How to Copy a Garment That Fits Perfectly Without Taking It Apart

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Introduction: How to Copy a Garment That Fits Perfectly Without Taking It Apart

About: Life is short. Create lots of pretty and useful things. I spend a lot of time sewing. I sew mostly clothing, including costumes, casual and business clothing. I am branching into making quilts and other fun i…

A friend asked me if I had tried this method to copy a garment. At first I was pretty skeptical because I have copied garments by taking them apart and by scratching off a pattern from clothing that I did not take apart. Either way there are several steps and accuracy is easier if you have the pieces to lay flat. I was not excited about using tape on a garment I planned to wear again, but 3M's blue painter's tape is made to be less tacky so there is no residue. As it turns out this is probably the easiest way to copy a garment and the bonus is that you can mark your exact seam lines to insure a proper fit. Here is how.

Step 1: You Will Need These Items

A clean, fresh pressed garment that fits perfectly.

3M blue painter's tape, I used two sizes the slightly less than an inch wide size and the two inch wide size, you could use wider too, just depends on how much space you need to cover, you don't have to have two sizes, but I will explain in the instructions why it is useful.

Tissue paper, tracing paper or other paper to place on the sticky side of the pattern once completed.

Step 2: Examine Your Original Garment to Determine What You Need

Examine your garment to determine what you can trace without needing the tape, what you probably do not need to tape and what pieces you do need to tape. My garment is a shirt with a collar, collar stand, front button band, center front piece, front side piece, center back piece with a seam down the center, back side piece, and 3/4 length sleeves.

The collar and collar stand were easy to lay flat and trace around the outer edges so I did not use any tape for them. I also did not trace the front button and button hole bands because it is just a straight piece of fabric, folded with seam allowances on both sides. I can measure this and cut it without needing any pattern at all, but if you want you can tape it too.

That left five pieces that I needed to tape. My shirt did not have any darts because it has princesses seams so that kept this fairly simple. If your garment has pockets and or darts you will need to include these details and it may require a little more work. If you need help with this just let me know in the comments I will add an additional Instructable to cover that topic. While I did tape all five pieces I will just show how to tape one piece. Do this for each each piece you need to trace.

Because each piece is cut on folded fabric you will only have to trace half of your garment. If you start on the left side use only the left side to trace your pieces, or if you start on the right side, use only the pieces on the right side. This will keep the same side up and make it easier when you get ready to cut out the pattern.

I started with the left center front and worked my way to the center back. Make sure the garment is clean and freshly pressed so it will be easy to lay each piece flat.

Step 3: Taping the Pieces

Lay the section you are ready to tape as flat as possible. Start by taping exactly on the seam line at the outer edges of this piece with the narrow painters tape. Where your garment has curves, tear the tape in short pieces and add the pieces around the curved seams so that all of the fabric is covered just to the seam. The smaller pieces make it easier to work your way around the curves. Where there are no curves you can use longer pieces of tape. See the first picture above, especially the curved part by the sleeve seam. Once your edges are complete you can use the wider tape for the fill area between the seams. Be sure to over lap where the tape edges meet so that it is easier to remove without tearing apart.

When everything is taped edge to edge mark any design notes you will need. This shirt had horizontal tucks down the front which I did not mark. There is a seam in the shirt where this portion is joined to the yoke, but if you leave them out you will not need this mark. If I do include the seam and make the tucks I will sew the tucks before I cut out the pattern. This just makes it easier and eliminates the need to mark them separately on the pattern. If I need to, I can retrace the yoke and tuck portions into two pieces by adding seam allowances a the mark you can see on my pattern. If I do not use the tucks I will not need to make any alteration at all to this pattern. These are the kind of notations you will want on your traced/taped pattern. On this pattern I simply marked the portion that is the yoke and where the seam would go if I need it or where the first tuck is placed when I lay the pattern on the pre-tucked fabric.

The sleeve will require special attention. Because you will not be able to lay the sleeve out flat, trace each side from seam to press line. Put the two pieces together on the paper to make one completed piece.

Step 4: Removing the Taped Piece From the Garment

Once all of the notations are made for seams or details like pockets, button placement or other design details if any, the blue tape can be removed from this section. The edges with the smaller pieces will try to separate in some places and may require special attention. Go slowly and work your way around the edges, moving from one side to the other as needed to keep the tape from ripping or separating.

