Vintage Red

Dedicated to Vintage Pattern Reproduction.

Friday, January 29, 2010

A Paper Trail

Posted by Carisa |

Greetings! After completing my 2nd Grade masterpiece (and yes, it is on my fridge, I signed it and everything!), I decided to actually do some r-e-s-e-a-r-c-h on what people use to trace patterns on. I ended up going with the architect paper which I purchased last night and then promptly put it aside to watch a Netflix movie (who can resist Dean Martin? WHO!)

So here's the low down on the paper and such.

Medical Exam Table Paper

Pros:  Easy to find and cheap.
Cons: I believe it only comes in 21” wide and from the exam paper I have seen it’s not as transparent as I would like it. 
Purchase Info:  Can be purchased online or at medical supply stores for pretty cheap, or stolen from your Doctor’s office when no one is looking (I’d wear a large coat if I were you). and sell them.
Comments:  Many people mentioned that they went to their doctor to ask about it. Really? I envision this conversation going something like this: "Hey so while you're down there, how much does a girl need to pay for a roll of this stuff, or does it come free with the service?" I obviously don’t have a close enough relationship to my doctor. It might have something to do with the whole weighing you before you even get into the room stunt, “you weigh xyz“”yeah I need a little less chat and a little more get me (blank) outta this room”. A real chit-chat killer in my opinion.

Regular Tissue Paper

Pros: Cheap Cheap Cheapity Cheap
Cons: Tears really easily
Purchase Info: Pretty much any local Walgreens or grocery store. Online would be a good bet.
Comments:  hahaha, I know I like doing things the hard way, but I’m pretty sure the majority of my hair would be pulled out trying not to tear the paper. And I super like my hair, right where it is.

Pattern Ease (and other similar products like TrueGrid) 

Pros:  You can sew it, press it, and fit using it.  Doesn’t slip around on the fabric when using it to cut. Doesn’t tear.
Cons: The lines are not not always true (so they say). 
Purchase Info: Non-woven tracing material, Can be purchased at fabric stores like and
Comments:  I think the lines would give me a killer headache after a while and I was really never good at coloring inside the lines.

Swedish Tracing Paper

Pros: Similar to Pattern Ease but with no lines. Durable, can be sewn and pined, doesn’t sip on fabric, can be ironed.
Cons:  Pencil doesn’t erase well on it. Predominantly sold online, unless you are blessed to live near a sewing mecca. 
Purchase Info: Birch Street Clothing, NearSea Naturals
Comments: I think I will probably try this at one point, it seems really amazing. And no lines to get in the way!

Non-woven Soil Separator Cloth (Common brand Weed Blocker)

Pros:  Thin and transparent. Can be sewn.
Cons: Difficult when using pencils. Sharpies bleed through. 
Purchase Info: Can be purchased at most home stores in the plumbing (no idea why) or gardening department. Online it can be purchased at Carriff ,
Comments: I don’t like nature really; I mean we have a very good business relationship where we stay out of each others way, while admiring each other from afar, through glass. I don’t think I would really enjoy going into a place full of it….shiver.

Dotted Pattern Paper

Pros: Durable, faint dots won't get in the way as much as a grid
Cons: Can only be found in one store (that I know of) 
Purchase Info: Can be found at Steinlauf and Stoller
Comments: From what I could find on it I think this is pretty much like the architect paper below, but with dots. I only found one seller for it, he is located in New York (link above) and I am not so luck to live near a fabric mecca such as NYC (sniff sniff).

7lb Architect Sketching Paper (Bienfang No. 107 Canary sketching paper is most poplar)

Pros: Is transparent enough to not need bright light for tracing. Very durable. Pens and sharpies do not bleed through. Can be found at most art stores. Comes in various widths.
Cons: I couldn’t find anyone that didn’t like this paper. 
Purchase Info: Can be purchased online at and
Comments: I chose this to start off with and am on my way home to purchase J I’ll have to leave a bit early because the closest place closes at 5 (WHAT a SHAME that I have to leave early, I’m crushed, really I am).  I did find that although everyone talks about Binefang online, all you have to do is ask for 7lb sketching paper and there is a plethora of other brands out there, make sure you ask if it’s on a role though, it is also sold in pads.

Can be found at art stores and such, for about $1 a foot

Pros: Very durable and transparent. Pens won't bleed through.
Cons: Probably the most expensive of all the choices.
Purchase Info: Utrecht, and all sell Vellum. 
Comments: I'm cheap.'nough said.


Pros: Cheap and totally old school
Cons:I think we all know how horribly wrong this could go. Bleeding on fabric and your hands, hard to see markings.
Purchase Info: On your doorstep (or someone else's doorstep, I won't judge). And any supermarket or bookstore.
Comments: Tell me you don't love that picture I 


Mothwolf said...

First - I love your blog! I'm excited to try some of these ideas myself.......soon........when I stop slacking off......

Second - I was pondering this same topic the other day and came across this page...thought you might be interested. :)

KimP said...

My experience: Swedish Tracing paper is awesome but it is way too expensive for me. And I have had a hard time finding it on line sometimes.

The soil separator cloth is hard to mark. Ballpoint pin works best, but this isn't my favorite medium.

I am a total convert to plain old tisue paper. It's particularly good for a distinctive dress that you probably won't make multiples of. Yes, it has a tendency to tear, but I just slap some painters tape on it and go on.

I see good things for your blog! I look forward to your future posts.

Nadia said...

I'm interested to see how this all pans out!

Her Royal Highness, Princess Amy, Drinker of the Beers, Spewer of Bad Word said...

I didn't see freezer paper on the list. The rolls are fairly narrow, but super easy to find in the grocery store and pretty inexpensive

Carisa said...

Hi there! Thanks for all your comments :-)
I have added links to places to purchase each online.

Freezer paper is a great idea as well! Do you have any pros or cons? :-)

Panda said...

Is that a photo of Phil Nichol?

Anonymous said...

What a cool idea...I'll be interested in seeing how it goes. I don't have many vintage patterns, but I do have one that I love that is two sizes too small that I'm hoping I can up-size.
I love Swedish Tracing Paper, btw. I've never used anything else, so I can't compare, but it is so durable, you can see through it great, and I don't see how you can beat the fact that you can sew it. Obviously it's not the best material for a muslin, but it's sure handy for lazier sewers like me!

Anonymous said...

Hi, another product that is great is called Trace-a-Pattern. It's kind of like non-woven interfacing without the adhesive. It's really durable, although you can't really erase. If you wait for a sale at the fabric store, you can get it for maybe $1-2 per meter.

Also, I recommend Nancy Zieman's book Fitting Finesse - it's an unusual technique but it works like a dream for upsizing vintage patterns!

Flixa said...

I use sew-in interfacing - which I buy for about AU$8 for 10m at my local haberdashery place. It's about 1.5m wide so perfect for tracing patterns. Pins better than tracing paper, doesn't tear and doesn't slip. I trace all my patterns onto this.

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