Using an Existing Garment as a pattern!
Project by Paula Milner AKA The Crafty Lass
A garment to unpick
New fabric – I have chosen ‘Sweet William’ from my Field of Memories organic cotton range
Any optional extras if needed for your garment such as…Buttons, Zips, Elastic, Interfacing
Paper and Pencil (Optional)
Iron and ironing board
I sometimes struggle to find dressmaking patterns that I like or I feel will suit me. There are of course so many ideas and patterns out there, but it is hard to know what to choose. And, I don’t want to purchase a pattern, spend all that time making it, to put on and see it just doesn’t work for me. However, I often find outfits in shops that I know WILL fit me, and one day I suddenly thought – hang on, why can’t I use an existing top as the pattern?!
Maybe you could have a look for tops that you could use as a pattern from your local charity shop? Or, perhaps you have a favourite item in your wardrobe that could do with an update… This would be a fab way to reinvigorate your love for it – in new fabrics using the same structure as a pattern!
If you are new to dressmaking I would suggest giving a basic ‘easy’ dressmaking pattern a go beforehand – just so you have a feel for how garments are constructed. However, if you are feeling confident, and you take note of how your item is connected/sewn together you can of course give it a go!
Here are my top tips for using an existing garment as a pattern!
Firstly, I found the right garment to pick apart. I had recently bought a floaty, V-neck top from high street chain, New Look. I thought there must be a way to convert this into a pattern to use with different fabrics. So, not wanting to take apart a top I enjoyed wearing – I looked to purchase a second one. This worked well, as New Look being an affordable option the top was priced at just £11 in the sale, which is not too dissimilar from purchasing a pattern.
Examine your chosen garment for how it is constructed together. Does it have buttonholes/buttons, gathers, elastic, seams, inner sections, darts. My existing New Look top has all of these – but I started to make some decisions on whether I would keep it the same, or make some adaptations. I noted down some basic measurements of darts, and tried to see the ‘order’ sections may have been sewn together. Sometimes this wasn’t obvious, but would become clearer when unpicking.
Carefully unpick the garment to reveal all the different sections. I only unpicked one sleeve as it was clear that both side were the same, and also only half of the main bodice. This saved time and also allowed me to refer back to what it looked like when sewn on one side (although I did have a complete other one to wear, but perhaps you wouldn’t!)
I debated whether to lay the cut pieces out on to paper and cut out a paper template – but, in the end I decided to give each fabric piece a really good iron and using lots of pins laid them out directly on to the new fabric. This allowed me to make sure I was cutting them exactly the same. Where I had unpicked such delicate fabric, I did have some ‘fraying’ to contend with. However, I just made sure to try and follow the main outline of each item as best I could. The main bodice I folded in half and placed along the folded edge of my fabric to ensure a symmetrical finish.
Start to sew the items together! This will of course be different for whatever your item is. For this top, I started with the main bodice parts including adding in the darts, before connecting to the back piece. Then, I added in the sleeves including the little ruffled puff sleeves, before sewing up the sides and finishing with the hems. Overall whilst sewing, I chose to initially use a simple running stitch in quite a long length so I could easily unpick again if needed. Then I followed on with a tighter running stitch, and then finally a zig-zag in the seams to secure. You could of course use an overlocker if you have one.
Written by Paula Milner for The Craft Cotton Co 2022.