Copying Pants

Copying Pants: I browsed around online, looking for a way to make new pants from an existing pair. Most links started out by having me rip apart the existing pants and making a pattern from them, which isn’t about to happen. A few others mentioned using masking tape, although no tutorials were forthcoming. So I made my own masking tape tutorial.


Here’s the original pair of pants — some black capri cargoes. The fashion mavens of What Not to Wear would probably tell me that they’re totally the wrong length for my short legs, but I love them anyway. The length doesn’t matter, though — you could take comfortable shorts and make them into pants, if you wanted. I love these pants primarily because of the fit at the waist and hips — I’m very much a pear shape, and it’s hard to find pants that fit well in both spots.


First off, lay your original pants down on a flat surface (I used the bed). Most pants are made with four quarters — two on the front and two on the back. You’ll need to copy one of the back panels and one of the front panels. I put quite a bit of tape down, so my tape copy would be stury when I peeled it off.


Now you have a copy of the pants. Peel your tape off carefully and lay it down flat, sticky-side-up. Be sure to peel apart any places where the tape is sticking to itself, so you get an accurate copy.


Take newspaper (or if you’re like me and don’t get the newspaper, you can use the advertising flyers the postman keeps stuffing in your mailbox) and lay it down over the sticky side of the tape. Make sure you cover all of the tape, and make sure your newspaper extends at least an inch beyond the outer edge of the tape.


Flip the whole shebang over and outline the outside edge of the tape (you can see here I used black Sharpie). Then cut out your pattern pieces, giving yourself a seam allowance beyond the outside edge of the tape. I did a fairly typical 5/8″ seam allowance, but you may want to make it even larger.


Huzzah! Now you have pattern pieces for pants! You can either go straight to constructing the pants, or you can make a softer, gentler pattern piece. I have a roll of plain white muslin, very cheap stuff, so I pinned the stiff, heavy newspaper pattern to the muslin and created a more permanent, easier to store pattern from pieces of muslin.


I constructed a test pair out of muslin to make sure everything fit right. I used big loose stitches with my sewing machine, then picked the stitches apart after trying them on. All you need for your pattern is one piece for the front and one piece for the back. When you make the pants themselves, you’ll want to have folded fabric, right sides facing each other, so you can cut two pieces at once with your pattern piece.

Your pattern can be one length, but you can make pants of different lengths. All you need to do is continue your straight lines from the pattern downward if you’re making pants, or cut your fabric shorter on the bottom for shorts.


And now comes the artwork! This is easier than taking pictures of the sewing process. The first part you’ll want to sew is the crotch area — keep the two back halves with the right sides together, wrong sides out, and stitch up the crotch. Likewise the front pieces. If you’re super-anal, like me, you can then finish your seams by flattening the seam allowances to one side, turning the pieces right side out, and stitching along the outside.


Next, put the front and back together, right sides together. Sew up the outsides (1 & 2) first, and if you want, finish those seams neatly. Then sew up the inseams (3) last. When pinning the inseams together, start at the middle, where the ends of the crotch seams meet. These seams can be a toughie to finish flat, but if you roll up the legs, you can get the fabric crammed far enough under your machine’s presser foot to get all the way up to the crotch — then you can finish one leg at a time. Even though it’s hard, I totally recommend it — it’s much nicer having flat seams on the inside.


At this point, you can turn the pants right side out and try them on. You can either turn down the hem along the top and have a very plain waist, or you can add a waistband. I opted for a waistband. Take a long strip of fabric, four times the width of the finished waistband width. Fold in half, press. Then fold each half in half again and press. The goal is to have a nice sturdy band that you can clamp around the top of the pants. If you’re using stretchy fabrics, you can put elastic inside this waistband, and you don’t have to worry about buttons or a zipper.

For the bottom hem, you can either turn it under or turn it out and stitch it down — if you have a fabric with a cool contrasting pattern on the inside, you may want to turn it out.


If you do pants with a zipper or button fly, you’ll have those pieces on your pattern. On each side, turn half of the flap inside and stitch down — now you can put button holes on one side, and buttons on the other.


My first try was with this pair of shorts — For the bottom hem, I turned the fabric to the outside to show off the contrasting pattern on the “wrong” side.


Then I lengthened the pattern to make pants — I even made the legs wider, which makes them SO COMFY. I turned the bottom hem inside, which gives it a cleaner look.

I specifically got this awful fabric for this experiment — it was on sale for a buck a yard. For the shorts, I probably only used a little over a yard (since I was able to cut the pattern along the fabric width), while the long pants took a little over two yards (with the pattern cut along the fabric length). It’s perfect for loungewear — shiny and smooth on the outside, and soft like flannel on the inside.