How to Make a Paper Sewing Pattern From Ready-Made Clothing

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Things You'll Need

  • Ready-made clothing
  • Iron
  • 3 x 4 cork sheet
  • Newsprint
  • Straight fabric pins
  • Pencil
  • Needle-point tracing wheel
  • Clear acrylic ruler
  • Scissors

If you have items of clothing that fit perfectly and would like to have the same items in different colors or fabrics, you can reproduce them by using the garments to make patterns. Making paper patterns from ready-made clothing requires precision, but the process isn't too difficult. As long as you have a steady hand and the proper materials, you can create a paper sewing pattern that will allow you to recreate your best-fitting garments.

Iron the ready-made garment from which you want to make your paper sewing pattern, removing all creases and wrinkles. This will ensure your pattern is the exact size of your garment.

Find a large, flat work surface and unroll a sheet of cork onto it. The sheet should measure at least 3 feet by 4 feet to give you enough space to work in. The cork will help hold the garment into place when you begin making the pattern.

Place a piece of newsprint on top of the cork sheet. The newsprint must be large enough for your garment to comfortably fit within its perimeter. This is what you will be making your pattern from.

Arrange the garment on the newsprint, and pin it into place with straight fabric pins, sticking them straight down into the cloth, newsprint and cork layers. Smooth the fabric and the newsprint as you work to prevent bunching, which could distort the finished pattern. Place pins about two inches apart, all the way around the garment.

Trace along the seams and outer edges of one of the garment pieces, using a needle-point tracing wheel. For example, if you were copying a ready-made button-down shirt, begin with the shirt's left front; trace only along the seams where the shirt front is sewn to the rest of the garment and along the shirt front's edges.

Remove the pins from your garment, and pull it off the newsprint. You should see a perforated line that resembles the outline of your first pattern piece. In the case above, this would be the left shirt front.

Draw in a seam allowance of 1/4 inch around the perimeter of the pattern piece. Use a clear acrylic ruler and a pencil to mark the seam allowance.

Cut around the seam allowance border with a pair of sharp scissors, and label the paper. For example, write "left front" on the pattern piece you created from the ready made garment's left front.

Repeat Steps 3 through 8 to create the second pattern piece, for example the right shirt front or the shirt back or one of the sleeves. With the exception of a few simple ready-made garments, you'll need multiple pieces for each garment, so continue in this fashion until you have finished making all the necessary pattern pieces to create your own version of the ready-made garment.


  • If the garment from which you're making a pattern is constructed from delicate fabric, use a smooth tracing wheel to create your pattern outlines. This will help you avoid damaging the original garment.