Making a sewing pattern from my favorite vest
Ever had a piece of clothing you liked so much that you wore it to shreds or you wished you could replicate it in another color? Well actually to copy your clothes is a fairly easy task. In this post I will demonstrate how to copy a garment without taking it apart a simple technique that I explain in this step by step tutorial about making a sewing pattern from my favorite vest. I will also demonstrate how to use fabric selvage to sew a hand-rolled hem. I encountered difficulties with this project because of my chosen fabric but it allowed me to explain my infallible tip for sewing difficult fabrics that may be slippery, lacy, stretchy, types of vinyl or coated materials and I am sure that it will be of great use to you.
Lets begin →
Making a sewing pattern from my favorite vest
I found this eyelet mesh fabric at my local fabric store. I thought that the fabric resembled the curtains that were hanging in my aunt’s old house. Do you see the resemblance with those vintage nylon curtains from the 60s? At $2.00/meter I didn’t over think what I could do with it so I purchased 2 meters and headed home.
During the drive home I had already settled with making a sewing pattern from my favorite vest. I have been wanting to make a tutorial about how to copy your clothes and that vest would be a perfect example for beginners and it is useful to learn how to copy a garment without taking it apart.
The eyelet mesh fabric is similar in weight and drape compared to my favorite vest and both fabrics also had a bit of stretch to them.
How to copy a garment without taking it apart
The first step to copy your clothes is to analyze the garment you want to duplicate and identify the different pieces of fabric that make up the garment.
This vest is very simple; slightly draped front panels, bell sleeves and both front and back bodice are loose and flowy. That makes for 3 parts to copy.
I like to start by tracing the symmetrical parts of a garment, so I will start by tracing the garment front bodice.
TRACING THE FRONT BODICE
Place the garment on top of a large piece of paper and flatten out the front bodice making sure to not stretch the fabric.
Simply move the rest of the garment out of your way. Trace around the edges of the bodice then trace the side seam through the lace holes.
Note: When I trace other types of fabric that do not have holes in them I use carbon paper. I place the garment on top of the dull side of the carbon paper then rub over the seam or the part that I want to copy ( like darts or pocket placements) with the pointy part of a pencil cap. I know that carbon paper is mostly used to transfer drawings but I like to use it because it gives out nice dark lines and in my opinion it is more accurate than using the “taking a rub off of clothes” technique.
To trace around the armhole part of the bodice, use pattern weights (food cans could also do) to anchor the garment on the paper and trace the armhole shape following the seam.
Finish drawing the front bodice pattern by connecting the dots. I used my pattern drafting rulers but you can do without and get by with a simple ruler and use serving dishes in different sizes to draft curves.
Draw a vertical line from top to bottom of the pattern piece for the grainline.
I added 6/8 of an inch (1.5 cm) for seam allowances because the fabric has large eyelet holes I will assemble the vest with French seams ( Wiki How has a good tutorial on how to sew a French seam). I added 1.5 inches (4 cm) for the bottom hem, even though I am still debating if I should leave the hem edges unfinished since the fabric doesn’t fray. I will decide after the vest is assembled.
TRACING THE BACK PART OF THE BODICE
Find the center back of the vest by folding the back bodice in half matching both side seams and the underarms seams while keeping the waist band aligned and at the same level. Carefully smooth out wrinkles. The fold obtained is the center back of the bodice.
Trace a long line on your paper and place the center back of the bodice on that line. Trace around the bottom of the vest and trace the side seam.
The armhole is curved and is a bit trickier to copy than flat areas.
To trace the armhole and the shoulder seam simply move the pattern weights close to the area you want to trace, while making sure that the fold remains on the grainline. Finish tracing the upper part of the armhole, the shoulder seam and the neckline.
Below the back bodice pattern traced;
The back bodice pattern will be cut once on the fabric fold. But if your fabric is not wide enough, you could add a seam in the bodice middle back.
TRACING THE SLEEVES
Sleeves are asymmetrical and we need to separate them in two parts and trace the front and the back separately.
Locate the shoulder seam, fold the sleeve in two as if you were continuing the shoulder seam. This folded line will be the grainline and on each side of the fabric fold you have the front and the back parts of the sleeve.
Trace a long line on your paper and place the sleeve fold on the line, anchor the garment with pattern weights. Trace around the sleeve hem, the underarm seam and the armhole seam. You see in the above picture that I have drafted the front part of the sleeve.
