When you buy a sewing pattern it usually comes with a few sizes all printed on top of each other. Once you find your size you would cut it out straight from the pattern sheet but what if you tend to go up and down in sizes or have a gorgeous children’s pattern that you would love to make for your child as they grow? You may have found a gorgeous vintage sewing pattern and want to keep it intact or are even wanting to use a sewing pattern out of a book – whatever the reason, tracing the pattern before you use it is a great idea!
Yes, it adds additional time to your project but tracing a sewing pattern means that you have the flexibility to cut / tape and fiddle with the sewing pattern without ever loosing the original. Pattern hacks are also a great way of using a traced pattern – perhaps you are going to turn the Day Dress gathered skirt into a pleated skirt or want to turn the front of the Sheath Dress into two panels – having a traced pattern means you can let your imagination run wild without worrying about ruining the original.
Now that PDF/Digital sewing patterns are on the market, you could just reprint the sewing pattern sheets and put them together when you are ready to make the next size/version.
Here are our techniques and tips for tracing sewing patterns..
The Tracing Paper
We love Burda Style Tissue Paper – it doesn’t tear and it is so easy to see the pattern that you are tracing underneath. It has 5 sheets that are 150cm x 110cm and is so cheap plus it will last you for ages! You can purchase it here.
Find yourself a flat surface that has really good light.
If using a sewing pattern sheet, unfold and iron on a warm heat to remove the creases from being folded in the envelope. – always test the corner to make sure that the heat isn’t too hot. If using a vintage pattern sheet or book just try to work with it as it is.. only iron if you are able to without ruining the pattern.
If the pattern sheet is large and / or you have limited space you could separate each piece to make it easier to work with.
If your tracing paper is creased, give it an iron and then lay flat onto the pattern. Place a few pins to keep your tracing paper and pattern sheet together so it doesn’t move around or use some pattern weights… (have a look at our tutorial on how to create gorgeous pattern weights with washers & washi tape!)
Making sure that both sheets are flat, you can now start to trace. It’s very important that you trace all of the writing, arrows and lines on the pattern – even the smallest triangles mean a lot!. No shortcuts. Don’t forget to add the size your are making, the pattern pieces letters/numbers and the pattern name.
Its easy to forget about tracing the “grainline” marking however this is extremely important as its showing you the direction the pattern needs to be laid on the fabric. Make sure you trace this arrow line exactly as it is on the pattern.
Once all pieces are traced, do a once over and then remove pins or weights and you’re ready to use your traced pattern. We suggest keeping your master pattern close by in case you need to double check anything.
Plastic wallets are great for keeping your copies in.
We’d love to know what you think about tracing patterns and perhaps any other types of tracing papers that you may use that do the job!