Making a Garment from an Existing Item

This project was something of a first for me for two reasons - sewing something requested by a friend, and making a pattern using an existing garment. One of my friends from work had asked if I could make another version of a favourite smock top she wears while working in the studio (she's a printmaker), as her current version was looking tired and worn. The top was fairly simple in construction, with a wide neckline with collar and without fastenings.

Existing top - it used to be black!

My first step was to find the appropriate fabric to use. I brought my friend to the fabric shop with me as I felt it was important that she could see what the choice of fabric was as I wasn't sure how closely we would be able to match it. She enjoyed the experience of seeing and feeling the fabrics, and in the end we selected some black poplin which was about the right weight for the project.

The next stage was to sit down and think about what pieces I would need to cut out, and how I would put them together. I looked at the instructions of a pattern I'd previously made for some inspiration.


Although I could have traced directly from the top onto the fabric, I decided to make a pattern using tracing paper. Of course I made sure I had some supervision on the project...

Once the pieces were cut out, I sewed together the front and back then sewed on the neck and sleeves. At this point I got my friend to try it on and check she was happy with the fit. I had decided to leave out the drawstring part at the bottom but the side slits were kept in, to make sure it was still easy to get on and off.

 The finished article!

From the inside - I used French seams for the shoulder and side seams. plus pinking at the armholes and at the inside edge.

Now all I need to do is sew in a 'Handmade by Kerry' label and it's finished! A few key things I learned during this make are:

  • Really examine the item and think about how you are going to put it together - list pieces to cut out, look at instructions from other patterns, write a step-by-step instructions list or draw a diagram, whatever helps.
  • When selecting fabric bring the item with you to the fabric shop as it will be helpful to compare fabric weight, stretch or check how sheer it is
  • When cutting, make sure you leave extra for seam allowances
  • Try on the item during the process if you can
I have to admit that I did find the project a little stressful in case my friend was expecting a perfect article that looked exactly the same as the original smock. I think she was happy in the end though, and I was pleased with my efforts. The only problem is that I don't want to get too many requests to make things - how on earth will I get time to make things for myself?! Seriously though, I think people don't realise how tricky and time-consuming some projects can be. That being said, this was a good opportunity to try making something using an existing garment, since I hadn't done it before. Today another friend asked me to make cover for a footstool, which should be a quick and easy project. And I've been promised a bottle of wine, which is a nice incentive!

How do you feel about making items for other people at their request?

K x


  1. I think you did a great job Kerry. I've been thinking of trying to replicate a top of mine and was wondering how to go about it - thanks for the useful tips.
    Hhmm, sewing for friends... I find I get more requests for adjustments than anything else, which really annoys me as I never get round to doing my own, never mind other people's. I'm happy to make people craft items they want (purses, bags, cushions etc) but shy away from garments as they're so much more personal and the chances of getting it wrong are that much higher! x

  2. I make things for people I really love, like my mom or my boyfriend. For other people, I don't. People can be wayyy too picky, and like you said, have no idea how much effort and time it really takes!

  3. Great job on the smock! Such alot of work and you did it well.

    As for making things for others, I hardly ever do that. I have very limited time and it's really all about me. I make little bags or totes as gifts, but I don't do clothes, alterations or curtains.

  4. You did wonderfully well, it looks brilliant. I'm sure the close supervision from the animals must have helped. x

  5. I like your pet input too!! Great job, looks almost like a double to the original. I agree with others, I try to avoid being asked to make things for others, but do take pleasure in making clothes for presents for special people. I detest making alterations or doing mending for myself, let alone others. Its an awkward one, especially if it's a friend that asks- once I was cajoled into making a prom dress for my friend's daughter- before I even got back into sewing again. With boning!! Next time I was asked by a different friend I wad able to bat it off!!

  6. I definitely agree with you on the alterations Scruffy and Jane, I never get the chance to do my own either, and it's the most mundane of all sewing tasks.
    I think the ideal situation is to make something for someone that you know for sure they'll really like, and give it as a gift. That tends to be enjoyable at all stages.

  7. Wow, great job!

    I am a very selfish crafter, I fully admit. I do it for my own enjoyment and I rarely do it for others. I haven't always felt they've been appreciated when I've done it, so I reserve it for rare occasions (for sanity's sake) and only for people who I'm almost positive will love all the effort that went into it. :)

  8. I don't think you should feel selfish - If you had a less cool hobby no-one would ask you to make anything for them! :)


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