Saturday, April 18, 2009

Tracing Patterns

Since I sew for kids a lot, and they grow a lot, I love multi-sized patterns. Definitely more bang for your buck! I have experimented with several ways to transfer pattern to fabric without cutting into the actual pattern itself. Most folks, myself included, trace the correct size from the master pattern, then use the tracing to make any alterations needed and to cut out the fabric. This seems like an extra step, especially if you aren't planning on using any of the other sizes, but I think it is really worthwhile. It makes it much easier to see what you are working with, without extra pattern lines and markings.

So, how do you go about it? I have tried a couple of different things, but my two favorites are tissue paper and soil separator paper. Tissue paper is easy to find, and free, since I use up old gift paper for tracing patterns. Go recycling. It has a few drawbacks, though. It tears easily and can't be reused all that many times. I can usually only get about four uses out of a tissue pattern. Also, if you recycle like I do, then your tissue may be colored or have a funny pattern on it, making it tough to use. That said, it is easily available and economical, so I do it for patterns that I'm not going to be making a bunch. I really prefer to use soil separator paper. What is that, you ask? Check out pretty much any sewing forum and you will find seamstresses across the globe singing its praises. It is basically a very thin fabric-like paper that is sturdy, flexible like fabric (great for tissue fittings!) and CHEAP! You can get it in 100 yard rolls at your local Home Depot or Lowe's for about 20 bucks. I do a lot of sewing, but it takes me a while to get through a roll. Now that you have your tracing medium, what is the best way to go about actually tracing your pattern? I think this is a very individual thing. A few tips that may be helpful -

1. Darken or color the lines you will be tracing on the original pattern tissue. This makes it easier to follow the correct size or marking lines.

2. Affix your original pattern to your tracing medium. I like to pin them together, but I have heard folks who use tape or sewing spray adhesive.

3. Before you start, make a list of the pattern pieces you need by number (for a pattern with multiple views), and check them off as you trace them.

4. Look at your layout diagram, and if there is a pattern piece that is used twice (like something you need four of, or are cutting 2 on the fold) make two copies, or however many you need.

5. Make any alterations that you can as you go, for example, if you are shortening a pattern, fold up the original on the correct line and trace it that way, but be sure to make a note on the tracing of what you altered.

6. Store your tracings with the original pattern, either in the envelope or in a zipper bag attached to the envelope.

7. Be sure to label each piece as you go with pattern number, size, view and any alterations you made.
Do I really do this? Yep, and here is the evidence! Here is a pattern piece that I have altered extensively. You can see the white soil separator paper overlaying the tan original tissue pattern.
Want your own soil separator paper? This company actually markets it as a sewing tool, but I just get mine at Lowe's. Go to the plumbing section and look for the area where they sell septic systems. It's usually around there. If you need help finding it, be sure to ask an associate in the plumbing department, otherwise they'll send you to landscape, and that is the wrong stuff!

ETA - (12/12/09) Cariff, the company referenced in the link above, will no longer be marketing their "sewing paper" although the continue to carry a line of soil separator paper that you can order by phone.  My local Lowe's no longer carries it at all, but I was able to find several online sources, including!  I ordered some from True Value hardware store.


Beth said...

How do you have the time???? Thank you--I didn't know anything about soil separator! I will be checking it out soon!

The Mommy said...

The Lowe's in both Marshall and Henderson acted like I was nuts, when I asked for this. what are you paying for it at yours??
I am tempted to buy some from the site you referenced, if it is not too dear huge of a difference.

KID, MD said...

At my Lowe's it is 18 dollars and change for a 2 ft by 300 ft roll. I did get a few strange looks when I asked for it, until I asked the guy who specialized in plumbing. He knew exactly what it was and where to find it (on a random endcap, stuffed into boxes and impossible to see).

The Mommy said...

Interestingly enough, Carriff's website shows a woman using their "sewing fabric" outdoors, wrapped around a bit pipe -- but they don't mention any plumbing applications . . .