How to make your own sewing patterns

Updated February 21, 2017

For people who want to customize the fit of their clothing or have proportions that don't quite match the cookie-cutter designs and patterns carried by most retailers, making custom clothing from your own sewing patterns is an excellent alternative. More and more people are choosing to revive this invaluable lost art.

Draw two perpendicular lines on a sheet of paper, with the vertical line as close to the left edge of the page as possible and the horizontal line flush with the bottom of the page. This is the basis from which you will fill in the lines that define your own sewing patterns.

Measure your center frontline and waistline. Your center frontline runs from the apex of your rib cage (at the bottom of the throat) down to your navel. Make sure to measure your waistline at its widest point to make sure the garment you end up making will fit properly.

Note your waist measurement on a piece of paper. On the page with the two perpendicular lines, mark the length of your center front line, noting the measurement on the actual page and keeping it to scale if your paper is not large enough to represent the actual length.

Measure your side front line. This measurement allows you to determine the position of your shoulder seam. To do this, start at the same place you began when you measured your center front line, but instead measure the distance from there to side of your neck. Add this measurement, called the side front line, to your sheet with the perpendicular lines.

Position your measuring tape at your shoulder seam and measure the distance from your shoulder seam to your waist. Note this measurement on the side front line, which is now represented on your sheet of paper.

Determine your shoulder seam by measuring from your center front line to the outside of the shoulder seam. Draw the line onto your sheet. Repeat, starting from the waist point of the center front line, moving to the shoulder seam. Draw this line onto your sheet as well.

Find out your side seam requirements by measuring the width of your body. Beginning from the center front line, measure across to your side seam at both the chest and waist, drawing both lines onto your sheet.

Finish the side seam determination by starting halfway between your chest and waist. Measure from there to your side seam, following it up vertically. Draw the line onto your sheet.

Fill in the neck and arm (armsceye) curves by joining the side front line to the center front line at the neck and to the side seam at the arm. Your pattern can now be traced onto sewing pattern paper, and you can pin it together and try it on to ensure a proper fit.

Purchase a book to refer to as you work if you are unsure how to proceed at any point. Donald H. McCunn's 'How To Make Sewing Patterns' (see Resources below) is an easy-to-follow favorite.


Use large rolls blank paper or newsprint to trace and record your actual measurements as described in the steps. This will allow you to avoid having to convert your actual measurements down to a scale that will fit on a standard sheet of 8.5' x 11' paper, which you will have to then re-draw onto sewing pattern paper anyway.

Things You'll Need

  • Measuring tape
  • Blank paper
  • Sewing pattern paper
  • Pencil
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