Make Patterns Last Longer: Iron Interfacing to Your Pattern Pieces

As I’m about to cut the knit fabric for my Renfrew Top, I thought of something. I sew clothing from my own patterns over and over again, but still want to use the same tissue pattern pieces so you guys can follow along at home. As I’m getting reorganized in the new office space, one of the things I wanted to do was have ‘master patterns’ clearly labelled and easy to find. That way, when I have the urge to whip up some new Renfrew tee shirts or Pendrell blouses, I know exactly where to find my master pattern!

Just putting them in a properly marked envelope isn’t enough. I also wanted them to be stronger than the regular tissue paper so they’d survive multiple uses. Instead of tracing, I decided to fuse some fusible interfacing to the pattern pieces. Why not? It adds a fabric-like feel to the tissue, strengthens the tissue so it resists tearing, and even makes the ink show up brighter!

Before starting, I cut a small scrap of interfacing and a scrap of the tissue to test. You might want to do this to see if the fusible interfacing is a good match for the pattern tissue. I’m using a non-woven interfacing, the cheaper kind that I don’t like to use for sewing but seem to have a lot of in my collection. It’s a little stiff, thinner than a sheet of paper but not too thin.

Important: Turn off the steam on your iron. Steam makes the tissue shrink up and ripple and distorts the shape of the pattern piece. And once the interfacing is fused to the pattern piece, it’s staying that way! (I know this, but forgot when I fused my test piece – now that was a good way to remind myself.)

If you can’t turn off the steam, turn the heat setting down to the synthetic setting. Often there’s a little indicator next to each heat setting, letting you know at what heat temperature the steam turns on.

Here’s what the test looked like. You can see how much thicker the pattern pieces will be!

My pattern pieces are stronger, without being too bulky to fold up. If they get wrinkly in between uses, I can give them a quick press and they’ll be as good as new!

For the actual pattern pieces, I cut loosely around each pattern piece, leaving an inch to half-an-inch around the cutting lines.

If the tissue is wrinkly, press it with a dry iron.

Now cut a piece of interfacing slightly larger than the cutting lines, about the size of the tissue with its edges. It’s OK if the pieces aren’t exactly the same size. We’ll trim off the excess tissue and interfacing when we cut around the cutting lines.

Place the interfacing sticky-side up under the tissue. Fuse the interfacing to the tissue, using a press cloth if you want. (I didn’t, but it might be a good idea to avoid getting sticky residue on your iron.)

Cut around the cutting lines for the size you plan to make.

The fused pieces are still flexible…

and you can pin through them easily…

Seems like a good idea! I’ve never done this to a pattern before. I’ll report back after using the pattern if you like and let you know what they were like to work with. I’d imagine tissue fitting would be fine, if not slightly easier to do.

Have you ever done this with your pattern pieces? How did they hold up over time? In your opinion, are there any drawbacks to fusing your pattern pieces to fusible interfacing?

Here are more blog posts about the Renfrew Top. (Get the pattern here.)

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69 Responses to Make Patterns Last Longer: Iron Interfacing to Your Pattern Pieces

  1. G October 1, 2012 at 6:11 am #

    Genius! Let us know how this turn out on the long run, please!!

    • Tasia October 1, 2012 at 10:14 am #

      I will! I’ll be making 2-4 tops with the pattern so it’ll be well-used by the time I’m done. Will let you all know how the pieces hold up!

  2. Joelle October 1, 2012 at 6:13 am #

    This is so smart! I hate tracing so this seems like a great alternative for patterns that I use over and over. I’ll have to try it!

    • Tasia October 1, 2012 at 10:13 am #

      Ha, me too. I know it’s better for the pattern in the long run, to trace, but it’s so time-consuming!

  3. annabelvita October 1, 2012 at 6:26 am #

    Oooh, love love love this idea! I bought LOADS of cheap fusible interfacing when I first started sewing, not knowing that it wasn’t ideal for lots of things, so I have a ton I could use for this.

    • Tasia October 1, 2012 at 10:13 am #

      Yup! Finally a use for crappy interfacing. :)

  4. Shannon October 1, 2012 at 6:28 am #

    Super smart! I just did this to a few facing pieces on a favorite pattern after I lost the traced versions, except with that waxy butcher paper, and it worked awesomely, but this is even better, because it’s pin-able and probably recovers better.

  5. Jessica October 1, 2012 at 6:28 am #

    This seems so obvious now, but I never would have thought of it! Thank you for sharing with us. I’m going to be doing this to my favorite patterns that’s for sure!

