Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Pattern Transfer Paper Troubles? - Product Review

Since the tailoring supply shop went out of business in Oakland, and the demise of stores like Greenberg and Hammer, finding good quality sewing supplies is getting scarcer and scarcer, even in the fashion hubbubs of NYC and LA. When I was studying fashion design, suppliers in the Bay Area were already getting slim. If it were not for the Internet, quality supplies for the home sewist would be dismal.  But when it comes to pattern transfer paper, it is dismal. I'm talking about waxed transfer paper that is.

I still have three small sheets of waxed pattern transfer paper that has held up since design school, and they work okay. When the thought of replacing them popped up, I no longer had a source.  So I turned to the non-waxed sheets from Dritz and Clover, and those sheets do not cut the mustard.
Doesn't look too bad for 15 yrs+ in age huh?
Side note: the waxed sheets transfers are considered permanent. Don't be afraid of them.  Transfers that don't rub, fade or bleed can be our best friend. Just make sure to trace on the backside of the fabric. For muslin work and transferring permanent patterns, waxed paper is indispensable. For less permanent jobs, I use tailor's chalk and sometimes a good old number two pencil (careful where you use the pencil though).

Dritz and Clover paper are subpar, but the upside is they aren't permanent, and won't leave a mark on your patterns. Seriously, no mark. So when you need to see those perfectly traced darts for stitching, they'll be gone. The powdery chalk smears and rubs off onto areas that you don't want it to go. But they aren't permanent you say and what if I make a mistake? Well...if some sewists grew up coloring outside the lines no matter how hard they tried, then my advice would be to stock up on more than one color, so a redo can be traced with the second color. For example, from blue to red or yellow to blue on light-colored fabric.

Powdery Dritz paper, but Clover sheets are a tad larger.
Enter Saral transfer paper. It got some pretty good reviews on Amazon, which is where I ordered mine. I picked up two rolls, one in white and one in red to test on future projects. On a recent trip to Joann's Fabrics, I found a packet of multiple color Saral paper hanging next to the Dritz sheets for about $10. These sheets only only 8x11" in size, so really too small to be useful in my opinion. The rolls I got were about $14 each, but you get 12 feet of transfer paper. I prefer a more narrow and long size when adding seam allowances. Makes the work go by faster.

Saral looks and feels like Dritz and Clover's paper, but less chalky and on the flimsy side. Clover paper is the thickest probably because you need to use brutal force while pressing down on your tracing wheel to get the transfer. Clover is doing you a favor by making it thicker so you don't trace right into your fabric or permanent pattern.

Saral paper can be purchased at your local store, so it's my second choice, and a product I would use when I don't want wax on my project.  Pressing fabrics with wax on it, might not be good for irons. So as much as I love my waxed paper, I have to remember to use a pressing cloth on the backside of the fabric if wax lines are visible.
You can get rolls directly from Amazon.
I am miffed by the fact that I only located two sources on the Internet that carries waxed transfer paper. With industrial pattern drafting digitized, maybe these sheets are becoming more obsolete in the design rooms as well?  Getting good tools for sewing is increasingly more difficult. Can it be that the methods in which the modern sewists creates has changed? If you haven't watched the UK television show, the Great British Sewing Bee, get to YouTube and find it. The last winner was 81-year-old Ann Rowley with 75 years of sewing experience. If you get a chance to watch her sew, you'll learn how she grew up making clothes the "proper" way (by hand), and not buying it off the rack from the stores. Ready-to-wear was once a new concept for people, and Ann Rowley reminds us of a time and a craft that should never become bygone.

I ordered my new supply of waxed sheets from Sunni Standing at "A Fashionable Stitch." I found her store by accident while researching how to create a good waistband stay. Sunni wrote a blog about grosgrain ribbon used in waistbands. I found the waxed sheets in her store while poking around for grosgrain ribbon.  Sunni sells some hard-to-find sewing supplies that I need (or didn't realize I need) to help me sew well.  It's like Sunni heard me complaining and opened a store just for me. If you don't know Sunni, she offers a free Craftsy class called "Mastering the Zipper Technique."

Each waxed sheet arrived poster size (26x39"). There's enough to last me another ten years at least. Now I have a big enough sheet to lay down over my fabric without moving it from place to place (which often cause fabric shifts).  I ordered two sheets of red and one yellow. I recommend a color for dark fabrics and another for light. Sunni sells them for $10 a sheet plus shipping and handling.  The sheets are big enough to split them with a friend.

Look how big and beautiful they are:

The other place that sells waxed transfer paper is Richard the Thread down in the West side of LA in Culver City. I discovered it by accident during a Google search and found a user group discussing about how they can't find waxed transfer paper either.  See? It's not just me looking.  Several of the sewists there mentioned Richard the Thread. Isn't that a great name?

Richard the Thread used to have a $30 minimum purchase on their online ordering system.  This policy was still in place when I placed my order with Sunni.  I just checked their site again, and it's changed; no more minimum. Lots of folks on the Internet were complaining about this old requirement. (I know why they requested a minimum, but it's too long to get into today.) They offer a couple extra colors and charge $11.85 per sheet. Richard the Thread also carries difficult-to-find supplies.  BTW, I read that the former Greenberg and Hammer stocked their transfer paper directly from the family who still made the sheets by hand. Can you imagine getting anything still made from hand? A wonderful history is attached to these sheets.

I did a little sample tracing test on a piece of cotton muslin using roughly the same color from each brand.  I hope you can see it...but if you don't see the lines on the muslin clearly, just imagine what your real project will look like.  Look how perfect the waxed sheets are? The Saral sheets are acceptable. If I had to force myself to choose between the Dritz and Clover, even though they are almost identical, I might go with the Clover, simply because their sheets seem more durable. But really, save your money and get the Saral if you want non-waxed paper.  The last photo at the bottom is my old waxed sheet, still going pretty strong considering its age!  Happy sewing!


Look how clear you can still see this. Not bad looking huh?