Thursday, 24 May 2012

Tracing vs. cutting - another dimension to the debate?

I think we’re all familiar with the age-old debate: tracing vs. cutting? In very broad terms those who trace are star pupils who view the cutters as sacrilegious and those who cut are rebels who view the tracers as time-wasters. Am I roughly right?

I actually don’t fit into either category and at the risk of being scorned by both camps, I’ve been wondering lately if I should share my rather middle of the road approach. And I decided it would be worth it just to a) maybe present an alternative for stitchers out there and b) find out if there are any other folders about.

You see, I’m definitely not brave enough to cut my pattern pieces out (what if I make a terrible mistake!?!), but I’m far too lazy to trace every darned pattern piece (seriously, who has the time!?!). So instead I fold...I’m a folder – which sums up my middle of the road approach to many things quite nicely really!

It's simple! I snip the edges of my pattern pieces down to the size I think I want.


And then I fold my pattern pieces back.


Voila! As you can see I've only demonstrated the side here...


The beauty of the folding ‘method’ is that it saves loads of time, yet I still have all sizes intact in case I want to make the pattern for someone else or in case I ever need to make adjustments for myself. It can be applied to most pattern pieces, although occasionally there are the odd fiddly/smaller pieces that do need tracing. Best of all, if your pattern piece isn’t particularly ‘curvy’, you can get away without snipping at all and just plain old folding!

So, what do you think? Have I opened your eyes to something new or would you not be caught dead folding your pattern pieces? This could of course be old-hat and I’m just late to the party...that would be so typical!

103 comments:

  1. this is GENIUS! I trace because I usually need to add length and I'd rather not hack the patten paper to pieces (just in case). But I'll definitely keep this approach in mind. clever you!

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    1. Hmmm, I guess this method is easier for someone like me who always takes out length...hopefully it'll come in handy for some patterns though ;o)

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    2. Oh, my goodness! This is so clever. Thanks for sharing

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    3. Love it and this advice came right on time because I was planning to ask the sewing group this question....how can I preserve my patterns by not cutting and using the other sizes at a different time. Thanks,

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  2. I do that, but in not nearly as practical a manner. I actually fold before I trace, which may seem super inefficient. I don't trace basic pieces, just adjust for resizing or shortening by folding and cut. But fit-finicky pieces like bodices I then trace. Because I tear those pieces up with SBAs and such.

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  3. Revelation! I've never thought of doing this. Consider me converted.

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  4. I used to always trace all my patterns (!!!) but now I used a mix of techniques. For Burda patterns, I always trace because, well, there's no alternative. Sometimes I even add the seam allowance, if the pieces are tricky to cut. For pdf patterns that I've printed, I usually fold, because printer paper is quite sturdy and the folded edges are neat.
    For printed patterns I either fold or trace (if the lines are too close or if the piece is very curvy, etc.), but I could NEVER cut the pattern to my size, also because I'm quite distracted and I often cut the wrong size.

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    1. One thing's for sure - there's definitely no one method to fit all scenarios is there?

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  5. LOVE this idea! I'm a cutter but it has landed me in trouble before...definitely thin I'm gong to try this now!!

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    1. Glad to have been of service ;o)

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  6. Great idea - I generally cut but have started tracing a bit more so i can fiddle about to get a better fit.

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  7. I like this idea!!
    I've ended up in both camps - sometimes I'm too lazy to trace so I cut, and other times I'm too scared/paranoid to cut, so I trace. Depends on my mood. This offers an excellent alternative, though!

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  8. Great idea, Marie. This may sound horrible, but one of the reasons I trace is that one day I think I'll get sick of a pattern. I know I can get a better return if I keep it intact if I decide to sell it. Horrible, I know. I'm basically saying that I might one day sell one of my children. Ha!

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    1. That's not at all horrible Mela, it's sensible! I only use this method on modern patterns to be fair...vintage ones are far too precious (and usually already cut out ;o))!

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  9. Um - that's actually amazing - I've never thought of that, seriously! I may now be converted, as all I've ever really done is trace as I'm so afraid of cutting out wrong size or growing bigger/smaller and not being able to use the pattern again! You rock Marie :)

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    1. Hehe, glad you like this 'method' Joanne...let me know how you get on!

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  10. So smart! I'm definitely going to try this next time I cut a pattern.

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  11. Great idea! Why didn't I think of that - this is what I usually say regarding ideas that seem simple but no one else has come up with. I am going to use this idea for myself. Thanks for sharing. Btw I usually cut my patterns, but now I don't need to

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    1. Happy to have offered an alternative!

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  12. I cut AND fold... I only trace small PDF patterns, otherwise I am pretty lazy. I LOVE Your folding technique. I usually only fold up the length if something is too long.

