how to preserve a pattern: freezer paper

Today Sarvi returns to explain how to preserve a sewing pattern by using freezer paper.


Preserving your pattern freezer-paper---thumb


What It Is

Freezer paper is a heavyish paper that has a slick plastic coating on one side. It reminds me of the paper they use to wrap fish at the market, a bit water-resistant on one side. It is not wax paper or parchment paper, though it comes on a roll in the same sort of cardboard box. When you lay it over fabric and run a warm iron over it, it adheres lightly to the fabric so you don’t need pins. It does not fuse with or melt anything into the fabric as wax would. I had a bit of trouble envisioning how it would work until I’d handled some.


Preserving your pattern freezer01-paper-roll


Preserving your pattern freezer02-plastic-coating


Preserving your pattern freezer03-sticky-back


How to Use It

Although it is not transparent, freezer paper is translucent enough to see the lines of a pattern through, even without being backlit. If you have a big window and prefer working vertically, or if you just need a little more contrast, you can tape your pattern sheet to a window and tape the freezer paper over it. Here, I’m using a large-scale print of the Lullaby Layette PDF pattern, which I’ve laid on my dining table. I’ve torn a piece of freezer paper from the roll to make it a little easier to handle.


Preserving your pattern freezer04-line-up-edge


I’m taking advantage of the straight edge of the paper, and laying the freezer paper plastic side down, lined up with the longest straight line of the pattern piece I’m tracing. I’ve weighted it with things I have lying around (like a can of beans) and taped one corner that wanted to fly away. I’m using blue painter’s tape that lifts off without tearing the paper, and I’ve turned one under corner of the tape to make a little tab to grab it by.


Preserving your pattern freezer05-tape-tab


How to Mark It

It’s paper, so a good old-fashioned number 2 pencil works great! You could use whatever you had handy — pens, pencils, markers. The paper side you’re marking on has a bit of ‘tooth’ to it so you might want to have a pencil sharpener handy to freshen your point. It’s a bit tricky to photograph but I can actually see well enough to trace the tiny letters on the pattern piece. Once you have everything traced (don’t forget to copy all the markings for pleats, folds, grain lines) you can cut it out with regular paper scissors.

Just like with ordinary tracing paper, once you have your pattern all traced and cut out, you can treat your single-size copy as a new master pattern. If the iron is too warm, I find it warps my self-healing mat a bit, so I like to iron my fabric, then unplug the iron and let it cool down while I arrange the pieces on the fabric to see how I want to cut them. Once your iron has cooled a bit, adhere the freezer paper pieces to your fabric and trace around the edges of the pieces with a pencil or chalk, then peel the freezer paper away and cut out the pieces with a rotary cutter or scissors. You can also just carefully cut around the edges with a rotary cutter before peeling. After you’ve ironed the freezer paper a few times it becomes less sticky, but you can still use the pieces as you would a regular paper pattern, by pinning or weighting them in place. You might want to do this anyway; for example, if you’re trying to pack the pieces tightly into a small piece of fabric and a pattern piece will nestle better if it’s flipped coated-side-up.

Where to Find It

I get my freezer paper at the supermarket, and I’ve also found it at bulk supply stores like Smart&Final here in the US. Since it’s also sold explicitly as a craft supply (says so right on the box) I would imagine you could also find it at hobby or craft shops. Readers outside of the US, please chime in with sources that have worked for you, if you know of them! It costs a few dollars a roll.

Tomorrow: Swedish tracing paper



  1. carol

    Great idea! I have always bought special pattern paper online. Since I have freezer paper on hand I am going to give it a try. Looking forward to your upcoming post. Thanks!

  2. Sharon

    I have always wanted to try using freezer paper, I will have to give it a go. Thank you for sharing Sarvi!

  3. Natalie

    Thanks for the lesson! I’m kind of a newbie and was trying to trace my patterns on regular gift tissue paper — arg! Kind of challenging.

  4. Anonymous

    I have been wondering how freezer paper works , and now I know I am going to get some! I have only seen it here in UK at Hobby craft and I think it was about £11-13 per roll, if I remember correctly. It seems expensive but there are a lot of yards on the roll. Hope that helps someone in UK.

