Creating a sewing pattern from scratch can be tricky and it’s time-consuming. I am going to show you how to make a pattern from the clothes you already own without taking apart the garment or doing any mind-boggling meausring and math. 

This tutorial is focusing on a sleeve pattern, but the process would be the same for any part of the garment. I find this method particularly useful when trying to mimic the shape of a neckline.

Supplies:

  • Garment to trace
  • Pencil
  • Paper to trace your pattern
  • Pattern weights
  • French curve ruler
  • Straight ruler
  • Awl, serrated tracing wheel or something sharp and pokey

Step 1: Turn the garment inside out. Lay it flat on your pattern paper with the top of the sleeve on the edge of the paper. Place pattern weights on the sleeve to secure it in place. Make sure the seams are aligned so you can accurately transfer the shape. You can also iron the sleeve flat for easier handling and tracing.

sleeve laying flat on paper

Step 2: With a pencil, trace around the outside edges as accurately as you can. It doesn’t have to be perfectly straight because we’ll be correcting these lines later.

trace edges with pencil

Step 3: Then, using the awl or a sharp instrument of your choice, poke through the garment along the shoulder seam. Before I had an awl, I used a push pin for this. You’ll want to apply enough pressure to puncture the paper under the shirt. Do this every inch or so.

shoulder seam tracing with awl

You should have something that looks like the image below with your traced edges and a punctured seam line.

traced edges and puncture dots

Step 4: Draw along the punctured seam line to connect the “dots”. True up the seam line and any other lines you traced. At the top of the shoulder seam, try to round off the line instead of having it come to a point at the edge of the paper. This will come into play when you are cutting the pattern on the fold. Your shoulder seam will be rounded instead of coming to a point at the top.

pattern with trued lines

Step 5: Now, we can add the seam allowance and the sleeve hem. I typically add a 3/8″ (1 cm) seam allowance and 1/2″ (1.3 cm) hem on my patterns, but its all personal preference.

traced sleeve with seam allowance

The hem on this sleeve is double folded so you would need to add 1″ hem to the bottom of the sleeve.

Pattern with 1 inch hem

Step 6: Because this pattern is only half the sleeve, you’ll need to cut the top edge on the fold of your fabric. Let’s add the pattern markings for this.

cut on the fold pattern marking
sewing pattern with cut on fold

It is also suggested to write the pattern name and seam allowance on the pattern for later reference.

Step 7: The last step is to cut out the pattern!

sewing pattern cut out

There you have it! A sewing pattern from clothes you already have in your closet!