Turn a Commercial Pattern Into a Permanent Pattern





Introduction: Turn a Commercial Pattern Into a Permanent Pattern

This instructable details how to turn a commercial pattern (those awful tissue patterns) into a permanent, easily reusable pattern.  The benefits of having a permanent pattern is that they're much harder to destroy, they're easier to work with (no pinning!), and a single pattern can be used to create multiple sizes without needing to buy addition pattern packages.  Once you have a permanent pattern, you can weigh it down on your material and trace directly onto material using tailor's chalk or a pencil.

Before making a suggestion, please read through the replies that have already been posted.  There's a good chance it's already been discussed at least once.

Step 1: Materials

You will need:
  • "Weights"
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Posterboard
  • Light colored marker
  • Black marker
  • Hole punch set
  • Hammer
  • Scissors
  • Straight-edge or ruler
  • Self-healing Mat
  • Pattern

Step 2: Loosely Cut

Loosely cut out the pattern piece.  Don't worry about being precise.

Step 3: Iron

Gently iron the pattern piece on medium heat without steam.  Steam can damage the pattern.  Be careful!

Step 4: Weight

Weight the pattern piece down on the posterboard.  Try to conserve space, but don't put lines on edges - give a little buffer room.

Step 5: Trace

Using a light-colored marker, lightly mark the pattern lines by gently marking over/through the tissue pattern piece.  This takes some gentle work to keep the lines correct.  Be sure to mark all the triangles, guides, darts, grainlines, etc. for the size you are making unless you already know they are not necessary for what you are making.

Note:  The marker will trace through the pattern paper.  This photo is just to demonstrate how the ink bleeds through which is what you want.  If you look at the upper part of the photo, you will see the green marker that I used going over the pattern paper, and you can see the result at the lower part of the photo.  There's no need for tracing paper or flipping the pattern paper up and down to get the lines right.

Step 6: Retrace and Label

Retrace the markings you made and label appropriately.  Use a straight-edge/ruler to make nice crisp lines.  It isn't necessary to mark the outside edge so long as you can easily see it.

Label the piece number, cutting instructions, size, and pattern name and number.

Step 7: Cut

Cut out the piece and all indentations.

Step 8: Punch

Using a hole punch and hammer, punch out the markings on a self-healing mat.



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    36 Discussions

    What about saving a pattern on a fabric like white canvas or muslin? most muslin is 90-108" wide so you only need to buy half the fabric needed for a particular pattern, maybe less since everything everything is single thickness and not cut on a fold, you can mark them with Sharpie, put a tiny piece of stabilizer and make holes, and for storage it can folded. When cutting the pattern it has weight and wont be affected by a draft and lays flat on fabric you're cutting. Also, this allows for bigger projects like full dresses to have the pattern pieces saved in one piece instead of frakenstein-ing smaller piece together. If the fabric gets wrinkled you can press it back.

    I hope this is ok to post. I already have my patterns but am looking for someone/a company who can cut them for me ie cut the fabric itself rather than create the patterns. Does anyone know where I could go for this?

    2 replies

    This is something I am also looking for. I make clothing for Etsy, but have Carpal Tunnel on both sides! I need someone else to cut.

    Hi Katejenkins and retroronda !

    I would be happy to cut your fabrics. I have a part-time job in Virginia and I am looking for this kind of opportunities to fill up the rest of my time and earn a bit of extra money.

    I am not a professional but I have sewn a few dresses and skirts for myself. They came out pretty good and I really enjoyed all parts of the process.

    Let me know if you are still interested and we can talk about it!

    I love this. I did it and it is so wonderful to not have to cut and pin fabric around those atrocious tissue paper patterns. Thank you for this. I do have a question for you though what do you do when the pattern is larger than your posterboard?

    I read through quite a few of the comments, and I am sorry if I missed this. But where would you recommend buying cardboard in larger amounts. I need rolls of thick quality cardboard for my patterns because the basic sheets at the stores are not long enough.

    Thank you.

    I read through a lot of the comments and did not find my method. I use this mainly for doll clothes and sewing projects other than human clothes, scrub hats, bags, etc. I was the fortunate recipient of several boxes ( couple hundred sheets) of xray film. Theses were outdated and could not be used and would have been thrown out. They are lightly tinted, but I can still see through them to fussy-cut. They are about 15x20 inches so work great for smaller pieces. (That's why they wouldn't be good for large clothes patterns). I just cut out the tissue pattern and trace it onto the film. I can mark all the guidelines. I store these in large plastic bags with the original pattern envelope or, if they are too large for the bag, in the drawer in one of my great yard sale finds, a drafting table. The table is solid, by solid I mean heavy, wood. It measures 4' by 8'. It is higher, great for cutting while standing. The drawer is very large but only about 3" deep. Still it holds lots of patterns for sewing, crafting, and stained glass.

