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.
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
- pattern weights
- fine tip felt marker
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?