Be Your Own Designer – Part 1

women's paper pattern

I’m excited to start this series of posts to help you copy your favorite clothes in your closet and get started stitching your own wardrobe!

I’m not going to start by giving you a long list of supplies. I think the problem with that approach is that some of us (me included) feel like we have to have the whole list on hand before beginning. But I want you to get started as soon as possible! So, no list. Just have a pencil and a ruler handy. Although technically, even the ruler is optional….


Paper is, of course, another needed supply for pattern making, but it can be as simple as taping together sheets of computer paper, to purchasing special products made for pattern drafting. But when starting out, I think it’s important to have access to cheap paper so you’ll use it freely and not worry about mistakes. What I’d like to do is run through my favorite and cheapest/quickest choices for paper so next time, we can set to work doing a rub off of your favorite t-shirt. Here’s some ideas for pattern paper:

kraft paper for pattern making

Kraft Paper

I got this at the dollar store. A sturdy paper like kraft paper or a heavier wrapping paper is great for rub offs. Pencil marks will be clear and markers won’t bleed through. Also, if you’re using pin holes to outline your pattern pieces (we’ll explain that in a future lesson), you’ll be able to see the pin holes clearly. The back side of wrapping paper will also work as long as the paper is not too slick to write on clearly.

end roll paper for pattern making

End Rolls from a Print Shop

You can’t get cheaper than free, and these end rolls are free, if you’re willing to do a bit of leg work. Some printers that have large presses that run big rolls of paper through to create newsletters, magazines, and mailers. When the roll of paper gets small enough that it might not have enough paper left for the next job, the end roll gets tossed in the recycling bin. The good news for you is that there’s plenty of paper left on it to keep you happy for a long time! Like yards, and yards, and yards of it. And every printer I’ve asked is happy to let you have as many rolls as you want. My rolls are anywhere from 24″ to over 30″ wide, great for pattern making. The paper on the roll could be newsprint or any number of heavier papers.

Call around to find a printer that uses rolls, and ask them if they would mind giving you a few end rolls. If they ask you what type of paper you want them to save for you, tell them anything similar to a 60# or 80# offset (that’s a grade and weight of paper), something that will be easy to write in pencil on. You don’t want glossy finished because it’s hard to write on, or cover stock because it’s too thick to work with. Also, newsprint tears too easily for pattern making, but as long as you’re at it, you might want some for other projects, like covering a table to protect it from messy craft projects, etc. I recently covered 700 square feet of floor with end roll newsprint to keep the flooring protected from the workmen that were tromping through the house. It’s handy stuff! Oh, and a bonus are the really thick cardboard tubes in the middle. REALLY strong- think giant lincoln logs, table legs for a play table, racks for holding smaller rolls, you get the idea. Just don’t let one of them fall over onto your toe. The voice of experience.

medical paper

Medical Paper

I love this stuff! It’s strong but transparent enough to trace through. Important when you start making copies of your pattern to make variations. And it’s as close as your local doctor’s office. I have an entire post devoted to this paper here. If you can’t get your doctor to part with any of his supply, you can buy it by the case on ebay and share it with all your pattern making friends. Because once you see how fun and easy this is, you’ll be doing it a lot and you’ll be talking your friends into doing it a lot. They’ll thank you for it. Really.

tracing paper

Art Supply Tracing Paper

If medical paper doesn’t work for you, get big sheets of tracing paper at a craft/art supply store. Most pattern pieces will fit on one sheet, or tape multiple sheets together when needed. Use a coupon to save some money. You won’t need tracing paper for the rub offs, so don’t feel you have to get some immediately. Just keep it in mind as you get more involved with the process.

Paper Choices for Special Patterns

Once you have a couple basic patterns you know you’re going to want to use many times and often, it might be worth it to transfer them to something heavy so they hold up to repeated use and flat pattern manipulation. Traditionally, pro shops might use oak tag, like a manila folder is made from. You can buy large sheets of it at an art supply store, but it’s a few dollars a sheet. To save some money, here’s a couple of other choices:

poster board

Poster Board

An obvious choice is poster board. If you need to tape sheets together, butt them up against each other, then use packing tape on both sides to secure.

Costco free

Free Cardstock

If you have a membership to a warehouse store like Costco or Sams Club, you might find packing materials for some of their products that you can nab for free. I found these 42″ square sheets of cardstock at Costco. They are used to separate each layer of their toilet tissue packages on a pallet. My husband was rolling his eyes as we went out the door of Costco with a cart loaded with a dozen sheets of cardboard, but I didn’t care, it was free! My point is, look around you as you’re out and about. Ask employees at the stores you shop at if they might have what you’re looking for in their recycling bins. You never know!

Click here for other posts in the series.

Be Your Own (Clothing) Designer – Prologue

Hey there! I’ve had some time recently to catch up on some sewing projects that have been on my list for awhile. As I was humming through a stack of knits turning them into t-shirts, it occurred to me that most of the clothes I make are from patterns I drafted myself. And of those self-drafted patterns, most of them started by making a rub off of a garment I already owned and liked. From there I might change up the details to suit my whims. Details are easy once you have the fit you like.

I love the idea of starting with a rub off to create my projects. As a textiles major in college, I was taught to start with body measurements and work from there, but when designing for you and someone close to you, it’s a great shortcut to make a rub off an already-fitting garment as a starting point. I’ve done rub offs of t-shirts, skirts, shirts, jackets, pants, etc. Often I choose a simple style to copy, then add my own details to shuzz it up, but sometimes I start with a more detailed item so I can make another one just like it.

