This week my daughter asked me to make her a Christmas dress, if I had time.
I felt it was entirely in the spirit of the season to say of course, I have lots of time (mental recalculations into high gear), so you can imagine my relief when I found out this dress was a knit A-line, in a stretch velour.
As to the pattern Katrina said she had a GAP sweater dress that was just perfect and could I copy that.
I also said of course.
Really the dress could not be an easier shape, essentially long sleeves, a scoop neck, front and back.
Copying this dress to make a pattern was very easy.
So easy that I decided to document how I do this, just in case someone, or even yourself, wants a simple garment copied in a hurry.
Note I have said simple a lot so far in this post.
Copying more involved garments is well more involved and I am going to keep my head down and keep walking if anyone asks me to do that for them between now and Christmas.
That would be more of a won't rather than a can't situation.
Back to my how-to's.
First thing you have to think about is this:
Is the fabric to be used the exact same as the fabric in the original- degree of stretch is so important. Even a little extra stretch can be equal to a whole size up. I know this because I once made a clone/pattern from some knit pants and then cut out three pair, in slightly different fabrics and only one fit.
The second thing is your supplies. I don't know how anyone else does this but this is what I use:
1. A big piece of paper. This can be brown wrapping paper or whatever else you can find lying around that you can repurpose.
In my case I used some engineering drawings that my husband no longer needed, two big sheets taped together so my pattern actually looks like this from the wrong side:
2. A pencil. Check that junk drawer in the kitchen and hopefully there is one in there that still has a point on it. If not sharpen the pencil with the sharpener you use for eyeliner, assuming you can find that in that junky drawer in the bathroom.
3. A tracing wheel and some sewer's carbon paper. I assume you can still buy these. I am pretty sure I am still working with my 1975 originals.
A few technical notes:
1. When you are tracing around the garment use only little dashes rather than trying to draw long lines. Those long lines can veer off easily and the short dashes are easier to control and you can connect them later.
2. For corners it is really helpful to define them with a cross for accuracy. I tried to take a picture of this but it turned out very blurry, but I am going to use that anyway because really how much is there to see with a cross in pencil?
3. For internal details that can't be captured by tracing around an outline, like necklines, armholes or the curve of a sleeve cap and the top of a sleeve, I put a piece of tracing paper under the garment, coloured side down and trace over the detail with the tracing wheel.
4. I don't add seam allowances because obviously I am working from the outside of the garment and can't see them. Just following the stitching lines, either by tracing next to them or following them with the tracing wheel, is enough to keep me busy.
Also, no matter how hard you try since you are working with full garment pieces, the first draft of the pattern never seems to be entirely symmetrical. Folding the pattern in half to expose discrepancies, double checking, and comparing to the actual garment measurements, and compromising your way to some symmetry is part of the process, and on a simple garment, seems to work out fairly well.
To do my daughter's dress these were the steps I used:
1. I started with the easy stuff - the sleeves. Since the sleeves were identical front and back I folded them in half and traced around the long sides and bottom as shown above. To copy the sleeve top I used the tracing wheel after I had slipped a piece of tracing paper between the garment and the big paper: