To Trace or Not to Trace…That is the Question!

So one thing I’ve always been annoyed with in the sewing world is how darn flimsy those paper thin tissue patterns -mainly from the “Big 4″ – are!  I said in my second post that there are great new goodies out there in the sewing world…but those look-at-them-wrong-and-they-tear tissue patterns are definitely still part of the scene!

Before I take my dart-marker thing and punch tiny holes in yet another very unstable pattern piece…how do you handle working with patterns?  As careful as I am with pinning and marking, I always end up with a pattern piece that looks as if it might shred at any second.  Definitely not going to last through another two or three makings of the same pattern!  And forget about folding it up neatly – you’d have better luck with a large map!  Of course, I suppose you could always just treat the tissue patterns as one or two use, one size projects…but that seems kind of wasteful to me!

Sewing Thump on the Head #3 (I can tell these are going to add up REALLY quickly…!)

  • You can take control over those tissue thin patterns, not the other way around!

Here are two ideas I’ve found courtesy of some very savvy sewists who came up with brilliant ways to tame the tissues:

Trace the pattern!  Purchase some of that clear, thick plastic sheeting that the big home improvement stores carry – usually in rolls – for things like putting under your house as a moisture barrier.  Brilliant, right?  I thought so…and picked up a roll.  Two problems I encountered very quickly:  that stuff is WIDE, but the roll is not…so it’s all folded up neatly, then rolled up.  It makes a great material for tracing patterns on, but you have to get rid of those folds!  I tried folding them backwards (do you know how LONG that takes?!), opening a large cut sheet out fully and sitting it outside in the hot sun (marginal success), and putting a big sheet in the dryer for a …ok, we’ll not talk about that misguided idea!  Did you know that stuff gets rather brittle when subjected to dryer heat?  Hmmm…

I’ve managed to trace several patterns using a Sharpie marker and the plastic after wrestling the folds into submission, and gosh – I love using the clear pattern pieces!  They are so much easier to work with than the thin tissue, and bonus: you can see through them, which is so helpful when positioning the pieces on the fabric!  You also leave the original pattern pieces intact, so you can make a tracing of whatever sizes you need without ruining the pattern cutting one size.  My dart marker with the sharp little wheel still leaves tiny pock marks, though…and I fear in time they’ll force their way through the plastic!  So, here’s another idea:

Fuse the tissue onto some old interfacing that you don’t want anymore, or some you’ve picked up for a song.  This actually sounds like kind of a neat idea…although I do admit to some reservations regarding putting an iron onto tissue.  Perhaps ironing the fusible interfacing onto the tissue makes more sense!  Also, it seems you’d have to go ahead and pin and cut out the pattern pieces on the fusible interfacing or you’d end up with fusing bits all over your ironing board!  Sounds like you’d have a nice, stable pattern piece to work with once you accomplished this, though!  Has anyone tried this method?  This idea comes from Sewaholic, who just posted a very clever way to store patterns fused to interfacing on her blog - check it out!

Of course, many of the independent, smaller pattern companies like Style Arc and Maria Denmark patterns print their patterns on nice, heavy stock paper, which makes them easy to work with and much more stable and long lasting than the tissue patterns.

How do you tame your tissue patterns?  Trace? Fuse?  Some other wondrous way?  I’d sure love to hear your solutions!  My little brain is not currently presenting me with any revelations in this area at all!

Oh – and if anyone knows the name of that little marking wheel thingy…!

Stay tuned…I’ve made a sleeveless dress and LINED it!  That post coming up next.

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5 Responses to To Trace or Not to Trace…That is the Question!

  1. SwampQueen says:

    I have always ironed my tissue pattern pieces before pining them on.

    • admin says:

      I think it’s very likely that I would end up setting fire to mine…or at least burning a nice whole in one! Of course, this might be entertaining for my cats…! My sewing teacher from waaaaay back was adamant that cutting out and ironing one’s pattern pieces prior to cutting was the ONLY way to sew!

  2. Lynn says:

    Mostly I just carefully use the tissue patterns over and over again but I recently discovered this wonderful stuff called Swedish tracing paper. You can see through it about the same as pattern tissue but it is much tougher. They say it is sewable but I haven’t tried that yet. It makes great pattern pieces.

    Kwik Sew patterns are economical and they’re printed on heavier paper. I like that they’re less fragile but, using them, I also discover the advantages of pattern paper that is thin and see-through.

  3. Lynn says:

    I think your spam filter ate my comment so I’ll try again without the link. Search for “swedish tracing paper” at Amazon.com. I just recently discovered it. It’s about as see-through as pattern tissue but it’s very tough, almost like cloth.

    • admin says:

      Found your comment and got it posted! Thanks so much for the link – I’m going to check it out! As time consuming as tracing is, I do find that I prefer it. Just cut out a dress using the original, tissue thin pattern pieces and was highly disgruntled the entire time!

Comments, tips & ideas always welcome!