how to preserve a pattern: swedish tracing paper

As part 3 of her mini-series on tracing and preserving a sewing pattern, today Sarvi is talking about Swedish tracing paper. Turns out, it’s not really Swedish!

 

Preserving your pattern swedish-thumb

 

What It Is

I tried to look this up online and couldn’t find much information about how this is manufactured, and didn’t want to hare off down an existential “What is paper, anyway?” lane, but it’s described on the label as a drapeable, sewable paper. It’s more translucent than freezer paper, despite being thicker. It has lots of jumbled little fibers like non-woven interfacing does, but it’s not as fluid or drapey as an interfacing this thin would be. It has quite a lot of ‘tooth’ and grabs fabric a bit like felt does. It comes in rolls.

 

Preserving your pattern swedish01-roll

 

Swedish tracing paper is marketed as being similar to muslin in the sense that you can baste it together and mark any changes you want to make on it with a pencil. For a toddler who’s still measuring like a perfect cylinder with a 20 inch chest, waist, and hip, that’s not so important, but for an older child wearing a fitted style like the Fairy Tale Dress, it’s very useful to be able to easily mark anything you want to adjust. If you decide to use it for yourself, you may find the paperiness works against you, and the drape of interfacing or actual muslin gives you a better sense of how your fabric will hang.

 

Preserving your patternswedish02-comparison

 

How to Use It

Pretty much just like freezer paper, you lay out your pattern on a smooth surface, and position the tracing paper over it. You can see through it very easily and there is no need to tape it to a window to use as a back light. It has less of a tendency to curl up than freezer paper does, so you probably won’t need a ton of weights to hold it flat, but a few to keep it from shifting if you brush it by mistake will be useful.

 

Preserving your pattern swedish03-tracing

 

How to Mark It

Swedish tracing paper takes pencil marks beautifully, just like any paper. The tip of the pencil (unless perhaps very sharp and catching it at a bad angle) doesn’t snag on the little fibers as can sometimes happen with interfacing. It also shows the marks from a chalk pencil really nicely.

Unlike freezer paper, Swedish tracing paper (which our resident expert on all things Swedish, Lotta “Lattemama”, informs me has nothing to do with Sweden) will not adhere to the fabric, so you’ll need to use weights, pins, or both, and mark around the edges of piece to transfer to your fabric, before cutting out with shears. You can then neatly file away your new single-size master pattern.

 

Preserving your patternswedish-04-marking

 

Where to Find It

I bought mine online, but check your local fabric and craft shops. It’s more expensive than freezer paper, but it has different properties which might make it a better choice for specific projects. I didn’t like the way freezer paper interacted with the very heavy, fuzzy wool I used for my kid’s School Days Coat, but the Swedish tracing paper grabs it a bit, and has a hint of rigidity which makes it easy to make a nice, crisp chalk mark when tracing off the outline onto the fashion fabric.

Next: Carbon paper

19 Comments

  1. It looks a lot like the material I currently use to trace patterns on. The stuff we put on the walls when we did our attic reno – we had 45 meters left over.
    The thin interfacing I normally use looks similar but has itty bitty holes all over but it clings better to the fabric and it can be crumpled up.
    The one that looks like STP is stiffer and creases if I fold it so I have to store it rolled up or hung from a clip.

    This series is fabulous Sarvi!

  2. aprilshowers

    I recently made the switch from freezer paper to STP and, while I miss the ability to iron the pattern to my fabric, I find the STP easier to work with in general. One thing I’ve always wondered about, though, is whether it is safe to cut with fabric scissors or should I cut it with paper scissors first? You say “shears” which I assume is fabric scissors (I’m still new at this so don’t know all the terminology!)? Thanks and I’m really enjoying this series!

  3. I’d really like to see/feel STP – I use the ‘interfacing method’, but it would be great to be able to compare the two.

