THE PAIGE CAMI – My First Self-Drafted Pattern


I finally managed to take some photos of my first self-drafted pattern project, the Paige Cami!

I am not 100% happy with this pattern yet – maybe more like 89% happy – but considering that this is my first attempt at drafting a pattern I’m gonna call that a win.

The design is very simple, which I did on purpose because:

a) I had never done this before, and

b) It allows me to use this pattern again for hopefully many, many variations.

I have a stretch jersey version in the works, and I also think it would work nicely in a silkier fabric.

Next time, I am going to lengthen the bust pieces a little and work on the shaping around the neckline. Once I am closer to, say, 95% happy with this pattern (I’m almost never 100% content with anything that I do) I’ll work on making it into a PDF and posting it on here.

Why do I even want to self-draft clothing? There are certainly plenty of patterns out there already. But some of them don’t fit quite right, or aren’t exactly the style I want, and since I usually end up making extensive modifications to patterns anyway, why shouldn’t I just start from scratch and make something of my very own?

Plus, there is power in learning anything new. I now have the power to dream up a garment and actually make it a reality. I don’t have to go from store to store or do an internet search hoping that I can find something kind of like what I want and hoping that it will be affordable if I do – I can make it myself.

Concept fashion drawing of the Paige Cami

Not that it’s really as easy as all that, of course. Designing and drafting and planning and sourcing and stitching a new piece of clothing is A LOT of work. What’s more, there’s a good chance that the first few items you attempt won’t be a rousing success. Mine weren’t. I’m happy with this shirt but I’m not in love with it. I didn’t put much time into choosing the right fabric because I didn’t want to waste fabric on something that might not work out. I got so worried about accidentally making it too small (because there is no give to the fabric) that I instead made it too big. My straps look less professional than I would like.

But even with all that, I am proud and happy that I made it, and what’s even more important, now I have a new skill that I can use to make all sorts of other garments…all the things that I have sketched out in my sketch book and want to make a reality, and each time they will get better and better and I will learn more and more. Pretty cool.

Lessons from my first self-drafted pattern:

  1. *Make a muslin. Make two. You’re starting from scratch here and it really pays to try it out first. I made a muslin and then my final product is really just another glorified muslin. (It’s a very inexpensive black cotton and not the fabric that I envision for the real final product.)
  2. *Check your measurements twice before you cut (all sewists know that thought, right?) but also trust in the initial measurements that you took. By that I mean that if you measured your waist and you allowed for a suitable amount of ease when you were initially drafting your pattern, don’t second guess yourself and add in additional ease “just in case”.
  3. *On the other hand, don’t forget about ease. Just because your waist is 26″ doesn’t mean that your waistband should be 26″ plus seam allowance – unless you’re using a fabric with give.
  4. *If you can get your hands on a dress form, use it. Even if it’s not your exact size. Saves you from having to call your husband/roommate/next door neighbor (?) over 20 times to pin things in unreachable places.
  5. *Make it work. If you’re not happy with how your straps are coming together and they’re just not looking right with the rest of your top, that’s your artistic intuition talking to you. Listen to it, and take the time you need to fix whatever isn’t working.
  6. *On a related note, give yourself plenty of time to work. Self-designing a dress – at least the first few times – is not the project to tackle two days before you’re supposed to wear it in your aunt’s wedding. You’ll get stressed out and drive yourself crazy and will end up wearing something off the rack anyway. Give yourself room to breathe and time to make mistakes.
  7. *Get all the necessary supplies before you start. Nothing is more frustrating than being in flow but having to pause your work because you ran out of tracing paper. Drafting actually requires a decent number of supplies, but most of it is very inexpensive and easy to find at your local sewing or crafts supply store.

In case you were wondering, these photos were taken at Pawnee Buttes in Pawnee National Grassland in Colorado. It’s a tradition to go for a hike every year on my birthday, and this place is so strikingly different from most of the other hikes I do around here. We almost always head west to the mountains, but if you turn your wheels towards the east it can be well worth your while! Just watch out for rattlesnakes (this is true for everywhere in CO, pretty much).

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