How to Trace a Pattern onto Fabric
Not everyone is a wizard at free-hand drawing. With patterns, you don’t have to be! Knowing how to trace a pattern onto fabric opens up your creative options to make beautiful pieces. Here are the tricks of the trade to trace patterns onto fabric.
How to choose a marking tool to trace a pattern onto fabric
Almost any time you use a pattern, you will need to transfer the outlines and symbols from the pattern paper to your fabric. With the right tools, this process is super simple.
To trace a pattern onto fabric, you will need a marking tool. There are a few different types of marking tools and each has their own pros and cons.
Water Erasable Marker
A water erasable marker is a good choice for any fabric. Your marks will be there when you need them and then easily wash away with water—even with thick, coarse fabrics. Use this type of fabric marker to trace the markings from your pattern paper onto your project. Then, wash the fabric to remove the marker.
But remember: don't use a water erasable marker on fabric that is dry-clean only. You may not want to use this tool if you don't plan on washing the fabric within two weeks of marking it, either. Procrastinators beware: after that point, the marker will be harder to remove and may permanently marr your fabric.
Air Erasable Marker
An air erasable marker works like magic. The marks from this tool naturally disappear after 4–14 days! No washing, scrubbing, or erasing needed from you. Plus, an air erasable marker works well on both light and dark fabrics.
Sounds too good to be true? If you are skeptical that the markings will come off automatically, with no elbow grease required, you can perform a simple patch test on some scrap fabric before you trace the symbols from your pattern paper. In fact, we highly recommend this with any fabric marker!
A point ruler is a multi-purpose tool that can also be great for tracing a pattern onto fabric. To use this tool, just trace the pattern with the pointy tip, applying enough pressure to leave a crease on the fabric. Keep in mind, this technique is less effective for synthetic fabrics that don’t crease easily. However, if you have a fabric that creases and presses with ease, you’ll be able to mark your fabric this way.
A tracing wheel and carbon paper make it easy to trace a pattern onto fabric without damaging the original pattern. However, using these tools can take some practice because sometimes the carbon paper doesn’t transfer if you don’t apply enough pressure.
How to trace a pattern onto fabric
Typically, you can cut out your pattern pieces by pinning your sewing pattern paper onto your fabric and cutting around the edges of the pattern paper. However, if you want to be able to reuse your pattern, then there are a few different ways you can trace the pattern onto fabric while still preserving the original pattern paper.
Make a Lightbox
One way to make a copy of the pattern is to turn a window into a DIY lightbox. Simply tape the pattern to a window with some sunlight, then place some sturdier paper on top and trace the pattern with a pencil. You can then use the thicker paper copy instead of damaging the very thin original.
Use a Tracing Wheel
Another method for tracing a pattern onto fabric without cutting the original pattern is to use a tracing wheel and carbon tracing paper. Place your fabric on a flat surface, then layer the carbon paper on the fabric with the carbon side down against the fabric. Place your pattern on top of the fabric, and then roll the tracing wheel over the lines of the pattern. The pressure from the wheel will create carbon lines on your fabric, and voila, you have transferred your pattern, with no scissors necessary.
How to trace pattern symbols onto fabric
The trickier part of how to trace a pattern onto fabric is transferring the internal symbols from the pattern to your fabric, but there are several easy ways you can accomplish this step.
Use a Tracing Wheel
If you used a tracing wheel and tracing paper to trace the outline of your pattern paper, then you can use the same method for the internal symbols. Just trace over the symbols with the tracing wheel and the carbon paper will transfer the marks to your fabric. Make sure to use enough pressure or else the carbon may not transfer and you may need to repeat this step.
Use pins or an awl
Another method of transferring internal symbols from the sewing pattern paper is to poke a hole in the pattern and then mark with a marking tool. This method works for transferring small circle shapes (like a buttonhole mark) or for transferring lines.
If you are transferring a line symbol, poke a hole in the pattern at each end of the line and mark the endpoint on the fabric underneath. Then, when you have removed the pattern paper, place a ruler between the two points and draw a line against the ruler to connect the points and create a straight line.
There you have it. Those are the basics of how to trace a pattern onto fabric! Now you’ve got the knowledge, but if you still need the tools, don’t forget to check out the Notions section of our shop to find marking tools and patterns.