How to Transfer Dressmaking Patterns (so you can use them again and again)

You’ve bought your pattern, you get it out of the paper envelope and you are just itching to get stuck in and make that lovely new item of clothing.  But wait!  Tempting as it is to just cut away, there are a few things its worth doing first before you get going, one of them being transferring your pattern to another piece of paper.  It adds a bit of time to the sewing process, but its really worth it in the long run; you can make whatever adaptations you like, and keep coming back to your pattern to make in different sizes or styles.

So how do you go about transferring your pattern to separate paper?  Read on to find out…

You will need

  • Pattern paper
  • Pattern wheel
  • Pattern weight
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Spare fabric (big enough to be folded over several times and still cover your pattern cutting space)

Before starting, it can be helpful to go over the lines for the pattern size you require with a coloured pencil to help make it clearer to see as you work.

  1. Lay your folded fabric on a large flat surface;  I find working on the floor easiest as you can get all around and right over the pattern. 
  2. Lay your blank pattern paper on top
  3. Lay your shop-bought pattern on top of that and use pattern weights to hold in place.  You can add some pins too, but I generally find pattern weights do the job well enough (or something similar, you’ll see from my photo I’m using some pots I keep hair clips in!)
  4. If you are using pattern paper with markings (ie. dot and cross paper) it can help to try and match up the grainline with these markings.
  5. Go over all the main pattern lines with your tracing wheel.  The soft fabric underneath will allow the wheel to make a series of dots along the lines you are tracing.  Use a ruler for especially long and straight lines for accuracy.  Try to be methodical; I tend to trace the very outside, and then work from top to bottom to try and capture every marking.
  6. If you have a single dot to mark in, I find the easiest method is to push a pin through the hole, and then peel back the top layer and mark with a pencil dot straight away.
  7. Take a moment to check you have transferred every pattern marking, and then remove everything.
  8. Place your newly drawn pattern straight onto the table-top (without any fabric underneath) and cut out the pieces along the perforated lines (you can go over them in pencil first if this is easier).
  9. Now use your pencil (and ruler as necessary) to draw over the remaining perforated lines within each pattern piece.

And voila, you have recreated your pattern which you can work with, sure in the knowledge the original is safe and sound back in its packet ready for another day.  I’ll be honest, its definitely not my favourite part of the sewing process, but always worth the effort.

A few more things to bear in mind

  • Take regular breaks, the process can be a bit hard on the back (and the knees if you are working on the floor), and its easy to start making mistakes if you do it for too long.  Take breaks little and often, have a stretch (do some yoga!) and you’ll benefit in the long run.
  • Label all your pattern pieces as you go along to avoid confusion as you begin to go over everything with pencil, it can be very easy to muddle up certain pieces before you have all the markings in (mistaking a back for a front will be very frustrating once you start sewing).
  • Take a moment to check you have traced off all the pieces before moving on to go over the markings with pencil, it can be easy to miss a pocket or a small bit of interfacing, which again can be very frustrating to discover at a later stage.

Why can’t I just trace my pattern?

You can!  Of course you can; you can choose whatever method of transfer works best for you.  Some people use baking parchment to trace off their patterns, but I find it isn’t always big enough for larger skirts and dresses.  And I can sometimes struggle to see the lines through standard pattern papers, but that’s just me!  Tracing does remove one stage in the process, so if it works for you then that’s all you need to know.

If you love to sew, why not join my Creative Sewing Challenge?  You receive a prompt each month to inspire your sewing, along with some ideas and free patterns to keep your creativity flowing.  Sign up for free below, or find out more here.

And feel free to share my pin, thank you!