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.
Turn a men’s T-shirt into a little boy’s shirt.
I love the envelope sleeve look (found on baby onesies).
A) they just look cute
B) they make for an (almost) mistake-free way of sewing on sleeves.
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.
Can u teach me how to cut a blouse pattern for an adult and also a skirt just as
how you did it on the little guy?
hi i am search pattern in your website as you said in your videos but i m not find it kindly help me
I also need to know types of fabric
Great tutorial. How many inches do I allow at the top for the waistband?
i LOVE your site- i made myself some PJ shorts from this site and i am going to venture in to trying shirts thanks to this. i hate, hate hate patterns… maybe i am just too “newbie” to be able to read them. this site is great. thank you.
This is perfect! I think I’ve Pin’d just about every one of your posts by now. 🙂 Thank you for keeping the inspiration coming!
This is great! I make all of my own patterns too and always have a few “hiccups” along the way that I call my mom and ask for help haha. She told me today I should take a class on how to write my own patterns. I love your site!
Great tutorial.but please can u teach me how to cut Τ̲̅ђε̲̣̣̣̥ cowl neck properly. Would apreciate your help.thanks
I, too, would like a pattern for making a cowl neck. I’ve tried a couple but not very good at it.
Thank you for your help.
I too would like a pattern for a cowl neck. Can you please show me how/where to find your reply to others? With thanks
What an inspiration! I have a top that I absolutely love and have wished that I had more of the same style. I actually thought of trying to make a pattern out of the one I have and now, with your guidance, will give it a whirl!
Thank you so much for your tutorials! I made your pants using the pattern that you graciously uploaded and they turned out WONDERFUL! However, my shirt was an epic failure- apparently I don’t have the skills for creating my own pattern. You wouldn’t happen to have a pattern for this shirt would you??
Thank you so much for your idea of making pattern from junks clothing of my grandchildren. I definitely will try this out and make new pants and skirts for my three grandchildren. Thank you so much! Bless you!
Thank you so much for this tutorial. I wanted to buy my daughter a robe for Christmas, but can’t find any in her size in our price range, so I decided that I’m going to make one. These tips should make that process a whole lot easier 🙂
Hello! My name is riley. I love your website ! It. Was so helpful 🙂
My first attempt at the shirt failed because I made the neck opening huge! I was trying to make a pattern bigger than the onesie. I tore out the sleeves and will use them in my next attempt. I can tell it will be adorable! Peg
Any tips on making the pattern for boys pants the next size up? Thank you.
Thank you for all these great tutorials! I’m new to sewing and for the most part everything is very clear. The only hang up I’m having is imagining the front patterning of the pants if I’m making my own. They look exactly like the back, with a roomy curve. Do I pull the crotch part fo the pant forward when making the front pattern piece as well? Very confused. My guys are bigger and smaller than your pattern so I’m really trying to figure this out=) Thanks!
yep. the easiest way is to totally take apart a pair of pants and trace them, so you really get the feel for how the pattern pieces work.
good work and great inspiration.
Any tips on what to do if you DON’T have a pair of pants that fits? My boy is in cloth diapers and it seems like NOTHING fits over his fluffy bum unless it’s knit, and he really needs some nicer pants & shorts. Length & width on your pattern is perfect for him, but the crotch is just not deep enough.
What you need is to add extra length to the back. Make a few scrap pants to get the added length you need.
You are so talented will try the things I have learnt from you and will post. Please follow me on pinterest try to build it up thank you. Working on my website. Am new
Jessica, to extend the length of the crotch I would cut across the hip area of the pattern dissecting it from side to side.(below the waist at widest width,) Then having the top part pinned onto the fabric you are making it from drop the lower cut off portion down from it leaving an inch or so, whatever the added length needs to be. Now cut as if it is one solid pattern piece. Hope my explanation is understandable. Happy sewing.
love the tips, i have always make my own bathrobe because i wanted it out of the same towels as is in my bathroom. i just never though about the grandkids clothes. live and learn. bathrobes are easy because you can use one and cut it in half lengthwise, swap pieces and use the cut edged for the seam and then there are no edges to finish for the front. love mine thanks for the site
Thank you for this!!!!
My 2 1/2 year ol son needed a pair of wool pants. I’ve never sewn pants before. Only 1 pair of shorts from a Halloween costume.
I Found 100% wool men’s pants at Goodwill and used the fabric to make pants for him. Had enough to make a matching tie 🙂 Thanks again.
I would like to sew clothes that I have pictures of only no patterns is this possible with you.
Thanks for all these tips Dana! Even though we live in Santa Barbara, I’ll be making some Winter Pants for traveling to the Mid-West next month to see relatives.
I LOVE your website!! I do not like using patterns and when I first started sewing I used your website a lot for reference to making my own. I think it is so awesome you share your knowledge for free! I think you have a true love of sewing:) Thank you so….much for sharing!! You have taught & inspired me a lot and I’m sure others as well.
I am new to sewing and I want to make this shirt for my soon to be 2 yr old but I cant make the pattern right . I there anyway you can you can send me the pattern you made for this shirt.
I just discovered your website and love it. I am a plus size sewer and want to try and create my own patterns. What is a good material to make patterns out of.
I wear only one pattern, and sew all my dresses. I use a medium to lightweight interfacing (Pellon) for my pattern. However, mine is permanent. Unless you are sure of your fit and plan to use it over n over, then newspaper can work. Or butcher paper or brown paper either one, come on a roll and are plain, making it easier to make notes to yourself and label the pieces, i.e.: “long pant front” or “blouse short sleeve”. Use pencil–easier to correct! You can easily tape pieces of paper together if paper width is too narrow for a particular pattern piece.
