This was supposed to be the perfect sewing weekend. My husband is away indulging in his time consuming and expensive hobby – karting, so I had the house to myself and absolutely no chores, plans or obligations to take me out of the house. Or rather, I had plans: to spend as much time as possible sewing! I need to make a dress for a wedding we’re going to next weekend, so I needed to get going.
It is now Saturday evening and I have not sewed a stitch. Why, you might ask? Did something come up, did you get lazy? No, actually, I have been doing sewing related things until 11 last night and from 9 AM this morning. And still haven’t cut out my dress.
And the reason is TRACING!!! I am using a Burda Style (the magazine) Special Vintage, but this goes for any Burda magazines. It’s a lovely design, but has 12 pieces and it took me hours to copy them out!! I could have finished the whole blinkin’ dress in that time!!
So, instead of a regular blog post, I want to talk about this most dreaded activity, in hope that we can exchange ideas/tips/tricks and it might go better next time…
For those who have yet to be exposed to this most dreaded of chores, this is what I’m talking about:
It looks like a spaghetti bowl, right?
Each magazine comes with 2 large sheets (or 1 depending on the number of patterns), printed on both sides, with the pattern lines in different colours superimposed one on top of each other. Each sheet is labeled with letters. You then have to copy the pieces belonging to the pattern you want to sew.
Now, why would you subject yourself to that?
When I first started sewing in Romania in 2009, the reason was simple. There really was not other option. Burda style magazines were the one and only source of patterns and you just had to go with it. In 2017 in the UK, only masochism could be a reasonable explanation. This and the fact that it’s actually super economical to get a printed magazine for £5.99, rather than downloading one single digital pattern for £3.99. And I quite like my little Burda mag stash, I still have some I got in Romania ages ago and now and again I find a few patterns that I want to sew.
However, if you decide to go for it, there is method to the madness. Here is how to get started (Burda also provided these instructions in every magazine)
Find the pattern you like in the line drawing summary. In the monthly magazines, they will have numbers, in this example, they have names.
Find the design number in the instructions pages and there will be a box with the type of line corresponding to the each size, the sheet where to find the pattern and the colour, as well as the number of pattern pieces.
Having found the right sheet, locate your pattern pieces by looking at the numbers on the edges. If you follow a number straight up, you will see the same number on the corresponding pattern piece.
Prepare for tracing
As this is a multi-size pattern, it often gets quite jumbly and hard to follow. So I like to highlight the size I am planning on tracing. I had originally tried highlighters, but noticed that they tend to bleed through the other side (the pattern sheets are really thin). So I had the idea of using wax crayons. I think you can use coloured pencils if you have them. I like the wax crayons because they are soft and don’t scratch the thin paper, I can easily rub off the lines with an eraser and I can sharpen them with a regular pencil sharpener to get an accurate tip.
This can also be used to blend between sizes if you need to.
As to the actual tracing, I use two methods quite interchangeably, depending on my mood or if I had run out of one of the other required materials.
Tracing method 1 – from the top
You will need transparent tracing paper, like drafting paper, Burda tracing tissue or any other type of paper you can see the lines through. I once used Marks & Spencer flower tissue from an Autograph bouquet, it worked like a dream. Swedish tracing paper or the perforated non-woven fabric that is used in upholstery for chair bottoms.
N.B. Burda Magazine patterns do not have seam allowances. So before you start tracing, make sure you leave enough space around the piece you want to trace, as you will need to add seam allowance.
Place the sheet of paper on top of your pattern piece and start tracing. I use a ruler to make sure I keep my lines straight, especially for long lines like centre back, sleeves etc.
Tracing method 2 – from underneath
You will need craft paper, or brown wrapping paper, or any other sturdier type of paper. You will also need a surface that will not scratch, but is also a bit squishy. The rotary cutter mat is perfect, but if you haven’t got one, use some fabric you don’t need, like an old sheet folded in 2. Make sure it’s not too soft though.
Place your sheet of paper underneath the pattern sheet, again making sure you leave enough room to later add seam allowances as above.
Then use a serrated wheel to follow the lines of the pattern all around. Because of the swishy surface, it will leave dotted imprints on the craft paper, which will form your pattern piece.
Adding seam allowances
Some people prefer to leave the pattern without seam allowances and just add them on the fabric, but it’s very likely I will forget, so I make sure to add mine to the pattern pieces.
A few methods here as well.
- The old school one – using a ruler, a seam guide, a measuring tape etc, just follow the lines you have traced, which in effect are your stitch lines, and add a second set at the required distance, which will become the cutting ones.
- The DIY one – using two pencils, tie them together with an elastic band. I also add a third, smaller pencil upside down, to achieve the 1.5 cm distance. This works better with the tracing from the top method, as you are doing both lines at the same time. A pic here.
- The gadgety one – you can purchase a little ribbed plastic cylinder with a magnetic end and a rubber band. You can see a video on how to use it and you can order it here. Placing the band at the required distance will allow you to cut the seam allowance as you cut out the pattern piece. It works great on straight lines, but I have a bit of trouble with tight curves. Maybe I just need a bit of practice. But definitely one of my favourite methods.
- Another gadget you can use is the Clover double tracing wheel. It does what it says on the tin, it’s like the serrated pin wheel, but it has two wheels and you can adjust them depending on the seam allowance you desire. Here’s a video of how it works. I really like this for the bottom tracing method.
To finish it off
Make sure you have copied all markings and pattern information for each piece.
When you are finished, check against the list of pattern pieces in the instructions to make sure you copied them all. I also like to cross of the reference numbers as I go along.
Write down the info on each piece, including issue of the magazine and the design number, size you cut out, seam allowance you added, how many pieces to cut in fabric and lining.
Whew, that was a long one!
This is my two pennies’ worth of tips & tricks I picked up along the years. Have you got any other ones that can make my life easier? Also, do you trace other patterns other than magazine ones? I personally try to avoid it like the plague and just cut out regular patterns and make any adjustments on them. I’m really lucky that I usually don’t have to make serious alterations, like FBA/SBA. Anyway, what’s your view on that?