MAKE: Copy-Cut Handmade Top
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.
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.
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.