Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Copying a Pattern Using Dressmakers Carbon Paper


There are a few reasons you may want to copy a pattern without cutting it. You may want to make several different sizes off the one multi-size pattern – particularly useful for kids patterns. You may be working with a magazine or book insert pattern which requires tracing off. You may want to alter a pattern, (change a neckline for example) and keep the original as well.

There are a few different ways you can go about this. You can buy specific tracing paper, which is lovely to work with, or use interfacing. You can copy some patterns on a photocopier (if they're small enough).Today I’m going to share copying a pattern using carbon paper and a tracing wheel.

This method is my favourite for a very simple reason - I can use brown craft (wrapping) paper to make my patterns.

I like brown craft paper for a bunch of reasons. It’s comparatively durable, and it comes in a long roll. Most significantly though, it is inexpensive and easy to get hold of. And I go through tones of it, so that’s important. Sometimes the specialty pattern paper feels like it rivals the cost of a new pattern!

There are a couple of disadvantages to this method. Unlike tracing, you can’t see the piece you’re drawing onto the paper, so care must be taken to keep the alignment. It does use a tracing wheel, which puts little marks in your patterns, and can put little marks in your table too. I used to work straight on my Ikea table and embraced the marks on the grounds that it gave the table some much needed ‘character’. You can prevent that with a protective layer on your table. I now have a large cutting mat.  All said though, I still find this method super useful.

You will need:
1.      Your original pattern.
2.      Dressmakers carbon paper.
3.      Tracing wheel.
4.      Roll of craft paper.
5.      Pattern weights (of some sort, see below).
6.      Pen
7.      Ruler
8.      Iron / ironing board NO WATER IN IRON
9.      Highlighter (optional)
10.     Paper scissors
11.     Work surface – a cutting mat or a table that you’re not too precious about!


The tracing wheel and carbon paper are easily available through most sewing and haberdashery suppliers. The carbon paper has one side which is a wax/chalk surface. You can use it on paper or directly on fabric for transferring markings. It lasts for ages. I know when I was growing up mum had the same few sheets that we used over and over again, and I have no recollection of our ever needing to buy more. So it’s a good investment.

Pattern weights can be anything that’s relatively small, and heavy enough to keep your pattern in place while you’re working on it. I’ve seen people use specific weights, small beanbags, heavy washers, clean stones, and in a pinch, small tins of tuna. I don't much like tuna so I tend to use small tins of beans. Short stubby ones are best. You need whatever you’ve got to hand that’s heavy, clean and smooth. I generally walk around the room looking for suitable items, and thinking ‘maybe I should get some proper weights’. But I’ve come this far without them. 

Step 1.
Iron your pattern and craft paper with a dry iron. The dry is really important. If you use any steam you will wrinkle / damage your paper. The idea is to get the pattern as smooth as possible. I also find that since I use paper off a roll, running over it with an iron prevents it from curling up and running across the table. Sometimes just iron it
causes a bit of static on the pattern, which can be oddly helpful when you’re trying to line things up.

Also, don’t iron your carbon paper – the colour will transfer straight off. So do your best to keep it flat when you store it. 

Step 2.
If you are working with a magazine pattern, like this Burda pattern, you will often have zillions of lines crossing over each other. A good idea is to take a highlighter and go over the lines you want to follow for the pattern you are tracing. It will make the rest of the process much easier.


Step 3.
Lay out your craft paper, followed by your carbon paper with the waxy side down. Place your pattern on top of this. Place weights on the pattern around the table to secure it.

I’m using a teddy bear pattern in this case. Some of the pieces are really small, so I thought it would be best to keep the original together. I also figured I could fit all the details in the photos and it would be a nice clear example. You can’t see any pattern weights / tins of beans, because I didn’t feel they were necessary on such  a small scale.

Step 4.
Trace around the pattern pieces with the tracing wheel. Be sure to include all markings such as notches and grain lines. You can use a ruler or French curve over the top to speed up the process, as long as you take care not to shift the pattern when you move the ruler. Keep in mind any additional things you may need to include – so if your pattern doesn’t include seam allowances, make sure you leave room for them between the pieces when you trace them out.






Step 5.
Once you have traced all of the lines, take off the pattern and tracing paper. 


Fill in any details, and copy any labels etc. on to the new pattern piece. It’s a good idea to write the pattern number and make a note of any alterations you have made. You think you will remember, but trust me on this, you won’t. I find this stage fairly boring and gloss over the details frequently.  But I generally spend more time sorting out mysterious pieces, or trying to put in the marks I left out than I would have spent if I’d done right it in the first place.

When labelling your pattern pieces you might want to put in any additional details that might come in handy. I usually put the date – partly because bodies do change over time (even more so for kids!), and partly because if I improve a pattern later down the track, it helps me figure out which versions of a pattern are my best versions. I’m not going to put the date on this one because it’s a teddy bear, and it isn’t going to grow or gain weight.

Add any seam allowances / hems not included in the pattern at this stage. I’ve checked my instructions and the seam allowance is included in this pattern. When I do add seam allowances, my favourite French curve comes in handy. You can do this without, but a curve with a seam allowance can speed things up significantly once you get the hang of using it.

Step 6.

Cut your pattern out.

Check that you have all of the pieces you require.

That’s about it really. As I said before, this is only one approach. It’s worth trying a few different things to find a favourite method, or indeed favourite methods depending on what you’re doing. I hope you find this useful!

1 comment:

  1. Hi, the post is excellent, I like it. The step wise process in your blog is really helpful for me and gives more knowledge about Dressmakers. The images are wonderful and helpful. Thanks for share with us nice blog post. I m looking forward to you.

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