    HELP PLEASE. I just found this site; got all my materials and ready to copy to posterboard. But I need to sew all 3 sizes men's vests. HOW? You indicated this could be done, but if I cut along the line for one size, I cannot see how I can go back, using the same posterboard, and cut out other sizes. I'm desperate to get started but afraid to make the first cut! H E L P. And great thanks for this tute.

    2 replies

    You trace one size of a pattern piece onto the poster board, move the pattern piece to a clean section of poster board, trace another size, and so on. So if there are 8 pieces for each vest and you need that vest in 3 sizes, you will wind up with 24 poster board pieces all together.

    FOLLOWUP ON "HELP PLEASE" message just sent. To reply, my email:


    Eagerly waiting response and again, thanmks so much.

    Amazing. I am going to do this. I am just starting to sew and am startng to hate the pattern material.

    1 reply

    I usually copy all my at patterns to muslin, but really like the poster board.

    Thanks for the excellent 'ible!


    1 reply

    A much easier way to safeguard much loved/used patterns is to use medium weight iron-on interfacing/stabiliser. just turn pattern over and iron on, cut out and voila.
    I used to transfer patterns to cardboard but I found that storage beacame an issue and the folds started to tear after being used lots... good idea though...

    1 reply

    I don't fold them. I hang them in the closet or against a wall, or I store them under the bed where they won't get wrecked. Your method has already been discussed.

    Saral Wax Free Transfer Paper comes in 12 ft. rolls, in many colors, for about $10/roll.

    Also, a low vapor altenative to spray adhesive is a product that is used in the screen-printing industry called "table adhesive" which is a yogurt-consistency paste that you spread on with a card.

    3 replies

    Those 12' rolls are only 12.5" wide which would mean layering out a few of them to do a pant leg, full skirt, coat, etc., and in general, it would require more time than tracing with a light colored sharpie marker.  You can buy a dozen blue sharpie markers for $10.

    Any type of adhesive on commercial pattern paper (worse than the tissue paper you buy for stuffing gift bags and what not) would be a nightmare and would likely result in failure more often than success which means purchasing more and more patterns for each piece you ruin.  The paper will likely roll onto itself and then tear if you try to pull it apart.  Putting it on the poster board and then putting the pattern on that would be incredibly difficult and would likely fail or result in so many creases and wrinkles that the pattern would be ruined.  Additionally, gluing the pattern onto the poster board would mean you only get 1 size.

    Well, you just can't beat with Sharpie markers!

    The Saral transfer paper would indeed be more expensive, and may not be appropriate for this use.

    The table adhesive, however, is low tac, and is designed to temporarily hold fa bric in place, so might perhaps be useful for other projects involving positioning of fabrics.

    I can see the adhesive being helpful in holding a permanent pattern down on the fabric, but then there's an issue of storing the pattern once it has adhesive on it especially over time and poster board against poster board being pressed against one another.

    Professionals use pattern weights and tailor's chalk (or a pencil or whatever), and it's quick to mark the outline of a pattern onto the fabric. All you need are a few cans of tomato paste ($0.33/each; or whatever it is that you'd like to use to weight your pattern down) and tailor's chalk ($1; or a pencil for $0.10).

    Another reason to use the pattern weights has to do with matching fabric prints. It's pretty easy to slide a permanent pattern around on fabric, but it's trickier to reposition a permanent pattern with adhesive on it - you'll have to pull the whole thing up repeatedly and carefully make sure the entire thing is pulled the way you want it for the entire pattern piece before laying the pattern on the fabric.

    And then there's an issue of what the adhesive might do to organza or any of the sheer fabrics.

    It might be useful if you're doing a line of solid color broadcloth dresses and need to cut out all the pieces in a day.  I imagine my mother would have loved to have had a permanent pattern with table adhesive applied to it when she was sewing a bunch of skirts and caplets for a children's Christmas chorus performance.  However, I don't know if it would be a good thing in the long-term generally.  I guess it would heavily depend on what your needs were.  Making a ton of bags with irritating pattern pieces?  Go for it.  Making a floral-print satin and organza ball gown?  Avoid it.