Tutorial: How to use Swedish tracing paper to trace a pattern

Swedish tracing paper is a wonderful material for copying pattern pieces. Although it is called “paper,” it is actually a nonwoven interfacing with a smooth enough finish to write on. There are many great reasons to work with a copy of your pattern made from this material rather than using the original pattern itself, and I covered them in a previous post.

Today, I’m offering up a tutorial on how to use this wonder sewing notion.

Swedish tracing paper

Swedish tracing paper is transparent and sturdy enough that you can write on it, sew it, tape it and pin it. It also drapes much better than pattern tissue, so some people use it for quick fitting, rather than making a muslin.

Tools needed:

❦ Pattern of choice

❦ Swedish tracing paper, available from many online retailers

❦ Scissors

❦ Pencil

❦ Tape. I’ve read that paper medical tape works well on Swedish tracing paper, but I haven’t bought any yet, so I use regular cellophane tape.

❦ Optional but helpful: design ruler (also sometimes referred to as a French curve)

Technique:

1. Cut out all your pattern pieces and iron on low without steam to remove wrinkles as you would normally do. Swedish tracing paper comes on a roll, so it doesn’t generally have wrinkles, but this may depend on how carefully your supplier prepared it for shipping.

2. Tape a pattern piece to your work table, keeping the tape outside all the pattern lines, if possible, so the tape can be removed later without damaging the pattern. If you don’t tape the pattern down, it will shift during tracing. Guaranteed.

Taping pattern to work surface

Tape your pattern to a work surface that will not be damaged by tape. Mine is a laminated cutting table, so the tape pulls right off.

3. Cut out a piece of Swedish tracing paper a little larger than your pattern. Tape it to your work surface over your pattern without getting tape on the underlying pattern tissue. Since Swedish tracing paper comes on a roll, it has a tendency to curl. It works a little better if you face the curl down when you tape it. The tape will come right off the Swedish tracing paper later.

Taping the Swedish tracing paper to the work surface.

Tape the Swedish tracing paper to your work surface. Note how you can see all the pattern details right through it.

4. Use a good old No. 2 pencil to trace your pattern, including all lines and markings. (I’ve had good success doing this freehand, but see Step 5 for another option.) Also, write down all pattern information such as company, number, size you are tracing and hem allowance.

Tracing the pattern.

Trace the pattern. A slightly dull pencil makes a nice line.

5. If freehand is challenging or you’d like to ensure smoother lines, use a design ruler. It has an edge for straight lines and another for curved. The curved edge is created in such a way that it will fit a variety of curves, depending on which part of the curved edge you use. Just move the curved edge around until you find an area that lines up with the curve you are trying to trace. You won’t always find a perfect match, but since this tool is used by pattern drafters, you often will. For those lines that don’t have a perfect match on your design ruler, you will have to freehand.

Design ruler

A design ruler is handy if you prefer not to trace everything freehand.

6. Pull the tape off the Swedish tracing paper. It comes off easily and can even be saved for use on the next pattern piece. Carefully pull up the original pattern and cut off the tape.

7. You now have a perfect copy of your pattern that is ready to use for cutting out your material. If you make a muslin to check fit, any changes you need to make to the pattern are easy to do — and undo — with the Swedish tracing paper copy. Your original pattern pieces are left intact. This is especially helpful for:

❦ Vintage patterns, since they cannot easily be replaced;

❦ Alterations you haven’t done before, since they may take more than one attempt to perfect; and

❦ Multi-size patterns, since it isn’t always easy to determine which size to use.

When you’re working on a copy, going back and tracing the original again is always an option.

Original and copy

The original and the copy made on Swedish tracing paper.

For me, the next step in sewing is making a muslin to check the fit, which is always an adventure. I appreciate the flexibility to mess up — sometimes more than once! — that Swedish tracing paper gives me.

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19 thoughts on “Tutorial: How to use Swedish tracing paper to trace a pattern

  1. Corinne August 22, 2011 at 3:27 am Reply

    I so agree. Most of my patterns I use as is, but there are a few that are special and/or I use multiple times and the Swedish Tracing Paper is a great tool. On occasion, I also use freezer paper (for small pieces or applique) and lightly press the waxed side of the paper to the pattern. It removes easily.

