How to trace a pattern

How to trace a pattern

Recently I received an email from someone who had purchased Beatrix in print from a shop and had accidentally cut her pattern pieces out and then discovered that there were pattern pieces printed on the back side of the sheet. I felt terrible, of course (and we have instructions to trace on the pattern sheets for this very reason), but it reminded me that most people don’t trace their patterns, either because they don’t know how, or don’t think it’s important. And although I talk about tracing quite a bit on this blog (in the Luna Pantsalong, the Beatrixalong, and in one of my most popular posts, Making Clothes for me, lessons learned), I didn’t have a dedicated tracing post until now.

So, this post is for all of you who haven’t yet discovered the beauty of tracing your pattern pieces. I never, ever cut into my pattern pieces anymore, no matter what type of sewing pattern I am using. Here’s why I trace and how I do it!

Why trace your pattern pieces?

It may seem tedious, an additional step of prep before sewing a piece of clothing, so why do it at all? It’s true, it takes extra time to trace your pattern pieces, but here are some of the reasons to trace your pattern rather than cut into it:

  • Tracing allows you to keep the original pattern pieces intact, which is especially nice if they are printed on a delicate paper such as tissue, or if they are printed in such a way that the pattern pieces overlap (this is common in sewing books that include pattern sheets).
  • Tracing allows you to use a pattern multiple times in more than one size.
  • Tracing allows you to blend between sizes if you are more than one size (a smaller bust size than hip size, for example).
  • Tracing is absolutely essential if you need to make a significant adjustment, such as a bust adjustment or adding a dart, to a pattern.
  • Even for a PDF pattern, tracing saves paper and ink, not to mention the extra time it takes to tape it together if you need another size or view.
  • Tracing allows you to roll or fold the (usually very large) pattern pages up and put them away so you have more room to work. The tracings are easy to fold up and store, and are smaller and easier to deal with as you cut and sew (just make sure you’ve transferred all of the markings from the pattern before you put them away).

Cutting into a pattern presumes that you will only ever need one size, ever. While that is possibly true for you, it’s not been the case for me. Each pattern maker has their own unique sizing and I’ve made one size of a pattern only to discover that I’d prefer a size larger or smaller. I’ve also gone up and down through a handful of sizes over the past decade for a number of reasons (OK, mostly having kids), and every time I slide up or down a size, I’m glad I didn’t cut up my original pattern. This is especially true when the pattern I’m working with is a paper (printed) pattern, a tissue pattern, or a large-format copy shop pattern sheet.

In summary, tracing a pattern allows you to keep the printed pattern intact for making different sizes or views in the future or in case you need to make any fit adjustments.

What is Swedish Tracing Paper? 

How to trace a pattern with swedish tracing paper

My tracing paper of choice is Swedish Tracing Paper, shown above, which is 29″ wide and comes in a 10-yard roll. This has become more readily available at shops that sell garment fabric, so check your favorite retailer and support small businesses, please! I’ve also purchased it at WAWAK and Amazon.

A good substitute is Pellon 830 interfacing (shown below) but it’s a little thicker than STP, and usually more expensive if you calculate the price per square inch. I also prefer the 29″ width of STP, which I find easier to work with than the wider Pellon.

How to trace a pattern with swedish tracing paper

The main reason I prefer either of these options over basic (and usually cheaper) tracing paper is that it’s much more sturdy and less likely to tear, making it much more useful long-term. It’s about as strong as a dryer sheet, if that gives you an idea, which means it’s pretty hard to tear. If you’ve ever worked with a tissue paper pattern you know how easily those patterns can tear, so having a tracing that is more sturdy than the pattern you started with to me is a clear advantage.

In addition, swedish tracing paper is lightweight, easy to fold up and store, presses beautifully with an iron if it gets wrinkled, and can even be basted or pinned together if you want to do a quick “tissue fitting” (putting the pattern pieces up to your body to see how the pattern will fit).

How to trace a pattern

Here’s Jess to help me show you how to trace!

