Wednesday, 16 February 2011

My Sabrina Dress #2-Tracing

So how do you trace a vintage pattern? Depending on its condition, the same way as any other pattern, I would say. There are a multitude of tools and materials you can use to trace a pattern. Some are cheaper than others, some are bespoke to tracing. I think it is a matter of individual preference what you use to trace your patterns. If you are indecisive just try a few and see how it goes. I use greaseproof paper, the same sort you'll find fairly cheap in your supermarket. It is brown, transparent enough to trace without the need of a light underneath the pattern and sellotape sticks well to it. This last point is very important. I am yet to find industrial greaseproof paper in a width larger than 375mm. This means that for most pattern pieces I have to sellotape sheets together. If you know where I can find it, please let me know!  
The Sabrina Dress pattern pieces came out of the envelope just like it shows on the first photo. The pieces are in pretty good condition in comparison with the envelope. I fear that might crumble at any moment.
The next step with any pattern, for that matter, is to iron the pieces before tracing them. We want to make sure the traced piece is an exact (or nearly exact) replica of the original. I started with a low setting on the iron as I wasn't sure how the paper would react.
Next it's important to find a stable surface where you can spread your original pattern and the tracing paper of your choice. Even more important is to make sure you secure both pieces together so they don't shift whilst tracing. There are specific weights you can purchase for this but you can also improvise with heavy objects around you, like a can on beans. Unfortunately I do not have a suitable tracing surface as my desk is too narrow. This makes tracing circle skirts a real juggle. To keep my paper still I use a mix of heavy objects and clamps I use on the desk border. 
I was pleasantly surprised with how different this pattern is from current patterns. It gives a lot more information on the pattern piece itself. I know this is not the case with all vintage patterns. This one, which I remind you is a Simplicity 4808 circa 1954, has seam lines printed in the pattern indicating the 5/8" allowance to use.  It also has notes on how to stitch darts and pleats.
All 9 pieces are ready now for cutting, marking and preparing to start sewing the muslin. And before you go, let me direct you to this link, where the lovely Casey from Elegant Musings shares her tips on tracing a vintage pattern.
Bad photo of part of my sewing space. I like hanging the pattern on the blinds.


  1. Hey! How many shared knowledge, Thanks! I'm still learning to use vintage patterns, that did not exist in my country before, so I discovered relatively recently Them. I'll try the method of baking paper, it sounds very durable ...

  2. I do the same, I trace or copy the original patter in other paper because I don't want to pin it, even moder patterns I copy them because I can use the other sizes not only the one I use for me.

  3. This is a great how-to for tracing patterns - all that extra info. makes it a bit daunting to start tracing, but once you've done it its almost like walking through the construction!



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