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Quick Tip: Preserving Paper Patterns

September 9, 2016

When I made my first Linden Sweatshirt by Grainline Studio, I was so excited that I just sort of…went for it. Including the part where I happily cut my pieces from the original paper pattern in my guesstimated size. Oops. ????????????????

Since I’ve started sewing I’ve gotten into the habit of making a pattern exactly as is on the first try; just to experience how everything comes together before I try to alter it. This is fine for my PDF patterns that I can just re-print if needed, not the case with a paper pattern. So after buying a limited Colette bundle of beautifully printed patterns, I knew I wanted to make copies of them to preserve the originals, as well as allow for infinite iterations (like the longer sleeves on the Linden that I so badly needed ????). Here’s how I did it for under $15:

Plastic sheeting to copy and preserve paper sewing patterns

I took a trip to Lowe’s to look at what type of clear plastic sheeting I could get on a roll. I wish I would have noted where I ended up finding this, because I definitely walked through the lights section at least three times during my trips from end to end to find the elusive buggers. They had a lot of different weights (see where it says “2 mil” in the bottom right?) and dimensions. I got the smallest dimensions (150 square feet is still a lot of pattern copies though!) just in case I brought it home and realized a different weight would be better. (Note: I’m going to try the 4 mil next time just to see, but the 2 worked great for me, too)


With tax it came in just under $15 at $14.82. A single Colette pattern costs $18. That’s easy math to me! The rest of the materials you need you probably already have: permanent markers/pens (I used Sharpies), weights to hold down the plastic and the patterns (I used tin canisters from the kitchen), and your paper pattern. A large sturdy table is helpful too.

Iron your paper pattern to release any creases (I used a lower iron setting), and gently use the heat of your hands to ease any large creases in the roll of plastic. Mine still had some lines and I didn’t have any issues smoothing it down for the tracing process, so don’t worry about getting everything perfectly flat. However, be mindful when tracing that a crease could throw off the pattern lines.

Lay out your pattern with a piece of plastic on top and use your weights to hold everything in place. Then, just trace!

Tracing and preserving paper patterns

Go slowly so that you have a single, confident line to follow when you cut the piece out. Stay consistent with where you’re drawing on the line too. If you start drawing more on the inside of the pattern line, carry that through to all the pattern pieces. I tried to keep mine perfectly centered over the line.

take all the important info with you

take all the important info with you

Be double sure to copy over all the necessary marks (grainline arrow, marking on a fold, notches, alignment markings) and pattern piece information (what pattern it belongs to, what piece it is, how many to cut, what size the copy is, etc).


When you’re done, simply cut them out and store away. This plastic sheeting is nice because it doesn’t stretch and it shows some resistance to punctures. Keep in mind that scissors still glide across it like butter, so try to not get carried away and cut into your carefully traced piece.


And there you have it! Your perfectly cut out plastic pattern piece is ready while the original pattern piece remains safe and sound.

Lastly, I have a sad update about my Moneta dress that I was making. Although the top started to come together nicely, it went a little downhill from there. The twin needle (that I successfully threaded for the first time, thank you very much!) bunched the slippery and lightweight rayon fabric and the results were not pretty. I kept trying to make adjustments to make it work, but I realized that I wasn’t having fun or enjoying the process of troubleshooting. My best projects come to life when I really believe in them..and this dress was slowly building a pile of doubts (bust a little tight, dress was going to be a little short for my liking, a little thin for my liking, etc etc). So I threw in the towel, and guess what? I don’t even feel bad about it. There are other creative projects in the sea for me, and clearly I need to spend some more time with knits before taking on such slippery, 4-way stretch knits. The good news? I got more experience with handling knit fabric, I used a twin needle for the first time, I got some practice hemming, AND I have a sturdier coral plaid knit on hand that I wanted to make another Linden out of as my next project anyway (and it’ll be sooo much easier to work with), so no bad feelings here.

I should make it clear that this dress went downhill because of my skill level and fabric choices, not because of the Moneta Pattern by Colette. Their patterns are well designed and clearly written. I ???? them.

signoffUntil next time,

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  1. Lester Boyd Garrison says:

    Might CLEAR Contact Paper preserve the paper pattern as well?