  6. Gabrielle October 1, 2012 at 6:30 am #

    Today I traced a much used trouser waistband pattern piece onto muslin before cutting it out 4x fabric, 2x interfacing, and it was great to be using something beefier than tissue paper – but muslin frays, so not an ideal solution! I should have waited a couple of hours and read this great idea – I’ll bet it makes for very cleanly cut tissue pieces too…

    • Jessica October 1, 2012 at 10:03 am #

      Muslin can also stretch, and thus warp your pattern piece, so be careful! Though, adding some interfacing to the muslin would probably help guard against stretch.

      • Tasia October 1, 2012 at 10:10 am #

        Yes, good point! Using fabric as pattern pieces can be a little inaccurate if they stretch or fray but interfacing would stop that.

  7. Rachel October 1, 2012 at 6:30 am #

    I do this all the time for my favorite patterns. It really helps since my sister and I will share patterns, now we don’t have to worry so much about tearing the others patterns when we have them.

  8. punkmik October 1, 2012 at 6:40 am #

    I trace my pieces onto baking paper. it has been super durable and i can crease it and iron it and it seems to hold up well.

  9. Rachel M October 1, 2012 at 7:41 am #

    What a great idea! Thanks for the tip!

  10. Doortje October 1, 2012 at 8:29 am #

    Sounds like a good idea but I’m a ‘tracer’…;))

  11. CGCouture October 1, 2012 at 8:58 am #

    If you trace patterns, you can also trace directly onto the (non-fusible) interfacing and just use that as your pattern piece. I did that with a very fragile old pattern for some toddler clothes when my son was little(r). It’s sort of like that Swedish tracing paper (or whatever it’s called), except sometimes cheaper.

    • Tasia October 1, 2012 at 10:12 am #

      Yes! That’s a good idea too. Makes for nice, durable and flexible pattern pieces.

    • Carraspite April 3, 2013 at 3:26 pm #

      Just the tip I’ve been searching for! I heard about Swedish tracing paper but just had a sneaky feeling that interfacing might be similar. Going to give it a go. Want to make a top but need to alter the pattern to fit but I’m hoping that I can make it out of interfacing and alter that before I cut out my fab fabric.

  12. Becky October 1, 2012 at 9:57 am #

    Good idea! Though do you think this would work as a way to reinforce patterns that have already been cut/tested/you know you love? (Yes, I’m thinking about my Renfrew!)

    • Tasia October 1, 2012 at 10:11 am #

      I thought about this too! The thing that would be a pain is the cut edges, because the tissue is already cut you’d end up with sticky interfacing at the edges unless you cut the interfacing first into the exact shape of the pattern piece. Or maybe there’s a way to use a press cloth to avoid getting the iron sticky. (A throwaway press cloth maybe, if it gets gummed up.)
      I think I’d cut the interfacing larger than the tissue, and use scrap fabric around it somehow so I could still cut the interfacing off along the cut lines, but not get the iron or ironing board all gooey.

  13. funnygrrl October 1, 2012 at 10:19 am #

    Great idea!

  14. CDL October 1, 2012 at 10:22 am #

    I have been doing this for about 10 years now, and I still have the patterns. I keep them on a pant hanger. Since I sew for children I have lots of patterns and it has worked for all of these years.

    • Tasia October 1, 2012 at 1:14 pm #

      I like the idea of a pant hanger – no fold marks!

  15. Corinne October 1, 2012 at 11:33 am #

    I have also done this for a long time. I have a selection of patterns I use all the time and also keep them on pant hangers for quick reference. One caveat, if you live in a moisture laden climate, the pattern tissue may bubble after time. In that case, I would trace my pattern onto a heavy weight non-fusible interfacing, make sure all the markings are transferred as well.

    • Tasia October 1, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

      Thanks for the tip on moist climates! I wondered what would happen over time, if the layers will separate or if one might bubble.

  16. Stephanie October 1, 2012 at 11:38 am #

    Great idea! I’ve been tracing onto freezer paper, but this sounds better, and I like that the tissue remains flexible. Am adding “cheap, thin, interfacing” to my shopping list for those patterns that are worth making again.

  17. Linda October 1, 2012 at 12:03 pm #

    It is a great idea if you cut from patterns…but since I always make a muslin and do alterations directly on it for a perfect fit, I mark them andI then carefully take apart my muslin and use that as my pattern. I mark all seam lines, grain lines and match points and use good quality muslin and am successful with this procedure. The upside is the next time I use it I don’t have to think about changes I have made…ie seams, darts, waist etc that have moved are now where they should be.

