How To Use A Tracing Wheel For Sewing
As a beginning sewer learning to use or make patterns, you’ll need to learn how to use a tracing wheel both with and without tracing paper. This useful tool is used to make seam lines and special features such as darts onto fabric or paper.
Here’s a few things you need to know when learning how to use one of these essential sewing tools.
1. Types of Tracing Wheels
There are three basic types of tracing wheels on the market. You’ll need to experiment a bit with them to really see how they work for different types of fabrics or for pattern making.
Smooth Tracing Wheel: A smooth tracing wheel has a flat edge and must be used with tracing paper to produce a mark on fabric. Some seamstresses recommend them because they are potentially less damaging to pattern pieces.
However, they also can potentially cut pattern pieces into, well, pieces, if too much pressure is applied. I don’t recommend them with paper patterns for this reason. Personally, I’ve not really found them to be much use for anything, but you may, and I want to cover all the bases.
Serrated (or Sprocket) Tracing Wheel: This is the tracing wheel I learned with both at home and in home-ec class. It’s good for tracing marks from a pattern to fabric pieces. If you’re not planning to try to make your own patterns, this tracing wheel will be sufficient for your needs.
Once again, this wheel generally requires tracing paper, though it may make a sufficient indentation on some fabrics that will last until you can trace them with a fabric pencil or chalk.
Needlepoint Tracing Wheel This is the tracing wheel most recommended by professionals and those who delve into making original patterns.
Once you see one, it’s obvious where it got its name. It has very sharp points, so some caution should be taken, both when using it yourself or if a child uses it.
In most cases, no tracing paper is needed for this tool. It is used to create deep indentations that can be easily traced on either pattern paper, fabric, or even leather.
2. The Tracing Surface
You’ll want to avoid tracing on any surface that could be damaged by sharp points, such as a cardboard cutting board or a wooden table. The ideal surface would be a self-healing cutting mat. If you don’t have one, a clean, smooth cutting board could work for marking the special features on most patterns.
3. How to Use Tracing Paper
Tracing paper is usually sold in packs with multiple colors to choose from. Only use tracing paper that is intended for sewing use. The marks are water-soluble for easy removal if necessary. Each sheet can be used repeatedly, pretty much until it falls apart. The paper should be placed against the wrong side of your fabric.
Some illustrations show fabric folded with the wrong side out and the tracing paper underneath. Others show fabric folded with the right side out and tracing paper placed between the layers of fabric. It doesn’t matter, as long as it is facing the wrong side. You could even place two pieces so that you trace both pieces of the fabric at once, as in matching darts. Just make sure the paper is facing the correct way and the fabric is between the wheel and the paper.
4. Making your marks.
You don’t have to trace every line on a pattern, although that’s an option. Beginning sewers may find it useful to mark seam allowances as well as darts, pleats, or other important markers.
If you’re using tracing paper, place fabric with tracing paper under it and facing the wrong side. Run your tracing wheel along any lines you want to transfer onto the fabric, pressing firmly. If you are tracing a longer line, keep moving the tracing paper along ahead of your marking. The result should be clear dotted lines on the wrong side of the fabric.
If you are making an original pattern or tracing one from a book or other source onto pattern paper, you can create serrated lines onto the paper with your needlepoint tracer. Then use an appropriate pen or marker to trace the lines permanently onto the paper.
Be careful not to make holes in a library book or other book that you’ll want to keep as a reference. You’ll need to copy or scan the pattern for tracing onto the correct paper.
Beginners may need straight or curved rulers to help accurately trace lines or pattern designs. Marked, clear plastic rulers are best for keeping marks visible as you trace.