About Domesticity
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Tracing Patterns

I posted this photo on Flickr yesterday and while doing it thought I should blog about this. I really don't like to trace patterns.  I am the type of sewer that wants to jump right in, skipping this vital step.  Also, taping a bunch of 8.5 x 11" sheets of copy paper together is a pain in the rear and tissue paper tears so easily.  I've tried freezer paper too, but I find it kind of stiff at times.  But, after a few cut pattern fiascoes and those crazy overlaid patterns in Japanese craft books, I am beginning to realize that I should just trace every pattern I sew before I cut.  I think I have found a great solution.


Enter exam table paper.  You know, like at the doctor's office.  It comes on a large roll and is a bit heavier than tissue paper, but still see through.  This is what I have been using to trace patterns for about a year now.  This is the only roll I have ever bought - I got mine at the local store that went out of business, but you can buy them at medical supply stores too.  There is still a ton left on the roll so I imagine that I will be using it for a long time to come.  Big bonus too is that it doesn't take up much storage space and the ends don't curl up so much when you roll it out.  I generally use pencil or pen, but fine tip felt tip markers work great too - they just glide down the paper.  So there you go:  my tip for the day.

And can I just say how completely blown away I am at the number of comments on yesterday's book post?  Wow.  I guess I shouldn't be surprised.  Who doesn't like free stuff?  If you want your chance at winning a copy, comment on yesterday's post.  Comments here won't count and I am cutting them off at 12:00 a.m. EST (New York) Saturday morning, the 13th.

I hope you all enjoy the weekend.  I'm looking forward to some quality time with my sewing machine.  What do you have planned?


Mary Jo, Five Green Acres

This weekend includes a Quilt Expo in town and the promise of expanding my fabric stash! Yahoo!! Maybe there will even be a little time for sewing...


As a newbie, I so appreciate the tip! I've been trying to figure out the best way to transfer patterns. I'll just quit my research and use your way.

Lisa Clarke

That's a great tip! Thanks! I rarely use patterns, but when I do, I always trace them first, mostly because I expect to have to adjust them. Thing is, being self-taught and relatively new to this sewing thing, I always cut out the original pattern pieces, and then traced around the shape onto newsprint paper. Your way is so much better! It preserves all of the markings on the pattern, and it saves you having to cut out the pattern piece first. So cool. I'm a convert. Now to find me a roll of that stuff...


I have to admit that until I entered the blogging world, I had never heard of tracing patterns. I always just cut mine out, and admit that I still do sometimes (like the Amy Butler patterns on that nice heavy paper that I know will hold up for the one or two uses they'll get). I do trace ones in books or that overlap with other pattern pieces on a sheet. And if I have to make a LOT of the same thing (like for a quilt), I tend to do them on template plastic. But I have been thinking that I should be better about this so that I am not cursing myself later for not tracing them! This is a great tip (and sounds cheaper than the by-the-yard stuff for tracing I have seen at fabric shops but have not yet bought).

As for me, I am planning a weekend of sewing as well! Last weekend I blistered through a Weekender Bag for my sister for Christmas. This weekend my mother's Christmas gift is on the list -- she wants one of those Amy Butler sun hats that she can wear to her Red Hat Society gatherings. She says she wants to be able to say "My daughter made it!" :)


I never even thought of exam table paper, but that it a really good idea! Thanks for the tip :)


wow great idea! :]


I was just in the doctor's office yesterday with my 2 week old baby boy, and now I'm mad at myself for looking at the exam table paper and not even thinking of that. Not that crafts were on my mind at the time! :)


I was just in the doctor's office yesterday with my 2 week old baby boy, and now I'm mad at myself for looking at the exam table paper and not even thinking of that. Not that crafts were on my mind at the time! :)


I was just in the doctor's office yesterday with my 2 week old baby boy, and now I'm mad at myself for looking at the exam table paper and not even thinking of that. Not that crafts were on my mind at the time! :)


I was just in the doctor's office yesterday with my 2 week old baby boy, and now I'm mad at myself for looking at the exam table paper and not even thinking of that. Not that crafts were on my mind at the time! :)


tracing paper works well too, lol.


That's a great idea. I'll have to remember that.

This weekend, I will be seeing a football game and Burn after Reading with my husband. Maybe some crafting if I have time (I certainly hope so).


I will have to ask the doc at our next visit where they get their exam table paper.
It would be great for room-sized crayon murals too.
My weekend should have very little crafting as I have to work both days... Have fun on yours!


One of my true-life friends earned her degree in fashion design and she always uses that kind of paper. I haven't been able to find a local source, but I imagine it's great.


I bought a roll 15 years ago when I started college as a clothing and textiles major and am still not finished with. It really is the greatest stuff.


I got a huge roll of tracing paper from dick blick online that works great. I don't like tracing, but I do it for everything now. It makes me feel better when I'm making something and I'm not sure of the fit that at least I have the option of doing it differently next time, whether or not I actually will. It adds steps, but it's kind of gotten to be my pattern routine.


Thank you! This has been a mystery to me. The last thing I sewed en mass, I pinned an outline of the pattern and cut the fabric around the pins. Ouch!

I will try this one!


what a clever idea - thanks for the tip!


Another tip is using light interfacing. I'll often buy a bolt with my 40% JoaAnne coupon. Also, because the interfacing has a nap, it sticks to the fabric you're cutting...so less pinning is needed.



