Creating Patterns from your Wardrobe

Creating Patterns from your Wardrobe
It usually isn’t long after someone learns to crochet that they want to get their hooks “wet” into designing items. Most often the first items attempted will be a flat item; such as a dish cloth, scarf, shawl or even an afghan. And, these are wonderful items to use while becoming more acquainted with your new skill and stitches.

But, suppose you you’ve advanced a little further or you want to use the few simple stitches you’ve already learned to make a skirt, vest, sweater or other item to add to your wardrobe? I have some tips and tricks to help you accomplish that.
First, you’ll want to decide on the item. Let’s say you’ve decided that you want to make your first item as a skirt with an elastic waistband for the winter season. You have a skirt in your closet that you absolutely love. The only problem is that it’s the only skirt you have like it. Let’s solve that problem. First, you’ll want to have a few items.

Item list:
Tape measure
Large amount of newspaper, craft or printer paper (Large rolls of brown craft paper can be purchased at craft stores or department stores. You could also use freezer, wax or parchment paper).
A favorite elasticized skirt
A hard surface for cutting out pattern (I’ve not only used a dining room table, but have also used a non-carpeted floor.)

Next, you’ll need to crochet up a gauge with the stitch you’ll be using for your skirt. Not many fiber artists like to work up a gauge swatch, but it’s vitally important when you’re making a wearable item. I like to make a swatch of twenty stitches wide and at least ten rows tall. Using my tape measure, I measure how many stitches wide will be equivalent to one inch and how many rows tall will equal an inch. It doesn’t always come out perfect. Thus, I’ll see how many stitches and rows will be equivalent to a two inch square. Sometimes you might have to go up to three or four inches (thus, the reason for the large gauge swatch). You can even opt to work your gauge up into an uneven swatch; say, two inches by one inch. Depending on your body size and style you may not have to be so exact. If you’re a larger size (as I am), it’s important to get the gauge as close to a perfect line-up as you can get it because you’ll be using a little math. If your gauge is off by several stitches, your pattern will be off by the width or the height. Once you have determined your stitch gauge, write this down so that you can refer to it.

Next, lay your skirt out on your paper (which you will have taped together in a big enough piece to lay out the front and back as well as the band) making sure that no part of the skirt is over the edge of the paper. Once the skirt is placed on the paper, you’ll need to lay it out smoothly so that the seams are lined up. Hopefully, you’ve picked a skirt where the front and back are the same shape and size. If not, no worry, we’ll discuss that in another article. We’ll just worry with one side at a time. Move one side seam of the skirt to the edge of your paper; leaving a 5/8 inch space from the edge, full length, for the seam allowance. Pin the skirt in place along that edge. Smooth out the skirt and pin the right sides, top and bottom to the paper.

With your pencil or pen, trace along the piece of skirt (leaving a 5/8 inch seam allowance all the way around. At the waistband, you will ignore the band that’s already on your skirt and make your seam allowance 5/8 inch from the seam attaching the band to the skirt. Once this is done, you’re ready to unpin your skirt and mark the pattern piece as “Favorite Winter Skirt”/Front. Now, you’ll flip the skirt over and put the other side downward to the paper. Follow the same instructions as for the front in completing the pattern back, marking this piece as “Favorite Winter Skirt”/Back.

Most waistbands only have one seam and can be a little bit trickier. But, I have a trick for this too. You start by measuring the top seam of both the front and back pattern pieces. From this measure you’ll subtract a seam allowance from the front and back each. Five eight times two equals 10/8 or 2 and ¼. This is the amount you’ll subtract from the width of the two waistbands. You can take this measurement and using a tape measure, measure the length either along another edge or wherever you have room left on your paper. Be sure to add 5/8 inch seam allowances to both the top and bottom of the band. Cut this out and mark as “Favorite Winter Skirt"/Waistband. You can now put your pattern aside for whenever you’re ready to crochet-design a skirt for yourself.

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