Now carefully flip the sleeve over, align the sleeve on the fold with the grainline and trace the other side of the sleeve.
Below see the traced sleeve pattern;
In the picture above you see that I have corrected the sleeve cap shape. Below, see how I corrected that curve.
I used a flexible curved ruler to measure the armholes of both the back and the front bodices. (Or you can simply lay your measuring tape on it’s edge Mrs Maven from Maven patterns for a good pictorial on how to do it).
Carry forward the bodice armhole measures to the front and the back parts of the sleeve pattern. It was easy with the flexible curved ruler, I simply drafted the new sleeve cap by tracing along the flexible ruler. Again you can use a big serving dish to draw the curved shape.
Now label your sleeve pattern and add notches (matching points). Notches are small marks that are used to make sure that two pieces of fabric will come together correctly when sewn. The shoulder point will match the shoulder seam and the sleeve notches have to be matched with the front and the back bodice notches.
In the picture above I am using a pattern notcher tool to make notches on the paper pattern but you can use scissors to cut small V shapes. Rule for all pattern making; the front part of patterns are identified by one single notch and the back part of patterns are identified by a double-notch.
Transfer the notches of the front and back sleeve pattern to your bodice front and back paper patterns.
To transpose the sleeve pattern notches onto the bodice front and back pattern pieces I used a technique called “walking the seam” it goes faster and it is far more accurate then measuring with a ruler. I place the front part of the sleeve pattern over the front bodice pattern, I align the underarm seam and I then walk the sleeve pattern over the armhole seam. I will let Bianca from Vintage on tap explain how it is done.
TESTING (TRUING) YOUR SEWING PATTERN
Verifying the pattern is the important process of checking and correcting my drafted pattern before I cut the pattern pieces in fabric. I have to verify among other things that the seams that will be sewn together have the same lengths, that intersections and joining seams have continuous lines, that corners are square…
Let’s true the vest starting by the side seams;
Place the front and the back bodice on top of each other and verify that the side seams are of the same length and square all corners.
Now the shoulder seams;
Place the front and the back bodice on top of each other and verify that the shoulder seams are of the same length. Square the armhole corners.
Now the neckline and the armhole junctions;
Place the front and back bodice pattern shoulder to shoulder and smooth neckline and armhole intersections, then square the corners.
Verify the sleeve pattern;
Fold the sleeve pattern in two and verify the length of the underarm seams and square all corners.
If you wish to learn more on how to true and finish your drafted patterns Tessa Elston from Inspired sewing explains it very well and also demonstrate how to true different type of garments.
CUT FABRIC WITH THE PAPER PATTERN
If you need information about pattern layout, pinning and fabric cutting see this tutorial written by Jan Bones for Threads.
I changed the sewing needle for one adapted to stretch fabrics and tested my machine stitches on a piece of scrap fabric. I quickly realized that no machine setting allowed the stretch mesh fabric to feed under the pressure foot and the fabric kept jamming the sewing machine.
I fixed this problem with a very simple trick that involves using tissue paper. Yes! the same ones used to decorate fancy gift packaging.
Tip for sewing difficult fabrics
This is an infallible tip for sewing difficult fabrics that may be slippery, lacy, stretchy, types of vinyl or coated materials and I am sure that it will be of great use for you to know. Tissue paper works as a stabilizer and helps the fabric feed under the pressure foot and also prevents the fabric from being pulled down into the feed dogs (great to use as a stitch starter method for delicate fabric). Note that it is still important to use a sewing needle appropriate for your fabric.
I recommend that you only use white tissue papers; the colored ones may bleed where the sewing needles punch holes and stain your fabric (especially if the tissue paper inadvertently gets wet) besides one single layer of white paper will remain see-through and with some fabrics or certain prints this could be handy.
To make stripes of paper I took the paper out of the package and kept all the layers stacked together. I drew lines across the papers and made bands the width of my ruler.
As seen in the picture above, you will assemble and pin your fabric pieces together to prepare them to be sewn, but this time you will sandwich your fabric between two pieces of tissue paper.
I like to take the time to align the edges of the tissue paper with the edges of the fabric because it makes a visual reference that helps me sew straight lines and it is easier to respect the seam allowance widths.
Here are the easy steps;
Step 1– Machine stitch over the tissue paper and through all fabric layers and you can safely sew back stitches at the beginning and at the end of your seams.