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    • Jeanne Marie August 22, 2011 at 6:45 pm Reply

      Corinne, that’s an interesting trick about the freezer paper. I’ll have to look into that.

      Like

  2. mujerboricua August 22, 2011 at 5:48 am Reply

    Thanks for this. I have been wondering about how to use this and if I should invest in some. I am hoping to lose weight in the next few months and being able to keep my patterns intact is important for me.

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    • Jeanne Marie August 22, 2011 at 6:49 pm Reply

      Mujerboricua, I hadn’t thought of that! Losing weight is another great reason to trace patterns. Good luck to you. I’m working on dropping some pounds myself.

      Like

  3. James June 10, 2012 at 10:07 pm Reply

    Thanks for the info. I am a beginning seamster and I bought cool, rare, out of print patterns that I paid a lot for, but I was afraid to cut out. I can’t get any more if I use the wong size and I don’t want to ruin these patterns.

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    • Jeanne Marie June 10, 2012 at 10:31 pm Reply

      You are so welcome! Some people prefer to use certain kinds of less expensive actual paper, but I like the Swedish Tracing Paper. It’s easier to work with, and you can pin it together to get an idea of fit. Thank you for stopping by, and good luck with your sewing adventures!

      Like

  4. Robert November 1, 2012 at 3:03 pm Reply

    How helpful and precisely the information I was looking for! Plus, the referral to the eBay seller offering STP with free shipping was equally invaluable. Now I’m curious to see if it can truly be used for muslin as I have also seen described elsewhere. Thanks!

    From a fellow Elk Grove resident (Laguna side.) Small world huh.

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    • Jeanne Marie November 15, 2012 at 9:58 am Reply

      I hope it works for you. I don’t really see it working as a muslin because it’s a little stiff. I am also on the Laguna side. Do you attend the ASG meetings at Raley’s? Good group. I haven’t been in a while because I’ve had conflicts, but I hope I can start going again soon.

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  5. DannyJane May 7, 2014 at 2:06 am Reply

    If you want to trace a curve and don’t have a design ruler handy draw a series of dots following the curved on the tracing surface. You can follow up later to connect them or, if they’re close enough together, simply cut along them.

    Now somebody tell me where I can get this stuff.

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  6. […] I had sussed out which pieces I needed, I traced them using Swedish Tracing paper (Love this stuff!) and eventually made a wearable muslin since I didn’t want to mess up my […]

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  7. Eleanor. Cerny January 7, 2015 at 9:31 pm Reply

    I saw this question in another sewing blog and there was no answer. I need to know which scissors are best for cutting Swedish pattern paper? Should I use regular scissors or is it safe to use my sewing scissors?

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    • Jeanne Marie January 7, 2015 at 10:01 pm Reply

      Eleanor, wow, good question. Since Swedish tracing paper is actually more like an interfacing than actual wood-pulp paper, I always use my good sewing scissors to cut it.

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  8. Eleanor cerny January 8, 2015 at 7:56 pm Reply

    Thank you. very much ! I am a little attached to my sewing scissors. “people” keep stealing them.

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  9. Eureka! | jmn February 3, 2015 at 12:02 pm Reply

    […] I now set about redrafting the pattern with adjustments – this time using Swedish tracing paper so I’d end up with a durable pattern. Working from my traced paper pattern, I added […]

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  10. […] process/modifications Traced out the pattern in View A using Swedish Tracing Paper. It’s so much sturdier than tissue paper and allows room for mistakes and […]

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  11. Barbara Kiesling January 23, 2017 at 9:04 am Reply

    Can the Swedish tracing paper be ironed? I like to fold my pattern pieces when I finish a project, but the tissue pieces definitely need to be pressed for the next project.

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    • Jeanne Marie January 23, 2017 at 9:45 am Reply

      It can! It’s basically a nonwoven interfacing, so yes it can be ironed. But I find that it’s substantial enough that it doesn’t need to be pressed for the next use if it’s been folded neatly.

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  12. kelli r phillips September 6, 2017 at 5:50 am Reply

    Thank you so much for all the wonderful information. I think back when I took sewing in school and I don’t ever remember this product being discussed. I would love to have this knowledge when my children were little.

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    • Jeanne Marie September 6, 2017 at 8:49 am Reply

      You are so welcome! I’m glad this was helpful.

      Like

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