January 7, 2013

How to Trace Sewing Patterns

I distinctly recall my first purchase of a Burda World of Fashion magazine (which by the way, is now BurdaStyle magazine). I remember falling absolutely, insanely in love with a dress (that I have yet to make) on the front cover of the magazine and purchasing it up real quick like. I got the magazine home and started flipping through the endless pages of photos of all the patterns in the mag and thinking, "Gosh, this is amazing! All these patterns in one magazine." I remember when I found this really big sheet of paper at the end of the magazine that had lots and lots of lines all over it and then it hit me like an anvil that those were the actual pattern pieces. There they were all nested like a hot mess on top of each other, and there I was completely horrified at the thought of having to trace one off. This before I even knew that they didn't have seam allowances to boot. This is not to say that I don't actually appreciate these types of patterns, I do - especially as they have become more popular in sewing books that come with patterns - its just that I wasn't educated on how to properly trace a pattern. I had never traced off a pattern before and the idea really perplexed me. For starters, where in the world would I find paper that was big enough? And what would I do then? Just take a pencil and start outlining my size? And what if there were something like 12 - 15 pattern pieces? And then I have to add a seam allowance too? It felt really overwhelming and I think, to someone who has only ever worked with Big 4 patterns (Simplicity, McCall's, Butterick & Vogue) and just cut your size from the tissue, you might think the same thing.

Today I wanted to show you two ways to trace off a sewing pattern. Both methods work for tracing off patterns that come nested on one big sheet of paper and those that come in an envelope too. If you are asking why you would want to trace off an envelope pattern, rather than just cutting out your size, I would say that choice is up to you.  If you feel that its a pattern you'll keep in your stash forever and want to wear again when you're 40 but at the moment, you're 25, trace it because its almost guaranteed that you're body will change as you age putting you in a different size bracket. If not, don't trace it and just cut your pattern size from the tissue. Ok? Ok.

Method #1
I've tried many methods for tracing off a pattern, so as one who is always looking for the latest and greatest in pattern tracing technology (ha ha!) I'll show you my two favorites. First, let's start with the less expensive. To trace in this manner you'll need three elements:
  • Paper - I prefer medical exam paper! Very Very easy to see through, write on and tape up

  • Pencil

  • Ruler - those 2" x 18" gridded rulers are the bomb!
Layout your pattern with the piece you want to trace facing up. Lay the medical exam paper or paper of your choice on top of the pattern and then lay down a few heavy objects (like cans of food or pattern weights) or pin the trace off paper to the pattern so the papers don't slip and slide around. From there, start the tracing game. Trace off your size, with the aid of the ruler (seriously, this is a TON easier with a ruler), label your pattern piece and if needed, add the seam allowance. Adding that seam allowance is made only about 1000 times easier with one of those 2" x 18" gridded rulers. In addition, you'll use that sucker for so many other things, its not even funny. Get one. You know you need it. By the way, I have 3 because I loose these puppies all the time and having more than one makes it a bunch easier to find at least one....

Method #2 - Sunni's favorite method of all time!
This is the best, easiest, coolest method on the face of the planet, for tracing off a pattern! If you're in it to win it, and save yourself a butt-load of precious time (because who has that in abundance these days), you need the following:
  • Paper - again, my favorite is medical exam paper, but for this method any paper will really do ya.

  • Waxed Tracing Paper - this stuff is fabulous, amazing, the best thing since sliced bread and anything else you can possibly imagine.

  • Double Tracing Wheel - this is a FREAKING GODSEND when it comes to those Burda magazine patterns that need a seam allowance because this little doodad will trace off and add the seam allowance in one. fell. swoop. You can also use a regular old tracing wheel too, so no pressure or anything.
You're going to make a little trace off sandwich here. First, lay out the tracing paper with the waxy side up - by the way, the blue and red are the best for this sort of thing. Then lay your paper of choice on top of that. Add your pattern on top of that and slap down a few pattern weights and you're good to trace. Take your tracing wheel and start a tracing yo. That's right, I said, YO! No pain. Less time consuming and well, less mental and emotional trauma. In addition, of you don't have concerns about the fit, you can actually use this method directly on the final fabric. Or you can use this method directly on muslin too. Whatevs. To make the sandwich with fabric, I lay down the fabric first with the wrong sides out, then the tracing paper face down on the fabric, then the pattern.

If you're newer to tracing off sewing patterns, I truly hope this little tutorial has helped give you a few options to think about. There's always more than one way to skin a cat, and knowing that is half the battle. So there you go. My two favorite ways to skin a cat, I mean trace off a sewing pattern. In addition, because I feel SOOOOOOO passionately about this subject, I made my first ever video. I hope you like it. It will give you a quick and dirty action packed run down of what I'm talking about here.

How to Trace off Sewing Patterns from Sunni Standing on Vimeo.

Don't use either of the methods above? How do you trace off a pattern?
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