The kid already owns one vest, but she wanted a different vest. A blue vest. A vest with lots of pockets, and with buttons (those last two haven’t happened yet, obv. To be continued!)
How often does that happen to you? You think, “I love this comfy pair of pants, but I wish that I also had one with Snitches all over it!” or “This shirt is so great that I wish that I had one for every day of the week!”
For many items, copying an existing piece of clothing is not as hard as you might think. It can be fiddly, yes, but I’ve got a couple of tricks that I’m going to show you to make it less so. And when you copy an existing piece of clothing, you can take what you like about the garment–the fit, the specific curve of the armscye or the width of the leg–and change the rest, mixing up the fabric, adding new details, playing with closures, etc.
Here’s how to copy one of the simplest pieces of clothing, the vest:
1. Iron the garment, if necessary. You want your vest to be nice and wrinkle-free, so that you can accurately copy it.
2. Choose one pattern piece to copy first, and stabilize it with masking tape. It’s easy to separate out what should be each pattern piece, because they’ll have seams that connect them to each other.
It’s not so easy to make that bendy, shifty fabric stay still so that you can copy it, however, so you’ll want to use low-tack masking tape to tape just inside each seam that doesn’t want to lay flat:
This will give it the structure that it needs.
3. Arrange the piece on a large sheet of newsprint, and copy it in pencil. Lay the piece that you want to copy on top of a sheet of newsprint that’s larger than it is. It’s not going to want to lay flat, so choose just part of it to copy first, and then use more masking tape to tape the edges of what you plan to copy. Do NOT remove this tape! This is what will keep the entire pattern piece lined up correctly.
In the photo above, notice that I’m ready to copy the upper part of that vest piece, because I’ve smoothed it flat, and I’ve taped down the edges of the vest at the point where I’ll finish my copying of that portion. In the photo below, I’m ready to copy the lower portion of the vest, so I’ve straightened that out, which has the consequence of causing the upper portion to go wonky. I haven’t moved the tape, though, so the pattern piece that I’m copying onto the newsprint will stay correctly aligned:
4. Use a straight edge to draw straight lines. This vest has two straight lines, at the shoulder and at the back. It’s more accurate to draw straight lines with a straight edge than to trace them from fabric, so mark the starting and ending point of each line, and draw it with the help of a ruler.
6. Cut out each pattern piece, label it, and write any specific instructions on it. I like to trace the entirety of each piece, even when I know that I’ll be folding it in half to use, and cutting the piece from it on the fold. Who knows but I might want to fussy cut the piece in the future, and then I’ll already have the complete pattern piece.
7. Sew the new garment. This is the fun part! I sewed my kiddo’s new vest from plain blue cotton on the outside, with an inner lining of blue plaid flannel that used to be, I swear to gawd, one of the sheets that I used as a college freshman.
My kiddo is SUPER into the National Park Service’s Junior Ranger program, and she wanted this vest to be her “Junior Ranger” vest, so I’ll be adding not just the button closure that she requested, but also all sorts of pockets and loops for carrying notebooks and scientific equipment and survival gear, etc., and a homemade Junior Ranger patch (because I couldn’t find one to buy), as well as the patches and badges that she earned this summer.
You can feel free to make your kid a Junior Ranger vest, too, or you can make a vest out of fleece to keep her comfy in cool weather, or out of Day-glo fabric with lots of reflective tape to keep her safe while bicycling in the neighborhood, or out of faux fur as part of her Halloween costume.
And if you don’t have a vest to copy from, just ask a Girl Scout!