Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Brilliant Basics: transferring pattern markings

In twenty years of sewing, I'd never transferred pattern markings.  I referred to them, yes, but actually transferring?  Nope.  In part, it was because the standard pattern tracing wheel has never worked for me.  I never could figure out how it was even supposed to work, and I tried repeatedly to get it to without success.  Two years ago, I was working on Simplicity 2629.   It's a vintage 1948 rerelease, complete with embroidery motifs. Thing is, the original pattern would have included transfers for the designs.  The modern version says something to the effect of, "transfer embroidery designs using your favorite method."  Most modern patterns that include embroidery say that.  Now, there are three common methods of doing it-- embroidery heat transfer pens, embroidery heat transfer pencils, and transfer sheets.  The marker is a favorite with opaque fabric because you get lines that are easy to see and thus, embroider over.

Looking at the transferred designs, I had an epiphany--why not transfer the tuck markings in the same way?  I'd always had problems with tucks before that--no matter how hard I tried, I always ended up with one being crooked.  And later on, I found that my pens stunk for transferring to white, semi-sheer, and sheer fabric because you could see the lines on the right side.  I tried the pencil, but I could never get it to transfer dark enough to see.  So I tried the sheets.  They're now a favorite.  I use them to transfer not only embroidery designs, but tuck marks, pleat marks, darts, and anything else that benefits from having a clear mark to work with.  Joanns in my area carries them, so you should be able to find them at your local craft store.

So, here's my guide for working with the transfer sheets.  First, we need to gather supplies.  I use a piece of cardboard for backing to make lining up the pattern pieces easier.  Once the transfer paper is laid on the fabric, it's hard to see where the fold lines are, so this gives a line to use.  I also use a seam gauge, though any ruler will do, a chopstick for the actual transferring, and a mechanical pencil for darkening the lines afterwards.

This is the transfer paper.  It comes in a pack with five different colors.  I prefer the graphite.  One thing you do need to know is that the marks from the paper won't stay--they lighten with a little handling (very little) and can disappear before you're done using them.  It washes out, and doesn't show through the other side.

The first thing you need is your cut out material.  I usually pin labels on any pieces that look similar and are close in size so I don't get them mixed up.

Now, lay the fabric wrong side out with the dart is facing you and  the fold line on the edge of the cardboard.   In this case, having the other side of the fabric on the outside is a great thing, because it gives you something to line up the pattern piece with.

Next, lay the transfer paper right side down on top of the fabric, and line the pattern piece up with the other half of the fabric.  (The chopstick is in the picture to keep the fan from blowing the pattern piece away!)

Now, using the chopstick, trace over the lines of the pattern.  A regular wooden number two pencil will also work in a pinch, but the chopstick is better because the end is flat.  Remove the pattern and the transfer paper and get out the ruler and mechanical pencil.  This won't show through to the other side, but it will provide you with both lines to match up and a line to sew on.

Now, line up the ruler and trace over the lines.  They're always a little crooked from transferring, and this straightens them out for you as well as making sure that they'll stay long enough for you to use them.

This is the result--a clear mark that shows where to sew.  Don't worry, graphite pencil lead does wash out.  Now, we need to repeat it with the other side of the fabric. 

You'll need to flip the pattern piece over and use the wrong side as a guide, but it'll still work very well.

Now this is the right side of the fabric.  See?  No markings!  Now, repeat with all of the markings you need to transfer.

Darts in kids' clothes are usually just for style and aren't really completely necessary for construction.  But if they're in your pattern, the pattern has been added to so that they become necessary. 

Transferring the markings eliminates the guesswork in making pleats, darts, and tucks.  While I wouldn't recommend it for tiny tucks, it works well for larger ones.  Sometime in the next week, I'll go over double needle pintucks; I'm using them in my current project!

And just for a cuteness break--

When I wasn't looking, Bit managed to curl up in her baby sister's car seat and fall asleep there today!

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