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uncommonly good sewing project tips – let’s start with #1


I’ve had a few tips up my sleeve for some time now and since this is mostly a DIY blog, I figured I should start sharing a few already.

Let me just say that it’s totally okay if you don’t know how to sew at all. I always feel that posts like these make people that may be new to the subject, but may possess a true interest, to feel like any tip mentioned will automatically go over their heads.

Relax – it won’t!

The best way to learn about sewing (and most things) is to jump right in. I personally started collecting a few patterns and picking up some sewing-related tools long before I actually learned how to sew. Like, before I got the courage to un-box my machine from the previous five Christmases before that. If you have any interest in sewing and fabrics, these tips should prove quite useful to you going forward. If anything, you’ll be much more knowledgable than I was when you decide to really start on your own.

So without further ado, my first helpful sewing project tip is to use a roll of butter paper for tracing commercial sewing patterns.

tracingpaper2Tracing a commercial pattern with a 18″ x 50 yd sketch paper roll

 “Butter paper?” You ask.
I know. Consider this insider tip stolen straight from inside the studio walls of architecture school. No tuition fees required.

You. Are. Welcome.

tracingpaper3Pieces of Cynthia Rowley baby pattern, version B.

Before you start getting hungry, let’s first talk a sec about commercial patterns. These are envelops that are packed with pattern pieces (of various size) that are printed on thin sheets along with a set of instructions for sewing garments, home furnishings, and accessories. The finished look of the item and its variations are printed in color on the front of the envelop for your reference.

There are patterns you can buy from most local box-store craft retailers that include, but are not limited to, Simplicity, Vogue, McCalls, Burda, Butterick, etc. There are also indie patterns that are usually found at select specialty fabric and sewing shops in your area and/or online that are ship-ready or available in PDF (Colette Patterns, By Hand London, Megan Nielsen, Deer and Doe, etc.) Most of my current pattern collection is made up of the former since they are easier to get my hands on at such a deep discount (usually between 99 cents to $4). However, the indie pattern folks that I mention above are really great about having helpful sew-alongs on their popular patterns, and it’s pretty darn cool to see lots of seamsters around the world wearing their finished projects!

Regardless of where you source your patterns, for the love of all that is awesome DO NOT CUT YOUR ORIGINAL PATTERNS! Tracing is definitely the way to go. Why?

  • Save yourself some money. If you cut out a particular size, your pattern is DONE for. What if you actually needed the next size up instead? What if you decide 4 months from now that you want to make that one dress pattern in version B for your sister too? Oh well. Looks like you’ll need to buy that same pattern again, provided it’s still available. (Womp womp)
  • Speaking of next sizes – what if you needed to modify a certain area like the waist, hip or bust? Or maybe you wanted to alter a part of the pattern in your own design? Yeah. Good luck with that.
  • I think it’s safe to say that commercial pattern tissue paper is just flat out terrible. So easy to tear and wrinkle.

So that’s why I suggest using “butter paper” which is just the name our profs would kick around in reference to this special roll of thin tracing paper that we would use for our floor plan/building design sketches. The roll comes in a varying lengths and is usually found between off-white to yellow hues (hence the nickname “butter”) from the art store. It was great for layering sheets for jotting ideas, developing sketches, and so easy to quickly tear off sections using a ruler.

Allow me to show you in 20 seconds just how easy you can neatly tear these sheets.

Other things to consider:

  • You get to keep an original collection of patterns. I literally have over 100 patterns in my stash and a few discontinued patterns that are still good as new. These are all worth saving, and I hope to pass these down one day to anyone that carries the interest. Fashions always come back around!
  • Working with a tracing paper roll is so much easier than individual sheets. I’ve always hated the tissue paper, so early on I used to buy large artists pads of tracing paper to use. That proved to be a grand headache too since I had to tape so many sheets together to trace over a large pattern piece. I find that many pattern pieces for garments tend to be longer than they are wide, so having the roll does help cover everything nicely without having to do much taping (or any) of tracing paper sheets together. I personally recommend purchasing no shorter than an 18 inch roll. The 24″ and 30″ are awesome too (you won’t have to tape ANYTHING), but I feel that an 18″ is just fine, a little cheaper, and lasts super long. If you find you need more coverage for a particular pattern piece, just roll out a new sheet of tracing paper, butt the new sheet to the top of the original sheet and tape them together with regular invisible tape.
  • Pinning the sketch paper to your fabric is painless and much easier to cut around than commercial pattern paper.
  • Not quite as flimsy as the “tissue paper” patterns and you can see through to the original patterns with no problem while tracing.
  • You can write extra notes for yourself.
  • Can also be ironed on low setting if has been folded from storage.
  • If you dare to tackle the millions of overlapping lines included on the pattern inserts in Burda Magazine, you will most definitely need this tracing paper roll to transfer the pieces on.

tracingpaper4Just look how nicely this paper pins to the fabric!

It’s a total win-win in my book. And after saying all that if you still don’t believe me you can just check out these other reviews. I actually had no idea that there were a lot of other home sewers that were already using it for the same!

This is just the first, and I hope that it proved at least a bit helpful to ya. Just a heads up – sewing tip #2 is downright odd, but is pretty darn helpful when buying fabrics at the store.

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