How to trace a pattern with swedish tracing paper

You will need:

  • The pattern you want to trace
  • Swedish tracing paper or Pellon 830
  • Straight edge and pencil
  • Pattern weights or other items to weigh down your tracing paper and keep it in place while tracing (we’ll be using coffee mugs in this tutorial. Campy-like.)

Step 1. Lay out your pattern on a large flat surface. We’re using Beatrix here.

How to trace a pattern with swedish tracing paper

Step 2. Place the tracing paper over the pattern piece you want to trace

How to trace a pattern with swedish tracing paper

Step 3. Place pattern weights or other objects over the tracing paper so it won’t move around while you trace.

How to trace a pattern with swedish tracing paper

Step 4. Trace around the outline of the pattern piece. Use a pencil and a straight edge, and choose the size line you need using the key given on the pattern.

How to trace a pattern with swedish tracing paper

Go slowly and trace carefully. You want your lines to be nice and clear.

How to trace a pattern with swedish tracing paper

How to trace a pattern with swedish tracing paper

Add notches or markings along the outer edge. You can add these as you go, or after you’ve finished the outline of the piece.

How to trace a pattern with swedish tracing paper

How to trace a pattern with swedish tracing paper

 

How to trace a pattern with swedish tracing paper

Step 5. Add additional markings and labels

The grainline arrow is one of the most critical pieces of information on a pattern piece (the vertical portion of a fold arrow functions as a grainline as well). Add fold arrows, cutting lines, hem lines, darts, dots, and any other additional markings such as pocket placement lines that are present on the pattern piece. You don’t want to have to go back to your original pattern sheet once you’ve put it away because you forgot to add an important marking.

How to trace a pattern with swedish tracing paper

Then add the name of the pattern, the size you traced (you would not believe how many times I have forgotten to do this and then wondered later what size a tracing was), and the pattern piece name and cutting indication (like “cut 2 interfacing” or “cut 2 on the fold”). Now your pattern piece is ready to use!

How to trace a pattern with swedish tracing paper

Sewing Superstar: Jess of CINO

A few weeks ago, I brought back my Sewing Superstars series with a feature of Hungie Gungie. (Learn more about this fun series HERE!)

Today our Superstar is Jess Christian of Craftiness is not Optional, who does simply amazing work. Jess is a fellow blogger and pattern designer and I’ve featured her before on this blog as part of the KNITerview series and the Lotus Pond extravaganza, but I really wanted to feature her again as part of the Superstar series because the woman is a mad genius with the Geranium Dress pattern:

CINO geraniums
above: top left / top right / bottom left / bottom right

Jess’ three daughters are impossibly adorable, and she’s been taking gorgeous photographs of them for years (they have a little brother now…GAH he is too cute!!!). I always swoon when she makes a new Geranium for one of them. Check out her blog to see all of the amazing Geranium Dresses she’s made over the years, as well as all of her other adorable creations. She’s one impressive lady!

You can follow Jess online:
Craftiness is not Optional blogFacebookInstagram, Pinterest and #cinosews

See even more MBR patterns and projects at these links:
Flickr: Geranium Sewing Pattern Pool / Rae Made Me Do It Pool
Instagram: #geraniumdress#raemademedoit / #madebyrae.

It inspires me so much to see what you are making with my patterns! Please feel free add your own photos to the photo pool(s) or tag your pics with #raemademedoit or #madebyrae so I can see what you’re making. I’m excited to feature more Sewing Superstars here soon!

Gingham Gemma

It’s almost December and therefore sweater weather, so it may seem strange to post about a Gemma Tank, but this top is something I find myself wearing quite a bit these days, under cardigans of course. I find I prefer sleeveless tops to sleeved tops when I’m wearing a sweater, because I don’t like that bunchy feeling you get when you try to stuff a shirt sleeve into a sweater sleeve; it makes me really twitchy and uncomfortable. Much like Clementine when she’s putting on her socks in the morning and doesn’t like how the sock seams feel in her shoes and then throws a fit and is late for school. What was I talking about?

