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Tips & Techniques > Plastic Sheeting Pattern Tracing Material

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Posted by: Oopsy-Daisy!

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Member since: 11/16/02
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Posted on: 12/15/03 12:39 PM
Review Rating: Helpful by 3 people   Very Helpful by 89 people   
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When tracing multi-sized patterns -- Burda magazine, Kwik Sew book and commercial ones, etc. -- I like to use clear plastic sheeting. You can find it usually in the paint section of Home Depot, Lowes, Wal-Mart, etc.

The "Medium Duty -- 4 mil" is best suited for pattern tracing - it's durable, won't tear and stays in place.

You can get a roll (3 feet x 50 feet) for less than $2. It lasts just about forever and is wide enough so you don't have to tape bits together for those large odd-shaped pattern pieces.

I use Sharpie brand markers to trace -- they don't smear and move easily when tracing - no sputtering nor skipping. In fact, if you want to get really creative, buy them in different colors and color-coordinate your tracing. I have even found
sets with "tropical" colors of purple, turquoise, orange, etc. in the office supply stores, particularly during back-to-school promotions.

For the first trial pattern tracing/fitting, I'll use blue. Red is good for making the alterations. When I finalize the fit or want to make a final copy, I'll use green (for go!). I also used these a lot for the master paterns in the Kwik Sew Sewing for Babies, Toddlers, Children books. I would use a different color for each size to make it easier to find and eliminate using the wrong pieces/wrong size the next go-round!

The see-through plastic makes it so much easier during pattern layout and cutting to match stripes, prints, etc. It also holds up to repeated pinning, and stays in place very well with pattern weights, too.

The easiest way to store your plastic patterns? Roll them with the smaller pieces inside the larger ones, secure with a rubber band and stick a Post It note identification underneath one of the layer rolls or the rubber band.

Oh, I forgot one more thing (or two!) -- The pattern pieces become great places to make notes. I'll write the pattern number and size on each piece, of course. But then I'll add the date and fabric I used each much bias I needed to cut to finish armholes, necklines, etc....also amount of elastic used...number of spools/bobbins of thread...

It's not just a pattern anymore, but a historical document!

