How to Make Sewing Patterns

How to Make Sewing Patterns: A DIY Guide for Sewing Enthusiasts

If you want to learn how to make sewing patterns, you should first learn how to draft a sewing pattern. 

Are you tired of the same old clothes? Do you love to sew and do everything from alterations to designing your clothes? 

This is a common sentiment and one that many sewers also feel. The good news is that it’s easy to make your sewing patterns!

Make your own sewing patterns
Image source: The Creative Curator

Creating your sewing patterns from scratch can be a fun and creative way to express your style. 

It may not be the easiest skill to learn, but you will have learned all you need to know about sewing and pattern making by the end of this blog post.

This article walks through each step of drafting a sewing pattern and includes pictures so that you can understand what we are talking about.

Why Make Your Own Sewing Pattern?

How to make sewing patterns
Image source: Craftsy

Making sewing patterns all by yourself can feel daunting. 

The first question that pops into a sewer’s head when we talk about learning to make your sewing pattern is: why bother when we can simply use a readymade pattern online?

Well, here’s why, as an expert sewer who has learned to sew should dive into the pattern making business:

    1. Sewers can save money by developing sewing patterns. 

Not only because they don’t have to purchase the sewing pattern but also since there are no royalties or fees involved when selling it.

      2. For sewers who love designing and sewing clothes for others, this is a way of expanding your business without working with other creative people to reach more customers.

      3. Making your sewing patterns from scratch means you will create any design that you want! 

This could include clothing designs inspired by current trends or vintage fashion pieces that date back decades ago.

      4. Not all sewing patterns available online will provide that perfect fit. Often, sewers spend the whole day altering commercial patterns to make them fit their size. 

So why buy them in the first place if you have to make several modifications to make them fit?

Once you learn how to draft a sewing pattern, this won’t be a problem. You’ll be able to create a pattern that is precisely the right size for you. 

Say no to loose clothes and abnormal fits! Instead, create your own sewing pattern and make your clothes fit like a glove!

      5. Once you’ve learned how to make your own sewing patterns, you can sell your custom designs with multiple sizes online in retail stores like Etsy and make a living out of it! 

Making clothes also becomes a piece of cake once you gain experience in altering and drafting different patterns according to your size.

How to Make my Own Sewing Patterns: Different Pattern Drafting Methods

Most people want to learn how to create a sewing pattern because they want to control the fit of their clothes. Others just want to experiment with something new and learn a valuable skill.

No matter what your motive for learning sewing and pattern making might be, there are only five known ways to go about this endeavor.

Drafting method

What is it?

Altering a commercial sewing pattern

The first method would involve using a basic pattern and then altering it. 

This is comparatively easier than self-drafting a sewing pattern from scratch, and you can achieve a finished garment with just a few tips and tricks

Drafting a pattern from scratch

The second way is quite similar but involves drafting from scratch instead of using an existing pattern as a starting point. 

This way, you can create your unique design and size for the best fit possible!

This requires more skill than simply adjusting one size to match yours or someone else’s measurements. 

But the payoff is well worth it because now you know what shape will suit YOU best!

Tracing a clothing item to make patterns

The third method would be to draft one based on an existing garment or clothing item that fits you well. 

Be sure to carefully measure all dimensions so they come out just right when sewing the garment. 

This is much like cloning your favorite piece of clothing item to create a custom-fit garment. 

You can then alter your pattern to create it in various sizes and sell your favorite dress sewing pattern or skirt sewing pattern online!

Draping patterns

How to draft a sewing pattern
Image source: The Cutting Class

Draping is a technique that you can use to create patterns by manipulating fabric draped over a dressmaker’s dummy. 

You can then remove the fabric pieces from the mannequin and trace them over a pattern paper. This helps you create a unique garment design.

This is the most time-consuming option, but it also offers you the widest variety in cut and style. 

All methods depend on how comfortable you are with making adjustments in measurements and altering already-existing patterns. 

The first two options typically involve more work than the third option because they usually require accurate measurements of your body to make or alter the pattern.

Each method has its advantages and disadvantages, but they all require having some basic knowledge of how to sew garments. 

You will need to know a few sewing hacks and skills beyond that required for most beginner sewing projects if you don’t want any gaps between pieces when assembling them.

How to Draft a Sewing Pattern from Scratch?

If you’re still reading this post, it shows you’re eager to learn how to create a sewing pattern from scratch. 

Before you dive headfirst into drafting a pattern, decide what garment type is the easiest, to begin with. 

