Wednesday, August 27, 2008

On Your Mark . . .


I am not a teacher, instructor, mentor, or any other..or. The only thing I am is a rank beginner, and frankly, I expect I'll confuse the heck out of most of you.

I'd like to try to demonstrate the pattern making technique that seems to work for me. I may evolve to a more accurate and refined skill later, but this is working so much better than what I was doing first, that I'm pretty happy for now. I've heard that using a template is a beginner technique..well.. that would be me!

First of all, I use a large sheet of Avery fasson paper. I'm not sure I can describe this stuff, except to say that it comes in big sheets (27"x38"), and it's like contact paper except it stays by pressure rather than stickiness. I hang mine up on the wall ala pushpins, because if you roll it up or lay it around, it comes separated from the backing. I've tried without success to find a source on the internet, and get mine from The Glass Lady store in Vancouver, Wa. If they ever stop carrying it, I'm toast.

This project is for my brother-in-law who is in the St. Andrews Highland History Guild, which is a 16th century re-enactment of the court of Mary, Queen of Scots. He also has an ancestral interest in Norse history. Thus...Chantal Pare's pattern of Norse war helmet and swords.

I take my regular computer generated copy (8 1/2"x11") down to the local copy store and have them enlarge it to the size that I want, in this case 17 1/2"x20 1/2". I'm not worried about the size of the pattern lines. That will resolve itself.

I put the fasson paper on my work surface. I use a piece of sheetrock. It's (usually) flat, it's cheap, and I already had a piece. I put my fasson paper down (backing and all), then a layer of carbon paper. Remember that? Who knew we'd ever need it after high school typing class. Oops..they probably don't even teach typing in high school any more..or shorthand.

Ok so, fasson paper, carbon paper, then take the copy of the pattern, and put it on top of everything. Check your alignment, making sure the carbon paper has stayed in place and the fasson paper and top pattern are lined up, and secure it with push pins.

Now you trace every line, using a ball point pen, pressing heavily enough to give yourself a temporary case of carpal tunnel. Every time I make a pattern like this I think. "Gosh, I should buy a red pen so I can easily see which lines I've traced and which ones I haven't." Have I bought the red ball point pen yet? But it's a good idea! Remember, it's just like signing for a speeding hard, three copies. To be sure I've gotten every line, I run over the whole pattern with my fingertips. You can feel an impression in the pattern from the pen, sort of like braille in reverse. Once you're sure you've gotten all the lines, unpin everything, take off the paper pattern, put away the carbon paper, and lift your fasson paper.

As you can see..or not..the fasson paper, being a plastic rather than paper surface, it's not a strong carbon mark, but it does take the pressure of the pen. Between the carbon marks and the pressure marks, though, you can see the pattern pieces. If you double click on the picture you can see better from the enlargement.

After I hang the fasson piece (usually on the wall with pushpins) I put the paper pattern on the sheetrock, and get out my layout blocks, push pins and my square.
Boys and girls, this is one of those places in your life where it is definitely hip to be square. I monkey with this thing until every corner is absolutely and perfectly square. Then I flip my square over and check it again. After I'm sure it is really really square, I go have a diet Coke, make a pit stop, come back and check it again, just in case the glass elves came in and messed with it while I was gone. Go ahead...laugh. It's been known to happen.

In the next blog entry, I'll show how to begin with the fasson pattern pieces. Tune in next time.


  1. Well done Theresa! Well thought out and displayed. You even made me laugh about the red pen for marking the lines...I've come to the same conclusion as well.


  2. Thanks Kev, for the input and the compliments. Hope you're holding up well during the current storms. Theresa