    • Tasia October 1, 2012 at 1:12 pm #

      Good points, thanks for the comment! You’re right that this method won’t work for everyone. For me I know that I like the Renfrew top pattern exactly as it is so it’s easy to fuse the pieces, knowing I won’t want to adjust them later. I wouldn’t do this if I wasn’t 100% sure of the pattern, as it would be a bit of a pain to cut the fused pattern and insert extra paper or make other adjustments.

  18. Tessa October 1, 2012 at 12:27 pm #

    I have to trace because I end up doing so many pattern alterations that it is nice to have a “reset” version around. I am also the type of person that enjoys tracing patterns. :)

    • Tasia October 1, 2012 at 1:10 pm #

      I like that – a ‘reset’ version. Great way of explaining why it’s good to trace off a pattern!

  19. Heide October 1, 2012 at 12:32 pm #

    Love this idea!
    My great aunt would trace her patterns on non-fusible interfacing. Especially if she had to make changes to them.
    But I like the idea of ironing the fusible on. You don’t have to trace and still get all the markings.

  20. Chris October 1, 2012 at 12:44 pm #

    Wonderful idea! Also thanks so much for having tissue patterns. I hate the ones you have to print and piece yourself.

    • Tasia October 1, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

      I’m glad you like the tissue patterns! Once in a while I get people asking about the print-and-tape versions and if I’ll offer them, if I did I’d likely have both options available.

  21. Sharon October 1, 2012 at 1:17 pm #

    I have been using this smart little trick for some time now. A few years ago, I had to make 17 dresses for a dance group, using the same pattern over and over. Without the use of fusible interfacing, the pieces would have been a mess.

  22. Lisbeth bodin October 1, 2012 at 1:44 pm #

    I really like the idea of ironing on interfacing, and started to do it once. However, the more stiff the pattern parts get, the more difficult they are to bend and store, if you are in lack of space, like I am. But the idea is great for the patterns, you will use several times.

  23. Clozmkr October 1, 2012 at 2:14 pm #

    I’ve done this for some of my TNT patterns as well. A tip for the ‘already cut out’ patterns – try using the teflon press sheets against the exposed fusible portions. The interfacing will stitck to it, but just peel right off.

  24. Gillian October 1, 2012 at 2:14 pm #

    Awesome! I actually did that for the draped sleeve piece of the Pendrell pattern, because the tissue was driving me nuts! It made the pattern stay in place better, and made it much easier to fold up all the little pleats. :)

  25. nothy October 1, 2012 at 2:59 pm #

    Cool! I will try this. I’ve already made four Renfrews and I want to make more, so I will have to do something about the pattern. Recently, I have made muslins and then taken them apart to use as pattern pieces and I love that. But your idea is even easier! Thanks!

  26. Amanda October 1, 2012 at 4:16 pm #

    This is such a fabulous idea! How do you store all of your pieces after they have been cut? My poor pattern envelopes are splitting apart when I try to stuff things back in… Maybe I need to buy some larger envelopes!

    • CDL October 1, 2012 at 5:38 pm #

      You could use zip up bags and then hang them on pant hangers. Hope this helps.

      • Tasia October 3, 2012 at 1:40 pm #

        Or use larger, manila envelopes and label them with the pattern number. Or photocopy a picture of the pattern and staple it to the outside of the new larger envelope. Hope this helps!

  27. Erika October 1, 2012 at 11:54 pm #

    It’s a great idea if one knows the pattern will fit and doesn’t want to trace! However, no pattern ever fits me out of the envelope and I really think I would trace a lot faster than I would fuse the interfacing. Just trace the uncut pattern and then cut the tracing paper. Practise makes perfect, trace eunough and it’s actually a pretty quick process (using proper tracing paper, of course) =)
    Pressing on the other hand… boring and takes forever. If I can spend those 30 min with pen and paper instead of iron and fusibles, I’m happy. Good thing we’re all different, and pretty amazing how sewing makes it easy to use so many different methods for really the same results!

    • Tasia October 3, 2012 at 1:39 pm #

      Exactly! Different processes for different people. I just answered a comment below asking why it was faster, and I had to think that maybe, it wasn’t actually faster at all!

  28. The Knitting Archaeologist October 2, 2012 at 3:32 am #

    I haven’t done this yet, but it’s been on my “to-try” list for about a year or two. I have come around to tracing this year because my weight can fluctuate, and sometimes the pattern will be looser in a place one year and tighter the next. Ahem. That said, I do have a few patterns that I have traced onto poster board, and while I love the sturdiness, it’s hard to store. So I like the idea of a flexible reinforcement.

