Buzzings from a quilter who bumbles her way through life!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Tracing a Pattern

Making applique pieces for quilts usually requires tracing off a pattern. Most of us know the trick of holding the pages against a window in order to trace off a design, but that may not be possible for all of us. (What if you live in Alaska and you don't have sunlight available every day of the year? Or you have a physical restraint that makes holding the paper to the window difficult?) I'm going to show you a very cheap and quick method of putting together a light box to use for tracing those patterns off.

I used an inexpensive box from a discount store. It is actually a box I use for filing. I chose to use the side of this box because it is flat and made of a frosted plastic that diffuses the light. You could just as easily use a regular storage container and flip it over to use the bottom.

Turn the box on its side.....
and place a tap light inside. (A fluorescent light will also work. Don't place an incandescent light bulb against the plastic! You could place a lamp without its shade inside if the bulb doesn't touch the sides of the container and you don't leave it there long enough to heat the plastic!)

Now just use the top surface as a light table. Place your pattern on the top surface and the paper you are tracing onto on top of that. If the light is not strong enough to make the lines easily visible, raise the light by placing it on books.

Sometimes you need to trace borders or larger surfaces. I use a glass top from a coffee table for this. I prop it up over a tangled mass of Christmas lights (hey, they were easily available!). You could use a lamp or other light source. You can prop the glass up on stacks of books, a cardboard or plastic storage box, or you can just use the coffee table and not take the glass off. (Mine was a glass made to go over a wicker table, so I did not have this option.) Anything you can put a light in and place a "see-through" surface over will work. You can even use your glass baking dish if you can place a light source under it. Keep your eyes open for a scrap of Plexiglas large enough to use for this purpose and keep it with your quilting supplies.

I might mention here that I use a mechanical pencil for tracing. You might prefer a marker, but use a fine tipped one. When I need to trace directly onto my fabric, as when adding words to a border, I have found that Pilot makes a gel pen with thermo-sensitive ink that works like a charm. It is not designed for fabric, but I have been using it with no problems. I trace my words onto the fabric border of my quilt and embroider over them. Then when I touch them with an iron, the lines disappear! Try it on a scrap and see what you think. This is called a FriXion pen. I found mine at Walgreens on the rack with other pens. (I also wash my quilts when completed. Please test anything you use on a scrap first!)
Until next time, have fun!!!

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