Step 5: Place the Taped Pattern Piece on Tracing Paper

Once the completed pattern piece is off of the garment place it sticky side down on tracing paper or other paper. Smooth the pattern on the paper, careful not to let it wrinkle. Turn the paper over and use a burnishing tool to get a smooth placement and remove any air pockets. Let the pattern rest while you trace the other pieces. After you have copied all of the other pieces, draw your seam allowances and remove the extra paper from the pattern pieces. Now you have a perfect pattern of a garment you know fits and you still have the original garment in tact.

Step 6: Review of Original Shirt and Test Sew

I used a holiday star print from the stash to test sew this blue tape pattern. I did make one alteration, at the top of the shoulder where the sleeve attaches I took in the sleeve and the shoulder seam 3/4 of an inch to get a better fit at the shoulder. That could have been due to having to tape/trace the sleeve in two pieces. I will mark this alteration on my pattern for future reference.

Step 7: Pattern Cut Out

Here is an image of the cut pieces. Note that I added length for the self facing at the end of the sleeve. The extra length includes enough fabric for the back side of the fold up cuff and hem. Everything else was pretty much as traced/taped.

1 Person Made This Project!

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42 Comments

0
jkballett
jkballett

Question 8 months ago

Hi Mama Reni
Guess who!
My button stand is not straight, by design. It is straight where buttons and buttonholes are placed, but then curves outwards to meet the collar stand. (interesting)
I noticed that my sleeve is not gathered at the cuff. (amazing how we wear clothes but pay little attention to the design.) It has one of those tabs on the inside and button on the outside so that you can fold the sleeve back. Do I need to add a bit of width to the end of the sleeve as you mentioned before?
The shirt I am copying is similar to yours, with a collar stand. Can you possibly give me the order of construction from beginning to end as I have no similar pattern directions.
I hope I'm not expecting too much.
I don't know what you mean when you say you added length for the self-facing at the end of the sleeve. Is that the dart that I see?
My shirt also has a fold up cuff. Why don't you just double up the cuff pattern as for all the other pattern pieces? e.g.collar, button stand.
I apologise for my lack of ability to visualise. I'm going to be upfront and divulge that this is due to lupus that is primarily in my brain.
I appreciate your help that really goes beyond expectation.
Kind regards
Joan

0
jkballett
jkballett

Question 8 months ago

Hi again.
I have quite a curved sway-back. How do I make the adjustment with this method, and how do I know how much fabric to remove?
Thank you

0
Mama Reni
Mama Reni

Reply 8 months ago

You can "pinch out" the amount of fabric that is too much and then use that distance in two darts on the back.
divide the total to remove by two - say it is 4" too big, divide it by 2 and make two darts that are 2 inches wide at their widest part near your waist in the back. If you are using a seam up the back take the fullness out at the seam, but you may also want to use the side seams and the back seam for the best fit.

0
jkballett
jkballett

Reply 8 months ago

With a sway back the excess fabric is in the length of the back (as you well know)
I have a problem with my visualisation, so when you pinch out the fabric,do you do it horizontally, which would remove length, or vertically which would remove width? I can understand the vertical dart inclusion, but not the horizontal one.
There are loads of sway back visual instructions, so I shouldn't be wasting your time???

0
Mama Reni
Mama Reni

Reply 8 months ago

I was referring to width and didn't give a thought to length, but if you need extra length to figure that part - if it is too short and you are using muslin to work out pattern fit and details, you can slash across where it is short and tape from top to bottom for the right length, then add that amount to your actual pattern. You might take a look at Surefit design videos on youtube. She has information for one-piece garment adjustments and general garment swayback adjustments. I think you will find that helpful. She has lots of free videos available for all kinds of fit issues. I do not get paid to refer to her. I think she also has a video about how to read wrinkles and pulls so you can determine where and why something is not fitting properly. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5qpm5pI8Aoj1-a_x... Once you get on the site you can search sway back adjustment to find specific videos.

Please don't feel you are wasting my time, I am happy to answer questions. I think that the surefit videos will be helpful and it is much easier to see than tell. Good luck!