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beau said... (12/20/15 3:15 AM) Reply
Fantastic idea. Next time hubby goes to hardware store, I shall add it to his list. A very patient man. Cant wait to try
nothy lane said... (12/9/13 8:16 PM) Reply
Fabulous idea!
tinyskids said... (5/19/13 11:03 PM) Reply
I have been doing this for years. But I must say I love your tip on using different colors for the markings. I just bought a pack of different colored sharpies and will be using this tip. I store mine in the gallon size zip lock with the pattern info written on it.
fabricfaerie said... (9/1/12 12:55 PM) Reply
I've been using an interfacing-like tracing material that is rip-resistant and less opaque (nylon-base) than tissue paper and catching it on sale (just under $2/yd in 2012). I make the notes, like you mentioned. But I am definitely going to try the plastic because this will save me a ton of $$!!! Thank you!
bearspaw55 said... (6/21/11 4:55 PM) Reply
What a great tip! So much less expensive than parchment tracing paper. Now, where are my keys? Off to Wal-Mart!
fashionablysew said... (7/4/10 12:23 PM) Reply
Fantastic! Thank You.
helenkosings said... (5/28/10 1:30 PM) Reply
This is a fabulous idea!!
beejayem said... (2/12/10 12:33 PM) Reply
Such a great idea! I'm just getting ready to trace some patterns & wanted a good, inexpensive medium to use. Plus, I have a bunch of Sharpies in different colors that DH bought & I didn't think I'd ever use. Color-coding ideas are brilliant! Thanks so much for sharing!
LizBa said... (1/29/10 7:36 PM) Reply
thanks for excellent tips!
CSM--Carla said... (1/8/10 7:00 PM) Reply
I was able to find only a huge sheet this plastic and was intimidated by it's size. As I removed it from the bag it came in, I unrolled it and cut it in 4 pieces--this made it VERY manageable. Thanks!
Mokei said... (1/6/10 3:42 PM) Reply
This tip made me smack my forehead and say "YES"! This is just the thing I've been looking for. Thank you!
kittycarriall said... (1/6/10 8:17 AM) Reply
Great idea
whirrclunk said... (12/20/09 2:36 PM) Reply
This is such a great tip! I bought some plastic covering as a result (like narrow sheeting) and traced my sloper onto it. It is now so easy to use, easy to locate, and doesn't need ironing! Thank you!
LaurenY said... (8/2/09 10:08 AM) Reply
Great Idea!!!
JuliN said... (5/8/09 10:19 AM) Reply
This is a great tip. I use plastic sheeting for my final patterns too!
waltzqueen said... (4/29/09 4:44 PM) Reply
I bought some 4ml last week and I find it cuts like butter and marks easily, but I have to wait a few minutes for the marker to dry or I smear the whole thing! I use the ultra sharp pins with the flat "flower" and have no problems, but I'm going to try the weights next to see how that works.
renren said... (4/29/09 1:01 PM) Reply
As soon as I make lunch, I'm off to Home Depot for vinyl and an air filter! Oh, my goodness, I can now trace off Burda. This is a fabulous idea. Thanks!
MagpieJen said... (4/6/09 11:06 PM) Reply
I vastly prefer plastic sheeting to any other sort of tracing material. It's easier, cheaper and tougher than anything else. I've used all various thicknesses, all of them work pretty well though I don't like the clingy thick sort of vinyl.
Sweetiebop said... (7/19/08 1:36 PM) Reply
Great advice. I was using art tracing paper which is thin but I am on my way to Lowe's today. Thanks.
Miss Fairchild said... (7/18/08 10:47 PM) Reply
What kind of pins do you use that will go through plastic? I've had trouble with this.
pdavis114 said... (7/10/08 8:41 PM) Reply
Excellent! Thanks!!!
janetshermann said... (10/4/07 11:51 PM) Reply
this is a great tip! i'm going to home depot!
MCGINNHOLD said... (9/4/07 7:38 PM) Reply
Scoop said... (9/26/05 7:15 AM) Reply
This is an EXCELLENT way to "fine tune" those pesky patterns. I'm going to be using this method for sure--thanks!
Diana M said... (8/24/05 3:46 PM) Reply
I just used this tip -- again! -- while sewing away from home. I bought the 2 mil instead of the 3 that I've gotten used to using, and I like it maybe better. It's easier to fold into the zip top plastic bag and presses out easily with just the heat of my hand.
Bruiser's Mom said... (7/9/05 11:46 AM) Reply
Sounds ideal for my odd figure, also sewing for the grandchildren.
Danvillegirl said... (12/9/04 7:31 PM) Reply
This sounds like a great idea. I have tried the soil seperating paper and it does not do so well. Can see real benefits with this. Thanks for sharing this tip.
2smiley said... (9/20/04 11:12 PM) Reply
This is a wonderful method.Some of the multi sized patterns have lines very close together so itis differcult to catch the correct line.Thanks for sharing. Great tip
Louise Begin said... (7/14/04 11:25 AM) Reply
Love the idea of using several colors to code the sizes and alterations needed.Also the rolls of plastic are usually reduced in price in the later part of winter up in the northern states.Good copies,well marked at super the whole idea.
Oopsy-Daisy! said... (12/28/03 8:47 AM) Reply
Wow! 13 pair?! That would make a great Christmas morning photo op! A tip of the sewing needle to you!
Sunflower Ann said... (12/27/03 9:51 AM) Reply
This is a great idea! After completing 13 pair of PJ's for my family for Christmas, I will now do this with the master patterns since all of the family thought it was such a neat idea to have matching pajamas. Thanks
JDpenelope said... (12/16/03 6:58 PM) Reply
PS I just ordered the exam paper for $4.15 plus shipping mentioned by Josephine on the above thread. The medical exam paper also has its devotees.
JDpenelope said... (12/16/03 6:39 PM) Reply
Ugh, sorry, it didn't work. Highlight through "+separat" to get the link.
JDpenelope said... (12/16/03 6:36 PM) Reply
I'm about out of the interfacing I've been using for this purpose and appreciate your in depth comments. I'm probably going to get soil separator paper AND this plastic sheeting and compare for myself, since they're both cheap and both have their admirers. There's an educational and exhaustive discussion of this topic on the message board at;act=ST;f=6;t=1780;hl=tracing+paper+or+soil+separat if you're interested. Hope this link works. If not, cut and paste to go there.
Oopsy-Daisy! said... (12/16/03 11:54 AM) Reply
There is *some* flexibility to the plastic, as long as you are not expecting a close "muslin fabric type" fit with lots of curves in the pattern like princess seams, etc. I have tried it successfully with pants and skirts. It can give you a pretty good idea if you are heading in the right (or wrong) direction.
msgadget said... (12/16/03 0:05 AM) Reply
What a great idea! Can you pin the plastic for fitting?
Chimene said... (12/15/03 11:00 PM) Reply
I have been trying to figure out the best way to keep the patterns for my kids. This way I will be able to use the same pattern and just size up on a multisize pattern. Thanks for the great idea. I will be heading to walmart or loews soon!
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