Make Sewing Patterns by Tracing an Existing Garment: 9 Simple Steps for Perfect Results

In the world of sewing, creating your sewing patterns can be both a creative and practical endeavor. Crafting patterns from scratch allows for endless customization, ensuring a perfect fit and the ability to bring your unique design ideas to life. In this guide, we will delve into the intricacies of pattern making by tracing an existing garment, a technique known as “rub-off” pattern making. With the right tools, techniques, and a keen eye for detail, you can transform your favorite garments into customized sewing patterns tailored to your measurements and style preferences. For a comprehensive overview of other methods for perfect custom garments, check out our article how to make a sewing pattern.

Materials and Tools for Making Sewing Patterns

Before we dive into the step-by-step process on how to make sewing patterns, let’s gather the materials and tools you’ll need:

  1. Garment to Trace: Select a well-fitting garment that closely matches the style and fit you desire for your sewing pattern.
  2. Pattern Paper: High-quality pattern paper or a big sheet of paper works well for tracing. You can find pattern paper at most fabric or craft stores. If you can’t find any paper, you can also tape together printer paper to create a bigger surface.
  3. Pins and Weights: To secure the garment and pattern paper in place.
  4. Marking Tools: Tailor’s chalk, disappearing ink markers, or even a tracing wheel can be helpful for transferring pattern markings, but you can also use a pencil.
  5. Ruler, Curve Ruler, and Measuring Tape: These are essential for ensuring accuracy during the pattern making process.
  6. Scissors: Scissors are crucial for cutting the pattern paper and any necessary alterations.
  7. Tracing Material: A see-through tracing material like transparent medical paper or Swedish tracing paper can be helpful for duplicating curved or intricate design elements.
  8. Basic Sewing Supplies: Needles, thread, and a sewing machine for creating the final garment.

Make Sewing Patterns Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Preparing Your Workstation

Set up a clean, well-lit workspace and ensure you have ample space to work comfortably. Lay out your materials and tools for easy access. Place your garment on a flat surface and have your pattern paper, pins, weights, and tracing material nearby.

Step 2: Preparing the Garment

Begin by examining the garment you wish to trace. If it has any darts, tucks, pleats, or other design elements, mark them with tailor’s chalk or another marking tool. These elements are essential for capturing the garment’s shaping and style.

Step 3: Securing the Garment

Tracing a garment
Keep the garment flat and spread out.

Lay your garment flat on the work surface, ensuring there are no wrinkles or folds. Use pins or weights to secure the garment in place to prevent any movement during the tracing process. The garment should be taut, but not stretched.

Step 4: Tracing the Main Pieces

Sewing pattern tracing
Paper positioned on top of the garment to trace the main pieces

With your pattern paper laid out beside the garment, select one main pattern piece to trace first. Typically, this is the front or back bodice, a pant leg, or a skirt front or back. Gently lift and fold back the remaining sections of the garment, so only the selected piece is exposed for tracing.

Position the pattern paper over the exposed garment section, aligning the edges of the paper with the garment’s seams and edges. Use pins or weights to secure the paper in place, ensuring it lays flat and smooth.

Now, use a tracing tool (such as tailor’s chalk) to carefully trace the garment’s outline onto the pattern paper. Pay close attention to any darts, pleats, or style lines, and transfer them accurately onto the paper. If the garment has a center front or back seam, be sure to capture this as well. This is one of the most important parts that will make your sewing pattern so be careful and accurate.

If you have darts, pleats or any other kind of tucks in your original garment be sure to mark the spot and the direction of the dart/pleat on your paper so you can later add the width.

Step 5: Adding Seam Allowances

Pattern tracing
Add seam allowances to the pattern on the paper

Once you’ve traced the main pattern piece, it’s time to add seam allowances. Seam allowances are the additional fabric around the pattern that allows for sewing and finishing the edges. A standard seam allowance is 3/8 inch (1 cm), but you can adjust it to your preference. Here it can be helpful to add more seam allowance so that if you have traced your garment incorrectly, you’re still able to add width. Use a ruler to measure and mark the seam allowance around the traced lines. This step is key for ensuring your sewing pattern is complete and ready for construction.

Step 6: Completing Additional Pieces

Tracing garment
Copying additional pieces
How to trace a sewing pattern
Mark important details, like pocket positions

Repeat the tracing and seam allowance addition process for all remaining pattern pieces of the garment. Be systematic and thorough, ensuring you capture every component necessary to recreate the garment accurately. Remember to label each pattern piece for easy identification.

Step 7: Darts, Tucks, and Pleats

Use a tape measure or a ruler to measure out the depth of you pleats or your darts. Add this width to your paper pattern by cutting open the line you marked in the previous step. Open the pattern and add a piece of paper the size you measured.

Step 8: Test Your Pattern

Before using your newly created pattern to cut your final fabric, it’s wise to make a test garment using inexpensive muslin fabric. This step, often called “making a muslin,” allows you to assess the fit and design of your pattern. Any needed alterations can be made on the muslin before cutting your chosen fabric.

Step 9: Cutting and Sewing

Once you’re satisfied with your muslin, you’re ready to cut your fabric using the finalized pattern. Follow the pattern instructions and your sewing skills to assemble your custom garment. Don’t forget to transfer any additional markings or notches from your pattern to your fabric to ensure proper alignment during construction.

You’d like a simpler way to customize your sewing patterns?

Check out the 3D Sewing Pattern Designer where you can pick out your favorite style, then customize it to your liking by changing necklines, lengths and design elements and then you’ll get your perfect sewing pattern made-to-measure! Sewing exactly what you want in your exact size has never been easier!

Custom sewing patterns
Picknsew® 3D Sewing Pattern Designer

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