0
jkballett
jkballett

Reply 8 months ago

Thanks for this. I am familiar with Surefit Designs as the woman who started it is also South African and lives in Johannesburg!
I came across your posts about Good Friday and Easter Sunday and was thrilled as I am a born-again believer as well. Tomorrow is Ascension Day and this often goes unnoticed, but Christ's ascension into heaven is what makes our salvation so sure. He is at the right hand of the Father, interceding for us and we can know that we will be with Him one day!

3
campodifiamme
campodifiamme

3 years ago

I started to do this with a sleeve and did the little bits around the curve, overlapped longer pieces over as much of the little pieces as I could to make lifting off easier, but the little pieces kept falling off and even the longer ones fell off and I tried to overlap 1/4 to 1/2 inch. I got so frustrated I wadded the pieces up and trashed them. Are there different types of this tape that sticks to itself better?

0
IsabelleA10
IsabelleA10

Reply 2 years ago

maybe if you applied the tape overlapping each piece as you did the rest of the garnment, making it bigger than the sleeve, then flip the garnment and trace it on the tape with something that will not stain your top, and then cutting with scissors?

0
jkballett
jkballett

Reply 8 months ago

I'm sorry but I don't understand what you mean

0
Mama Reni
Mama Reni

Reply 3 years ago

I am sorry this did not work for you. I only used little pieces at the very edges of the curved areas, then I cover them with overlapping bigger pieces. I also overlap quite a bit at the tape edges. There are several types of masking tape, including a black one that is not very tacky. The regular ecru color is far too sticky to make this work, I have only used the black one on art projects to protect a surface. The blue one is what is recommended for taping edges when painting around trim areas and works well for me, but you could try other colors. One other thing is that your tape may have been older or left in an environment that caused it to dry up.

0
jkballett
jkballett

Question 8 months ago on Step 7

Also, how do you know how much width to add to the end of your sleeve that will gather into the cuff?
Thank you

0
Mama Reni
Mama Reni

Answer 8 months ago

This is a bit trickier. There are a couple of things you can try. Measure as best you can the fabric above the cuff or end of the sleeve. Add the extra width to each side at the seam line, keeping your straight of grain at the center of the sleeve. Another possibility is to use a scrap and sample gather to check if the amount of gathered fullness is what you are looking for. A lot of gathers would be about double the normal ungathered sleeve size, lightly gathered would be about a quarter the width of the end of the sleeve. Once you determine your desired fullness, keep your straight of grain and add the extra fullness at each side of the underarm seam. One more note, the curve at the end of a gathered sleeve is not straight, it is shorter near the seam and a little longer on the outer wrist side to accommodate your elbow when you bend your arm. Good luck. I hope this is helpful.

0
jkballett
jkballett

Reply 8 months ago

This answers my question perfectly, and I appreciate the extra information about sleeve width as well as there being a curve at the end of the gathered sleeve.
Thanks so much

0
jkballett
jkballett

Question 8 months ago on Step 1

How /you include a dart or pleats in your taped pattern?

0
Mama Reni
Mama Reni

Answer 8 months ago

When you have taped over a dart, mark the dart line from the seam to the end of the dart. Cut this line once you have lifted the tape. When you have it lying flat, the gap is the width of your dart. Your taped garmet will probaby not lay quite flat, but once you cut the dart your new pattern should lay flat revealing the dart width once you cut it open.

0
jkballett
jkballett

Reply 8 months ago

Thanks so very much. I really appreciate your prompt response

1
IsabelleA10
IsabelleA10

2 years ago on Introduction

Hello! Using tape is a great idea! I want to buy a pair of rather expensive overalls to work in my barn, and copy the pattern to make myself a couple extra sets. How would you go about copying the legs?

2
KathleenM110
KathleenM110

4 years ago on Step 7

I was just about to take apart my favorite dress when I came upon your tutorial. This makes me so happy! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

0
x9mj73l8
x9mj73l8

Reply 4 years ago

Did this work for you? I wanted to copy a fitted dress and was going to take it apart but if this works I’ll give it a shot.

1
CarlaM79
CarlaM79

4 years ago

Hello! I really want to copy a dress, but it has darts in the bodice and i dont know how to copy that on the pattern. Can you help me please?