How To Trace Commercial Sewing Patterns

Happy Saturday!! I thought about you all when I had to copy a pattern that is out of print.  I didn't want to use up the pattern, so I traced it onto Swedish tracing paper in order to save the original for later use.  Here is a quick tutorial on tracing patterns.  Hope it's useful.

Commercial "tissue paper" patterns are great to have when it comes to tracing off your size from the multi-size sheets.   This is the only time having "thin" paper is a bonus--you will be more inclined to trace your size and protect the pattern for future use.
how to trace commercial sewing patterns tutorial

SUPPLIES:  You will need only 3 items:
  1. Sharpie Fine Point Markers

  2. Tracing paper

  3. Commercial Sewing Patterns of course (mccalls, simplicity)

"Sharpie" fine point markers.  

Sharpie is the only one that I have found to work as well as they do.  I think it has something to do with the ink, but that is my guess, and it isn't a scientific fact, just trust me on this, it works. Keep these points in mind

  •  Choose multiple colors for each different size you plan to use from any given pattern and stick with that color throughout.  

  •  On multi-sized patterns, try to use one color consistently throughout the process from one pattern to another, as a means to color code your work. (pink= size 12, purple= size 14, orange= size 16, etc.)  Because I use basic colors for pattern markings, alterations, and notes, I steer clear of using Black, Blue, Red, and sometimes Green for tracing.

  •  The lighter colors work best, the light color allows the original pattern markings to remain visible on the tissue, the lighter colors will do less damage to your patterns, and they still show through to your tracing paper just the same.

"Tracing Paper"
Make sure to use a light color paper suitable for receiving the ink transfer and for visibility.  Keep these points in mind when selecting your paper: 
  • The lighter the marker you select, the lighter the paper should be that you select.  I use "blue-dot" pattern paper or "Swedish" tracing paper.  I have tried the art vellum as well, but I have found that the ink smears as I move around my work.

"Patterns to Transfer" 
Any non-PDF pattern which has been commercially printed to tissue paper.  
  • This method has been proven to work with patterns made of the thin, non-waxed brownish tan tissue paper.   

  •  The tissue from these patterns may have a slight "sheen" on the wrong side, and will have a non-wax smooth texture on the right side. 
"I don't know everything, 
but, I do know a lot about some things, 
so I'll teach you a
few things of what I do know."


  1. Andrea thank you for being such a sharing and helpful person! I needed this info.

  2. Yes I agree. I need to hit staples to get some markers.

    1. Much abridged Shaneka. Don't do like I did and go overboard with the markers.

  3. Great info. Do you know if it works with Burda magazine patterns?

    1. Hello "Anonymous"
      Unfortunately, it does not work with the Burda magazine patterns. I tried several different ways. The only one that may work, but gets messy is the crayola or the wax pencil and then press tracing paper over it to transfer the color. But is was like adding grease to the paper, and it became really "nasty" and messy looking.

  4. Gillian - in SydneyOctober 9, 2015 at 3:54 PM

    Dear Andrea
    Thank you for your posts and videos.
    Could you explain in more detail how you actually do the pattern copying please?
    Looking at your first picture and based on my experiences with sharpie or other markers, I think you are placing the tan-commercial-pattern-paper on top of the blank sheet and then drawing the pattern lines on the commercial pattern. It looks as if this pen marking then 'bleeds' through to the blank sheet, thus giving you the copied pattern.
    Is this a correct interpretation?
    Have you found that the commercial pattern is weakened in those areas where you've drawn the lines? Does the pen marking dry sufficiently that the commercial pattern is still robust?

    I'm based in Australia and haven't (as far as I know) come across Swedish tracing paper. Would you mind trying to describe it and its properties, so that I can try finding a similar alternative here, please?

    With great thanks
    Gillian in Sydney


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