If you’re re-using pattern pieces or templates, flimsy paper shapes can tear or get ragged after a few uses. Tracing can be time-consuming, while glueing pieces onto card can result in lumpy bumpy shapes. Here’s a solution that’s quick and easy for relatively small pieces – laminate them!
How durable does it need to be?
(You’ll notice that I’m really rather partial to the word ‘durable’. Fortunately, this post gives me the opportunity to use it rather a lot.)
Before laminating everything in sight, you should think first about how durable it really needs to be.
If you only going to cut pieces once, then this is probably more hassle than you’re looking for, especially if you’re using a computer-printed pattern which is more robust than tissue paper.
If, however, it’s the painstakingly reverse-engineered pattern pieces to replace the worn-out face of your child’s favourite toy (Rabbit, I’m looking at you), then that’s worth saving.
Secondly, how important is it that the pattern piece is cut out accurately? If precision is important, you’ll need to take extra care in cutting out, as you cut the shape twice – once in the original paper, and then again once it’s been laminated. For simple shapes, it is straightforward to straighten edges, square up corners and check measurements.
You should also think about how you use the pattern piece – do you want to pin it to fabric, or will you be drawing round it? This method works great for drawing round, but you can’t pin easily through the plastic.
So, to recap, start by asking yourself the following:
- Do I really need a durable pattern piece?
- How important is accuracy?
- Is the pattern piece small enough to fit my laminator?
- Will laminated templates work with the way I like to cut my fabric?
Preserve pattern pieces to last longer
If you have a personal laminator that takes A4/letter laminating pouches, you can laminate your pattern pieces to make them last longer. (Of course, if you don’t have one, or your pattern pieces are larger, then you’re out of luck with this method – but scroll down for a few links to other solutions.)
The advantages of using a laminator are:
- it works well for PDF patterns where you print out sheets of paper direct from your computer
- you can use it for tissue pattern pieces as well, provided they are small enough to fit through the machine
- it’s quick – no tracing or copying over details
- laminated paper is pretty robust
- if you have a laminator already, it’s relatively inexpensive
- you can cut a window out of the centre to help with fabric placement
You can probably work out how to do it yourself from here, but if you’re feeling lazy, these are the steps I followed:
- Print and cut out pattern piece as usual.If you are working with a very precise pattern piece, cut it a little larger, to give yourself room for checking dimensions later on. If you are laminating tissue paper or tracing paper, iron it first to ensure it’s flat.
- To make a see-through window, cut out the centre of the pattern piece. The size of the border is up to you – but don’t make it too narrow as the piece may distort as it runs through the laminator. Using a border the width of the seam allowance allows you to determine how much of the cut fabric will be visible when finished.
- Check the piece is fully labelled. This is especially important if you’ve cut out the centre, but add any other details now.
- Place the piece in a laminating pouch and laminate according to your laminator instructions. You can laminate several pieces at once to save on pouches, but be careful – too many small pieces can shift as it passes through the machine.
- Cut round the edges of the pattern pieces carefully.Cut the template back to the paper edges, but don’t cut out the window. If you have a very precise pattern piece, check measurements and straighten up, trimming off the extra as necessary.
- Add details with a sharpie.For example, I added a centre line to help with placement.
What, no laminator?
If you don’t have a laminator, then here are some other ways to preserve pattern pieces and templates:
- glue the pattern pieces directly onto card
Using normal PVA glue can make the pieces bumpy and distorted – I’d recommend using a spray adhesive if you try this.
- iron pattern pieces onto interfacing
This is a great method for tissue pattern pieces. I haven’t tried it for paper templates printed off the computer, though.
- trace onto freezer paper
Tracing can be time-consuming, but freezer paper is thicker than normal paper, and can be ironed directly onto fabric so you don’t need pins.
- cut out of template plastic
Template plastic is tough and durable (although more expensive), but this is best for simple shapes such as quilt templates rather than complex pattern pieces as it can be difficult to cut fiddly pieces.
If you want to know what my mysterious triangle template is for, I’m working on a fun series to try out different techniques. Come back and check it out, or sign up for email updates below and I’ll let you know when it all kicks off.