17 August 2016

Five Tools for Drafting, Tracing and Adjusting Sewing Patterns

Favourite Tools for Drafting, Tracing and Adjusting Sewing Patterns - Tilly and the Buttons


Whether you’re hand drafting a sewing pattern from scratch, tracing off an existing pattern to preserve it, or making fitting or design alterations to a sewing pattern, it’s useful to have a stash of tools to help you do the job. Today I thought I’d share my most-used tools to use for the job… apart from a pencil, of course! I’d love to hear your favourites too in the comments :)

Favourite Tools for Drafting, Tracing and Adjusting Sewing Patterns - Tilly and the Buttons

Pattern master

A pattern master – or pattern maker – is a super handy tool that you can use as a straight ruler, curved ruler, set square for drawing angles and squaring off corners, and for drawing lines at particular distances parallel to an existing line. This latter benefit is the one I use the most – it’s really useful for adding seam allowance to a pattern and drawing grainlines parallel to a cutting line. Personally I don’t really use it for drawing curves, as I prefer the shape of curve on a vary form – see below.

You can get pattern masters in both metric and imperial measurements. Be warned that not all pattern masters are created equal. We’ve got a bunch of these in the studio and some of the 15mm lines are actually 16mm away from the edge – that may sound pedantic but 1mm can make all the difference in pattern cutting! If you get one like this, it's no biggie - just make sure you line up the edge 1mm nearer where you want it to be :)

Favourite Tools for Drafting, Tracing and Adjusting Sewing Patterns - Tilly and the Buttons

Vary form curve ruler

This is my favourite tool for drawing curved lines – handy for armholes, curved seams, necklines... It may look like it only has one curve but, depending on which part of the ruler you use, you can get various different shapes and depths of curve out of it.

This tool also has measurement lines on it. Personally I never use this for measuring curves though – I prefer to stand a tape measure on its edge instead.

Favourite Tools for Drafting, Tracing and Adjusting Sewing Patterns - Tilly and the Buttons

Sharp tracing wheel

A sharp tracing wheel is a useful addition to your tools stash. Place some paper underneath a pattern you want to trace off, run the sharp tracing wheel over the lines and it will make indentations onto the paper below. You can then go over these markings in pencil.

Just be sure not to use a sharp tracing wheel to trace patterns onto fabric with dressmaker’s carbon – you’ll want a blunt one for this, as the sharp ones can pierce holes in your lovely fabric!

Favourite Tools for Drafting, Tracing and Adjusting Sewing Patterns - Tilly and the Buttons

Self-healing cutting mat

A cutting mat will protect your table from that tracing wheel, pencil lines, scissor scratches and more. It’s a good idea to get as large a cutting mat as you can afford, it really is a good investment. We have A1 Fiskars cutting mats in our studio and get soooo much use out of them.

Favourite Tools for Drafting, Tracing and Adjusting Sewing Patterns - Tilly and the Buttons

Paper for tracing

And finally, stock up on lots of paper! Nearly any kind of paper will do for making or tracing sewing patterns – tracing paper, flipchart paper, baking paper... In the studio we keep large rolls of plain printer paper in 60gsm rolls.

We also sometimes use lightweight spot and cross paper. As the name implies, it has little spots and crosses on it at regular intervals and at right angles to each other, which are handy for drawing on both straight and bias grains, marking right angles and quickly calculating measurements.

Favourite Tools for Drafting, Tracing and Adjusting Sewing Patterns - Tilly and the Buttons

So those are my most-used tools for drafting, tracing and adjusting sewing patterns. I’d love to know what yours are – do share in the comments!

Liked this? Check out my tips for tracing sewing patterns and tools for adding seam allowance.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning that if you choose to buy something from that site, we receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation. This doesn't cost you anything extra.

11 comments:

  1. I use mostly a pattern master (except of pencil and paper). It's the best tool I know. It literally helps to do almost everything I need.

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  2. I have a 'grader square' from Morplan that I use ALL the time. It's like a patternmaster, only it's a right-angled triangle shape, and it's so useful in pretty much the same ways. I'm wondering whether to try a rotary cutter and cutting mat instead of scissors at the moment, so it's good to hear that cutting mats have other uses too.

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    1. do! They are so helpful with slippery fabrics and knits - plus the markings help with aligning fabric and so much other stuff!

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  3. I have these tools and adore them. I also find my SA Curve pattern Drafter and curve runner invaluable - by lunaGrafix. And I am really happy with my newest acquisition - an awl - to mark points of darts through patterns onto fabric, works better than a pin.

    On a side note though, I've used a sharp tracing wheel with carbon for years and years for marking darts and so on. I don't find the others mark well enough, and I've never had a problem - my attitude is that the hole isn't much bigger than that caused by a needle:). Obviously I dont't use it on very fine fabrics and some others. Anyway, I am still wearing dresses made of Tana lawn years after making them, with no holes around the darts :)

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    1. That's good to know you've used a sharp wheel without problems. I guess it's fine for outlines that will end up as seam allowance anyway, but I'd be scared to use it on darts!

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  4. I love the prym drafting ruler...the curves are spot on! I much prefer it to the pattern master.

    a good sharp pencil(I use a mechanical) and a few coloured pencils are also essential. A metre stick is also handy. ikea do long rolls of thinnish paper in the kids section that are perfect for drafting.

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    1. o and some pattern weights to keep everything still!

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    2. Ooh yes I'd heard that about Ikea paper... and I think they do a dispenser too!

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  5. Thanks for sharing the link for the paper you use to trace patterns with! I trace all my patterns and keep the originals in tact. I've previously used freezer paper (expensive way to do it!) and baking paper, but find the latter quite slippery. I'm guessing you find the 60gsm rolls much wider and better?

    I use poker chips as pattern weights! They're the perfect weight and size so as not to get in the way!

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    1. Poker chip pattern weights - genius! Yes the big rolls of paper are just a bit more convenient that using up rolls and rolls of baking paper - they're not as see-through but still good :)

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  6. Thanks! I normally use baking paper but the quality isn't great. Suz | www.prettyflorals.co.uk

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