To preserve your original pattern (recommended), transfer the pattern markings, including your new alterations, to pattern paper and make a new pattern.
- Create a muslin to test out the garment for fit and style. Don't be afraid to experiment and try several styles. That's what designing is all about!
You can take these same principles and apply them to sleeves, hemlines and pants. Add a flounce to a skirt, create a vintage-Dior-style, elbow-length sleeve, or convert a favorite pants pattern into a pair of walking shorts. Be sure to follow the adjustment suggestions on the pattern pieces—it's not about just lopping off the bottom edge. You can even cut up patterns and add design lines to a garment as long as you remember to add in seam allowances and avoid dart areas. Get creative!
Trompe L'Oeil jumper from Cut-Up Couture
|Along these same lines (no pun intended!), you can also cut up items from your own cache of clothing, and upcycle them into something new and fabulously stylish. How easy it this: You don't even have to make the garment; you just refashion and restyle an existing piece. There is this great new book called Cut-Up Couture: Edgy Upcycled Garments to Sew. Using men's clothing, the book offers 34 right-off-the-runway garments and accessories that you can make, many of which are reversible or can be worn several ways. I love it!|
Balloon skirt created from men's shirts in Cut-Up Couture.