Hoppo Bumpo (n): A children's game. Played by folding one's arms and hopping on one leg. Aim is to bump opponents, so that they lose their balance. Last person standing wins.

April 17, 2010

May contain traces of sewing

Do you trace sewing patterns? I do. Always. Absolutely. But, if you were to ask me why I do this without fail, I would struggle to answer.

I could, however, tell you that the seeds of this habit were sewn early.

Take my very first project: a pair of child's pyjamas. I ever-so carefully cut out the size 3 from the multi-size pattern and painstakingly sewed the two piece set. It was my flannelette triumph. But approximately 5 minutes later, Argy was a size 4 and the pattern pieces all but useless to the nervous novice. I tried to buy the same pattern again, only to find it out-of-print. Ah, if only I had traced the original. Why, I could have made Argy the same pyjamas every year until he was 12. Awwww, cute.

Disclaimer: A-hem ... of course I would never, ever, ever do that. Cross my heart; hope to die; stick a sewing needle in my eye. Because as we all know the big pattern companies say blah, blah, blah ... you may only make just so many garments .... blah, blah, blah ... in just the one size from your pattern ... blah, blah, blah.

Following directly on from the pyjama pattern fiasco, was my first skirt. It was a lovely A-line number with a facing instead of a waistband. Again, I ignorantly chopped into the original pattern paper. I immediately sensed my mistake, when something labelled front-facing-cut-one-on-the-fold drifted from the table to the floor. A passing melee of children swept up the wafer thin paper and the pattern piece was, as they say, toast. (That is, if your toast is generally a piece of bread trodden on, then shredded by preschoolers). Ah, if only I had traced the original.

From then on, I decided that such calamities should never befall me again. No siree. Armed with an HB pencil and translucent paper, I started tracing. There is such comfort in having a back-up; a disaster recovery plan - especially when making pattern alterations.

So here I am two years later, with a thousand million copied pattern pieces. I haven't stopped yet. I trace everything. Large project and small. Patterns I will reuse and those I won't. Even patterns that come printed on the sturdiest of archive-quality paper, with single sizing. Sometimes I trace the children while they sleep.

Of course a small part of me acknowledges that I have a problem. The uncut fabric; the stationary sewing machine; the lost enthusiasm after pattern preparation. They all point one thing: the madness of traces. Or was that traces of madness?


  1. If it weren't for my own traces of madness, I would have been in bed hours ago instead of staying up til the wee small hours tracing pattern pieces myself!! I, too, trace anything and everything, and have quite a pile of traced pattern pieces (many of which have never seen fabric!). I think it's an addiction...

  2. Ha! I do the same thing!! Come see how I trace patterns http://ubercrafter.blogspot.com/2009/06/tracing-pattern-tutorial.html I'd like to know how you do it? I've also learned how to LABEL the traced pattern - cause I end up with a jumble of misc pattern pieces and no idea which they came from?!

  3. Yep. Trace everything. Mainly for the 'in case of screw-up reset to original' scenario.

    How do you go about your tracing? One of my bestest ever purchases is a huge magnetic white board - mounted with hinges on the wall and with wooden folding braces at the bottom so it can be propped out 6", creating a nice good for your back slope. It's big enough to take a full size sheet of Burda tracing paper.

    Magnetic.. hmm not quite it's metal so magnets stick to it. I have lots of nice strong magnets. I never use it as a whiteboard, thereby preserving its pristine whiteness for ease of tracing. I can see how that might be a teensy problem chez hoppobumpo.

    And yes, tracing does constitute sewing. Sez me.


  4. This is so interesting! I never even heard of tracing patterns, and I grew up watching my mother sew clothing for herself and for me (until I reached an Age of Obnoxious and began buying all my clothing at thrift shops - which was not trendy at that time, just embarrassing to mothers, apparently). I made a few things for myself using patterns years ago, but again - never thought of tracing, never heard of anyone else doing it. I am going to pay attention to the comments and try to learn something! (Something everyone else seems to know!!) ;)

  5. Like Quinn, I have never heard of anyone doing this before. Seems like a pretty good idea though!

  6. I am a tracer. Forced to trace because I almost only use Ottobre, Burda and Kwik Sew patterns. I have recently converted to using cheap interfacing (the stuff on a roll) because then you don't even have to pin, but now the chain stores aren't recieving as much as they would like and are out. I can't return to the baking paper.

  7. I'm a tracer too. I don't trust the kind of crazy mistakes I would be likely to make if I didn't!

  8. I'm a tracer!
    I use baking paper that I buy on enormous rolls so it is readily available and a farm expense (I bake for markets).
    So Ms HB, how do you store your traced pattern pieces? I have a huge pile of the things clipped together with clothes pegs but I am certain an avalanche is imminent.

  9. I'm a folder. My Mum was a firm believer in reusing patterns...she had 6 kids it would have been very expensive if she cut each size out rendering the rest of the pattern unusable. But she didn't have time to trace so she just cut the biggest size (outside cutting line) and folded back the edges to get the right size for whomever she was sewing for at the time. It never occurred to me to do it any different. So all of my pattern pieces are intact although the edges are a little folded, but ironing the edges soon sorts them out :-)

  10. I grew up folding (as Leonie said) after watching my mother do the same. It is a real pain around curves & doesn't help with the kido-destroyo of pattern pieces.

    I now trace everything onto cheap sew-in interfacing that I buy on 10m rolls....like Marie above said, it's great as it sort of sticks to the fabric so you don't need to pin!

    I must admit it takes a lot of time & I have far more patterns traced than garments sewn....hmmmmmm!

  11. If I have to trace I don't get the garment sewn for a looooong time. I'm generally a photocopier for small pieces, a folder when I can get away with it (use carbon paper and tracing wheel for curves) and a transferrer too cardboard for anything I think I'll use often.
    Tutorial here - http://nicolemdesign.blogspot.com/2008/10/transferring-multi-size-patterns-to.html

    For the wee one's pj's - I had the forethought to transfer the whole size range (above where she was at at the time) to cardboard last year. Am about to drag the next size out and do a production run on PJ's to last her another year.

  12. I never trace a pattern. I know I should and admire you that you take the time to do this arduous job!

  13. I've only traced once or twice in the past, but my mother in law traces onto interfacing religiously, then folds each pattern up and keeps them in plastic sleeves in a ring binder.
    I'm thinking that's the way to go - especially with those Ottobre patterns - I've subscribed and received about 5 issues, but have not ventured into actually sewing anything yet.

    Now I think I'll go trace my kids - now that's a great idea you've given me too! Thanks!

  14. I haven't sewed from a pattern that comes printed on tissue in a looong time, but I definitely used to cut them out. Pshaw to tracing, I said! But the only garment type sewing I have done in the last few years has been from Ottobre, so yes, I am forced to trace. I can see the advantage in tracing when it's kid's patterns. (There would also be the same advantage when sewing for someone with, ahem, fluctuating weight issues, I suppose!)

  15. Yep - I always trace patterns. I've tried working straight from the original - the tissue they use is just too flimsy and I always seem to end up cutting the wrong line or cutting off those itsy bitsy little triangle shaped notch things. I usually use greaseproof paper (baking paper) to trace on to. I keep the tracings in the envelope with the original pieces. I'm so glad I'm not the only one who suffers from a trace of madness :D


Thanks for dropping by! I love hearing what people have to say. Leave a comment if you like.