The wheel of fortune spun brightly for the sewing world when the tracing wheel was introduced. It is a really great little gadget designed to help with transferring pattern markings from their pattern to the fabric being used. Don’t let the spikes put you off learning how to use a tracing wheel. Try it out and you will be amazed at how helpful a spiky wheel can be.
What is a Tracing Wheel
A tracing wheel is a sewing device used to transfer markings to fabric. If generally has a wooden or plastic long handle and a rotating wheel with spikes on the end.
This spiky little wheel is just the right tool to add to your sewing utensils. It will get patterns of all shapes and sizes perfectly copied from the pattern paper onto the back of your precious fabric. A little bit of carbon paper, the pattern of your choice and the prickly tracing wheel will help you transfer all kinds of patterns.
So where to begin?
TRACING WHEEL | How to Use a Tracing Wheel
Firstly you need:
- A tracing wheel – Available from stores that sell sewing accessories.
- A cutting mat – Or something firm and flat to protect your table.
- Dressmaker’s carbon – These are available in different colors. You will find that certain colors work better for different fabrics and colors of fabric. Note that dressmakers' carbon is different from your regular stationery carbon. It is specially designed not to bleed and run in the wash or ruin your fabric. If you have delicate silk or fabric you should always test it first.
- Your fabric and pattern pieces – Everything you have planned to use to make a garment!
When to Use a Tracing Wheel
To transfer sizes
This is a great way to protect your pattern if it has multiple sizes and you don’t want to lose the other marked sizes. It is always a good idea to hang onto all those sizes just in case you want to pull that pattern out a few years later and your child has grown a few inches – as children tend to do!!
To protect old or favorite patterns
Tissue patterns can deteriorate over time or through repeated use. You can use a tracing wheel to transfer vintage or loved patterns to paper to preserve your originals.
How to Use a Tracing Wheel - 8 steps to success
Secondly, you need to know how to use a tracing wheel and the carbon paper you have bought and what order to plan for:
Step 1: Protect
Put a cutting mat down on the table for its own protection … remember that wheel is a spiky little critter!!
Step 2: Lay the Fabric
Put your fabric WRONG side up on the cutting mat. You always want any marks on the wrong side of the fabric in case it doesn't wash out.
Step 3: Add the Carbon
Choose a piece of carbon in a contrast color to your fabric. Lay the carbon face down (carbon-side down) on top of the fabric.
Step 4: Add the Pattern
Pin or place the pattern piece on top of the carbon with the markings facing up ready to be traced.
If you use a corrugated pattern cutting board you can push your pins in gently through the pattern, then the carbon and finally into the fabric. This makes moving the pattern a little quicker and easier. Don’t go all the way through and prick the table!
Remember when you lay the pattern the grain of the fabric is still vitally important.
Step 5: Start Rolling
Breath, feel confident and follow the markings around the pattern with the tracing wheel. Hold it in a similar way to how you hold a pencil and roll with medium pressure. Always do a little test before you start to get the pressure correct. You don't want to finish tracing only to find out you didn't press hard enough.
Roll the tracing wheel along the chosen markings and slide the carbon under the pattern as you go to ensure all the markings are traced onto the fabric below.
Step 6: Transfer Extra Markings
Check for all required markings from seams to darts to matching notches so that you have it all drawn on your fabric before you cut out.
TIME SAVING TIP: If you are able to work with double sided carbon, then you can fold your fabric with the carbon inside and use the tracing wheel over the double thickness and it will mark the fabric on both sides.
How Else Can you Transfer Patterns?
If you are transferring entire patterns then using a fabric wheel is definitely the best method. The alternative is to cut your desired size and then trace around the outside. This is fine if you are happy to cut up your pattern but if you want to preserve it, stick to the tracing wheel.
Smaller markings such as sewing notches and dots can be transferred with regular chalk. If you stick a pin through the pattern at the marking, you can lift the pattern and mark with chalk underneath. Removable marking pens can also be used.
MORE ARTICLES ON MARKING FABRIC
- Fabric Marking with Pins and Chalk
- Best Sewing Tools for Marking Fabric
- How to Mark Darts
- How to Use a Tracing Wheel
What is Next?
Now you have transferred your pattern with a tracing wheel it is time to start cutting.