How To Use A Sewing Pattern Without Cutting It

It is great being able to make your own clothes and homewares but imagine you cut your pattern and now need it in a bigger/smaller size. I decided to tell you the different ways on how to use a sewing pattern without cutting it.

The best way to use a sewing pattern without cutting it is to trace the original to create a separate pattern in the specific size you wish to use. You can create templates of each size to use again and again.

Sewing patterns can be quite costly, especially if you are buying a couple every so often to build up your collection. Having to buy the same pattern twice because you have needed a different size or variation can be very annoying.

Why Do I Need To Know How To Use A Sewing Pattern Without Cutting It?

There are a couple of main reasons you might be looking into saving your sewing pattern. It might have cost you a lot and you want to be able to sell it on. You might want to make up the garments in various styles and sizes. The last is you might be using a vintage pattern that needs a little upsizing and altering.

So many people using sewing patterns every day choose to trace them and preserve the original ones. This can be for the above reasons but also because the original sewing pattern paper can be very flimsy and tear easily which can be tricky to work with and is more prone to damage.

Best Way To Prepare Your Sewing Pattern Before Using It

There are a couple of things you can do to prepare your sewing pattern before using it. This is really helpful if you are looking at how to use a sewing pattern without cutting it.


One of the best and most effective ways of preparing your sewing pattern is ironing. Most patterns are made up of thin tracing paper or printed on normal printer paper.

Laying out your pattern as gently as you can over your ironing board, smooth out the creases and use a cloth or tea towel over the top. The tea towel/cloth will stop the iron and paper meeting and burning.

The iron should be on fairly low to medium, this will help push the creases out of the paper and make the sewing pattern lines easier to follow. This also will make it easier to lay on the table to trace/cut.

Smooth Out

If you are a little worried about using an iron, you can smooth out a pattern by hand. Try to keep the pattern flat and only use your hands, try not to place too much presser while moving as this could cause rips.

If you prefer to try and smooth out your pattern pieces on a chair back. Leave overnight to try and let the creases naturally fall out.

How To Cut Out A Pattern With Multiple Sizes

I love using patterns over and over and more importantly having them available to trace new sizes mostly incase I want to make something as a gift and need a smaller or larger size.

I also like the option of being able to copy the original pattern to adapt it into something different, larger sizes for maternity wear or smaller for teens.

Trace The Sewing Pattern

The best way to use your sewing pattern in a number of sizes is by tracing it. Use your original sewing pattern and trace the size you wish to use.

Tip: Use a coloured pen or pencil to highlight the size you are wanting to trace, that way you can find it easier and it is clearer against the black and white.

This technique may take you some extra time but it can be worth it as you can re-use the original sewing pattern again and again in different sizes and allow you to share it with friends or sell it on.

To do this you would need some paper to trace your pattern, there are a number of options you can use but baking paper, parchment paper and tracing paper are the most popular.

Simply layout your pattern and find the size you wish to trace, using a pen or pencil trace around the edge of the sewing pattern. Remember to mark on all information from notches, darts and pattern size and pattern piece for future use.

Cut The Largest Size And Fold

This is a little bit of a cheats way or lazy way to use the same pattern but in different sizes repeatedly. This way isn’t a long-lasting technique and is something that will eventually take its tole on the pattern pieces.

Firstly make sure that non of your smaller sizes protrude past the largest size marker on each pattern piece. If you have some lines that go beyond the border of the largest size you would need to cut around those so your not cutting off any important information from the smaller sizes.

To start you would need to cut the largest size of the sewing pattern in each piece you wish to use (or all if you find that easier).

Once you have cut the largest size on each piece you can then use that as it is or simply fold the edges down to meet the lines of the smaller size.

You may find it a little tricky especially around corners, curved areas or crotches on trousers but small tucks and pleats should work well for you. Remember to transfer any information you require such as darts, tacks and joining notches.

How To Use A Sewing Pattern Without Cutting It

To save you from buying more than one pattern I am telling you about these different ways to make your patterns last longer.

Not cutting a sewing pattern can be great as you can preserve the pattern and use it for another time to make a different size or variation. You can also save the pattern to sell on if you no longer require it.

If you find any vintage style sewing patterns you can get a good price for them on eBay so saving the pattern pieces is a great idea.

Trace The Pattern

The best way to use a sewing pattern without cutting it is to trace the pattern. You can do this by laying out the pattern onto a table and placing a sheet of paper over the top.

By tracing the pattern you can create the size you would like to make. You can also keep a log or record of each of the garment variations that are available within that pattern.

This is also really useful if you plan to use the pattern in the future to make a bigger/smaller size. This is also the easiest way of preserving the pattern for future projects, reselling or the next generation.

If you have a lightbox at home this is really handy as you can use thicker pattern paper to trace the pattern onto.

I also like to use this technique to make alterations to the pattern that suit my body shape or if I wish to add darts, sleeves or make any adjustments. This then can be documented on a separate pattern and you won’t have changed the original.

Different Types Of Pattern Paper

Here are a few different paper styles I have used in the past to trace sewing patterns. These are both tissue paper, tracing paper and pattern paper. There are a number of price ranges which you can try out overtime to find the best for you.

  • Grease Proof Paper
  • Ikea Paper Roll
  • Hemline Squared Pattern Paper
  • Burda Dressmakers Tissue Paper
  • Prym Dressmakers Pattern Paper

Tracing On Top Of Paper

This isn’t as common practice as laying paper over the pattern and tracing that way. This way is a little more difficult and not as easy to do.

This way is laying the original pattern on the top of your new pattern paper and tracing from the top. You do this by using a tracing wheel, a small hand held tool that has a spikey wheel on the bottom.

You roll the tracing wheel over the line you want to be tracing, the spikes will go through the original pattern paper onto the paper below. Make sure to have a cutting mat underneath so you don’t ruin your table/desk.

Once you have traced the lines, notches and pattern information you can then take a pencil to join up the dots. This will then give you a full and useful pattern piece.

Tips For Tracing Sewing Patterns

  • When creating the new pattern pieces, make sure to note all the information onto the paper. Include the pattern number, size you traced, grainline, darts, notches, tailors tacks and fold lines.
  • Make sure to note on each pattern piece the pattern number and make, this is so you can reference back to the pattern itself and the instructions.
  • Don’t forget to use a sharp pencil or fine pen. Don’t use anything too thick as you will lose your tracing line through the paper. Making the sizes merge much easier than they would with a fine point pen.
  • Try to keep your finished new pattern pieces together in a tube, envelope or binder sleeve. That way you can easily grab them when you need them.
  • If you want to be really thorough photocopy the front of the sewing pattern sleeve and circle the garment it is. Making finding it quicker and easier.
  • If you struggle to follow the lines, go over the size you are tracing in a different colour pen so highlight the lines, notches and pattern markings first.

That is everything you need to know on how to use a sewing pattern without cutting it. If you have any other tips and tricks for tracing sewing patterns or the best paper to use let me know in the comments below.

Tags: Patterns
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