What can you tell me about the grain line?? How do I place it appropriately in my own pattern? Also, I don’t see one in the patterns of yours I have looked at. What is the best method to marking a grain line – specifically on pants or shorts??
I’am trying to sew a leather cover on my gear shifter knob, how would I go about making a pattern for that kind of project?
James, I’m not Dana but I do have one idea for you. Cut a circle at least 1 and half the size you want to cover or maybe twice the size. Just have to practice with some scrap material, cut slits approx. 3/4 ” into the circle and all around the circle kind of close together. Check to see how that fits and if seems ok, then try your leather. You could punch small holes all around on each slit piece and thread a leather strip through, pull tight and tie off. The only other way I can think of would be gluing your leather on. I hope this helps….Judy
Really. Thank you for the partern tutorial. It makes this easy for me only icant cut all my dire style but Ihave an idea when I see what I like I willbuy. And make a pattern. From it tnx again
Thank you , for the way you describe how to make a pattern , I love sewing and always looking for new ways of doing things .
How do you know how much to add to the top for folding down and the top sides for gathering? Do you have an approximate or does it depend on the kids waist? I don’t want him to have droopy crotch or end up low riding the pants!
I just found your pattern making tutorial, Dana, and I thank you so much for it. Just this morning I was contemplating, how on earth I could use the shorts I have on and that fit me perfectly, in order to make a pattern out of them! Now I know 🙂 Blessings to you!
I’m proud to say I came up with this idea by my self this summer. I wanted to teach my grandsons how to make a pattern from their PJ bottoms. I taped news paper together and just folded the PJ bottoms in half. Once pants are placed on the news paper I allowed for seams, waist and hems. The boys watched me draw around the pants, as I explained what I was doing. I added a little more then I thought they would need and I’m glad I did. They sewed their own JP bottoms with my instructions. They all loved them and are proud they did the work themselves. I enjoyed passing on a skill to them and we all had a fun time.
I just made d first pant for my six months old n it was a perfect fit..thanks for d pictures they helped a lot
You are AWESOME!!!
Pretty! This was a really wonderful post. Many thanks for providing these details.
Thank you so much! I just made the 90 minute shirt (and pattern) for the first time and I am SO excited!!!
I would like to know what would happen if my pattern call to install a zipper, but I would like to sew the back up without the zipper.
It’d probably be fine AS LONG AS you can get your head through the neck without tearing a seam! Also you’ll need to make sure (if it a dress) that the waist will fit over your shoulders if you put it on over your head.
Brilliant! Thanks for sharing!
try sewing the back seam up with very big stitches (“basting”) and try the shirt on. If it fits, sew it again with normal stitches right next to the basting stitches, then remove the basting.
If the fit is almost right, you should be able to see how to adjust the pattern so it will be right. Keep basting and adjusting until you like the results.
Hi there! Thank you so much for this wonderful article. I’m a beginner dress maker, took a sewing class out of boredom and found it quite frustrating (not the sewing part, the part where I try out my work). I find that, although the measurements were pretty much correct (done by the teacher of course, not me), when I wore them, the underarms were a little tight, when bring both arms to the front and the back was a little tight. I brought the matter to the “person who taught me” and she was confused??? Hmmm??? Anyways, I couldn’t do any alteration except rip of the arms, adjust the seam allowance to the arms and bodice, still… I find the dress/blouse uncomfortable. I was wondering if your method, works on women’s blouse/dress etc? I could just use my own clothes and take the measurement from there and “make my own pattern”. Would it work?
I am thoroughly impressed with your ‘cut to chase alternative’ genius tutorial- Most searchers are visual and rely or skim ‘keywords’ and once they get to where they are looking for then they are engaging in full attention- I felt just by scrolling by that I was retaining skills used in the tutorial- I thought it was genius!
Draw the patterns on cheap plastic table clothes that way you can use them again and again Enjoy
Hi there, I desire to subscribe for this website to get newest updates, therefore where can i do it please help out.
I am so inspired by your easy to understand tutorials. Stitched a gathered skirt yesterday using one of your tutorials and feeling happy and excited.
Thank you Dana.
Hi there, You’ve done an excellent job. I’ll certainly digg it and personally recommend to my friends.
I am sure they will be benefited from this site.
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How do I make a basic pattern for a shirt, slacks for myself. I want to design a golf t-shirt urgently. Can’t find a pattern anywhere.
Thank you so much ,for your demonstration .it’s open up my mind.
Brilliant! Thanks for sharing!
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A long time ago I used to know how to sew a yard of fabric into a a tube to cut a continuous diagonal strip of fabric to use for piping and such. I cannot remember how to do it anymore and I have tried searching the internet for it and dont find it. Can you help me please?, Linda
Yes, that’s one way to make continuous bias tape. I don’t prefer doing it that way…but everyone has a different method that works in their head! You can see my method here:
or just do a google search for “continuous bias tape” and I’m sure you’ll find some tutorials.
I am trying to make some adult bibs. I would like to use oilcloth for easy clean up.
I have a baby bib pattern I could use, but it is not big enough, of course. How can I enlarge the pattern?
Thanks for any help.
I love your website! Can you make a tutorial on how to make a baby onesie or sleeper from scratch? Thanks!
My son is 8 years old.
How do I know how much material I need to make him basic pants?
You make sewing easy for me ,since I’m not much of a seamstress. Thank you for being so simple and easy to understand for beginners like me. I’ve made my daughter skirts with your video.
Please show the onesie you made From the T-shirt.