  5. It’s only sold at craft or quilting stores in Sweden and it costs a lot – they sell it by the meter or by the roll. I think I paid 50 SEK ($7.50 for a meter of the stuff)
    I like it best for quilting and for the smaller sized patterns – my 9 yo daughter’s size 14 junior clothes are a bit too big for freezer paper – especially at that price.

  6. Dominique

    In the US it is sold at most grocery stores. I know Walmart carries it and it is ridiculously cheap -like 3$ for a whole box.

  7. Sarvi

    Ouch, I had no idea it was so expensive outside of the US! Thanks so much for chiming in with local info and resources, folks. When I visit friends abroad I’ll stuff my suitcase with the stuff, it’s so cheap here.

  8. Jenny

    Cool. I always wondered how it worked. I like the idea of pressing the paper to the fabric.

    I use a roll of doctor’s exam table paper. Super super cheap. But I can’t press it to the fabric.

  9. I can’t wait to try this when we get back to the States. I’d heard about it but had no idea how to use it. Thanks for the tute!

  10. magonomics

    This is what I use! But I do the really fine tip sharpies instead of pencils (no smudging). I store all the pieces of a pattern for a particular size in a 6 by 9 envelope and label it with a template I made in word that depicts the pattern designed, pattern, and size. I store all envelopes (first alphabetized then by size) in box I got at the container store.

    Maybe my boyfriend is right when he says I’m a little OCD….

  11. I would use this for all my tracing if it weren’t so pricey over here in the UK. I have seen it for sale in Hobbycraft £10.49 for a 12m (13.5 yard) roll. A couple of sites sell it for 50p per half meter, namely The Village Haberdashery and Eclectic Maker.

    It is wonderful stuff though, I save it for smaller pattern pieces and for knit neckbindings. It stops the knit curling when you are trying to cut it so is a lifesaver!

    Thanks for these posts Sarvi, I haven’t actually found a tracing medium that I am 100% happy with so I am hoping you will give me some pointers.

  12. I iron freezer paper pattern pieces to the back of corduroy because patterns just slide on the front of corduroy.

  13. christina

    I’ve always wondered who was the brave soul that first tried ironing it on their fabric — it’s obviously not made or sold expressly for that purpose after all. Thank you, freezer paper pioneer!

    1. Mónica Claro Jesus

      Good …. 🙂 Cristina, I would not even say it better. Believe me, I think of it whenever I discover something super useful and out of its function for which it was created and for which it is sold. What creative motive, what feminine genius will you have made such an experience and will have passed your HUGE discovery online? Congratulations to the benefactor!

  14. Great tute and beautifully photographed.
    I have looked in vain for this in South Australian supermarkets. It would be fabulous if you could buy it in bulk, cheaply.
    Pin do tend to ‘warp’ things if you are not careful.

  15. Heidi

    It’s available in Spotlight in Australia. It’s behind the counter so you need to ask for it. I can’t remember the price but I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t as expensive as I was expecting when I bought some a couple of years ago.

  16. Sarvi

    Magonomics and Rachel, those are clever tips for dealing with corduroy and managing smudging & storage! I must try those out, thank you so much for the ideas.

  17. Sarvi

    Jay just reminded me of something in a comment on the last blog post — if your pattern piece is too wide to fit on the paper, you’ll need to tape two sections together. Don’t iron over the tape! It’ll melt and stick to your iron, yuck.

  18. Thank you Sarvi – I have never tried freezer paper but love the idea of being able to iron this onto my fabric.
    My LQS, The Remnant Warehouse (in Sydney) sells it – not sure of the price though, and The Haby Goddess (Aus online shop) also stock it:

  19. An alternative to freezer paper is artist palette paper. I think it is the same stuff. Palette paper comes in a pad and is available in several sizes. Would guess it costs a bit more than freezer paper from the grocer. The one advantage of palette paper is that it is flat so that you are never fighting against the paper having been rolled up. It will adhere when pressed with iron. Peels off with no apparent residue, can be used several times.

  20. Brenda

    This is what I use exclusively for pattern tracing, probably because it’s the easiest thing to get here in my part of rural Colorado in the middle of hunter’s paradise!
    The coated side also “grabs” quite well even without ironing; I just use pattern weights.

