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Trace a Pattern, Save a Pattern

As I was tracing out my pattern for the Bombshell Swimsuit, it occurred to me this would be an excellent sewing tip for someone who is new to sewing. Or even for those who haven’t heard about or haven’t considered tracing patterns before. (I know there are those of you out there who fall into this category because that was me and I can’t be the only one, can I?!)

There are many benefits to tracing a pattern, particularly when traced on tracing material made from fabric.   For one, it improves the longevity of the pattern pieces as they can be used over and over without much wear and tear. I typically sew several garments from just one pattern and before I started tracing, my patterns became pretty worn rather quickly. If you’ve used a single pattern multiple times, you know the soft tissue paper has a short life span.  Another great reason to trace the a pattern is that it preserves the original pattern.  If or when the pattern is discontinued, yours will still be in tact.  At some point in the distant future, patterns from ‘today’ will be considered vintage, and a vintage pattern is definitely worth more in tact than it is cut up.

The fabric tracing ‘paper’ (for all intents and purposes) is typically made out of a polyester-like fabric and is fairly inexpensive.  It can be purchased from most larger sewing stores and I’ve seen it available on-line on several websites. I’ve heard of a few different names for it but the most common ones I know of are Red Dot Tracer, Trace-a-Pattern and Swedish Tracing Paper. It is transparent enough to see through, which makes it easy for tracing, and I’ve even heard of it being used for test garments though I’ve not used it for this purpose myself.

Up close, it looks paper-like.

Up close, it looks paper-like but definitely has the feel of fabric.

So let’s get started, shall we?

What you’ll need:

  • large surface to lay out your pattern on (I use my dining table)
  • fabric tracing paper
  • rulers
  • pattern weights
  • fine tip felt marker
  • pattern

First lay your pattern out over the large surface.  (The Bombshell is a PDF, which is a format many indie patterns come in so I had to piece it together first.)  Once you have your pattern piece down, place your fabric tracing paper over top and secure in place using pattern weights.  The fabric tracing paper is typically wide enough to cover the full size of the pattern and since I buy it in large quantities, I roll out what I need from it to cover the length of the pattern.  It only takes about 2 yards of it to cover a pattern piece.

Be sure to use lots of pattern weights so nothing shifts while you’re tracing.

Next, using your rulers and fine tip felt marker, trace out the pattern pieces.  For lines that aren’t straight, I trace about an inch at a time, which helps to maintain control of the pen.  (A French curve may come in handy if you have one.)  This is also where I make any known sizing adjustments (lengthening, shortening or otherwise) to pattern pieces.  I quite often have to do this for my pant legs or sleeve arms.

Trace all the pattern pieces - you never know which one you'll want to make in the future!

Trace all the pattern pieces – you never know which one you’ll want to make in the future!

I only trace out my size or the size I’m going to be sewing – I don’t bother tracing out the other sizes.  Be sure to trace out all of the markings and notches and to write the pattern name and piece (I also include the size) on it as well.  This way, if you ever find a misplaced pattern piece, you’ll know which pattern (and size) it belongs to.

I always add the size of the pattern as well.

Finally, cut out all of the pieces.  I usually leave about an 1/8 of an inch outside the tracing line to avoid any mishaps when I cut the pieces out and then cut it off the first time I use the pattern.


To store, I simply place all the pieces in a plastic sleeve and store it in a large 3-ring binder.  If it’s a PDF pattern, I store the picture and instructions in the same sleeve to keep it all together.  If it’s a printed pattern, I scan & print the cover of the pattern (or photocopy it) to place in the front of the sleeve however the pattern itself can easily be stored in the same sleeve as well.

I have several 3 ring binders (large) that I store my patterns in.

Store traced pattern pieces & original pattern in a plastic sleeve.

Tracing the pattern does take some extra time however I think the time spent doing it is well worth it.  If you’re a pattern lover like I am, this will help to preserve your pattern and keep it in tact.  What do you think?  Is this something you see as worthwhile doing or do you see it as an unecessary waste of time?

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. I love this idea!! 🙂
    Very smart!
    I don’t sew clothes like this yet, but even for my cross stitching patterns, I make copies of the pattern, save the original ad utilize the copy to make my project 🙂 that way if you ever want to use it for reference for a future project, you can!

    July 30, 2013
    • Thank you! That’s a great idea to copy your cross-stitching patterns – I can totally understand a person wanting to save those. If the “yet” in your reply means you’ve started or are planning to start sewing clothing, way to go! I’ll look forward to seeing some of your projects. 🙂

      July 31, 2013
      • It does 🙂 I like to highlight the stitches I’ve already done, and well, when I’m done , I got a sheet that’s entirely highlighted and I couldn’t reside a small design pattern even if I tried 😛 so I just started making copies and highlighting the copies 🙂
        And yes, I have yet to learn how to see clothes , but will be attending a basic pajama class end of August! I’m excited! I’ve always been intimidated of clothes patterns, but I hope I enjoy it and pick it up easy 🙂
        Thanks got reading and thanks for posting fun blogs!

        August 2, 2013
  2. I use painter’s drop cloth instead.

    July 30, 2013
    • Interesting! I have never heard of using painter’s drop cloth but when I looked it up I found all sorts of crafty things people use if for. Thanks for sharing!

      July 31, 2013
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    August 21, 2014

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