A lot of art supply stores carry tracing paper by the roll, but I'll bet it's MUCH larger and cheaper your way! Brilliant! Hmmm...I have to try and figure out how to get one of those!


What a wonderful tip! If I ever venture into sewing from patterns again, I will definitely keep this in mind. Thanks!

Sarah Jackson

Very clever idea. I also use rolls of tracing paper, but that looks much wider. I tend to use patterns over and over again, so anything I can to do make them last longer is just fine by me.

What am I doing this weekend? I think people are coming over for my epic football game on TV. I'm making cards and putting them in my shop. Yay! Hanging out with the kids - swimming and riding bikes. Have a fun time sewing. Hopefully we'll see a completed bag on Monday.


oh my lordy - i just saw how many comments you had yesterday! good thing you're using a random number generator.

thanks for the tip! i wonder if our local medical supply store carries that product. i might have to make a little detour today to find out.


Oh, so smart! I will certainly be making a trip to the medical supply store the next time I run out of tracing paper. I have a roll of tracing paper and also butcher paper that I've been using, but I think exam table paper is by far the best idea yet!


Hi Erin,

Another great idea! We're relaxing at Lake Barkley with our kids and grandkids this weekend. It's beautiful.


What a great idea, erin. I've used freezer paper, but I agree about the stiffness. And I bet this paper is pretty economical too... thanks for the tip!

(Hmm. does this mean a new bag on monday???)


As Maribel suggested, lightweight interfacing works really well, too. More expensive than the exam table paper, I would think, but still not pricey. I like the kind with the blue grid on it--it really helps when lining up on certain patterned fabrics or when trying to match patterns. It is almost impossible to tear, and you can mark on it with a sharpie!


this is just so flipping clever. I would have never though what I sit my naked butt on at the doctor's office could be of use to me. I've actually been meaning to go to a medical supply store to get forceps (for turning out softies) but I'm kind of nervous (do I really want to see what they sell there?!). Maybe I'll talk myself into going this weekend.


That's a great tip. I love using that swedish tracing paper, available on amazon. It is probably a lot more expensive but should you want to you can wash it, sew it and iron it.


That's a fantastic tip. I usually use freezer paper, but agree that it's stiff. The swedish tracing paper josie mentioned is supposed to be great too--it might be worth the expense for a special project.


You need some Pattern-Ease. It's in the interfacing section of JoAnns--pretty cheap if you use the 40% off coupon, comes out to a little over $1 a yard. It is durable like fabric and won't tear, also nice and see through. I use a ballpoint pen for tracing.

brazen's crafts

i use interfacing for tracing patterns :) (i sew with ottobre patterns so i HAVE to trace them all!)


you just have all sorts of secret readers ;-)

what a great idea! I hate the whole tracing patterns too.


you are such a smarty-pants! :)
wow.. over 400 comments... geez!!!


This is a GREAT idea! I'm going to have to try this. :0) Thanks for the tip!


eRin: Good advice...medical paper...thank you. I'm trying to get my sewing room together, have a yard sale tomorrow and Sunday, my brother's birthday is tonight, I have a barbecue at my friend Michaun's on Saturday night and a barbecue at my friend Rob's on Sunday for the Broncos' game! WHEW! I'm tired just typing all of that...have a good weekend. aNa


Here in NZ it is quite expensive to buy tracing paper to transfer your patterns so it is common place to use a thin interfacing. I have found this works great fo me, it's nice and wide and the patterns last for a VERY long time. You just buy it by the metre at any fabric store here. Happy sewing :)


Patternease is my absolute favorite. I buy mine wholesale, but at JA's with a 50% coupon it's really cheap too. Plus it holds up FOREVER and doesn't tear the way paper will..or maybe that's only a problem in my house where I have 4 little boys who always want to "help"?

Toni Coward

great tip! for tracing my patterns i like to use greaseproof paper! thicker and stronger than tracing paper, not as stiff as freezer paper and very easy to see through :)

Kelly H

Dang, you are so clever. Thanks for sharing this great tip!


Oh! You trace the patterns! I thought you had to cut them out and then you were screwed if you wanted to make the next size up!

You might also look into architectural trace paper. Its thicker than regular tissue paper, comes on rolls (from 12" all the way up to 36" wide) and might be easier to find than exam table paper. I get mine at the local art/drafting stores. Probably a little more expensive.

barbara brown

what a great idea. thanks for sharing. do you do this for aperal patterns and if so before or after sizing the pattern?

Mama Urchin

Sadly, I don't think I'll be getting much sewing time this weekend. Next week though, I will find a way!

I use pattern paper from the fabric store but the roll is very wide and it gets unwieldy. When I've used up my roll I might give the medical paper a try.


That's an awesome tip! Thanks so much :) I have been pondering different ways to trace patterns for awhile. Thank you :)


I never would of thought of dr. paper! I have grad school work planned...as well as celebrating the mama's birthday and hopefully some crafting in between!


you are so smart! I have been thinking about the whole tracing thing too, Denyse Schmidt patterns kind of do that to me. Sucks!


Another Pattern-Ease user here. I buy the entire bolt when I get a good coupon.


Thank you for the excellent tip. I too would skip the tracing if I could.

chicago sarah

*giggle* My job brings me into direct contact with exam table paper every day, I'm never going to be able to ask someone to lay back on the paper without cracking up now! (I'm not a tracer yet but know I'll have to bow to the pressure someday)


Great idea for tracing paper! I'm very anal about tracing patterns. I NEVER cut a pattern even though it wouldn't have mattered with some of them...

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