Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Patterns from Finished Clothes: A Comparison of 2 Methods

I'm making barber smocks for my nephew. Neither my nephew nor I will live long enough for me to find a pattern for a size 5X barber smock, so I had to make the pattern using one of his smocks. I experimented with two methods to copy the pattern: The Doyle Method and The Haas Method. A comparison of the methods follows.

The Doyle Method:
Description: In this method, sections of the garment are pinned out on piece of cork and pattern paper. Then the section is traced with a needle point tracing wheel, which perforates the pattern paper. The points of the tracing wheel sink into the cork and produce holes that are clearly visible. The photo shows the sleeve pinned out on top of the paper, which is on top of the cork. I bought a 2' X 3' roll of cork at an office supply store and taped the cork to my cutting mat to prevent movement. Once the section was traced with the needlepoint tracing wheel, I removed the garment section and traced over the perforations with a pencil and added hem and seam allowances.
Pros: This method is relatively quick. If you secure the garment adequately, you get accurate lines and an accurate copy of the pattern piece.
Cons:Pinning out the sections is not as easy as it looks. My thumb was really sore after pushing the pins in the cork and cutting mat. I ended up pushing the pins in at an angle, which saved my thumb but the pieces tended to slide around a little.

The Haas Method:
Description: Sections of the garment are duplicated by covering them with masking tape. First I outlined the section with short pieces of tape. Then I filled in the section with wider, longer pieces of tape. Haas recommends that you try out different types of tape to make sure the tape doesn't ruin the fabric of the garment being copied. When the section is completely covered with tape, the garment is carefully peeled away from the tape and the tape reproduction is adhered to a piece of pattern paper and hem and seam allowances added.
Pros: You don't have to be as careful about securing the garment to a stable surface. Since the tape sticks to the garment, it doesn't matter if the garment moves during the process.
Cons: I used lots of tape! I found covering large sections of the smock with tape to be tedious and time consuming.

Conclusion: I made the front pattern piece using the Haas Method and the back using the Doyle Method. I prefer the Doyle method. I can't imagine taping a piece as large as the back of a 5x smock. Luckily, this smock didn't have any design details - no darts or tucks, no yoke, no cuffs. I wouldn't want to use either of these methods to copy a garment with design details. I retraced the Haas Method front because the taped piece was stiff and inflexible. (Added time). I walked the sleeves to see if they actually fit into the armscyes and they did! I really can't see myself making anything but the simplest pattern this way. This was an interesting experience, but I will only do this again if I have no choice.


  1. Thanks for posting this! Your descriptions are very informative - now I know what I'll do if I ever have to copy something!

  2. Very good instructions! Thanks!

  3. Thanks for sharing! This info is very useful. I like the way the Doyle method looks, since it uses cork, can regular office type thumbtacks be used to cut down on the thumb pain?