I’ve been sewing my own clothes since I first made my school uniform skirt 25 years ago. It was only when I stated working at Coles five years ago that I discovered that a lot of people trace their patterns out rather than cut them directly from the pattern pieces. At first I thought it wasn’t worth the bother but since then I’ve changed my mind, so read on to learn why it’s worthwhile to trace out your patterns instead of cutting them.
Why is it useful to trace off a pattern?
Making the same pattern in a different size
You might like to make clothes for other people as well as yourself, but that becomes difficult if you are different sizes and you have already directly cut out the pattern pieces. Similarly, if you have made something that you love that no longer fits you correctly then you can trace off the pattern again in your new size and make it again! Tracing off your pattern gives you the opportunity to make it in as many sizes as you like.
Multiple pattern pieces on the same sheet
Some pattern companies print multiple pattern pieces on the same sheet, so if you cut one out you destroy the rest! Unless you are happy to buy the same pattern several times over, then you need to trace off the pieces you need.
Same piece for multiple views
If the same pattern piece is used for different views then it is worth tracing it off, that way you can adjust the piece if necessary and not worry that it won’t be usable if you make a different view at a later date. Plus you can keep all of the pieces for the same view together, which, if you are anything like me, makes organising your patterns much easier!
Adjusting pattern pieces
If you are an adventurous stitcher then you might like to adjust your pattern pieces to fit differently or to make best use of limited fabric. While you can fold, cut or pin your pattern pieces directly, its much simpler to adjust and re-adjust as you trace it off until you get it perfect.
Patterns printed on thick paper
A lot of the independent pattern companies print their patterns on lovely, thick, quality paper, which is great for making them last but isn’t well suited to being used directly to make your garment. Similarly, if you have downloaded a pdf pattern and printed it off at home then you are faced with creating an A4 pattern jigsaw with sellotape. It’s a lot easier to work with thin pattern paper, so trace the pattern off and the problem is solved!
How do you trace off a pattern?
I like to save any unprinted sections of pattern paper from printed patterns, but unless you have a large stash of blank pattern paper then you are likely to need to buy some. Burda Tissue Paper is easy to store and transport as it comes folded – simply lay it over your pattern piece and trace with a pencil. You might like to iron it first to remove any creases.
Prym pattern paper comes in two versions: blank and gridded. It comes on a roll so you don’t need to worry about crease marks and gridded paper is ideal if you want to enlarge or adjust your pattern. We only sell this paper in-store so come and see us if you’re interested in this useful pattern paper!
You’re going to need to hold everything in place to make sure it doesn’t shift while you’re copying your pattern. You can use anything heavy for this but pattern weights are the ideal tool as they prevent shifting without leaving marks. Prym have a cute series of orange, kiwi and melon-shaped weights that double as pincushions, as well as set of four mini weights in either pink or blue. Simplicity Vintage’s pattern weights are flat and wide, so are less likely to be accidentally shifted or knocked.
Tranferring your pattern
Once you’ve laid your paper over your pattern piece and held it in place, you can simply trace it off using a pencil (and easily rub out any mistakes). An alternative to the pencil and paper method is to use carbon paper and a tracing wheel. Place the carbon paper between the pattern piece and your blank paper; once you have the hang of it then this can be a lot faster than tracing with a pencil. Some people even transfer the pattern directly onto their fabric! Using carbon paper is particularly useful if you struggle to see the pattern piece through the pattern paper when tracing – the pattern piece is uppermost and so can be seen clearly. You can also transfer different line styles dependent on your wheel – a smooth wheel will transfer smooth lines while a toothed wheel will give a dotted line.
- It’s a good idea to use a pencil so that you can rub out any mistakes, but did you know that Pilot Frixion Ball Pens come in a variety of colours and can also be rubbed out? Be careful if you choose to use Frixion pens though, if you iron your pattern piece you will lose all of your markings!
- If you’d rather stick with a pencil but would still like to colour code your pattern pieces, then the Prym Cartridge Pencil has a set of refills in yellow, pink and grey
- Don’t forget to transfer any markings such as notches – they’re easy to overlook but you will definitely miss them if they’re not there! The Prym Aqua Trickmarker is perfect for transferring markings to your fabric, as the ink disappears with a dab of water
- Make sure you label your pattern pieces with the pattern name (and number if it has one), the piece name/number and the size you have copied
- Rather than try to cram everything back into your pattern envelope, use a transparent press-seal bag to keep your pieces together – don’t forget to label this too so you can easily find your pattern pieces again in the future!
Now that I know the benefits, I always trace my pattern pieces off but ultimately it’s a matter of personal preference. Let us know in the comments if you like to trace, use carbon paper or cut directly!