We suggest trying out shorts sewing patterns as starters because they require the easiest measurement and sewing techniques.

Things you will need to draft your sewing pattern are:

Pattern making tools and supplies
Image source: Let’s Learn to Sew

    • Ruler
    • Measuring tape
    • Straight pins
    • Fabric pen or pencil 
    • Pattern paper
    • Set square or pattern master

You also will need to know how to use a sewing machine

So, are you ready to jump onto the pattern-making journey and end your quest of how to make sewing patterns? Then, let’s get right into it!

Step 1: Taking Careful Measurements

There are essentially three things that you’re doing wrong while drafting your sewing pattern:

    • Using a pattern-making book with complicated instructions that are too complicated to understand. 
    • Using the measurements from the book as it is without any alterations to provide an exact fit.
    • Taking your measurements yourself.

Using incorrect measurements that are approximate will result in an ill-fitted block or pattern. Now, that is something you do not want!

To ensure you end up with measures that are just right, ask someone else to take your measurements. This reduces the chances of the sizes being incorrect. 

Front rise or crotch depth for pants and shorts:

How to create your own sewing patterns
Image source: Companion Denim

One thing to take care of while taking measurements for pants and shorts is the front rise

Measure yourself from where you would like the waistline of your shorts pattern (typically around the belly button) down through the crotch area about one inch below this point. 

This measurement is essential because it allows our patterns room for movement in all areas of an individual’s body that stretch during wear, such as hips and thighs. 

The table below highlights all the necessary measurements for garment types and ways to measure yourself accurately:

Pattern types Measurements
Dresses and tops
    • Bust: Measure the fullest part of your bust. Refer to this Wikihow blog to learn more.
    • Waist: Wrap the measuring tape around the slimmest part of your waist.
    • Height (for dresses only): Ask someone to hold the measuring tape from the top of your head to your feet to measure your height. Stand straight against a wall for accurate measurements.
    • Back width and length: Measure the length of your back starting from the neck and ending at the waist. Also, measure the widest part of your back. 
    • Front length: measure the front of your body from the neck to the waist

Note: If it’s a crop top sewing pattern, take the back and front measurements only until the point you want the top to the end, i.e., above your waist.

    • Sleeve length (optional): If you want to add sleeves to your dress, measure your arm length from your shoulder to as far as you want your sleeves to go.
    • Shoulder length: Measure shoulder length from the base of the neck to the shoulder edge.

Shorts, trousers, and pants sewing patterns

    • Waist: Measure the smallest part of your waist if it’s a high-rise pant. Otherwise, measure the lower part of your waist around the belly button if you want your pants sulking low.
    • Hips: Measure the roundest part of your hips.
    • Crotch depth: Sit on a chair and measure the length along your hips by placing a ruler facing up from the chair. End this measurement where you want your pants to end on your waist.
    • Hip depth: Mark where you’ve taken your hip measurement. Also, mark where you took your waist measurement. Then, measure the distance between these points to find the hip depth.
    • Leg length: Start measuring from the waist and take the length as far as you want your pants/shorts to go. 

Skirt sewing patterns

    • Waist measurement
    • Skirt Length: Measure from the waist down to as long as you want your skirt to be.
    • Hip measurement
    • Hip depth

Next, you’ll want to determine both the finished and unfinished hem measurements for your garment. You can typically find these on a readymade clothing item that has similar measurements as yours.

Step 2: Drawing the Pattern to Scale

Once you’ve measured everything out with precision, follow these steps:

Sewing and pattern making
Image source: Wikihow

      A. First, sketch a design of your garment onto plain paper. 

Make sure to include all the design elements such as pockets, darts, pleats, and cuffs. This will help you decide how many pattern pieces you’ll be including, such as sleeves.

      B. Next, lay a piece of pattern paper onto a flat surface and mark the measurements on the paper (preferably by transferring measurements from a chart), leaving a 2 inches gap from the top of the paper.

How to create a sewing pattern from scratch
Image source: Wikihow

For instance, if you’re making a dress sewing pattern, begin by marking your height on the paper. Then, 

    1. Draw a horizontal line 2 inches from the start of the paper, indicating the beginning of your head.
    2. Measure (in cm or inches) from the line you drew to how long you want the garment to be. Then, draw a horizontal line there. So, if you’re 61 inches tall, you’ll mark the height for a mini dress up to 37 inches. 
    3. Draw more horizontal lines for shoulder, bust, waist, and hip lengths. Again, refer to the measurement chart you created at the start for this.
    4. Mark ¼ of your bust, waist, and hip on their respective lines and connect the dots. Make sure to create the exact design you drew on the A4 sheet before as you join the marks.
    5. Make the neckline and shoulder using curved rulers.
    6. Add seam allowances.
    7. Make a separate sleeve pattern using the sleeve length measurement and the arm width. Keep it as loose or as tight according to preference. 

