Gotta Have It: Swedish Tracing Paper

by Lorie on February 25, 2010

Swedish Tracing Paper? Seriously?

I admit I often like to do things the hard way. A little sweat never hurt anyone, and well, if you do it the hard way, you learn it the right way….right? I feel this way sometimes about sewing notions because there are a dizzying number of products out there, and you can’t own every one of them. Nevertheless, I’ve been proven wrong enough times you’d think I would know better. One such experience happened to me recently when I went to the Rocky Mountain Sewing Exposition and happened upon a booth selling Swedish Tracing Paper.

Swedish Tracing paper is a soft, see-through, non-woven material used to trace pattern pieces. Huh. I was skeptical. Why did I need to trace pattern pieces and why would I care if the tracing could be sewn? Isn’t that what a muslin is for? I didn’t have much time, and the product wasn’t very expensive, and I know you gals like to hear about all the best notions—so I bought it and went on my way.

A few weeks later, I was sewing for my girls, who happen to fall under the same pattern size range. I was cutting out the pieces from the large tissue, realizing there were some intricacies to the pattern that would be hard to get onto the fabric without cutting the pattern to size, thus needing two patterns to get both sizes. I reached for my tracing wheel and carbon, and then stopped. I pulled out the Swedish Tracing Paper and placed it over the pattern.

My favorite marking tool of choice—the common pencil—came out and I began tracing on the smooth, fabric–like paper. I could easily see the lines, marks, and words on the pattern underneath. Tracing one pattern piece took about 3 minutes, and at the end, I had an exact copy of the size I needed. OK—I was pretty happy, but would it last?

I cut out the pattern pieces from the tracing paper. Ah-it’s far easier to cut out the tracing paper than the tissue. No tears, no wrinkles, and more stability. Bravo! I took the tracing paper pattern to my daughter and began to “fit it” to her to be certain the size I chose would fit. The tracing paper molds to the body shape and stays in place. I noticed the length was too short, so I added a piece to the bottom and sewed the pattern together. No tape to stick to other pattern pieces or turn yellow and gummy over time. Brilliant!

Next, I placed the tracing paper pattern on the fabric. Oh my gosh! The texture of the tracing paper was keeping it in place on the fabric. I didn’t even have to pin it, though I did weigh it down for cutting. What an improvement over slippery tissue paper that’s impossible to keep in one place! I cut out the fabric—perfection. No weird cutting oddities created by sliding tissue.

Need I say that I’m hooked on Swedish Tracing Paper? This is one of those notions that truly makes the job easier. It seems like I had to take an extra step in the sewing process, but it relieved so many of the problems I find with traditional patterns, it was well worth the few minutes it took to trace the pattern.

Here are a few thoughts I had while working with it:

- Be sure to put all of the same info on the tracing paper that’s on the pattern, including the pattern manufacturer, number, grainline, markings, piece number, and add the size you’re tracing.

- Keep the tracing paper pieces along with the pattern in a plastic bag. Even if you don’t use them again, if you give your patterns to another seamstress later, she may have some use for the tracings.

- Swedish Tracing Paper lends itself well to rotary cutting since it grabs the fabric and doesn’t move easily. If you’ve tried using a rotary cutter for clothing patterns and found it difficult, try again with the tracing paper. You’ll love it!

- You can find Swedish Tracing Paper on the Internet, but it might be difficult to find locally. You can try a lightweight non-woven, non-fusible interfacing or stabilizer instead to see if that works as well, but the texture would require some smoothness to take the markings easily and it would be hard to sew.

- If you use pen to trace the pattern, know that it may bleed and obscure the pattern underneath. Chalk would likely rub off easily. A plain pencil works just great!

- Since you can sew on the paper and it does flex, it makes a great alternative to a muslin, though it may be a bit less drapeable.

- Definitely use this product on any pattern you foresee using more than once. It will help to simplify your cutting process!

Don’t do everything the hard way when there are great notions out there that will help you do the job more easily! Stay tuned to You Can Sew This and we’ll keep you posted on the best notions on the market!

Where to find Swedish Tracing Paper? Readily available on the Web with a quick search on Google!