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  13. Hooray! I am a folder/cutter, and it's refreshing to see I am not the only one :) I HATE tracing - hate it. It's not that I think it wastes time, because I don't. I just never have good results when I try and trace. I am definitely that guy who pins that BurdaStyle patterns to my fabric. Yep, I do that. Am I ashamed? Not really - my projects turn out decently. I don't think there is a right or wrong way to do things as long as you like what the final result is :)

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    1. Yay, hello fellow folder! Your projects always come out lovely, so I reckon you should keep doing what you're doing ;o)

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  14. This is totally genius!! I've never thought about doing this!! Generally I don't have too many qualms about cutting - especially if its a modern big 4 pattern (chances are it'll be $1.99 in the future should I regret my decision) But I always trace vintage patterns, or indie patterns because they're a bit more special. NO MORE! Yes! I love finding ways around using up my precious tracing paper...

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    1. Oh yay, glad to have helped!

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  15. I love this idea! I have always been a cutter but I am going to start doing this. Thanks for posting about it.

    Julie

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  16. I do this, too! I'm glad to see I'm not the only one. For some reason, I always thought other sewists would turn their noses up at me for doing it. Though, I don't know why because it works well. As you said, there are always small or curvy pieces that must be traced, but the majority of the larger pieces can be folded. Thanks for posting this and putting my mind at ease regarding the use of this method. ;)

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    1. High five folding sister! ;o)

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  17. What a great idea! I'm totally slapdash with my patterns, I NEVER trace them and butcher them to pieces, hacking them left, right and centre. I was caught out recently when my mother-in-law asked me to make her a Ginger skirt and I realised I'd have to buy the pattern again because I'd cut mine down to my size and she's bigger than me! x

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    1. Jane, I really can't imagine you being slapdash with anything...everything you make is so immaculate!

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  18. I'm so glad you posted this--as the idea never would have occurred to me! This will be such a time (and paper!) saver, especially for larger pieces that don't need adjustments, like full skirts and such. Thank you!

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  19. THAT IS BRILLIANT! i wish i would have know this, thought of this, read this ages ago. thanks:)

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  20. Genius! I'm definitely going to be giving this method a try. Thank you for sharing your idea.

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  21. I am a cutter, so the folding idea sounds smart and quick. I will try it next time I use a pattern. Along those lines, I have always used pins to attach the two pieces I am sewing together, I think most do. My daughter is taking a class in middle school (grade 7, age 13)that includes an intro to sewing and they taught her to sew without pinning?!?! I was flabbergasted. When I had her check the teacher said it started as a safety measure, the kids were poking themselves alot, but they have done so well she says she reserves pins for the most difficult tasks only. So I tried it. Yea, it was so wierd. I had to go slower at first, but with practice I am getting better and more confident. Do you guys use pins? Is that something new that I totally missed?

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    1. Frances, I don't know about other people, but I always pin when sewing. ..unless it's very small pieces! I can't imagine having the talent to get away with no pins at all! Maybe one day...

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  22. Ah, cool. I've sometimes folded straight edges but I never thought to snip to my size before folding the whole thing around. Do you also have a clever solution for marking darts, buttonholes, etc. without tearing up the original pattern tissue with a tracing wheel and carbon paper??

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    1. Hmm, I don't I'm afraid. Though I don't use a tracing wheel for that very reason. I have a very unprofessional way of marking things, whereby I lift the pattern piece up and kind of guess where I need to mark stuff!

      Joanne wrote a good post about this and people left some really useful hints and tips in the comments. Have a look here: http://stitchandwitter.com/2012/01/18/fabric-markings-ill-show-you-mine-if-you-show-me-yours/

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  23. What?! Holy wow! Why did I not think of this? So simple and yet brilliant.




    I love you. LOVE you. This is all.

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  24. O.k. I now crown you Queen of the smart girls. This comming from a tracer. I surely should have thought of that one.

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    1. Wow, high praise indeed! I'm never the kind of person who thinks of 'clever' solutions, so I'm pretty pleased with this one ;o)

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  25. Fantastic method, best of both worlds!

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  26. Look at all the comments on this! I do not cut any premium patterns - it's the inner tightwad in me that says it's bad. I am starting to cut regular patterns that I know I won't ever make again, but I still keep all the outer pattern paper, just incase I need to stick the bits back together. I love your snip and fold technique. I will defo try it out next time.

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    1. Good to know you'll try it!

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  27. This is a brilliant idea! I am a rebel cutter. I used to be a tracer but tracing was one of the things putting me off making things. So I made the jump to the cutting camp. But in the back of my mind everytime I cut I think what if I need one of the other sizes one day. I am totally using this idea! Thanks for sharing.