What’s a rub off, you ask? It’s a term that means you copy the pattern of a completed garment without taking said garment apart. For those curious types out there, the term “rub off” comes from a traditional method of stitching or pinning muslin fabric to a finished garment and marking the original seam lines and details onto the muslin by “rubbing them off” with chalk. But in reality, there are several ways to do a rub off. And which one you choose depends on how much time you have, how detailed and accurate the rub off needs to be, and of course personal preference.

I’m going to start a little series here on this blog, Be Your Own Designer. I want to show you how to use a few different kinds of rub off techniques so you can choose the one you like best, then from there, we can explore simple details or changes you can make to a basic pattern to make it your own and vary your wardrobe. These will all be pretty easy garments to create; simple, comfortable, lifestyle clothes you’ll want as staples in your wardrobe. And although I’ll be working with women’s clothing, the techniques of course would work for kids or men’s styles as well.

I hope you find this series informative, but mostly I want to encourage you to get out there and try it for yourself! I know every teacher likes to say this, but honestly, it’s not that hard and oh so fun!

I’ll start next time with the most basic supply needed to get started- paper! What kinds work best and where to get it cheap!

Click here for other posts in the series.



Swing Dance Apron


sweet and sassy apron

The sweetheart neckline on this apron reminds me of the dresses swing dancers wore in the 1950’s. In fact, I think this apron is so cute I might be inspired to go into the kitchen and cook! Except this little beauty is a present for my daughter in law so I’ll first have to make another for myself…

sweet and sassy apron

The pattern was designed by Modern Vintage Designs and can be purchased here. Great pattern and good instructions with many detailed photographs.

sweet and sassy apron

I really like that the tie is long enough to wrap all the way around and make a bow in the front. And the patch pocket is handy.

sweet and sassy apron

And the little loop to pull your towel through is handy. Enjoy your day!

Sewing Kit

needle case cover

Lately I’ve been posting projects I’ve made using the patterns and tutorials from other designers. Today’s no different because I enjoy showcasing the work of other people. But soon enough I’ll get back to showing personal designs I’ve been working on. There’s some cute stuff coming!

I hadn’t made anything for my daughter recently, so I searched around for an idea for a little project I could personalize for her. I came across this travel sewing kit (isn’t Pinterest the bomb?!) and thought it perfect for my daughter. She likes to have little embroidery projects handy, and next fall she marches off to college, so keeping basic sewing tools in one organized place will be imperative.

The free tutorial is by Amy of Lots of Pink Here. It’s well written and easy to follow. You’ll have a kit completed in an afternoon.

hedgehog embroidery

I decided to use linen for my kit and embroider the cover with an image of my daughter’s “special friend.” The embroidery pattern is from here.

inside of case

And here is where I decided Ally, the “special friend”, should pose with the sewing kit. She was NOT a willing participant. She hates being the center of attention and she especially hates me trying to cajole her into posing.


Actually, I’ve discovered hedgehogs are one-human type animals, at least this one is. She pretty much hates everyone except her human, my daughter. This is what she looks like when I try to interact with her. She rolls into a ball and covers her face. See those quills? See how they’re puffed up and criss crossed? It’s like trying to pet barbed wire. Lots of barbed wire all balled up in a tangly mess.

Ally in cup

But she is so incredible cute, isn’t she? My heart melts and even her grumpy self is adorably lovable! Enjoy your day!

A Great Little Zip Pouch

Zip Pouch with Knit Bag

After designing a knitting project bag for my sister, I looked around for a couple little accessories to put in it. After hours of distracted internet trolling research, I stumbled upon this adorable zipper pouch with three pockets- perfect for organizing those little knitting tools! Bonus- it’s a free tutorial. It was created by Debbie of A Quilter’s Table. Photos of it are all over Pinterest and blogs, and for good reason. It’s both cute and useful! I found the free tutorial really easy to follow, and the project really fun to put together. Thanks, Debbie!

Zip Pouch

Time Out to Crochet a Bit

I haven’t picked up any knit/crochet projects in quite a while, so it was time to give myself a little yarn fix! It just needed to be something quick and motivating.

I don’t know about you, but when a tool I use is pretty, I enjoy using it a little more. So finding ways to dress up the common tools of my craft always makes me smile.

Through this blog post, I learned about the blog, and their free tutorial for covering a simple tape measure with a crocheted cover and flower design. Adorable! I already had a couple extra retractable tape measures in my drawer (from when I found them on sale for $1). I dug through my stash of yarn, found something appropriate, and in a couple hours had my own Ups-A-Daisy Tape Measure. Quick projects are so satisfying, aren’t they? I think I’ll share the love and give it as part of a Christmas gift. Sharing is half the fun, isn’t it?

The tutorial was well written and easy to follow. My petals are not quite as well defined as her example, but maybe a second try at it I’ll get better results. Thanks, SimplyNotable, for sharing the tutorial! -amy


Zipper Pouch for Gift Cards

Zipper Pouch

I’m catching up on all the projects I worked on this past month. Isn’t Christmas wonderful? It’s such a motivator to get out the creativity and tools, and get to work! Here’s a collection of simple zipper pouches I made to house gift cards I was giving as gifts. I wanted the pouches to be big enough that the recipients would find other uses for it once the cards were used. These have a finished size of these are about 7″ tall, 6″ wide, and the bottom has 3″ pleats in it so it’ll stand up. It’s a nice size to hold electronic cords, toiletries, or even the miscellaneous detritus that collects in our purses!

zipper pouches

There are a ton of tutorials online if you need help making your own pouch. Skip to my Lou has a nice tutorial for a basic pouch, or if you want to get all fancy, try the tutorials at Sew Delicious or Noodlehead. Also Craftsy has a wonderful free class titled “Bag Making Basics” that includes video instructions on making a zipper pouch. If you haven’t been to yet, you need to go! Great classes and indy patterns. It’s really a fun site. Go there. Go now!