How to Make a Pattern from Your Existing Pants

Here’s how to easily copy any existing pant or trouser so you’ll have a pattern for making new pants that fit the same, and a starting point for designing your own already fitted pants, or for fine-tuning the fit of pants that almost fit. It’s a followup to my earlier video on copying a shirt and ONLY COVERS WHAT’S DIFFERENT about copying pants, so you should definitely watch the shirt video, below, first if you haven’t seen it already.

Please post any questions you may have as comments here, so everyone can see them along with my responses. Or, email me if you’d prefer; email’s in my profileā€¦


  1. Anonymous on September 5, 2009 at 2:12 am

    I discovered your video on making a pattern from one’s favorite pants and wanted to see your video on shirt making, however, when I run the second video I only see the title shot for the entire length of the video. Can this be fixed? Thank you,

  2. David Page Coffin on September 5, 2009 at 2:33 am

    Something’s definitely screwy with that video. On my computer, it doesn’t start until the entire thing is loaded (the bar is all the way to the right), then it plays at double or triple speed, until I stop it and drag the play-head back to the beginning. That seems to fix it (it’ll still look fast, because I made it go triple-time or faster so it was less tedious to see the whole process; but you should still have plenty of time to read the on-screen captions when it’s running properly), but I guess you’re getting something different? I can only suggest that you click on the YouTube logo at lower right and try watching it at the YouTube site. I didn’t upload this, I sent it to Threadbangers who did, but if it doesn’t improve, perhaps I’ll post my own version, so please comment here if you continue to have troubles with it. Thanks!

  3. Anonymous on November 17, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    thanks for sharing! I’ve been making my own patterns for awhile, but your foam method definitely demistifies some unwanted outcomes I get. one question: when doing the sleave it appeared you made the front and the back equal at the shoulder. It’s a detail I wish weren’t there, but I can’t ignore the back line is usually longer than the front line. Did you leave this detail out for beginner’s sake? or do you get away with making the two sides equal? Thoughts on this?

  4. David Page Coffin on November 17, 2009 at 5:38 pm

    Good point. I did make the sleeve cap the same on both sides of the sleeve in the video, because that’s how that shirt pattern was to start with. You can feel through the sleeve/body seams as you’re pinning to see if they line up or are different shapes front and back. If different, just trace both lines with the pins, then mark along the appropriate pinholes on each side when you’re drawing out the final shape. On more subtle shirts that that plaid work-shirt I used, the front armhole curve is usually cut in a little more towards the sleeve than the back curve which is wider to allow more room for stretching the arms forward. You can feel the different seam shapes very easily when the sleeve is folded in half and pinned down.

  5. Anonymous on December 9, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    David, I just boght your dvd I can’t read the trousersdvd.pdf. I have de latest software, but it stil doesn’t work. Also I can’t copy the dvd to my harddisk. It gives a error and the pc hangs. I have a fast computer with 4 Gb memory, so that is not the problem. But is a pdf file of 1,66 Gb is that not strange ? I hope you understands my message. I hope you can help my.

    Wietske (nederland)

  6. David Page Coffin on December 9, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    Sorry to hear it, Wietske! If you’ve downloaded the most current versions of Adobe Reader and Apple QuickTime and still can’t open the files, it sounds like the disk is damaged (if it is, this is the first one I’ve heard of, but it’s certainly possible). I suggest you try to exchange your book/disk where you originally bought it. If you can’t do that for some reason, contact me directly via my profile link at right>
    It does contain an unusually large pdf file, but lots of folks are having no troubles with it.

  7. Anonymous on December 16, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    Thanks for your answer, David. In the meanwhile the problem has been solved. It was not the DVD or the software on the computer. After a firmware upgrade of the DVD-player the problem had been remedied. Now I have been possible to admire the DVD and I must say, I am complete very glad! Thanks once again and I wish you a merry Christmas and a happy 2010.

    Wietske (Nederland)

  8. Anonymous on December 29, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    I haven’t yet used this method of making a pattern. When you add seam allowances, do the perforations weaken the pattern paper considerably? Do you cut your pieces at the seamline and add seam allowances while cutting your fabric?

    Love your new book!

  9. David Page Coffin on December 29, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    The perforations are very minor, even if you go way overboard when putting them in, like one every half inch or so. It’s common in the industry to use a needle wheel when tracing patterns, which puts larger holes every quarter inch with no problems, so don’t worry about that. I usually draw on the seam allowances before cutting out my new pattern.

