People often ask how I sew without store-bought patterns. It’s not hard to do and you can do it to too!
I’ll show you how.
First off, I don’t totally “wing it.” I use a piece of clothing I already have as my guideline and improvise from there. The nice thing about children growing out of their clothes is that you can use a shirt they’ve grown out of as a new pattern (or guideline).
If you’re new to sewing, the best way to understand clothing construction is to actually deconstruct it. Start by looking at your clothing. Study how it’s put together. Take apart an old pair of pants, so you know what a pant leg looks like. Cut the sleeve off an old shirt so you understand the arc of a sleeve pattern piece. Once you understand how clothes are put together, you will turn your nose up at similar clothing in stores, realizing that they are ripping you off at those prices! Once you get this, it’s like riding a bike….you will never forget.
Probably every mom has an old onesie that their baby has spit-up on, stained, stretched, and well, it’s ready for the trash. Don’t toss it! Use it as a pattern! Start by cutting it up at the seams, as close to the seam as you can:
This will serve as our “pattern.” If this is a onesie that fits your child, easy! Fold the onesie in half and trace only one side. You will then trace the exact same side to the other half of your paper so everything is very symmetrical (since over time, your onesie is prob not very symmetrical). Make sure you add for a seam allowance (if you sew with a 1/2 inch seam, make sure that’s factored in to your pattern so the shirt doesn’t come out too tight.) Decide where you’d like the shirt to end (where your child’s waist might be) and stop there. Do not trace the bottom crotch area where the snaps are. Do the same for your BACK piece too. Note: the back of the shirt collar will be higher than the front collar:
If your child has outgrown the onesie (like my little guy had), use some of his current shirts to help guide you along. I still traced the neck of the onesie (as shown above) but then I used a ruler to see how much extra I should add on the side, so it would be as large as his current store-bought T-shirt. As you extend the side of your shirt piece, you will also need to extend the tip of the Onesie shoulder piece too. It should extend about 1 to 1 1/2 inches beyond where the normal shoulder is. If you want to the shirt to envelope and fold over even more, make the tip even longer (or vice versa if you want the envelope to be smaller):
Trace that onesie piece with the added sizing onto paper (or old scrap fabric) and then cut it out. Woohoo! Looks like it worked! (in the picture below) Also, when I make these shirts, I’m usually refashioning from an old men’s T-shirt so I use that existing hem as the new hem. SO, in my pattern, I make the pattern piece stop right where I want the finished hem to end (see below). If adding a new hem instead, you would extend that area when cutting out your shirt:
Okay, for the sleeves….just take the sleeve piece you cut off of the onesie and trace it! If you need to make it larger to accommodate a larger size, use your other shirt again to help guide you….
I folded the sleeve piece in half and measured how much more I needed to add (using one of his current shirts for size/fit):
I drew up a short sleeve pattern piece and also a long-sleeve version. And here are my pattern pieces, all ready to go! From left to right…..shirt BACK, shirt FRONT, short sleeve (top) and long sleeve (bottom):
Making patterns is always an evolving process for me. You may not get the pattern right the first time. So…you go back and make adjustments for the next time! If you’re worried about messing up your nice fabric, try out your pattern on a piece of junk fabric first.
Now head to the 90 Min Shirt TUTORIAL to finish it up!
The KNEE PAD PANTS PATTERN:
As seen in the tutorial HERE, this is how I made the pattern….
Pants are made of 4 pieces (2 different pattern pieces). The best way to understand this is to study your own pair of pants and see how they’re put together; maybe even cut up a junk pair of pants.
If you’ve never made pants before, you may want to sew a trial pair first….just to see if you’re creating the pattern properly. You don’t have to sew this trial pair all the way to the end (unless they’re adorable of course) but it will allow you to make changes to your pattern before cutting into your nice fabric.
Here’s what I do.
These pants I did buy in a store, but hey, they were on sale for $1! Not bad. And I use them as a pattern for all my boy pants, since they fit my little man perfectly:
I turn the pants inside out, and fold one leg on top of the other so I can see the entire pattern piece. You will do this for the front of the pants and the back of the pants. Both pattern pieces are similar, but the back leg usually has a larger crotch area (the curve of the pants) to accommodate big diaper bootie:
Then on a scrap/junk piece of fabric I create a pattern (you can also trace on to large butcher paper). I trace all around the pant leg, allowing a little extra for a 1/4 inch seam. I just use a Sharpie marker or you can use a fabric marker.
I also like to make pants with a very slight flair at the bottom of the leg, even for boys. Nothing extreme. Just enough though that the legs don’t feel tapered:
When you get to the top, remember that the waistband is gathered, so you need to stretch the pattern pants as you create the new pattern and allow for more fabric in this area. You also need to add more length to the top, as the waistband will be folded over.
Leave the bottom portion of the pant leg MUCH longer than you would think because you never know how long you’ll really want them. And often I end up creating the hem very wide so when my little guy grows taller, I can let down the pant leg and they last much longer!
Now head to the Knee Pad Pants Tutorial to finish them up!
And that’s how I make patterns. Now you can take anything you own and make it too.