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Sunday, 22 March 2015

Shortcuts for tracing and cutting out

Giselle asked me to pop this note in the blog - thank you Giselle!
Getting all the right equipment has been a quiet obsession of mine in recent years. And an expensive one. Sewing isn't cheap when you decide to do things properly, is it? Even though I sourced my Horn sewing cabinet on eBay, I still had to spend £50 on the insert to fit my ancient John Lewis machine. Even though I sourced my as-new Janome overlocker the same way, I still had to drive across England to pick it up.
Still I am quite proud of my little home-made shortcuts for tracing and cutting out tools.

Cutting tables are expensive. Here in my narrow attic landing - AKA my sewing room - is a six foot long folding banqueting table that I am loving using as a cutting table, laying out table, anything table. Approx £30 from Amazon. The height is not ideal - I have to be careful how I lean over it. 
Have you noticed - tracing paper is ridiculously expensive? We all have our shortcuts for this problem. I read on a forum that gardener's fleece is good. This is a floaty but surprisingly strong stuff on a huge, huge roll used to stop plants getting frost damage. Prices vary but £19.99 for 100 metres is normal. It is 1.5m wide. You can see it sitting on the left hand side of the table which I have cleared of all stuff, as I am about to trace a pattern. 
It is the Renfrew top from Sewaholic. I have made it in size 16, I love it but it is quite large so I want to try it in a size 14 using a great cotton jersey from Goldhawk Road with Jackson Pollock splashes all over.
So I lay the pattern pieces on my table:

And then with a swift, graceful yet decisive movement as of a Downton Abbey maid changing the bedsheets of a dissolute aristocrat, I just whisk the gardener's fleece over my pattern pieces and weigh it down where I need it weighed down, using a set of 16 50ml cosmetic jars filled with lead shot (used for fishing tackle) all also obtained on eBay. Not as lovely as Matt the Sewing Bee's polished stones, but serviceable. We all have our own priorities for cutting weights and mine were: cheapness and flat bottoms. 

You can see from the picture above how the gardener's fleece is so fine that you can barely see it there. A cinch to trace over - and so cheap I do not feel obliged to save little bits and corners of it. The odd yellow thing with white spots is the bag I made to keep my weights in - it is sewn from some hand-batik-ed curtain fabric which we salvaged from the  house I grew up in, and it was made by an artist friend of my parents  in the 1950s. I have several pieces of his fabric which I am very attached to. 
I then traced my pattern pieces and cut them out. I have to say, I wish I hadn't used a black Sharpie pen this time as now I have little black marks all over my new cutting table where the Sharpie has gone through the fleece. Last time I used a ordinary finliner pen and it was perfectly adequate, and left no marks. You live and learn. 


  1. What a load of brilliant ideas! At the last monthly meeting in March another member had traced her patterns using builder's polythene, another cheap and robust method.

  2. Sarah, your blog post is so inspiring! I just moved house so I now get to set up my own sewing area - being able to see the photos of yours is so useful, thank you! You did a great job with the space you have available.
    I also love all your suggestions, the gardener's fleece, the table, all of it.
    Maybe more of us could do posts on what kinds of gadgets we use? It could be really useful to others.

    The black smudges on your table: I often use washing up liquid on a bit of paper tissue to rub off smudges, and if that doesn't work you could try nail varnish remover - I hope one of those works. Fingers crossed.

    Thanks so much again for writing a fantastic blog post!

    1. Thank you Giselle I will get to work with the nail varnish remover this weekend!

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  4. Thanks for the suggestions! I will certainly be looking for gardeners fleece. it looks like a great, inexpensive solution.

    1. Hi Jenn, it comes on a big roll just like a bolt of fabric and there are lots of suppliers on eBay. I have seen complaints on forums that it is hard to draw on and I would disagree. It takes a pen mark fairly well - just don't use a Sharpie!

  5. Also: I think I can speak for all when I say that we are looking forward to seeing your Pollock splash Renfrew top made up.

    Are you getting on well with it? And how did the smaller size work out? Isn't sewing just great fun!


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