The list of pattern types I’ve used in order of preference, Self drafted, Marfy, Envelope Patterns (Vogue et al), Pattern Magazines, PDFs.
Not everyone has the same preferences. I like to make my own patterns because though it takes time, it saves fitting time. Marfy have subtle drafting, lack of instructions, layout, yardage doesn’t bother me. Envelope patterns are a reasonable deal despite the ease hiccups, if only because they have all of the pieces, including lining and facings. I put Magazines way ahead of pdf’s because I don’t get free printing in the lunch hour courtesy of an absent employer, and sticking together a zillion A4s isn’t my idea of fun. They’re especially handy if I’m going to be sewing away from home and don’t want to cart my blocks with me, but many people are put off by trying to trace off the patterns.
There are two easy methods. If you don’t mind the pattern sheet being punctured you can wheel through with a tracing wheel. You need the spiky sort, sometimes called a needle tracing wheel. Don’t bother with the other kind. If it draws blood when you run it over your finger it’s good for the job. You also need something under your pattern paper – a sheet of thin foam around 3mm thick is ideal. This is extremely quick, but gives you a net pattern. Seam allowances must be added after the tracing, on the paper, or around the pattern on the cloth. Here’s a couple of gadgets that chalk them in (the red one is old, but the best).
You can also buy or make something to stick on your shears to measure as you cut.
A way of tracing patterns with seam allowance
You need to arm yourself with a large sheet of carbon paper, a knitting needle or propelling pencil without a lead, a ruler and flexible curve or home made or purchased seam allowance guides. I could only get A4 carbon when I first did this, so mine are stuck to A4 sheets of computer paper. I keep this folded with the mag pile.
If you’ve never traced a mag pattern before, you might not have spotted that there’s a pattern piece number at the edge of the sheet (this one’s a Burda, most mags do something similar).
It lines up with a number on the piece itself, a great help in finding it. The number is red, like the pieces.
Once you’ve eyeballed the shape of the piece, line it up over your carbon and pattern paper, leaving a bit of space round it for seam allowance and hem if needed. Weight it to hold it steady.
Then you can start tracing, I do the grainline first.
Then I put in any internal dart or tuck lines, and any balance marks. You can also write info on the piece with your pencil or knitting needle.
Next, the perimeter curves of the pattern can be marked with seam allowances added, by lining up a gadget such as a flexible curve around the curved edges. The stitching line can be drawn if you like, which gives you the level of information you used to get printed on envelope patterns.
I made some straight and curved measurement strips for different seam allowances, and there are now commercial versions if you’re feeling flush.
Straight edges can be ruled of course. Here, my size is represented by the small regular dashes and the ruler is placed the seam allowance width away.
This takes a lot longer to write than do. The tracing by this method isn’t quite as quick as wheeling through, but the pattern is complete and the pattern sheet undamaged. It beats trying to peer through the tissue.