Gemma tank

Here is is, sans cardi:

Gemma Tank

If this fabric looks familiar, it might be because this is the third (and final, I’m now out of yardage) garment I managed to squeeze out of this navy gingham  I picked up at Purl Soho. The other two things I made were this cute little Charlie top for Hugo and a Pearl shift for me. I like how the bias around the neckline pops out because of the gingham.

Gingham Gemma Tank

To be completely truthful this tank isn’t exactly the same as the Gemma pattern, because the pattern changed a bit as I worked on it and this was one of the earlier versions I made. The shoulders are a bit wider on this one than they are on the final pattern — I felt like the broader shoulders were a bit frumpy, so I narrowed them — and I eventually settled on two necklines for the final pattern, one a bit higher than this one, and one a bit lower.

Gemma is available in my pattern shop, comes in both A/B and C/D cup sizes, and looks great under winter cardigans!!!

Posted in gemma
3 Comments

Staystitching is Important

staystitching

Attention, everyone, this is a sewing PSA. Staystitching is a garment-sewing technique that is really important. I am sharing this with you because when I started sewing, many years ago, I did not know what staystitching was, but even if I had, I probably would have skipped it. Now that I am older and wiser, I want to share this nugget of wisdom with you.

If you’ve ever sewn one of my women’s patterns (specifically for woven fabrics, such as Ruby, Beatrix, or Gemma), you may have noticed a step that instructs you to staystitch, followed by the words “IMPORTANT: DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP.” I’m guessing most people ignore this, mostly because if I didn’t know better, I probably would.

I’ve mentioned before that my mom taught me how to sew, but knowing how stubborn and headstrong I was as a child,* I doubt once she communicated the fundamentals to me that I spent much time listening to any further details. Details like: be careful about skipping steps that might initially seem unnecessary, because you may regret it.

In addition, my younger sister Elli took a 4-H sewing class from a very strict and anal retentive seamstress, and her experience left a strong impression on me. I remember the jumper she was working on taking her the better part of a year to complete, which seemed like utter torture to me. It made sewing seem so un-fun. As a result, I took an alternate approach with a more carefree sewing attitude: skip all but the most essential steps, and see what happens. In some cases, I discovered it didn’t really matter that much (three rows of gathering stitches vs. two or even in some cases — GASP — ONE.), but in other cases, I’ve discovered that taking a little extra time to add a seam finish or in this case, staystitch, can make a big difference.

*I can picture my mom thinking, “Just as a child…?” as she reads this.

So…what IS staystitching?
Staystitching is a line of stitching added to the edge of a piece of fabric (often along a curved edge such as a neckline or an armhole, but not always) that stabilizes the fabric so that it won’t stretch out while it’s being sewn. Additionally, if you’re making a piece of clothing, staystitching prevents the edges from stretching out if you try it on to check fit. The staystitching lines in the photo below are around the armholes and neckline of my chambray Gemma tank.

0V7A8677

How and when do you staystitch?
To staystitch an edge, sew along the edge of the fabric, about 1/8″ away from the edge, using a normal straight stitch. Earlier patterns of mine said “using a regular length or slightly shorter than normal length stitch,” but I’ve since decided that a shorter stitch actually stretches out the fabric too much, so I now recommend a regular length stitch such as 2.5-3 mm.

As for when to staystitch, I think there are two schools of thought. The stricter approach is to staystitch edges after you cut out your fabric pieces, but before you do any sewing. I feel this is only necessary when sewing with a really unstable or slippery fabric. The other approach, which I prefer, is to staystitch any curved edges such as necklines or armholes after shoulder or side seams are sewn, but before facings or bindings or sleeves are attached. I take this more moderate/less strict approach because in most cases, woven fabrics are stable enough to sew some of the seams before staystitching without stretching out the garment significantly. Additionally, staystitching goes much faster when you can do a whole armhole in one go, instead of, say, having to staystitch the front armhole separately from the back armhole due to the shoulder seams having not yet been sewn.

