MAKE: Copy-Cut Handmade Top

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About 3 years ago I decided that I wanted to try to make my own clothing. Rather than just drawing fun sketches, I was actually going to sew something I had sketched out. And I wanted it to be uniquely my own.

I didn’t really know anything about what I was doing, but I am a “wing-it” and see what happens kind of gal, so I picked out my fabric from pieces I had been saving and traced out a pattern on newspaper. In order to get my proper sizing, I copied a shape from a dress I had that fit in the shoulders. Then I styled the neckline and traced how long I wanted the top onto my newspaper pattern. After I had the back and front portions of the top figured out on the newspaper, I cut out a pattern for the arms. I wanted to do big fluffy bell sleeves from the elbow, so I did the arms in two parts: a long slimmer rectangle for the top portion of the arms and a wide rectangle for the bottom part. For the arms I wanted specific parts of the fabric to be shown, so I charted out the pattern by working with the colours of the fabric.

I had cut the pieces and pinned on one of the arms to see if it would fit.

I had cut the pieces and pinned on one of the arms to see if it would fit.

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When you are working in a copy-cut manner, it is important to make sure that you understand how a garment is constructed. A top or a simple dress are fairly easy to copy-cut, as generally there aren’t too many different fabric pieces or difficult seams. However, when you copy-cut you also have to remember that it could all need a lot of seam ripping and reattachment or not work out and end in the fabric scrap pile. It’s a bit of a mystery how it will all turn out and you have to be someone who enjoys that. I love the challenge of understanding how something comes together which is why I enjoy figuring out how to make my own designs.

Old photo, but one of the first times I wore the top!

Old photo, but one of the first times I wore the top!

My dad brought this fabric back from Cambodia somewhere around the year 2012. It is beautiful cotton fabric that he bought from a street vendor. It had been sitting in our fabric storage for a few years before I asked if could make something with it. I love the top. And whenever I wear it or see it hanging in my closet, it reminds me of my dad.

This was the first top I had ever designed and proceeded to actually sew together. I am really happy that it worked out from my copy-cut approach. Maybe one day I will undo the seams and tighten up the fit and the construction, but for now I love what it reminds me of and what it stands for.

If you are thinking of trying to make your own clothing, I would start by really understanding how a piece of clothing is made. Look at each of the pieces, what the shapes are when they are laid out flat, and how they are sewn together to create a new 3D shape. Now that I have taken some pattern making courses, I feel a lot stronger in my ability to understand what shapes I need in order to create a top or dress or skirt. The Makehouse has wonderful pattern making workshops with new classes starting throughout the year! Check them out if you are interested

Happy making!
xx Cady