Vintage Sewing

Learn from my Mistakes!

July 6, 2012

I have learned the hard way that you shouldn’t actually CUT your patterns! When I first started teaching myself to sew (thank you Youtube) all the tutorials had you CUT your patterns, so I did too! This went on for years until I messed up cutting the wrong size pattern and I purchased my first uncut vintage pattern.

I thought long and hard about how to remedy the situation of ruining a pattern that has lasted over 50 years and to never cut the incorrect size again. I turned to Youtube and the sewing blogs. They told me to go and get pattern “paper” which I discovered was in the interfacing aisle. I was floored when I saw how much it was and that it was very thick.  I could not figure out how to “trace” the pattern. They said to get one of those pattern wheel doo-hickeys but that pokes holes/dents your pattern and quite honestly, it is a lot of work for this lazy sewer! I sat there pondering thinking, “Surely there is another way!” I called my mother to chat about it- she suggested tracing paper (another costly alternative). Then it hit me (around Christmas time none-the-less) tissue paper! You can buy it for so super-duper cheap and it comes in large sheets.

Why it has taken me this long to come to this point in my sewing journey, you got me. But from that day forward I trace all my patterns, new and old, and store them with my original pattern. The steps are really quite easy! Check them out here:


  1. Here here! I am too hard on tissue paper myself so I use soil separator from the hardware store. It comes in a very big roll, is almost as transparent as fusible interfacing, and isn’t as fragile as tissue paper (for me at least). I’ve even sewn it…

      1. Not at all. I got a 24in. x 300 ft. (100 yards!) roll for less than $30. I like inexpensive. I can put a photo of what I bought on my blog sometime this weekend if you like.

  2. I buy rolls of that colored paper that teachers use to cover bulletin boards. I actually use newspaper for the “cutter” tracings when I’m resizing patterns, and then the teacher paper for the final tracing.

    A friend of mine swears by scraps of Tyvek she got from some friends who were renovating their house: Lightweight, flexible, difficult to tear.

    We used to use this blue fabric-like paper (like a dollar bill, but heavier and on large rolls) to wrap surgical packs at the vet’s office. I’m sure it’s very expensive, but I always thought it would be ideal.

  3. I use an old roll of tracing paper from an architectural drafting class I took in college. Mine’s not terribly wide (12″), but does come in more appropriate widths. It’s fairly sturdy, semi-transparent and inexpensive. It’s lasted me a couple of years and cost about $12 I think.
    There’s a lot of interesting things at art supply stores. For more permanent patterns you could try drafting vellum or clear acetate.

  4. I only cut out circle skirt pieces, and even then I always cut the largest size and just fold the edges on the sides when cutting fabric. I use Swedish Tracing Paper that I order from Amazon. This stuff is amazing. Sturdy, sewable, and transparent enough to trace through without fancy gadgets. It comes in a roll (like poster paper size) and one roll will last you a long time. The roll I’m using now has 6 dress patterns out of it, and I think I’m only half done with it.

  5. I use cheap rolls of brown butcher paper. They’re about $1-$2 each at Michaels in the US. Well, to be honest I use the butcher paper for really expensive or vintage patterns I want to preserve. Mostly I have no qualms about cutting into patterns!

  6. I’ve been using tissue paper for awhile now and it works awesome for me too! I go to the Dollar Tree and get packs of 25 sheets for $1. ^_^
    I also buy rolls of brown craft paper there for self-drafting.

  7. I use the paper that covers the table in the Dr. exam room. A friend of mine got a big box and gave me a couple rolls. I don’t know how expensive it is but you can see through it to trace and it is a lot thicker than the tissue paper.

  8. I use baking paper. It comes in extra wide, is fairly easy to trace through, and more durable than tissue. It does tend to curl, so you need to pin it or weigh it down.

  9. Eh… I just use the pattern itself. (I do trace if I need to make alterations, but honestly, that is pretty rare.) If I traced every vintage pattern before I used it, I would never sew anything!

  10. I always trace my patterns. Even modern ones – what if I want to make one in a different size, or lend it to someone? So I use that imitation greaseproof paper from the supermarket, the kind you use to wrap sandwiches. Sure, you have to glue the pieces together, but no big deal. It does curl, but I just give it a gentle iron on a low heat.

  11. I use newspaper to trace my patterns. When they print the newspaper, they never run right to the end of the roll and there is always loads left for us crafty people to use. I buy mine from a local newspaper for about $8 a roll. It is reasonably transparent & can withstand a lot of handling.

  12. I usually use my pattern, but if I need to copy it or make serious alterations/adaptaions then I use either the plastic table cover that you buy in rolls at a party store with a sharpie marker, or leftover aisle cloth from weddings. Know anyone getting married? Don’t let them throw away the aisle runner; it makes great patterns.

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