    But I am confused. Can you explain how this is a faster method than tracing? With all the pattern markings and such, I can’t quite wrap my brain around how this method would work without also having to trace those markings. I believe that it’s faster for you, but when I think about what takes me the longest, it’s tracing the darts, circles, and other markings. Not tracing the outline of each piece. I would love to speed up this process and get to the actual sewing! Thanks!

    • Tasia October 3, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

      It seems faster for me, because tracing seems arduous. Maybe it’s mostly in my head but I’m happier pressing the iron and moving it around a bit to fuse interfacing, instead of drawing out all of those symbols and markings.
      Now that you mention it, it might not be faster at all! It all depends on how fast you trace and how fast you can cut and fuse interfacing.

  29. Katie October 2, 2012 at 9:15 am #

    Great idea! I always trace my patterns so that I have the option to use a different size if I ever need it, but this would be perfect for the vintage patterns in my stash! That old tissue paper is so fragile so what a great way to shore it up a bit!

    Thanks for the tip!

  30. Alli October 2, 2012 at 1:58 pm #

    patterns have gotten expensive nowadays! i kick myself constantly when i see pieces on my floor and idk what they even go to. when i started out and was still learning i wasted so many patterns :(

  31. Liz October 2, 2012 at 5:38 pm #

    I trace my patterns onto clear plastic painter’s dropcloth. I’m surprised that most people seem averse to this: it’s clear, durable, easy to cut/tape, doesn’t tear easily, great for pattern modifying/creasing…. Maybe because people prefer paper to manufactured plastic?

  32. kole October 3, 2012 at 1:05 pm #

    Wow, such a great idea!

  33. Ruthanne October 4, 2012 at 6:58 pm #

    Is the tissue with the fused interfacing still thin enough that a tracing wheel will work to transfer markings onto the fabric?

    • Tasia October 5, 2012 at 2:17 pm #

      That is a good question! I don’t have a tracing wheel handy to test it out, but I’d imagine it would still work. The tissue is soft and even with the fusing, it still responds to pressure. If you wanted to try it, test a scrap of tissue and a scrap of interfacing first, see if your markings will transfer through the fused paper, before fusing the whole thing.

      The Renfrew hardly has any markings at all, but I’m guessing you are asking for other patterns!

  34. Betty October 4, 2012 at 7:09 pm #

    I just found your site and was impressed with the content. I have recently began sewing after many years since my Gr. 8 sewing class, and have been looking for tutorials on the internet. I’m so glad I found you. While I was browsing your patterns, I thought, “how come the pattern names sound so familiar…they are like street names in my city!” Then I looked at your profile, and discovered the reason-we both live in the Greater Vancouver Area. It is exciting to know a sewing expert is in the same city that I live in. =)

    Where would you recommend purchasing fabric and sewing supplies in the city? I visited Dressew last Saturday and liked the selection they have. At the same time, cost is a concern to me because I am still a student (I was shocked when I visited Fabricana…everything looked nice, but I could not afford the fabric in the long run). Also, I am looking into the possibilities of taking some sewing classes. A Dressew lady recommended VCC…what do you think of its classes?

    • Tasia October 5, 2012 at 2:21 pm #

      Hello Betty! I’m glad you stumbled across my blog and like what you’ve read so far. The pattern names are a bit of an inside secret if you’re from the Vancouver area, and if not they’re still unique names. I think it’s neat when I drive past Thurlow or Renfrew St!

      For sewing supplies, I like Fabricana and Dressew. Fabricana for the excellent quality and lovely selection, Dressew for the huge stock of notions and good deals. Fabricland in New West is the closest to home so I’ll end up there picking up missing notions and it’s pretty well stocked as well. You kind of have to be a member though to get in on the deals.

      I don’t know much about the sewing classes at VCC except that they exist! There are also classes offered at Spool of Thread (Vancouver, Kingsway/Fraser area) and Sew Good (New West.) Fabricana has classes as well. But I’ve never taken any of them so I don’t know which are the best, it all depends on what you want to learn!

      • Betty October 6, 2012 at 12:38 am #

        Wow…thank you for taking the time to type out a detailed reply in less than 24 hours. You are the first blog owner that I know who do this. I really appreciate you taking the time =)

        I live very close to the Richmond Fabricana, so it’s nice to know that you approve of it. How do you become a member? I never knew that they actually have good deals.

        Several people have told me that some East Indian stores on Main Street sell a variety of fabric for cheap. Have you ever visited them?

        As for what I want to learn…I want to learn the differences between different types of fabric, how to plan and construct a garment, and what sewing tools would be good for which fabric. I guess this would go into design…however, there is just something very exciting about dreaming up a garment and then making it a reality! I also want to be good enough to sew a simple corset… Thank you again for your recommendations!