That said, I can appreciate that some sewists would disagree and say that it’s better to be safe than sorry. I almost always favor the quick and easy sew, as long as it doesn’t sacrifice good construction technique.

I’ve probably utterly confused some of you, and if that’s the case, my recommendation would be just to try staystitching the next time you sew a piece of clothing. It definitely make more sense if you’ve got the garment in front of you, to be sure.

So, what say ye? Are you a Die-hard Staystitch-er? Or do you play it fast and loose and skip it? Have I convinced anyone to change your short-cutting ways?

Green Striped Cleo Skirt

Cleo Skirt | View B

Oh Nani Iro double gauze, how I love you so. I sewed this delightful fabric into a Cleo Skirt earlier this summer. I la-la-love it. Double gauze is so crazy comfortable and soft, and these stripes look like they were painted on by hand. This skirt has inseam pockets which seem more and more critical to me in a garment the more I sew, plus a flat-front with elastic-back waistband, so it’s quite comfortable to wear. New favorite skirt alert!

Cleo Skirt

The “midi” length falls below the knee, resulting in something that gives me strong flashbacks of the skirts my mother wore to church in the summer back in the 80’s along with a large perm and sandals, even more so when I wear it with my chambray Gemma tank. I am admittedly confused by the word “midi.” Has this word been around a very long time? It seems to have popped up in the last couple of years, and the first time I heard it I had to look it up. I suppose I risk sounding incredibly stupid by admitting that, but there it is.

Cleo Skirt

This version will be “View B” of the Cleo skirt pattern, with View A sporting cut out pockets and a band along the hem ala the Flying Crane skirt. If you got my fall pattern preview newsletter back in September, you’ll have seen a more thorough description plus more photos of Cleo already (you can sign up for my email updates here, by the way).

Cleo Skirt

Let me tell you how long it takes to make a sewing pattern: forever. I previewed this skirt pattern on Instagram back in February (though I’ve been working on this design since early 2013…yes, 2013), and if you asked me in February when this one would be ready, I probably told you late spring. But then there was Gemma, and Isla, and now I’m serious, this pattern will happen next is now here. I do feel a bit badly since I know some of you have been excited for this pattern for a long time and probably feel a bit impatient. If so, you have a good sense for how long it takes me to make a pattern. So I have a question for you: do you prefer when pattern designers surprise you with a design once it’s ready so that you can sew it right away? I feel like a lot of the big indie pattern designers keep everything very secret until they are absolutely ready to a launch. Or do you enjoy seeing the designs while they are in progress? As a sewing pattern consumer, I can see benefits to both approaches, but as a pattern designer I wonder if it would be better if I took the Super Secret approach. What do you think?

Posted in Cleo
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Monaluna Flashback with skirt

It’s Friday, friends. And what a week. Let’s talk about something fun, like this cheerful knit top I made for Clementine!

Monaluna Flashback with skirt

I started with my Flashback Skinny Tee pattern in a size 7/8 (how is she so big? WAAAAAH *weeps into coffee cup*), cut off the bodice halfway between the armpit and the hem and added a gathered skirt to the bottom. I made the skirt twice as wide as the bodice and about 11″ tall. Everything else is exactly the same as the original Flashback pattern (cuffs, neckband, fit, etc). I’ve made Flashbacks with skirts before (here and here), but as dresses instead of a top.

Monaluna Flashback with skirt

This awesome fabric is a Monaluna knit in Groovy Lotus and I love how it has a very Scandinavian-esque vibe, kind of like something you would find in Hanna Andersson. I’ve always loved the feel and modern designs of Monaluna fabrics (owner Jennifer Moore is a friend and so lovely), so I almost can’t believe this was the first time I sewed with one of the knits. Verdict? Nice and soft, nice amount of stretch, yet still very easy to work with. Love that it’s 100% organic, too! So nice that I went out and bought a bunch more from her shop last month when she had a knits sale (hint: get on the shop email list!).

Monaluna Flashback with skirt

Monaluna Flashback with skirt

And here is my little goofball illustrating her favorite poses:

 

Monaluna Flashback with skirt

Some serious walk-off fodder here.