{ 23 comments }

1 Natalie 02.25.10 at 11:58 pm

Isn’t this the most fabulous stuff??! It is fantastic for the European patterns you have to trace anyway, but for all those paper and tissue paper patterns, it makes it so you can re-use the pattern in different sizess. I love love love it and I’m glad you have discovered it. :)

2 Jan 02.26.10 at 5:58 am

I’ve been using non fusible stablizer for years….it’s easy to see thru, it can be sewn to add that hem or extra inch, it’s easy to write on with a pencil. It’s not as drapeable as this might be, but for fit I don’t need drape. And it’s a lot cheaper than I can find this Swedish Tracing Paper online….ok, actually the paper isn’t that much more expensive, it’s the $8 or more shipping PER ROLL that everyone seems to want. So, until my local store starts carrying it, I’ll keep buying a bolt of stabilzer when it’s 99cents a yard and using that. The best price I could find for the 10 yard Swedish Tracing Paper was about that same cost (tho it’s not as wide as the stabilizer) but the shipping is ridiculous.

But thanks for the great review, I’ll wait for it to come to a store near me and give it a try when it’s cost effective.

3 Jenny 02.26.10 at 6:20 am

I get a tracing paper from Joann’s. They sell it by the yard and it is kept with the interfacing. It is $1.99/yard, but Joann’s frequently has interfacing on sale for 50% off, and I just stock up on it then. It may not be as nice as the Swedish tracing paper, but it’s inexpensive and readily available–both pluses to me!
~Jenny~

4 Nicole Scott 02.26.10 at 7:40 am

I trace off almost all my patterns, now. Too many times I’ve cut into a favorite and then not been able to find it again when I needed a larger size.

I’ve never tried Swedish tracing paper, though. I’m intrigued. And yea! we got paid today, so I might just have to go get some!

5 Andrea 02.26.10 at 7:48 am

I’ve been using the STP for some time now an it is by far the best! In a pinch I will use the pattern-ease/easy-patterns that Joanns sells but STP is my 1st choice. I buy numerous rolls at a time through a co-op I belong to :D

6 Judy McNew 02.26.10 at 7:54 am

I have been needing a tracing paper and didn’t know what to use. I use to get tracing paper from Stretch n Sew back in the 90′s it was awesome and would stick to the fabric or you could use weights but they closed all there stores. Thanks for all the comments it will help me find what I need now never thought of using the stabilizer.

7 TinaH 02.26.10 at 8:51 am

I know this sounds like a cheapo, but I go to a hospital supply company and buy the same white paper that they use in clinics on their exam tables. It is cheap. It comes on a roll. It is fairly durable too.

8 Auntie Mimi 02.26.10 at 9:08 am

Just got your email newsletter today. Boy I wish I had known about both the Swedish Tracing Paper and the comments on substituting the non-fusible stabilizer. I’m a costumer for College and High School plays and the play I’m costuming now has two princes in it and they must be alike but made with different fabrics. I cut out the pattern pieces in a medium for one and intended to buy another pattern so I could cut out the second prince in a large. I have many pattern duplicates because I used to choose to do this. These comments and the article on STP have saved me some serious money. I’m going to trace the medium using stabilzer and gather the cut off pieces I put in a bag and put the large together . Thanks to you all you learn something everyday.

9 Sherrie Tucker 02.26.10 at 10:21 am

What pattern are you tracing?? :) I’ve gotta try that stuff. I use tissue paper all the time and I’m tired of it ripping.

Thanks for the great tip!

10 Ginger 02.26.10 at 7:11 pm

Sounds like neat stuff. I’ll have to see if I can find it locally. I’ve always used the Dr’s office paper for tracing.

11 Krista 02.28.10 at 12:20 am

I have gotten it at sewbaby.com in the past and found it fairly reasonable, (about $1.20 a yard)…and quick shipping, but in a pinch I use interfacing also. Here is some info:
SewBaby.com, swedish tracing paper, sold by the roll: 10 yard roll, 29 inches width. This flexible yet firm tracing paper is ideal for tracing patterns. You can see through it, so all you have to do is lay it over the pattern, and then trace over the size that you need with a marker or pen. You can even sew this tracing paper into a model garment to get your fit just right before you sew your pattern up in more expensive fabric.