  10. Shelly (Chattanooga, TN) on April 25, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    My GOD! That’s amazing! I’ve been using the rub off method but never even thought of the pin and trace. I couldn’t stop laughing at the simplicity! My question for you, David, is did you teach yourself how to sew and tailor or did you learn from someone else? I’m trying, and sometimes succeeding, to teach myself from the little I know from childhood, but I am definitely a learn-from-seeing-someone-show-me type of person. I have considered taking up classes in fashion design but that won’t be for a while and I don’t want to wait to learn how to make beautiful, and professionally constructed clothing (i.e. dresses, shirts, skirts, pants…..). What do you suggest for a novice like myself who’s only option in the “quilting south” are classes for trivets and quilted vests; it makes me cringe just to think…
    Books, websites, suggestions… any information would be so appreciated! If you have already listed such resources as I’m asking for somewhere on your profile (granted, I’ve not checked it yet) just let me know and I’ll probably find it sooner than you write back.
    Thank you for making my life so much easier and keep teaching us what you know!

  11. David Page Coffin on April 25, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    You’re very welcome Shelly; glad you found that useful.
    I mostly learned on my own from books and from lots of experimenting; it was slow but definitely possible so long as you keep your standards high and question everything; not everything you read will be right for what you want to achieve. I didn’t find the limited classes I could find to be all that useful, back in the mid-70s; I’m sure there are much better ones available today (depends where you are of course). And the books available now are infinitely better! Plus there’s the Net…

    But I was also very lucky to have been an editor at Threads magazine for nearly 18 years (altho that was after I wrote my first book so I was hardly a beginner), where it was my job to visit an amazing range of highly skilled people and document what they did, so I got an priceless (if somewhat random) education that way, too.

    Today, I’d be joining sites like PatternReview and exploring online classes offered and reviewed there and doing classes with Don McCunn (for pattern-making), searching out and following blogs, but always, doing lots of reading, watching videos and making samples and little test projects. And taking lots of thrift-shop garments apart to see how they were made; I always learned a lot from doing that.

    It’s really important to have good tools and a well-thought-out workspace; check out Cecelia Podolak’s pressing video to get up to speed on this crucial and often under-appreciated skill:

    Good luck!

  12. Keren on May 29, 2011 at 11:36 am

    This is an *ingenious* method. Thanks so much!! I spent hours yesterday trying to figure out how to draft a pattern from my aunt’s extra-large pants. Now I got it done in minutes!! BTW I don’t have a foam surface, so I placed a thin blanket on the table and that did the trick.

    Thank you!


  13. David Page Coffin on May 29, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    You’re very welcome, Keren; thanks for letting me know. I used to use a blanket or a towel, too; works fine.

  14. Anonymous on September 13, 2011 at 6:28 pm

    I have NEVER sewn anything, but with the price of clothing I am investigating. This tracing an existing garment looks interesting, but why do you only trace half the collar stand and only half the collar?

  15. David Page Coffin on September 13, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    Because you only need half to cut out the fabric for the collar on a folded fabric. Same with the back and yoke; you only need half the outline for the pattern, with which you place the center line on the folded edge of a folded fabric. It’s more accurate than cutting or tracing the whole thing and expecting it to be symmetrical; it won’t be. Basic sewing; you’ll see this everywhere once you get into it…

  16. Anonymous on March 12, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    I just came across your videos, and I love your pinhole method! I feel very enlightened. I would never have come up with this myself. Thank you for sharing your methods online!

  17. David Page Coffin on March 12, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    You’re quite welcome:)

  18. Anonymous on March 15, 2012 at 3:52 am


    I’m looking for the other video on how to copy shirts, but I can’t seem to find it. Has it gone somewhere else, or been removed? I like the others on these comments value this information. I have a genetic disorder called marfans that distorts my proportions to the point where the only pants that have ever fit me are altered unhemmed trousers, or European label trousers that are made to fit skinny models who flip up their cuffs. (I’m male) So, thank you, and I hope I’ll be able to put my intermediate sewing skills to work to replicate the two pairs of pants that do fit me.


  19. David Page Coffin on March 15, 2012 at 4:30 am

    Hi, B

    I’m not sure I know which other video you mean, since the two that I’ve done are right here (1 on pants, 1 on shirts). Possibly there’s some other person who’s posted a clip on the topic?

    Hope my methods will prove helpful!

    • Anonymous on March 15, 2012 at 5:06 am

      Ah yes, I see they are both there. The second video link does not function for me but that just might be my NetBook. I’ll try using my desktop later. Thank you.

  20. Anonymous on March 13, 2014 at 8:17 pm

    Hi David – I just ran across your video on how to make pants from another pair and I must say – this is one of the best tricks I have ever seen!! I have been sewing practically all my life, both professionally and for personal use, have tried to “copy” numerous things from time to time, but always with mixed results. This is brilliant – and SO very easy. I’m gonna grab a piece of foam board and copy a pair of hiking pants that I love…thank you so much! SharonW

    • David Page Coffin on March 13, 2014 at 8:37 pm

      Thanks Sharon; hope you get what you need from this. It’s a little quick’n’dirty but it works great for me on typical pants. The results may need additional tweaking, but at least I’m off to a good start with the initial copy.

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