Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Sew Like a Pro Tip: Don't Cut Your Patterns!

Here's a little known sewing tip that will save you tons of hassle.  Don't cut your patterns.

You know how you open up a pattern, especially a multi-sized one, and there are a bunch of different sizes all drawn on top of each other?  Don't cut out the one you want to use.  Trace it instead.  I use a roll of white kraft paper I got from some paper store online to copy my patterns.  If you live near civilization you could get some butcher paper from the local school supply store or paper store.  Maybe even a butcher shop would sell you some.  For small patterns I've traced the pattern pieces onto regular old white printer paper (sometimes I needed to tape two or more pieces of paper together).  Just lay your white paper on top of your pattern and it should be thin enough to see the pattern lines through it.  I've also used carbon paper under the pattern and traced onto tan kraft paper.  This was definitely more complicated--just go with the white paper.  I've also heard of people using non-woven interfacing for pattern tracing.  Very sturdy, a bit more expensive.

I usually just lay it all out on the floor.  If I had a fancy cutting table (like in my dreams) I'd lay it out there.  I've taped some to the window so I could use the light to see through and trace (must have been using a thicker tracing paper on those).

You can kind of see in the picture the original pattern is on the right, under the kraft paper.  A straightedge is usually handy when you're tracing patterns, and if you're using a paper roll you'll want something to keep the paper from rolling up while you're tracing.

Don't forget to mark what the piece is, how many to cut, grainlines, darts, and any other marks on the pattern piece.

Tracing your pattern serves a couple of purposes.  First, it makes it so you can adjust your pattern pieces to fit you without messing up the original pattern.  This is nice if you ever want to use that pattern to make something for someone else that's not quite your shape.  I also don't feel bad at all cutting chunks out of my copies, but I would about doing it to the original pattern.

Tracing your pattern also usually makes it so you're working with a more durable pattern.  Those tissue paper pattern pieces from patterns like Butterick and McCalls are especially obnoxious to work with.

And lastly, just because your kid is a size 4 now doesn't mean he'll always be a size 4!  Tracing your pattern preserves the other sizes the pattern offers so you can sew more another time.  Here's a pattern I got from my mom after she made a shirt for son when he was 4.

Of course she cut the pattern, crazy lady.  But guess what?  He's not 4 anymore.  I've used this same pattern in a size 6 and 8/10 and today I traced off a size 12.  Imagine what that pattern would look like if I tried to actually cut the pattern each time I wanted to make a different size!  Yipes!  I'd probably end up buying another pattern.  So if you get a pattern that has been cut by your crazy mother, don't dismay--there's always tape.

Tape the cut out pieces back into the pattern and trace off the size you want to use.  There's your first official sewing tip from me--Don't cut your patterns.  It really is worth the time to trace them.  :)


Anonymous said...

Waxed Paper works well also - clear enough to see thru to do the tracing :)

I agree on not cutting them...I am now using the same patterns for my 9 grandkids - various ages - that I used on MY kids - now all grown!

Sometimes tho - you can cut diagonally into a corner and on a outside point if neede- like on pants - and fold on the lines. This method works best with things that can stretch a little - like fleece, t-shirt material, jammies, etc..


Katidids said...

This is a lesson I learned with daughter #2! I use cheap interfacing. I'll wait for it to go on sale and buy in bulk. It holds up forever and you can easily iton out the folds. When a pattern is one I'll no longer use I'll use it for smaller peices or use the otherside and use a different colored marker

TheSurvivalMom said...

This is very good information, Angela. I love to sew, when I have the time, and have never thought about trying to preserve the pattern this way. Thanks for the great info.

Dean said...

As a computer geek.... don't they have electronic versions of the pattern that you could project onto the cloth? Then, if you wanted to change a 4 to and 8, it would be all matter of the electronic version scale.

Angela said...

Marci-Waxed Paper! Brilliant!

Katidids-Interfacing would work so well--I end up with pretty nice pin holes on the pattern pieces I use a lot. Interfacing would sure hold up better.

Survival Mom-Thanks for the visit-it's really saved me a ton of hassle since I re-use my patterns on my kids and they keep growing. This way I can also share patterns with my mom even though she's not the same size I am.

Dean-interesting idea. For some patterns it might work. Most don't scale exactly down or up from one size to the next. Like taking a shirt size small to a size extra large might get bigger around faster than it gets taller or the body might get bigger faster than the sleeves. My kids actually need height added faster than they need anything built bigger around from one size to the next. But I had a nice vision of hanging some fabric on the wall and projecting my pattern on it anyway. Thanks for the comment!