by Willow Enright
People have been copying others for centuries. They copy hairstyles, clothes, weapons, mannerisms, shoes, and even vocabularies. Sometimes you fall in love with something that you see and you just have to recreate it. This is the essence of cosplay, in pretty much a nut shell. Reverse Engineering is the process of figuring out what steps to take to create a garment or item that copies an already existing item that you have seen without a pattern. Outright copying a pattern that has a copyright is against the law, but you can state that you were using such and such’s pattern to create your final product. With reverse engineering you’re going to use all of your know-how to create an item that looks like the one you see.
The first step is to choose what you want to recreate. You will need either the physical object to recreate, or some pictures of the item you are trying to copy. If you are using photos try to get pictures of the front, back, and side along with any close ups of the details.
The next step happens to be my favorite way to reverse engineer something, whether it is a bag or clothes, and that’s to build it with paper bags and tape first. Cut open and lay out your paper bag, then trace the basic shape of the item onto the bag. This is a great way to make changes to the shape and structure quickly. You can pinch, fold, cut, tuck, and tape until you get the shape you want. When it looks like the shape that you’re aiming for, you can cut out the pattern into pieces. This will let you see if the pattern will need darts or strategic cuts in places to be able to put it all back together. Your next step is to build it out of fabric or cardboard.
If you are using a garment leather to recreate a fabric item such as a skirt, or gloves then use fabric to create your pattern. If you are using a thicker leather to create a pouch or bag you can stick with the paper bag or transfer your pattern to cardboard. I find both are useful for different patterns. Cardboard is great for wallets, straps, and body armor pieces because it’s thicker and will hold up for multiple uses. If you are making sheaths or other specialty item cases, then paper bags will suit your need better since you are able to bend the pattern over an actual item to see how it will fit.
One of my favorite reverse engineering of patterns is using small boxes as guidelines for making pouches. This one is pretty simple in that it skips the having to figure out your pattern for the most part. The two adjustments that you need to figure out are another way to make the flap that will cover the basic box shape, and how you want to do your belt strap.
Once you have your pattern, you can begin the real project! For continued use I recommend that you label the pattern and store it in a zip-lock bag or a filing cabinet. Let me know if you try doing reverse engineering, I’d love to see what you come up with!
I started crafting out of leather in 2011, and now I am making it my life's work. I am writing this blog to help myself remember some of the small steps in past projects, sharing my triumphs and failures, as well as my love of leather.