It’s finally time to start my winter coat project. I’ve made a decision at last: it’s going to be Burda 114 11/2019, but without the ribbon tie. There’s a zip and snaps under the overlap so I don’t think I’ll miss the tie.

As it is a Burda pattern, that means the first step is tracing the pieces from the magazine. I do this on thin paper off a huge roll I bought from Morplan some years ago. It’s the most cost effective way to get good tracing paper that I’ve found. But when I came to start this one, I discovered I was at the end of the roll. It seems unbelievable that I’ve used up 300m of tracing paper. I trace envelope patterns as well as magazine patterns but even so I’m surprised.

I’ve acquired another of the rolls now and started work. Tracing really does take time. I’ve heard people say they can trace off a Burda pattern in half an hour. By the time I’ve copied the original pieces, added the seam and hem allowances, done the pattern adjustments I need, and checked it all still fits together I’m looking at 2-3 hours total for a moderately complicated pattern. This coat has only nine pieces – I have used patterns in the past with more than 30! I’ve already got gadgets for adding seam allowance, and a big table to work on. I really don’t know how else to make it any faster. Top tips welcome; I can’t wait to get through the tracing and get on with a toile.

32 thoughts on “Tracing

  1. I can’t stand tracing either – I feel like I really have to want the pattern to make it worth my time. I’m a fan of doing sewing work in little bit and pieces – 10 minutes while waiting for water to boil for pasta, half an hour first thing in the morning, etc. Maybe it would be less painful if you didn’t do it all at once?

  2. I make so many alterations to achieve a good fit that I prefer to slice and dice my pre-printed patterns right out of the envelope. It’s what works for me even though it may limit my pattern choices. So no tracing for me. I do, however, make copies of my TNT patterns on grid printed pellon as tissue patterns only survive a couple of times.

  3. I wonder what gadgets you are referring to for the seam allowances? I prefer to leave the pattern pieces as is (well ok with a big note “hey bozo, add the seams” for my future self) and then cut fabric directly with a guide arm on my rotary cutter. No extra seam time whatsoever, and exactly the same results

    1. I have a double tracing wheel, but I prefer two pencils taped together as it needs much less force which is better for my hands. Never come across the guide for a rotary cutter before – will have to look into that!

  4. I am absolutely no help here. I trace the patterns, so some tissue fitting on my double, if I’m not sure, but mostly make TNT adjustments from measurements in the flat. And then I eyeball the seam allowances. Cheat, yes. Lazy, yes. Slapdash, perhaps. But I like to think I’ve been doing this long enough that I can trust my hand-eye coordination to get it right. 😉

  5. I don’t add seam allowances when I trace. I add when I cut out. I find that works well. Sometimes I might quickly chalk the cutting line other times I might just eyeball it or even use a spacer on my rotary cutter.

  6. I usually trace patterns too. I often make in multiple sizes for myself and my daughter and friends. I actually don’t mind the process of tracing and sorting out the pattern, but even with my big dining table it can take it’s toll on my back. I last traced an assembly line pattern. Lots of pieces.

  7. I add seamallowance while cutting the pattern pieces. I use weights from my surroundings when tracing and cutting. Sometimes I just cut fabric around a garment.

  8. Tracing, grading, laying out… I spend a lot of time here. It will often delay a project simply because of it! These tools? Tell me about them… (The coat will be warm in the damp English cold. It will be hot here before I finish my new wool coat, but ready for next year…).

    1. Ah the tools! I have a double tracing wheel, that I don’t use a lot because it needs so much pressure, and a Heath Robinson arrangement with two pencils taped together with exactly 1.5 cm between the tips. I’ve also got one of those transparent gridded rulers but the pencils are my favourite because I don’t need to press hard.

  9. I don’t mind the tracing but I loathe adding seam allowances… I can never shake off the feeling I’ve been cheated when they’re not built in! I have a question – in your post it reads as though you add the seam allowances before doing the adjustments – is that right? I’m curious, as I was taught to do it the other way around and now I’m trying to work out what difference it would make if I swapped?

    1. I sort of do both – I add the allowances to the areas I’m not adjusting beforehand, because that’s easier, leave a wide margin where I am adjusting, and then fix up seam allowances there afterwards. I generally only do length adjustments and blending between sizes though, nothing super complex. I think if you have the marked stitching line to work from it probably doesn’t much matter, but it would be different with a pattern without stitching lines. Having said that I have read that they never take seam allowances off in industry when they’re making adjustments.

  10. No tracing here unless ABSOLUTELY needed. BUT. I did find that my little sewing club kiddies at school are BRILLIANT at it and can trace off a single multi sized pattern in next to no time working as a team. I just stand and watch!

  11. Glad to hear there is someone else who takes forever to trace a pattern. Needless to say I don’t have any do it quicker tips. Took me over an hour yesterday to tape a few PDF pages together.
    Congrats on choosing your winter coat. Even the line drawing looks snuggly. I fancied a coat like this filled with down batting like this one from MacCulloch and Wallis Alas no shipping this to NZ.

  12. I usually allocate a day for tracing, and just get as much done as I can. I use my grader square to add seam and hem allowances, it’s pretty fast that way, and I do it as I trace each pattern so I don’t end up tracing pieces too close together and having no room to add the allowances! You can get a grader square from Morplan when you order your next 300m of paper! I know, it does go fast!

  13. Looking forward to seeing this one! Do you have the fabric already, is it pre quilted or you need to do that yourself?
    I was worried my tracing tip would give everyone panic attacks, but it seems I am not alone in just eyeballing (I will check a couple of places with a ruler) and adding seam allowances when I cut the fabric.

  14. All my “tracing tips” have already been shared by others except for one: my cutting table has a glass top and under it i have fixed a couple of lamps (the sort meant to be set under kitchen cabinets to light the counter top). This turns my largish table into a giant light box. I canthen trace the pattern pieces faster with a fine marker rather than a serrated wheel. this also saves the pattersheets from getting perforated. it also allows me to quickly copy multiple sizes by switching marker color. My habit is to use black for size 40 and blue for 42, then blend between the two where needed with green. hope this helps!

      1. I did buy it expressly for pattern tracing. It’s from ikea and i bought the table legs that can be raised or lowered so the table can be at sitting or standing level. It is a wonderful luxury i must say. Before this table i used to trace patterns by taping the patternsheet to a window but it was far from ideal. My arm got tired, the light wasn’t always bright enough and i couldn’t trace patterns at night…

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