    In Australia, it is stocked online here:
    http://www.craftymamasfabrics.com.au/products/swedish-tracing-paper-9m-roll

  4. This series is fascinating! Can’t wait to hear more.:)

  5. Mary

    I really like to use Swedish tracing paper. It is very durable in that it doesn’t easily tear. When you cut it the scissors will just glide along a straight line. It also somewhat clings to most fabrics and you need fewer pins or weights.

  6. I second Justine. I would love to have a fiddle.
    I use interfacing but it varies in quality.

    Beautifully photographed piece.

  7. I love STP – one of my favourite things about it, not mentioned above, is that you can iron it (it won’t melt) and it flattens out beautifully – really handy for patterns you’ve folded away. And it doesn’t have that static-ish feeling and texture of synthetic interfacing that catches on the horrible skin of my poor, dry hands!

  8. Sarvi

    Good question about scissors vs shears! You can cut it very easily with cheapo paper scissors, so I’d say it would be better to save your nice fabric scissors for fabric. As Mary points out, you don’t even have to keep ‘scissoring’ — once you start the cut, you can just push the scissors along, like with gift wrap.

  9. Thank you, Sarvi – I’m enjoying this series! 🙂

    I use STP as well. The fact that it can be ironed is one of my favorite things about it. I fold up my pattern pieces to store them and then just use a warm iron and they are perfectly smooth again. Instead of tracing around the pattern, I usually pin or weight the pattern on the fabric and then cut. The first time I use a traced pattern, I just cut through the STP and the fabric at once. I don’t bother to cut around each piece first.

  10. It doesn’t melt?
    Oh wow!
    I use my Goddess cloth to press the interfacing but it will melt if you catch it with the iron.
    How handy would that be for a frequently used pattern?

  11. Rebecca

    I wonder how the STP compares with the Easy Pattern stuff I buy from JoAnn’s. I might have to get some to see what I think. 🙂

    I do appreciate the comparison of the different methods from someone who is trying them all. It is one thing to hear from someone who uses one that they like just because they always have (myself included!) but it is much more helpful to hear a comparison from one person trying multiple methods.

  12. Emily

    One more thing about the swedish tracing paper – I discovered that it sticks really well to fleece! If you are cutting fleece you don’t need to use pins or weights, just smooth it over the fleece and cut away.

    I love being able to iron this, it really helps when it’s been folded away for a time.

  13. Sarvi

    Thanks so much for chiming in with your experiences, folks! I’m learning right along with everyone else so it’s so useful to hear about things like ironing the STP.

  14. janice

    Great information and I love that Sarvi worked the word “existential” into a sewing blog!

  15. Jane in CT

    Hi all, I have purchased many different types of tracing paper. I tried using a pencil for tracing the pattern but the line weren’t dark enough for me to see when cutting and they smeared after a while in the pattern envelope. I switched to using a marker but then I have a problem with it bleeding through to the original pattern. The next item I purchased was a tracing wheel that used ink to make the tracing paper but even that sometimes bleeds through.

    Does anyone know of a product that is thick enough to not bleed through but translucent enough to see the pattern markings?
    If you use a pencil – what size and manufacturer is it ?
    Has anyone used the Canson Tracing Paper? If so, what is it like to work with?

  16. Hi Jane in CT, you don’t mention whether or not you have tried Swedish Tracing Paper. By the sounds of the difficulties you’re having, I’m guessing not? So I hope this answer may be helpful. It’s somewhat different to artist-type tracing paper. It doesn’t have that sort of waxy surface that is probably what is making your pencil smudge. I have successfully used quite a few different things to mark on the STP, but my favourite is probably a black Artline 200 Fine (felt tip). I don’t think you’d get bleed-through with the STP unless you used something super-inky like a thick permanent felt-tip. A nice soft coloured pencil is also good to work with on the STP. Sorry if I sound like a bit of a salesperson for STP but it’s one of those things that once you’ve tried it, it’s hard to go back to anything else! Well in my opinion anyway 🙂

    1. Amanda

      Hi I am new to sewing, can you please tell me want STP is.

      1. STP stands for Swedish Tracing Paper

  17. Valerie

    Brilliant review.I have been debating all day whether to purchase STPaper and now I will.

    Many thanks

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