Step 2– Your sewing needle left holes in the tissue paper making it easy to rip the paper off your fabric, unless your fabric is light weight or delicate and in this case you risk pulling your sewing thread with the paper. To protect your machine stitches; pinch and hold the tissue paper near the seam and pull the paper on the opposite side. (see the image above). This way you won’t pull your thread along with the paper.
Step 3– Et voilà! A nice straight line of even stitches.
ASSEMBLING THE VEST
For the assembling explanations I will not mention the steps that I needed to use on my troublesome fabric using tissue paper and sewing French seams. I invite you to finish the raw edges of your garment with a method that matches the needs of your fabric; pink sheer scissors, over lock machine or zigzag stitches.
Pin the right side of fabric together; the shoulders of the front and back bodices, the bodice side seams and the inside sleeve seams. Machine stitch the assembled sections together. Seam finish all edges according to the needs of your fabric. Press all seams flat open.
Sew set-in sleeves; I prefer to sew sleeves in the round (sleeve inserted inside the armhole) as I find that set-in sleeves wear and look better with the sleeve cap resting on the shoulder point and have a more tailored look.
Align the sleeve notches with the bodice armhole notches; front part of the sleeve (one notch) with the front bodice notch, back part of the sleeve (double-notches) with the back bodice notches. Shoulder point notch should align with the shoulder seam. Underarm seam should align with the bodice side seam. Finish all raw edges according to the needs of your fabric and press the seam in towards the sleeve.
Since the eyelet fabric was not not unraveling I decided to not hem any edges intentionally using them to stylize the vest thinking it would give it a trendy Boho vibe. At this point, in principle, the vest is finished.
Except that the raw edges did not look good around the vest front panels. On the original vest the front panels and the neckline edges were finished with a bias I will finish the edge of the vest with the fabric selvage.
How to use fabric selvage
I then thought that the eyelet fabric selvage would make for a perfect finish for the contour of the vest. Below I will show you how to use fabric selvage to sew a hand-rolled hem edge.
The selvage outside edge has a natural tendency to roll inward onto itself and I will hide the seam allowance inside that roll. First, I machine stitched the selvage around the vest contour; wrong side of selvage against the right side of the vest.
I trimmed and reduce the seam allowance to 1/4 of an inch (0.7 cm) to reduce bulk.
How to finish the vest contour by slip-stitching the selvage by hand;
1– Hide the starting knot inside the seam allowance .
2– Pin the sewing needle near the selvage edge.
3– Fold the seam allowance inside the selvage and slip stitch the selvage to the garment along the stitching line (stitches should not show on the right/good side). Gently pull on the thread enclosing the seam allowance inside the roll.
This edge finish actually looks pretty good!
That made me question my initial idea of leaving the vest and the sleeves edges unfinished and raw (see the first picture below).
So I decided to try something, you see in the second picture that I cut into the fabric between the eyelet patterns in order to create longer fringes at the bottom of the vest. Nah, I did not like how it looked as once cut on the cross grain the fabric began to loose zillions of fiber balls.
And yes…. I went ahead and cut in the actual garment instead of trying my idea on a piece of fabric scrap! Ruining hours of pinning and ripping tissue papers and French seams sewing…. Important thing to remember when you are tired, stop crafting!
PLAN FOR FIXING MY BLUNDER
To fix my mistake I decided to sew a lace trim to the vest hem. I chose a wide 5 inches (12.7 cm) lace band with a scallop edge and a similar stretch than the eyelet fabric and it’s dirty beige color is a good combination with the peach of the vest.
The previously sewn selvage was not long enough to cover the lace band width so I added another piece of selvage to cover the lace.
Adding lace to the sleeves hems;
I wanted the sleeve hems to end where the lace was starting on the vest. To do so I reduced the lace width by 2 inches (5 cm) and also shorten the sleeves length by 2 inches (5 cm). I cut the lace at angles following the sleeves inside seams pattern.
I assembled the lace at the underarm seams and then sew set-in lace trims around each sleeve.
Well I think that covering my mistake actually improved the look of the vest and that I have reached the Boho style I was looking for.
What do you think, which version do you prefer?
Here is the finished vest;
Below the Pinterest format for you to pin 🙂
Below a different format for Instagram or other social medias : )
I hope that this tutorial about making a sewing pattern from an existing garment explaining how to copy a garment without taking it apart will inspire you to copy clothes that you like and prepare a pattern.
Thank you for passing by