Carbon paper is a traditional material used in dressmakers and tailors. It is not as commonly used anymore as there are other methods that have taken over and been simplified.
There are a number of ways in which you can use carbon paper but the main principle of the material is to leave marks on your fabric instead of using tacks or pins. Though this can come with drawbacks, such as how to remove the carbon paper marks from your fabric.
The best way to remove carbon paper marks from fabric is to wash the fabric either in the washing machine, by hand or by using a damp cloth or sponge. If the marks persist you can use bleach, strong detergent or ammonia.
In this article I will talk about what you can use carbon paper for, if it is hardful to fabric, how use it and how to remove marks from the fabric itself.
What Is Carbon Paper Made From?
Carbon paper is made of a sheet of paper that is coated on one side with carbon black (soot) and held together with wax.
The sheet of paper is produced from the normal process of paper manufacturing – by putting together moist fibers of cellulose pulp gotten from rags, grasses, and wood before drying them to form flexible sheets.
In the past, there were considerable improvements in the technology used in carbon paper. After some time, carbon black was replaced with pigmented coatings and dry ink.
Wax was also replaced with polymers that you could mix with solvents and apply to plastic films rather than paper. The copies from carbon papers were called carbon copies and it had extensive use in different types of transaction receipts.
Carbon paper is a form of copying paper except, people don’t use it for electronic purposes. It works great when you want to make copies of a written document manually.
Before the advent of computers and printers, it was the easiest method of making copies of documents. You use it by placing it in between the original document and the second piece of paper you intend to copy unto.
Carbon paper would then replicate the effects of pressure you make on the original document with a pen or typewriter.
Today, even though there are faster and better methods of making copies, carbon paper still has its uses. For example, it’s still useful in sewing and making copies of handwritten or typewritten business forms such as receipts.
What Is Carbon Paper Used for In Sewing?
Carbon papers help tailors keep the patterns on clothes so they can use them at a later time. It is also used for sewing is usually called dressmaker carbon paper.
It impresses the wax-like color on the fabric you are working on so you can make all your adjustments without doing any damage. All you need to use on your cloth is a stylus, tracing wheel, or tracing pen.
You have the option of using brown wrapping paper for the patterns or copying them straight into the fabric directly.
Steps In Using Carbon Paper
- Use the carbon paper to straighten out the pattern you want so it is as flat as possible. Ensure the carbon paper does not get ironed to avoid wasting the sheet.
- Highlight the lines you want to use so you can view them visibly. This is vital for patterns that have many lines going across the pattern.
- Put your fabric or paper out and spread it out so it is flat on a surface. The carbon paper should be on top of the fabric with the wax side facing downward.
- Put the pattern on the carbon paper and place the weights on top to keep it in position.
- Trace through the pattern without forgetting all the grain lines and notches.
- After tracing, take off the tracing paper and pattern.
- Add any additional sewing details you need to abide by so you don’t make any mistakes.
- Cut out your pattern and get to work.
Dressmakers’ Carbon Tips
Here are some helpful tips that can help when you are using dressmakers’ carbon for sewing:
- Apply pressure lightly when making marks on the fabric.
- Don’t use it on the right side of your garment.
- The pigment in dressmakers’ carbon is waxed which means the marks could be permanent, especially if heat is applied to the fabric.
- A solid tracing wheel is a better option than a sprocket designed one as they tend to ruin some patterns if the pressure is too much.
- Pick a carbon paper pack size that will be comfortable for you to work with. Too small or too large can be a problem and cause unnecessary complications.
- It comes in different colors like navy, yellow, white, light blue, and red. So, make your selections considering the colors of the cloth you are working on so it does not blend.
- Before applying the carbon paper on the right side of your fabric, test it on scraps from the project. This is to check for the potential of making marks on the right side of the fabric.
- Patterns that don’t have a seam allowance are easier to transfer.
- Use a double wheeled tracing wheel to create seam allowance as you trace on the fabric.
- If you have white fabrics, the best type of carbon paper to use for it is white. This is because the marks produced will be subtle on the cloth without causing any form of damage.
Is Carbon Paper Harmful To Fabric?
Carbon paper does not directly cause harm to fabric. However, it causes stains that may never wash off. The brand of carbon paper you use determines if the markings will be stuck on the fabric.
Brands made specifically for cotton fabric sometimes wash out. If you are having any difficulties with your brand of carbon paper, you can decide to change it or use brown wrapping paper to trace your pattern instead of tracing directly on the fabric.
Removing Carbon Paper Marks From Fabric
Some carbon papers can combine with the fibers in the fabric and stay inside, ruining the clothing by making it look unpleasant. A good way to prevent this from happening is to stop putting carbon wax on the fabric directly.
You could use brown paper as a buffer or use the tailor’s chalk which can be easily removed when you are finished with the cloth.
However, if you ever have clothes with carbon paper marks, these are the best ways to fix them and get your clothes back in good condition:
1. Use Stain Removers
Take the fabric with stains and then proceed to wash it using detergents and stain removers. Sometimes you may need to pour extra on the positions most affected by the carbon to get it out.
You can also use bleach or concentrated gel solutions for stains that are tougher to get out.
2. Use Ammonia
If after washing with detergents, stain removers, or bleach, the stain lingers, you can try ammonia.
Place a couple of drops of ammonia in the affected areas and then re-launder the fabric with detergent. You can use sponges with commercial cleaners and make sure to air-dry.