      C. Once you’ve drawn the pattern to scale, cut the outline to create separate pattern pieces. 

Keep a blank pattern paper underneath the first one and then cut to obtain front and back pattern pieces. 

Remember not to cut the necklines together, as you may want to keep the front lower than the back. Cut the necklines separately.

How to self draft a sewing pattern
Image source: Wikihow

How to Create Your Own Sewing Patterns Using Existing Patterns

Pattern tracing
Image source: The Creative Curator

If you’re buying a commercial pattern online, the chances are that the pattern’s sizing chart will fail you. 

Plus size sewing patterns are challenging to find, and you miss out on many cool pattern designs just because they aren’t available in your size. 

Well, that’s not a problem anymore! Once you learn how to self draft a sewing pattern using an existing base pattern, you would practically be able to sew just any garment you want in your size!

Beware of one thing, though—this drafting method is not for commercial pattern-making businesses. 

If you use an existing pattern to recreate one under your name, you violate the copyright laws and get yourself into trouble! Doing so is unethical and won’t be good for your business anyway. 

You can use these sewing patterns to create finished garments and sell them online, though. Add custom woven labels and hang tags to let the world know you produced them. 

Adding care labels with applicable washing instructions will show you provide quality in your products and service.

Be mindful of the restrictions placed by the pattern maker. For example, some manufacturers do not allow you to resell and redistribute their patterns or even create garments using them for sale.

We recommend using free sewing patterns as your base to learn how to alter a sewing pattern. Why pay for a pattern when you already have many free ones that do the job anyway?

Altering sewing patterns is not an easy task. It will take you a lot of sewing expertise to carry out this task to perfection. 

The pattern alteration PDF guide by the NM State University will help you out with the process. It has detailed instructions on how to alter a pattern to fit you perfectly!

How to Self Draft a Sewing Pattern Using a Ready-made Custom-fit Garment?

This method is the easiest out of all others. All you have to do is pick up a dress or a top that provides the most flattering fit and trace it on a pattern paper. 

You do not need any additional measurements or pattern-making techniques for this. This is essentially cloning your best piece of garment in multiple sizes for either sale or gifting to loved ones.

Follow these steps to create a custom-fit sewing pattern using an existing garment. We’ll be taking shirt sewing patterns as an example in the steps below. You can follow the same steps for any other garment type as well!

Sewing pattern making
Image source: Wikihow

    1. Fold the pattern paper in half.
    2. Fold your shirt in half and pin along the seams.
    3. Pin the shirt on the pattern paper using small pins.
    4. Start tracing the outline of the shirt onto the paper. Use a pencil for this.
    5. Once you’ve outlined the shirt, remove it and use a pen to draw bold lines over the pencil lines. 
    6. Label the pieces as you trace them. You’ll need to trace separate garment parts on individual pattern papers to create different pattern pieces. Because we’re making a pattern for a shirt in this example, you will need to create pieces for sleeves, neckline, and back and front pieces. 
    7. Add dotted lines to show seam allowances. Usually, patterns include a seam allowance of ½ inch.
    8. Cut the labeled pieces. You now have your customs sewing pattern ready!

How to Make Sewing Patterns Digitally: How Companies Make Patterns Today

Pattern sewing making tutorial
Image source: Pinterest

This digital era has made it easier than ever to get our hands on a sewing pattern. What’s more, we now can customize our skirts, pants, and shirts with no fuss at all. 

Nowadays, you can simply go onto your favorite website or download an app that will allow you to tailor a pattern for any size that suits your needs! 

These applications will allow you to alter the sizing, adjust for hems (i.e., turning up a hem), and make other adjustments required for changing the pattern, including adding sleeves, capes, and pockets. 

The best part about this is that if you need any adjustments in the future (such as weight fluctuations), the app does it without you having to purchase another expensive garment again.

Not only this, but there are several different software available online that can help you make your patterns. Some renowned pattern-making software is:

    • Gerber
    • Lectra
    • Tukatech
    • OptiTex

All you have to do is type in your measurements, and the software will generate a custom sewing pattern for you!