        • Tasia October 10, 2012 at 2:07 pm #

          Ah, you’re welcome! Sometimes I am fast to respond, other times not so much :(

          It’s Fabricland that has memberships. Fabricana doesn’t. Fabricana has good long-weekend sales, notions and interfacing half-price.

          I haven’t been to the East Indian stores on Main Street in years, but when I was there they had excellent prices on wools and silks, good solid coloured basics. That was about 8-10 years ago though, it’s time I visit again!

          For what you want to learn, if it were me I’d call these places you’re considering and see if any of their classes match what you’re looking for. I’d also ask about private lessons and if the instructors would be able to cover the topics you want, such as corset-making. I have Claire Shaeffer’s Fabric Sewing Guide (book) and it has tons of information about different fabrics, how to work with them, and how to plan the best garments using them! Totally recommend that one for a fabric reference guide.

          Hope this helps!

  35. Lora October 11, 2012 at 7:52 pm #

    This is a great idea! I sew scrubs for my daughter and use the same pattern over and over. The pattern seems to get weaker by the third time I use it. I don’t think I would have thought of this on my own. Thank you.

  36. carolinascallin October 17, 2012 at 1:33 pm #

    Great idea! Sounds like a great use for cheap interfacing :)

    Someone also told me about using heavy clear plastic as a tracing medium, and that’s what I’ve been doing. You can adjust right onto the plastic. Only problems: getting the folds out of the heavy plastic (it comes on a roll at Home Depot, Lowes, etc) and my tracing wheel is beginning to make holes in it.

    Otherwise, it works great – especially if you’re working with a fabric you need to match up, worry about pattern placement, etc.

  37. Jennifer October 18, 2012 at 2:12 pm #

    I do this and I’m never going back to using tissue paper without it. I bought extra interfacing just to do this in the future. It’s changed my life and I’ve never been happier using the patterns, whereas before I was miserable fighting with the tissue paper.

  38. CJ October 19, 2012 at 7:29 pm #

    I am just curious. Has anyone tried ironing the sewing patterns to freezer paper instead of interfacing? I’ve read it a couple times online, but wanted to hear if anyone else has done this and if it works just as good as using interfacing. :)

    • Kate April 13, 2013 at 8:13 pm #

      Actually, if your tracing wheel is starting to make holes in your pattern template, that could be a good thing! You could poke holes where the markings are, and then you wouldn’t need to roll over them every time, you could just rub chalk over where the holes are. Same thing with the outline of the pattern itself, if you cut the template bigger than the actual pattern piece and make a thin line where the actual pattern lines are. Of course, if you were doing more than one layer this wouldn’t work for the second layer.

  39. LLBB January 25, 2013 at 7:13 pm #

    had been meaning to do this since I first saw this post — was that really back at the beginning of october? geez. anyway, I love that it makes the pattern pieces easier to handle and that you can see the print better! But maybe the best part is that it used up all the old crappy interfacing I bought when I didn’t know better when I was learning to sew. All Around Win!!

  40. Melissa March 19, 2013 at 10:00 am #

    Hi there!

    Great idea to get more life out of the tissue paper patterns, thanks! I also transfer my main patterns to color coded poster board for a long long life ;)

    Do you know if it is possible to take non-fusible interfacing and adhere glue to it to make it fusible. I ask b/c I found a great deal on hair canvas interfacing but I need it to be fusible. It saves 50% off the regular price I pay. Any suggestions? Thanks in advance.

    best, Melissa

    • Paula April 28, 2013 at 10:05 pm #

      Reply to Melissa – Where did you find the great deal on hair canvas? I found it online, but it is expensive for me because the site offers it in bulk (25 Yards) for almost $160.00. How does this compare to the price you found? Thank you. Paula

  41. Cindy October 9, 2013 at 4:00 am #

    What an amazing idea! I’m going to do this right away!

  42. Rebecca November 20, 2013 at 1:21 pm #

    I am trying to find a place to buy fusible interfacing in Vancouver and I am struggling! Where do you buy yours?

    • Tasia November 20, 2013 at 2:48 pm #

      I buy mine at Fabricana usually, but you can also find it at Fabricland, Spool of Thread, Dressew and Gala Fabrics, most fabric stores will have it. It’s often hidden behind the cutting counter though. If you can’t find it, ask the salespeople!

  43. Sophie January 17, 2014 at 9:07 pm #

    I purchased some iron-on interfacing just to try this, as I’m so afraid of ripping my patterns. However, I just gave it a go and it’s just not sticking. Am I missing something?

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