Taking patterns from clothing without cutting anything up

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Taking patterns without cutting

A week ago I did my annual online bulk-ordering of sportswear in the hope of finding at least a few pieces to spruce up the workout wardrobe. As usual, this process was a total disaster and almost everything went back. While I thought I’d learnt by now that ready-to-wear clothing doesn’t usually fit me, I’d hoped that sportswear – the world of spandex-supported easy-fit clothing – would still have something to offer me. Apparently not. And I won’t even start on the complete over-provision of women’s sportswear in PINK.

Instead I turned to the Internet in search of sewing patterns for sportswear and stumbled across Melissa of Fehr Trade, who has created a bunch of sportswear patterns as well as this amazing list of places to buy technical fabrics. In spite of the list, I still haven’t been able to find everything I’m looking for, especially the elusive Supplex … I did find some great top-weight Coolmax fabric over at Aktivstoffe.de, who delivered so quickly that they must understand exactly what it’s like to wait for the postman when there’s a sewing project to get started on…

While I prefer to draft my own patterns as I end up making so many alterations anyway, if I’ve got a piece of clothing that fits how I want it to, I’ll just copy that. The second-hand shop is great for hacking up good-fitting patterns in nasty fabrics, but if you want to keep the item, it’s easy to take a pattern from it without wielding the scissors: All you need is paper, pins and a pen, and unless you have a dramatically enhanced memory or love note-taking, a camera comes in handy too (if you’re working with jersey, use a ball-point needle or pins to avoid any damage).

Taking patterns without cutting

1. Roll out your paper (I use large, cheap rolls of brown packing paper) over a surface such as carpet, a (lightweight) rug or foam matting.

2. Identify the main pattern pieces in your garment. Lay out the fabric so the piece your want to trace around is flat. Tap and ease the fabric gently to make sure it’s not stretched or wrinkled. If you’re cautious, pin the flattened section to the paper. If you’re not, go right ahead and, holding the fabric gently, prick a pin through the centre of the seams at regular intervals around the pattern piece. Make sure you prick the point of any corners. When you can’t lay a pattern piece flat (e.g. a two-piece sleeve), make a sharp fold in the pattern piece and pin the front and back together. Make sure there are no creases or stretch in the front or back of the piece. Prick around the folded piece and then flip it on the fold and continue.

3. Remove the pattern piece and notice the pinpricks on the paper underneath. Join the dots using a pen. You can user a ruler and French curves at this stage if you like. If you had to fold your pattern piece, simply ignore the pinpricks that you made along the fold.

4. Make notes on the pattern piece, including the name of the garment, the name of the piece (FRONT/BACK/SIDE etc.), how many pieces to cut, seam allowance, direction of bias, fabric type etc.

5. Continue to trace the other pattern pieces. Mark on centre front and centre back seams or for complex constructions, use symbols and notches on pairs of seams so you’ll know how to put the item back together. When you’re done, take the pieces and test yourself … Does it still make sense or are you already a bit confused? If you’re not clear, make more notes, otherwise you’ll be tearing your hair out when you come to work with the pattern in the future.

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6. Photograph any details of the garment and its construction that you might forget (e.g. if you borrowed the item or it has to, ahem, go back to the shop…), such as zips, pockets, topstitching etc.

6. Cut out your pattern pieces. Now’s a good time to fold in half any pattern pieces that should be symmetrical, such as front and back bodice pieces, and make any corrections. Then, use your new pattern pieces to make up a muslin or dive straight in with your fashion fabric if you’re confident, and remember to add a seam allowance!

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Once I finally find my Supplex and a good wicking lycra, I should be able to knock up this perfect-fitting fleece and pair of running tights minus the heart-stopping pink effect…

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