Thanks YCMT…for always keeping things REAL!

12 Florentina Designs 03.01.10 at 10:46 am

Great Info! I can’t wait to try the Swedish tracing paper! Thanks to everyone for sharing !

13 April 03.03.10 at 1:32 pm

I have been buying a roll of tracing paper in the art supplies department at Hobby Lobby. Works well as it is definitely thicker and more durable than tissue paper. Would be cool to have something that sticks to the fabric though…I may have to look into actual Swedish Tracing Paper.

14 Bronwyn 03.13.10 at 1:22 am

My mom went to Stretch & Sew all the time when I was a kid. The tracing paper that Judy McNew is referring to is called Do-Sew. I did a search and was surprised to find that S&S is actually still in business online! They even have old patterns for sale. I tried to “dummy up” an order to see how much shipping would be, but the shopping cart wasn’t functioning (it kept telling me that my cart was empty). Their price is $1.20/yd plus whatever shipping costs.
http://www.stretch-and-sew.com/do_sew.html

Do-Sew was/is wonderful! I remember my mom using it all the time to “try on” outfits for us kids or for adjusting sizes from one kid to the other. I think Mom must have bought a big roll of the stuff when S&S was closing because she kept pulling it out year after year and never seemed to run out.

On a side note, I found a nice article from 2004 about Ann Person, the founder of Stretch & Sew. She received a Hall of Fame award from the American Sewing Guild. She was turning 80 that year. I think she must have died since then because the S&S website has a little thanks-for-shopping-our-store-type note that is signed only by Ann’s daughter and granddaughter who run the business.
http://www.asg.org/files/hall/2004_Person.pdf

15 Laura 03.21.10 at 10:46 am

This stuff is the best. I was also skeptical, and then when fitting a blouse for my plus sized self, I tried it. Really useful product.

16 Amanda 03.27.10 at 7:54 am

All right! Now I’m looking for my very own Swedish Tracing Paper! You made it sound so wonderful, I really wonder how I’ve lived without it for this long! Thank you for reviewing this product ~ you did a wonderful job!

17 Connie T 04.01.10 at 9:15 am

Oh Lorrie…I use it ALL The time!! Welcome to the world of swedish tracing paper…and you know you can sew it so you can do all your fitting with it as well!!
Acts like cloth

And I also like to use that 1″ gridded cloth paper that quilters use…(I am not a quilter) but if you need like just rectangle and squares and such…it is easy to measure out…just cut the squares (inches) you need!!

18 Micah 04.06.10 at 8:29 am

I love swedish tracing paper!! I have been using it for years!!

19 Joan from Hawaii 04.06.10 at 3:15 pm

Thanks for sharing about the swedish tracing paper…I found some on e-bay if anyone is interested….

20 Aurora 05.03.10 at 2:17 pm

I use it…… many years!!! i call this: papel de seda
Is used in Spain for crafts, patterns…. sold in stationery stores, and the price is really low!!
Used in primary schools, such as tracing paper for maps, drawings.
Beautiful blog!

21 Linda 05.11.10 at 6:09 pm

There is a product called “Do Sew” that is a wonderful tracing medium as well – it is soft textured and easy to work with – almost fabric like. It would work for any tracing project you have. We use and sell it at the small garment and sewing shop where I work in Upstate NY. They sell it in 5 and 10 yard rolls – the “boss” who is 75 years YOUNG wouldn’t keep house without it!! And she has been selling it for 35 years at her store. That and her Fashion Ruler are always at hand. Makes tracing long lines of patterns really easy.

22 SherryB 05.11.10 at 7:26 pm

If you can’t find it locally, you may purchase Do Sew at http://www.stretch-and-sew.com/. I’ve used it for more than 30 years; it’s a great product, reasonably priced. It’s available in 5-, 10-, and 50-yard rolls on the website.

23 sewiknittoo 07.28.10 at 7:38 am

You were so right cutting out the pattern with the a rotary cutting with the tracing paper as a pattern on top of fabric is soo much easier I was so excited I had to blog about it.

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