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How to Add Seam Allowances to Traced Patterns...the Easy Way

There has been some chat on various sewing lists and forums lately about tracing patterns and adding seam allowances to them, so here is a repeat of a tutorial I wrote several months ago that some of you may have missed and may find helpful...

For those of us who draft our own patterns, or trace them from the various pattern magazines, here's an easy way to add seam allowances--

It's very simple...and while not a new concept, I do it a bit differently.

The method is basic:
Add the seam allowance to the pattern by stitching around the pattern using an un-threaded needle the desired distance from the sewing line.

What's different about the way I do it?

Well...I have discovered that by using a large Wing Needle, and a very close stitch (.5-1), the excess pattern paper just peels off. No need to cut out the pattern!

Some more information--

I run the pattern through the machine...the traced stitching line of the pattern on the RIGHT....making sure the stitching line of the pattern is on the seam allowance I want. Thus, the needle holes are punched to the left of the stitching line, adding the seam allowance.

I can see through the pattern paper easily enough to be able to run the marked stitching line exactly on the 1/4", 3/8", or 5/8" inch line that is marked on the bed of my machine. If I can't see through the paper easily, I just use a post-it or piece of blue "painter's tape" along the desired depth of seam allowance I want to add.

After getting a few questions...here are some additional pictures that hopefully will make this process more clear:

1. Mark the desired seam allowance with painter's tape to make it visible under the pattern to which you are adding allowances--

2. The blue line on the paper (shown below) is the traced pattern line. Run it along the desired depth of seam allowance you want to add (see depth of seam allowance pic above), using a wing needle. This punches holes in the pattern paper, adding the seam allowance (the distance from the needle to the blue traced line is the added seam allowance)--

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Blogger scormeny said...

Love it!!! Thanks for a time-saving tip.

12:25 PM  
Blogger Gorgeous Things said...

That is brilliant. I bought a wing needle years ago, and this will be the first time I've ever used it. Thanks Pam!

12:26 PM  
Blogger Marji said...

This IS brilliant! One of those "why didn't I think of that" moments.

12:31 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

What a fantastic idea thankyou so much for this .

1:11 PM  
Blogger Angela said...

This is awesome! Thanks for the tip!

2:35 PM  
Blogger Erica Bunker said...

What a great tip Pam! Now I may start back sewing Burda!

2:42 PM  
Anonymous phyllis said...

You.Are.A. GENIUS!!!!

4:51 PM  
Blogger Gail said...

I love it so much I wish it was my idea. THANK YOU!

6:01 PM  
Blogger gwensews said...

Thank you for such a great idea!

6:09 PM  
Blogger Faye Lewis said...

Thanks for the tip!

6:25 PM  
Blogger golden star said...



8:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you! Great tip.

9:10 PM  
Blogger judy said...

Very ingenious and easier than alot of other methods I have read about and tried in the past. I have finally resorted to the it's good enough method and I just eyeball cut a seam allowance around the pattern while cutting the material out....the bad thing is that sometimes I forget to add the seam allowance and cut on the stitching line!

9:55 PM  
Blogger Loral said...

Thanks for the tut! Great technique, I think I'm going to use this for paper crafting, too!

7:59 AM  
Blogger julia said...

OOOOooooo..... I use my wing needle quite often, as I make my heirloom dresses for my grands, but I never would have thought of this use for it! Thanks. I just found your blog. Love it!

12:10 PM  
Blogger Bunny said...

Brilliant! Thanks so much for this effort while you are recuperating. Hope all is better soon.

7:40 PM  
Blogger Sharon Sews said...

This is fabulous! Thanks for the tip - what an easy way to add seam allowances to those Burda patterns I trace.

11:25 PM  
Blogger Linda T said...

Thank you....I'm going to try this next pattern!

11:24 AM  
Anonymous barb said...

Thanks for the tip. I think I will try a few of the Burda patterns again

7:30 PM  
Blogger Anne said...

Brilliant!! I posted a link to your tutorial on Craft Gossip Sewing:



9:59 AM  
Blogger TiLT said...

that is great! And much more accurate than eye balling it like I tend to do :P

And I'm with Marji on the "why didn't I think of that" moment :) Wish I had...glad you did & shared!

10:19 AM  
Blogger Cennetta said...

Great tip.

6:02 PM  
Anonymous Ola said...

thats such a great tip, I have avoided burda patterns because of fears about adding the dreaded seam allowance...

12:18 AM  
Anonymous Myriam said...

Thanks for this time-saving tip...

2:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh my gosh, this is brilliant. thank you so much! I just found your blog through the sew forth now podcast. I love it! Rachel in Singapore.

9:51 AM  
Blogger Sewing Princess said...

never thought about using the sewing maching to add seam allowances... I was always doing it on paper!
I will give this technique a try. Thank you

4:12 AM  
Anonymous DarlaB said...

Thank you so much for the tutorial. My favorite bag patterns come without seam allowances and this will be so much easier for me.

9:07 AM  
Anonymous nothy lane said...

Thanks so much. I've mostly avoided patterns without seam allowances because they were more work. This "seams" easy enough.

11:46 AM  
Anonymous ebony said...

Hi! I found my way here via the Coletterie blog, so I realize my question/comment comes a little late. This is such a great technique & I'm excited to try it as it will inevitably save me LOADS of time. Thank you!

I was also curious, what kind of paper are you using to trace your patterns? Is it possible to purchase online? It looks like the perfect mix of durable and slightly transparent, which might be a nice upgrade from my recycled brown paper grocery sacs!

4:38 PM  
Blogger Pam Erny said...

Hi Ebony, I usually use a pattern paper called "Pattern Ease"...it's usually found in with the crummy interfacings at the big fabric stores. :)

6:31 AM  
Anonymous kslaughter said...

Pinned! Thanks so much for sharing--the wing needle idea is genius!

2:46 AM  
Blogger Holly S. said...

Brilliant!!! Thanks for posting this!

10:09 AM  
Blogger Social Historian said...

Genius! Thanks for sharing :)

1:43 PM  
Blogger Meka said...

Awesome it saves that back breaking cutting process, you have no idea how much pain you just saved me from enduring.

3:45 PM  
Blogger Marlene said...

I remembered seeing this after I started adding allowances and I tried it. It is MUCH more accurate than using a ruler to add the seam allowance. Thank you!

8:16 AM  
Blogger Marlene said...

I added seam allowances to my pattern and remembered seeing this blog so I tried this and it is MUCH more accurate. Thank you!

8:18 AM  
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7:37 PM  
Blogger Sewing Princess said...

This is really useful...and I only discover now this post after years of following your blog... I wonder why you place the traced line on the right-hand side instead of the left. I would put it on the left so that I have less paper on the right...similar to what you do when you sew.

10:14 AM  
Blogger O meu pensamento viaja said...

You are a genius!
Thank you so much!

6:22 AM  

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