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  28. I love that! I always cut to the size I think I want to make but this would be so much smarter around some of the areas that if you cut the unique shape away, you can't ever get it right again if you need to go to a different size.

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  29. brilliant! i am a cutter first, a folder, second, and in desperate times, a tracer..... but i never thought to snip before i fold!! no more awkward cutting under angles, huzzah!!

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  30. I love working with vintage patterns because they are already cut for you! But I do cut modern patterns. I occasionally do cut out with a one inch seam or leave the bottom of a bodice long and drape it on my form but I am reckless with my patterns and often fold them terrily and stuff them willy nilly back into the envelope. Never been much for details!

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    1. Whatever you do pays of Justine, because everything you make is just lovely!

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  31. I used to be a cutter. But I have a few patterns which are now too small for me and I can't just cut them bigger! Grrr. So, for the last few years I have been tracing everything. I might try this folding thing with any big straight edged pieces.

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  32. Brilliant! I've folded straight-ish parts out of laziness but it's never occurred to me to snip to make curvier areas easier. Pure genius.

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  33. I sometimes do this, especially if I think I'm going to use a pattern to sew for others. I got a rotary cutter recently and my folding quotient has gone waaay down, though--for some reason I find it way more difficult to rotary cut around the folded edges!

    To be honest, though, unless I think I'm going to sew the pattern for a larger sized friend I don't tend to have particular qualms about cutting patterns down to size.

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    1. That's a fair enough point! I only use this method as my body's a weird shape and I often have to make big tweaks to my muslin...hmphhh!

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  34. I still wouldn't be caught cutting out a pattern, but anyway: WOW! This idea is completely new to me!

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  35. I am a dedicated folder...usually because I use the patterns for myself and my daughter.The only patterns I trace out are Japanese ones or from Ottobre as life is simply just too short.Likewise any vintage pattern I have that has not been previously used and needs cutting I just cut and if it is a pattern purely for me then I just cut.Again life etc.etc.... and patterns either new or vintage are and were meant to be used so just use and enjoy them.

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    1. Good philosophy Catherine!!!

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  36. I too am a snipper and folder - it's what my mother taught me to do. I never knew there was another way until I found sewing blogs!

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    1. I feel even more re-assured that your mother showed you this way...it must be right!!!

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  37. I trace off expensive or precious (usually vintage or independent) patterns and cut into the "Big 4" patterns that I could replace cheaply if I needed to. This is such a simple but great idea that I will have to give it a try in future!

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    1. Good good, hope it works out for you ;o)

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  38. OMG! That's genius! I hate cutting and spend so much time tracing. Thank you so much for this!

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  39. This is such a great compromise Marie ....I'll certainly bear it in mind for certain new makes ...thank you :-)

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  40. I've been doing that for years, mostly with the Kwik Sew patterns for my kids as I knew I'd need the bigger patterns later and I hate the time tracing takes. I still trace the ones from mags and books of course; no choice there.

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    1. It's good to know I'm not alone!

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  41. Wow! This is very timely, as I have a pattern which I intend to sew for myself, but my skinny friend also has her eye on it. I've alsways cut my patterns before, but I'm going to try this method instead. Thank you!

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  42. You're not alone; I'm totally a folder. I also do something even 'lazier' if I have a sheer fabric: nothing. I put the pattern piece under the sheer fabric and cut on the line(s) I need without having cut, traced, or folded my pattern piece at all.

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    1. Oooh, I totally love your lazy approach!!!

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  43. You're a genius. Why have I never thought of this?

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  44. This is such a great idea! So far I always used to trace my patterns because I wanted to save all sizes in case I want to redo the pattern in another size, but always groaning about the waste of time. But from now on i think I will use your method! Thanks for telling!

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  45. Thank you for the idea! I'm very tired of all the piles of traced patterns, that are slowly but surely filling every corner of my house. This could be the solution I have been looking for. I have to try this today! :D

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  46. Awesome idea! I was just disappointed today, when I got my new patterns and they were this direct cut versions. Weird coincidence that I dropped on your blog too. I think I need to read more of your posts and will definitely be linking this post in the post about my new patterns (I have things in line, so it will be published on thursday).

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  47. This is a fantastic idea! I trace because I'm scared of ruining my pattern pieces.

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    1. There are so many easy tracing methods now. You can use, depending on the job:

      --Translucent Swedish Tracing paper and a pencil;

      --A stiletto tracing wheel and paper and then draw in the lines with a curve, a pencil, and a ruler;

      --A stylus that looks like a pen but has no ink and dressmakers' tracing paper.

      I usually use more than one size of the pattern. Many women have a larger bottom half. Picking out the different sizes and doing a rough shape is easier.

      It doesn't make sense to me to go to all the trouble of fitting a pattern without trying to preserve those changes for the next time.