  21. Sarah

    Very helpful, especially the tape part. I always use scotch tape but painters tape is so much better. Also the sharp pencil is so important too. For that reason I like mechanical pencils.

  22. Dorothy
  23. I’ve only ever found freezer paper in sewing stores (Australia) and find that it’s too expensive to use for pattern tracing. But I do LOVE it for stencilling T-shirts!
    When you cut something on the fold, how do you stop the other half of the fabric from squirming around, as surely only the top half is secured to the paper?

    1. Pat Coplan

      presumably you iron the paper onto the wrong side of the material, and if so how do you mark darts pleats etc?

    2. Reader

      It would be better to make a full piece.

  24. Catherine

    Thanks, Sarvi – you’ve inspired me to buy some! I’ve never seen it in shops here (UK), but it’s available on ebay for about £6/roll. Now I know what it costs in Sweden that seems a bargain!

  25. Sarvi

    Thank you for all the encouraging comments, gals!

    Lightning, since I’m usually cutting with a rotary cutter, I’m pressing down on the pattern already, so the second half of a folded layer doesn’t shift. If you were cutting something slippery this would be the safest method, I think. If you wanted to pick up and cut with shears, I think you’d want to pin the layers together.

  26. Kirsty Blanco

    Freezer paper is available from amazon for under £5 for 50 feet in uk, I always use it, and buy a couple of rolls at a time to keep me going. I also stocked up from a stall at the knitting and stitching show where I bought 75feet for £6 which I was very pleased with! (Not fun to lug across London on the tube though!)

  27. Margot

    Am I the only one that irons the actual pattern, writing side down to ironing board, on the freezer paper itself to the actual pattern piece? Then cuts around the edges. And then use the stiffened pattern in the various ways to trace or cut around it? Seems to work fine.

  28. Buratti

    Thank you very much for this. Just wanted to comment to say I have been using this method a lot since you wrote this. It is great! Had no idea it would stick. No pins! So exciting. And it is a great method for tracing detailed shapes onto felt or other tricky fabrics. I have always found felt difficult to cut accurately and now it’s great! And I love having sturdy patterns for my Oliver + S patterns too. Many many thanks! Liz

  29. Evelyn

    Does anyone think freezer paper could be used to” clone” a favourite garment?
    I’m thinking I could iron the paper to the inside of the garment marking the darts, seams and any other features before removing the paper then cut along the darts and spreading the freezer paper open ,inserting extra paper here to accommodate where the dart was . Then simply iron my cloned pattern to the new fabric adding seam allowances Where the fabric was doubled like in a waistband might take a little working out though.
    Has anybody tried this?

  30. For any Canadians searching:

    I’ve found Reynolds brand freezer paper in Ontario at Home Hardware stores for $5.95.

  31. Here’s a link for where you can find large rolls of freezer paper:

    It comes in 15″, 18″ or 24″ wide rolls, each 1000′ long!

  32. kassiopireyes

    If i use freezer paper and cut the edges of the fabric. What about the details of the pattern, how could I transfer them?

  33. Brenda

    I’ve bought Reynolds’ freezer paper in a 12m roll in the UK from C&H Fabrics Windsor. It’s available for only £6.99. Also found a shop in Goldhawk Road area that sells it for £1 per metre.

  34. Carole

    Can I use the freezer paper on the back of my fabric as to hold my fabric while I sew my appliqué on. Then after done tear away the paper.

    1. Karen V

      People use freezer paper on the back of hexagons to make the Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilts.. Freezer paper templates are minus the seam allowances so the edge of the paper is great (slightly stiffer than the fabric) for folding that seam over.. Don’t see why this wouldn’t work for appliqué..

  35. Mary

    For Australians, USA Foods also stocks some! Currently $9 for 15.2mx46cm (compared to Spotlight which sells it for $11 for 5m). There’s a physical store each in Melbourne (Moorabbin) and Sydney (Belmore), or you can order online and have it shipped.

  36. Reader

    I use Swedish Tracing Paper, but this isn’t a bad method. It is, however, suitable only for relatively small pieces. I occasionally use freezer paper to cut slippery lining fabrics. I abut the sheets and trace the pattern on top.

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