Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Sureau Sew-along: Tracing The Pattern

Why can't I just cut the pattern sheet, you ask?
Because what if the size you thought was right for you is not going to fit? What if you want to make this dress for someone who isn't your same size? What if you decide to make this dress in a year and you lost/gained weight?
Tracing a pattern is time consuming and it can be tedious, especially for a beginner.
When I learnt to sew, this is one of the first things my mother taught me to do, and I'm so grateful for it! If you can afford to re-purchase the pattern multiple times, go ahead! Otherwise, let's see what I advice you to do.

What do I use to trace my pattern?
Basically, whatever you are more comfortable with. I live in a country where sewing is not mainstream, so my options are quite limited, but everyone's situation is different.

What's easier to find for me, it's tracing paper that comes in big sheets at office supply stores (usually 100x150cm). This paper is thin, slightly transparent, so when you lay it on top of your pattern, you can see the lines underneath.

If you can find this kind of paper in form of rolls, it will make your job much easier. Other materials used are baking paper, paper tablecloth, exam table paper, Swedish tracing paper, just make sure they're transparent enough to see the pattern underneath.
If you found your own material, comment below and let us know!

Another option, although more time consuming, is to use carbon tracing paper (either regular or for seamstresses) with a tracing wheel. I sandwich some regular paper (I use the MÅLA paper from IKEA) between the pattern and the carbon paper and trace my lines with the wheel. This is just an alternative method, definitely not the fastest one.

Remember to mark on each piece its name, your size and to copy all the marks (notches, gathering lines, etc.).

What if I'm between sizes?
We mentioned before that this is totally normal. Just take a ruler and a pencil and draw a line that connects the sizes you need. For the skirt panel, draw a curved line (with the help of a French curve, if you want more accuracy) meeting the bigger size at the zipper end mark.

Once I have these new lines, I usually re-draw them with a crayon, so I don't get confused once it's covered by the tracing paper.
Choose the size of the darts according to their base: for example, I'm grading up the bodice from a size 38 at the bust to a size 40 at the waist. I'm going to trace a size 38 bust dart and a size 40 waist dart.

Once you traced all your pieces, cut them all (remember NOT to use your fabric scissors for this) and we are ready to cut our muslin!

I apologize for the poor quality of the photos in this post. To see clearer images on this subject, please check out Eléonore's post.


  1. Paunnet Hello!. I also removed my tracing paper patterns is what I always use to trace patterns. And so you can save them as a treasure!.

    I used the same method to get your own size, passing a T.36 bust to a t. 38 in the waist ..
    Thank you very much for everything and looking forward to the next post.

  2. Why would you trace all sizes, I wonder. I only trace my own size, and if I'm between, I pick the largest one.

  3. In Asia, we are using brown pattern paper. Since i couldn't find it here, So, am using such transparent tracing paper which they call it here in Poland 'karta tekniczna' it comes with sizes. I am using the bigger size like you are using. Usually used for drafting, drawings for engineers like that of the architect. Other than that paper, i use the baking paper transparent one. But good you mentioned that paper from Ikea so i might grab one in my next ikea visit. I agree with you Anna, that tracing patterns might be tedious job but worth it. you can use the pattern over and over again.... if you want another size or if friends wants me to make one for them. I am loving this sew-along :-D Cheers!

  4. Thank you, Ai!
    Just one thing about the IKEA paper, fyi: it's not transparent, so it's no good to copy patterns through it. I hoped I could use it like that when I bought it, but it's too opaque.

  5. A hot tip I received from Lizzy ages ago was to use those disposable plastic tablecloths if you are stuck without tracing paper. Just lay on top and use a ball point pen to trace. It worked a treat though I do prefer my tracing paper!

  6. I never used to trace. I used to cut out the largest size and then cut into the pattern down to the size I was going to make and then fold it back and iron it. Still a lot of work, and it pretty much still destroyed my pattern pieces. Now I trace and leaving my pattern sheets in tact really appeals to my obsessive-compulsive side.
    I have also used the rolls of tissue that you can buy at the art store. My dad is an architect and always had some in the house, then when I was in graphic design school, we used it every day for one project or another—so it's always been on hand. When I got married, I had an overabundance of that cheap, dollar store tissue used in gift bags, so I started using that to trace patterns. It's probably the most flimsy non-lasting material I could use, but since I don't use my patterns that many times over, and I'm careful with them, it works for me. It's cheap and easy to get a hold of, and just about the same weight as the tissue that comes in the envelope. And it's easy to pin through.

  7. yes, i understand but i will try your technique using that Mala paper in ikea. Thank you for the tip though.

  8. I googled it and it seems a great idea, where do you find it?

  9. I did the cut and fold thing a few time and I was just heartbroken to see my patterns so battered!
    The tissue bag is a great suggestion, especially as a last resource!

  10. I use cheap interfacing to trace my patterns. Last time I think I bought a 10 metre roll for about $8, but it depends what I can get at the time. I just go to the fabric store and buy the cheapest, thinnest one I can find. I like it because it is a bit sticky, so unless I'm sewing with a slippery fabric I don't have to pin. I just lay my pattern on top and cut carefully. It's easy to do pattern adjustments on, too, and if I want to do a quick drape fit it acts mostly like fabric. Because I use the cheapest, thinnest one, it starts to look a bit sad if I use the pattern five or more times - but if I'm using a pattern that much I'm happy to trace it!

  11. It's unbelievable for me to read that interfacing can be so cheap... It's quite expensive (and not very easy to find) here :(
    Thanks for sharing this tip!

  12. sorry it's not karta tecniczna but kalka techniczna- i would be slap by a real polish speaker with this words. :-D

  13. for tracing I use this see-through tissue paper ( It's thicker than the brown pattern tissue paper. I bought a roll two years ago and still have loads left. I always trace my patterns unless they are pdfs.

  14. Forgive me if I missed this in a previous post, doesn't the pattern include seam allowances or do we need to add them?

  15. Sewing allowances are included! :)