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  48. Oh.My.God! I thought I was the only one! I have always done this. When I learnt to sew around age 11, my mum,(obvs bigger than me), my sister (smaller than me) and I all used the same pattern. There was one pattern that we all made in particular, and I have 'folded' ever since!

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  49. This is the first I've heard of this!!! Thank you from another person who hates cutting out patterns because of size changes, but is too lazy to trace!

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  50. Congrats on being featured with this method on Colette Patten's Blog! This is pure genius when I saw it pop up in my blog reader and I'm glad its got the recognition it deserves!

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    1. Thanks so much...I had no idea so it was a pleasant surprise when I spotted it ;o)

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  51. I'm a folder, too! I tried tracing once and it was just a big mess. Sometimes I still trace curves just to make sure I don't have any weird pointy pieces, but mainly the folding works!

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  52. Oh my God. You are a GENIUS! And this couldn't have come at a better time because I JUST tried to turn myself into a tracer (it felt more responsible) and it annoyed the hell out of me. You saved me and my knees! (I have to trace/cut on the floor because I live in a tiny nyc apartment.)

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  53. I think it's easier, more productive, more thrifty (helpful, with an expensive interest), and more efficient to trace. I always need to make modifications to the pattern, and then to the muslins. I like to keep the pattern in perfect condition in case I need to use other sizes. Tissue paper tears easily.

    It is time-consuming, but that's the price of more reliable results.

    I do a rough trace onto Swedish Tracing Paper of the pattern sizes that are close. I blend and work from there.

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  54. I'm the cheapest person alive, so I've been doing this for years with the idea that one day my daughter might want to have something made from my patterns some day, or in the improbable event that I suddenly become several sizes smaller. The benefit is that you don't have to store the extra copies you get by tracing a pattern. The downside for me is that the patterns become more difficult to fold and are slightly more fragile.

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  55. Ingenious. Will be using this method from here on out! :)

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  56. This is my first time visiting. This is a great idea. I am a cutter and tracer. I'll trace patterns from the independent pattern-makers and cut for the Big 4, since I can usually get them on sale.
    This method really wouldn't work for me tho. I usually fit doing a tissue fitting, and always have to do adjustments.

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  57. Finally somebody comes up with a way to keep the other sizes available on the pattern tissue !! I am forever grateful...I often sew for myself and my two daughters, and we are all different sizes. So when they admire something I've made , and want me to make the same thing for them, I have to go out and buy two more patterns..at a huge extra cost, as you know. I kept thinking there must be a way to use the same pattern in more than one size, and you have found it for me !!

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  58. What a great idea! I usually just attempt to fold my pattern on the right line and/or mark little dots on my fabric and connect the dots.

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  59. Wow, this just blew my mind with its simplicity. Great thinking! I usually just cut it and save the extra bits to reassemble later if I need them, haha. I can't imagine how much work that would be!

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  60. This is brilliant, I can't believe it hadn't occurred to me before. I'm a terrible culprit for cutting and then having to re-buy the pattern to cut a different size! Thanks for the tip :)

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  61. I've been a folder since home-ec classes in high school eons ago! My instructor recommended the technique! For the small fiddly pieces, stuff the whole tracing bit out the window and photo copy the pieces. Trim the copy to the sizing you want and bob's your uncle!

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  62. I'm a folder. Always have been as that's what my mum does, and I just thought it was normal and what everyone did. Glad I now know there are camps of people with different views, will stop me from potentially putting my foot in it with someone in the future!

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  63. Such a cool idea! I'm a diligent tracer as I can't bring myself to cutting a pattern unless it's an online version... But I will give this a try and hopefully become faster

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  64. I don't fold or trace patterns that are on transparent paper. I weigh down the paper over the fabric and just hold the scissors under the line for my size and cut. It's worked fine thus far.

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  65. This will save me tons and tons of time!!! Thanks so much! Not to mention you're saving me from back pain since I usually trace on the living room floor (how I envy those of you with dedicated sewing areas!) :) Thank you for sharing!

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  66. This is a revelation to me! Thank you. I usually have to upsize but on Colette patterns I do need to down size and this is much easier.

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  67. Yep, I'm a folder too. Although, on curved areas I'll slap some chalked/waxed paper under the pattern and run the tracing wheel over it, directly on to the fabric. Good tip regarding the cuts in - I'll be using that one sometimes as well now.

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  68. I'm a cutter where modern patterns are concerned (the vintage patterns I use are typically single-size anyway) but my measurements typically fall across a span of sizes. This is a brilliant way to keep them all intact!

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  69. I am so glad I stumbled across this ethos while procrastinating on tracing the BHL Anna skirt portion! Hopefully I will be converted to this solution, thanks for sharing :)

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