Monaluna Flashback with skirt

And…cross-eyed. That’s my little lady.

Monaluna Flashback with skirt

Have a wonderful and relaxing weekend, everyone!

Let the Spring Top Roundups Begin!

It is **about time** we showed off some of the awesome tops you’re all making. Holy smokes, is the Spring Top Sewalong Flickr Pool ever full of good stuff, people! Thanks for taking the time to put your photos in there. It’s fun to see what patterns are trending, what fabrics everyone is loving, and how each sewist adds her own flair to different designs.

Here’s just a little slice of what we’re loving these days. Where applicable, the links below the photos will take you directly to each person’s blog post. From there, you’ll get more info about the pattern and in a lot of cases you’ll get to see more photos too!
STS14 mosaic 1
Above, Left to Right: Teri’s Josephine/Washi XP Mashup; Jess’s reverse appliqueBree’s JosephineTina’s wrap top.

STS14 mosaic 4
Above, Left to Right: Lecsmiscellany’s LaurelSusanna’s Easy Cap Sleeve TeeCindy’s striped knit topEirenep’s Scout.

Melanie’s hand-embroidered Portrait Blouse gets a close-up here. Isn’t it lovely??
IMG_6520

STS14 mosaic 2
Above, Left to Right: Jessica’s Ava; Heidi’s Zippy Top; Brooke’s Weekend Getaway; Polkadotelefant’s Kimono Top.

STS14 mosaic 3
Above, Left to Right: Tammy’s Staple BlouseEricka’s Boxy Tee; Maria’s Flower Petal Top; Kuka & Bubu’s Sheer Yoke Shirt.

Spring Top Sewalong 2014 is underway! Read more here; and add your photos to the Flickr Pool!

Riding Peplum Pattern Giveaway from April Rhodes

This giveaway is now closed. The winner will be announced soon!

posted by jess

It’s just one gorgeous pattern after another around here, eh? Today we’re so excited to offer April Rhodes’ latest pattern, the Riding Peplum or Party Dress! This pattern has been on my wanna-sew list since it first appeared. It’s so versatile for different occasions and different outfits.

riding peplum

Jo of Bubala blogged about her peplum here:

bubala

And I found Sew Charleston’s Peplum (below) in the April Rhodes Sewing Patterns Flickr pool.

peplum

Thanks so much for offering up a pattern, April!

Spring Top Sewalong 2014 is underway! Read more here; and add your photos to the Flickr Pool.

To be entered in the drawing, leave ONE comment on this post by TOMORROW at 10 PM EST (Friday, April 18). One winner will be randomly selected, contacted via email, and will receive a PDF copy of the Riding Peplum pattern from April Rhodes as a digital, downloadable pattern by email. Void where prohibited by law.

Lela Pattern Giveaway from Green Bee

This Giveaway is now closed. The winner will be announced soon!

posted by jess

So pleased to announce that today’s pattern giveaway is courtesy of one of our newest sponsors, Green Bee Patterns.

A paper copy of the Lela Tunic and Blouse pattern will go to one lucky commenter!

Cover single pane template for web

Alexia wore her amazing knit Lela Tunic at Quilt Market last fall. Here she is with Michelle (who’s wearing another one of their patterns, the Frances dress):

Quilt Market Houston 2013

Lela can be made as a tunic or blouse, and works best in lightweight, flowy fabrics. Devon of Miss Make made this lovely version:

Miss Make Lela

I actually just cut out some fabric for my own Lela Blouse; I’m thinking color block for this one. Progress photos forthcoming.

Thanks for the pattern giveaway, Green Bee!

Spring Top Sewalong 2014 is underway! Read more here; and add your photos to the Flickr Pool!

Leave ONE comment on this post by TOMORROW at 8 AM EST (Thursday, April 17) for a chance to win a printed copy of the Lela pattern by Green Bee. One winner will be randomly selected, contacted via email for shipping information, and will receive the pattern by mail. Void where prohibited by law.