How To Trace A Pattern Onto Fabric

When making a garment, we first design the patterns of these garments on paper or any other material. We then transfer these patterns onto the specific fabric to sew the garment on. Depending on your sewing skill, there are many methods you can use to transfer the pattern onto the fabric.

How To Trace A Pattern Onto Fabric?

Tracing the pattern from a window to a piece of fabric is one of the most common methods to transfer patterns to fabric. Place the tracing paper with the pattern on it on a window. Then place your fabric onto the tracing paper and trace the pattern onto the fabric with a pencil. When the light from outside hits the window, you can easily see the pattern and transfer it to the fabric easily.

Method 1. Tracing On A Lightbox Or Window

Step 1. Have your pattern on a piece of paper. The paper you should be firm. Hang or fix the pattern on a window in your working area. Make sure that there is ample light coming through the window. 

Step 2. Bring your fabric to the pattern on the window. Fix the fabric directly on top of the pattern. You can use masking tape to fix both the pattern and the fabric with masking tape. 

Step 3. Using a sharp pencil, trace the pattern onto the fabric. Thanks to the light coming through the window, you have a clear view of the pattern you are transferring to the fabric.

Step 4. Take your fabric from the window and the pattern. Confirm that the pattern is clear on the fabric. That you can work with it as it is. When you confirm that the pattern is clear, you can now take down the pattern from the window and start working on your pattern. 

If your pattern is not clear on the fabric, you will have to trace it again. You can use a different colored pen to do it this time for better clarity. 

Method 2. Tracing Wheel

Step 1. To transfer your pattern in this method you will need to have the following tools and materials. A tracing wheel, pattern, fabric, cutting mat, and dressmaker’s carbon paper.

The tracing wheel method is suitable to use when you are working with pattern markings and 

Step 2. Place your fabric on the cutting mat. The cutting mat prevents you from cutting your working table when you start cutting. Place your dressmaker’s carbon paper on the fabric. Then, place your pattern on top of the carbon paper. Make sure that the pattern is properly aligned with the fabric. You can use pins to fix the pattern on the fabric. 

Step 3. Take your tracing wheel and roll it on the pattern. Make sure to follow the lines of the pattern as they are. When working with straight lines, you can use a ruler to transfer straight lines to your fabric. 

Step 4. Remove the pattern and the carbon paper from the fabric. Confirm that you have a nice outline of the pattern on your fabric. If the pattern is not clear, then you can redraw it with chalk or a different colored pen. 

Method 3. Using Iron On Heat Sensitive Pens Or Pencils

Step 1. Place tracing paper on the pattern that you want to transfer. This means that you will transfer the pattern to the tracing paper before it gets to the fabric. At this stage, trace only with an ordinary pencil.

Step 2. Turn the tracing paper around. Then from the backside, trace along with the pattern with the iron-on pencil. When tracing, make sure that you press the iron on the pencil firmly on the design. When you have finished tracing, wipe the tracing paper of any pencil leftovers that can transfer to the fabric.

Step 3. Place the tracing paper face down on the fabric. Make sure to pin the tracing paper onto the fabric so that it holds firmly on the fabric. 

Step 4. Turn on your iron and set it to a medium heat setting. Place the hot iron on your tracing paper. Press the iron firmly on every part of the tracing paper to ensure that the pattern is properly and completely transferred onto the fabric. Iron several times to make sure that the design fully transfers to the fabric. 

Method 4. Printing Directly Onto The Fabric

Step 1. Identify the pattern that you want to transfer to the fabric by printing. Make sure that you have the right dimensions of the pattern so that you can set up the correct size fabric in the printer. You also need to have a laserjet printer that will print easily on a piece of fabric. 

Step 2. Load your fabric into the printer. Make sure that it is properly ironed and that it is well placed in the printer. Press print.

Step 3. The design will then be printed onto your fabric directly. This method is quick and fast. You don’t need to transfer your pattern to tracing paper then to the fabric. You bypass all the other stages and materials to print directly from the source to the fabric. 

Step 4. You can also back your fabric with freezer paper. This ensures that it stands properly in the printer and eases the printing process. Once you have finished printing, you can remove the freezer paper backing you place on the fabric. 

Method 5. Using Tear Away Stabilizer

Step 1. This method works best when you have to transfer your pattern to a dark-colored fabric. With a dark-colored fabric, you can’t see through it even if you placed it against a window to provide light. 

Step 2. Draw your pattern onto a tear-away stabilizer. Use a sharp pencil to draw on the stabilizer. 

Step 3. Place the stabilizer on top of your fabric. Then bring your fabric to the sewing machine and sew your stabilizer onto the fabric. Sew along the lines of the pattern from the stabilizer to the fabric.

Step 4 Confirm that the whole pattern has been stitched onto the fabric from the stabilizer. 

Step 5. Then tear away the stabilizer from the fabric. Tear as close as possible to the fabric to ensure that you get most if not all of your tear-away stabilizer. Using tear away stabilizer brings a lot of detail to the pattern on the fabric. This is because sewing adds more depth and substance to the pattern. 

You can soak the fabric in water to ensure that any remainder of the stabilizer on the fabric is removed. 

What Tools Are Used To Mark Fabric?

When you are transferring images to a piece of fabric, you need to sure that you have everything you need. One of the most important skills to have as a seamstress is to learn how to mark fabrics expertly. 

When transferring, one of the key stages that many forget is testing. Test the tools that you are going to use on a piece of scrap fabric similar to the one that you are working on. This ensures that you know what to expect based on your skills.

One of the most important tools that is often overlooked in making marks that will be transferred from one fabric or material to another is the disappearing ink marker. This tool has two ends. A water-soluble end and a disappearing ink end. 

The water-soluble end ensures that your marking can only be removed once the fabric is in water. It is much safer to use this end as it helps to maintain markings on the fabric until it is dipped in water. 

The tailor’s chalk is another tool that you can use to make markings. It is triangular in shape./ Depending on its color it can easily be used to make markings on the fabric when transferring patterns and designs to other fabrics.

Tailor’s wax is another tool used to make markings on the fabric. When you use this tool, make sure not to use an iron. The wax used may melt and smudge the fabric. 

Terms And Symbols In Sewing That You Need To Know And Understand

When transferring patterns onto fabrics and even when sewing generally, there are specialized terms of sewing that you need to understand.

The first term that you need to understand is grainline. Grainlines are lines on the fabric that show how it should look. You need to find them when cutting a piece of fabric to make sure that you cut according to the shape and structure of the fabric. 

A notch is a sewing symbol used to indicate the place on your sewing where you should place two pieces of fabric before you join them together. 

Dots on patterns indicate the start and stop points when sewing. They are also a point of matching up to other markings. 

Cutting lines are thick black lines on the edges of the patterns. IF you need to cut anything out, these lines guide you on where and how to cut.



I'm Jessica Flores, a professional fashion designer and an expert seamstress. Crafting has always been a deep-seated passion of mine, one that has flourished and evolved over the years. I've dedicated considerable time to both studying and practicing in the realm of fashion and sewing, amassing a wealth of experience and skills. It brings me great joy to share these insights and experiences with you all, hoping to inspire and foster a similar passion for the art of sewing.

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