Tracing a pattern from a simple garment

I’ve just finished teaching my students how to trace a pattern from an existing garment. It’s not as scary as it sounds. This post is the information I’ve given my students as well as teaching you at home how to copy.

I’m tracing off this garment, it’s long been a firm favourite. I used to wear a nursing tank top underneath and it was quite useful for breast feeding as well as making me look less slummy mummy even when I’ve just chucked it on. However far too many holes have appeared and it is on it’s last legs.

I want to trace the pattern to make a reproduction and I have some great fabric for the new one: a bamboo Lycra so it’s super soft and drapey.

Starting off

Before starting, iron the garment so that you don’t have creases distorting the fabric. The centre back and centre front of the majority of garments tend to be on the straight grain. With this in mind match the side seams together and pin.

On your paper draw a straight line followed by another at right angles. Pin the folded edge of your centre front/back to the line with the hem of the garment on the squared across line.

Now smooth the fabric across to the seam. Remember to think about if your hem is straight or curved. If you have stripes or an obvious grain this can help with lining it up. You won’t be able to smooth around the armhole or the shoulder at the moment. Pin garment to the paper to stabilise it.

Draw in the hem and the seam using a pencil or tracing wheel (don’t use a tracing wheel if it’s liable to put puncture holes in the fabric).

Now release the lower edge of the garment with at least one pin under the arm still attached to the paper. You can smooth the upper half of the garment and continue to trace off the rest of the pattern piece. Lines might seem wobbly but that’s fine.

Double check

Unpin the garment from the paper. Check that each of your lines measure the same as the garment.

Eg. Here my shoulder seam measures 14cm so it should on my paper.

Measure across at points such as CB to armhole or CB to side seam at hem to check it’s same as garment.

Final marks

Once you’re happy with all your marks use a ruler/French curve/pattern master to tidy up lines.

If there’s changes you want to make to the pattern such as lowering the hem or changing the neckline this is the time to do it.

Finally measure seam and hem allowances to add onto edges of pattern pieces so that they are included ready for cutting out.


Sleeves are traced in the same way. Just note that a lot of sleeves (especially for woven fabrics) are slightly different on the front and back at the sleeve head so may have to be traced separately and then joined down the centre of the sleeve. Stretch garments tend to be same front and back. Check the sleeve head is the same measurement as the armhole.

What about darts?

If there’s darts on your garment, it does make it a little more tricky but you just need to trace up to the dart. Then measure the width of the dart seam allowance and the length of the dart. You can then draw the dart onto your paper and then manoeuvre the garment to be lined up and pinned on the other side of the dart. I hope that makes sense considering I don’t have a photo to accompany it.


Now I have my pattern ready for making my new garment. I’ve also measured around the neck to make a binding piece and a tie facing.

Hopefully I’ll get a chance to make it soon.

Thanks for reading

Rosie xx

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