Tracing Patterns with Freezer Paper


Over at Gertie’s blog, she recently discussed cutting patterns vs. tracing them. There are clearly benefits for each, but I wanted to share a tip for the times you do trace, because there’s a wonderful solution for tracing your patterns available right in your local market. It’s called freezer paper, and it makes cutting a breeze!

Freezer paper comes on a large roll, and is coated on one side with a light film. When it’s ironed, the film causes it to adhere to fabric. Because of this, it’s a popular choice for quilting templates and applique, and I’ve even seen sheets of it packaged up specifically for quilters.

Simply trace your pattern pieces onto the freezer paper, making sure to transfer all of your markings, such as darts or placement circles. Cut out the pieces, and lay them on top of your fabric. Lightly press on top of the freezer paper with a hot dry iron to adhere. You can now cut your fabric with precision, and you don’t have to worry about weights or pins!

Alternately, if you’re using a very light fabric that slips around, you can take a slightly different approach. Instead of cutting the freezer paper pattern directly on the cutting line, leave some paper all around the edges you drew, then adhere it to the fabric. When you cut, simply cut along the cutting line through both the fabric and the paper at once. The paper will stabilize the fabric, making cutting much easier. Be warned that this will dull your blades pretty quickly, so you will need to sharpen them more frequently, but it is extremely convenient.

{image above: by mauralyn on flickr}

Sarai Mitnick   —   Founder

Sarai started Colette back in 2009. She believes the primary role of a business should be to help people. She loves good books, sewing with wool, her charming cats, working in her garden, and eating salsa.

Comments 33


Wow–I had never thought to use freezer paper for cutting out non quilt/applique projects! Shall have to keep this in mind for future use. Thanks for sharing this great tip!

♥ Casey
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Hi, this is very intriguing. I don’t use freezer paper because it is opaque; I prefer to trace by laying the tracing paper on top. If you do it with freezer paper, don’t you have to use a needle-pointed tracing wheel? And also (I don’t know about anybody else) but ironing your pattern pieces onto your fabric? Doesn’t that imply an ironing surface as wide as your fabric and pretty long too? I don’t mean to be critical but I would find this very difficult to do. I currently lay out/cut on the floor, mostly.

My favourite tracing medium is baking parchment…


Yes, you’d need to use a tracing wheel, or just trace around the cutting lines, then pin mark the internal marks by pushing a pin through both layers, then marking with a pen at the points the pin was pushed through.

You do need some surface area, and I usually set up my ironing board right next to the cutting table. But you only need to fit one piece at a time. You can pin the pieces in place, but then remove the pins before ironing each of them flat. Maybe others have different techniques?


Hi – How do you trace with parchment paper? I was trying to trace one and I ironed the parchment paper over it but that didn’t work. I tried the tracing wheel and that didn’t work either. I flipped the paper over and nope nothing. Can you tell me how you do it? Are you tracing with a sharpie or something?


i frequently use freezer paper to make stencils, but i’ve never considered using it for pattern cutting. GENIUS.


What a great idea! Is the freezer paper easily removed after you’re done with it? Does it just peel off, or would I need to do something special to remove it?


It should peel off easily.


It peels off very easily. I don’t know if it matters, but I always use the lightest of touches with the iron; just enough to ensure that the paper will stick to the wrong side of the fabric.

I also usually line up the edge of the paper with the selvedge of the material, iron on the paper and then draw the pattern pieces.

I generally use a rotary cutter, as I don’t like to dull my scissors.

Some people I know don’t like to use freezer paper because they believe it distorts delicate fabrics. But right now it’s the only way I can cut silk and silk organza with any control.


I use freezer paper, and I trace onto it using my glass topped coffee table as a light box. It works great! Just an idea.


That IS a good idea. Wish I had such a coffee table.


No glass-top coffee table? Use post-it-note tape, sold in dispensers in office supply stores, or use masking tape, and tape it to a large window on a sunny day. Works well. AND the freezer paper idea is smashing! Good thing I am well-stocked up on the big wide rolls from Sam’s Club! Whooo hoooo!


Brilliant idea!


Wow… thanks for sharing this tip! It seems so easy!


ohhhh i love this idea. love love love.



I use freezer paper to stabilize slippery fabric for cutting. I almost always trace my patterns, but I generally trace them on to oaktag. Then I transfer the pattern to the fabric with chalk.

The Cupcake Goddess

This is a fabulous tip to keep in mind! I remember now reading about this somewhere for quilting, but it gives whole new meaning to garment making! Fabulous tip! Thank you!


Thanks for sharing this great tip!


What a terrific idea on leaving an edge on the paper when cutting very light fabrics! Sometimes the best ideas are the easiest and right in front of you. Thank you for the great ideas, so please keep them coming!


How wide is the freezer paper? I had always assumed it came in typical kitchen-roll widths, which would be a little narrow for most patterns? Hmm, have to hunt around at the grocery store next time to see if I can find any.


The stuff in the kitchen package (as pictured) is pretty narrow, but you can find it in large sizes too. Just for example, Uline sells it in huge rolls in widths up to 48″. Obviously, those rolls are way too big for most people, but you could probably find wide widths locally.


Is there an easy way to sharpen your fabric shears once they dull? I live in a small area and the fabric store didn’t have recommendations. Would the guy who sharpens shears at a hair salon be a good solution? The freezer paper sounds like a great idea and I’d love to try it!

Karrol/Kiki von Tiki

It’s also great if you’re going to stencil and/or machine embroider.
Trace your designs onto the paper, cut out the areas for paint to use as a stencil. Once it’s ironed on, you can just paint through the “holes”, and peel the freezer paper off.
For machine embroidery, trace your design and iron it onto the fabric pieces, then stitch away. It acts as a stabilizer too, so you can control your stitching. It tears off leaving no residue to wash out.. Just note that in small spaces, you may need to use a tool like the tip of a seam ripper to pull up the bits of paper.

fat frog

I make historical clothing using multi-sized patterns. This is a great idea. I have been using tracing paper and a smooth wheel.


I do this all the time but there is something I should warn you about:
Keep in mind that if you iron freezer paper with a high heat it will shrink! Before using it on your fabric, pre – shrink it by ironing it onto a teflon ironing pad. Or you can iron it to another bit of freezer paper. It will look rippled at first but keep ironing it and it will smooth out. It will still stick to your fabric – it can be re – used several times before it loses all its sticking power!
Freezer paper is brilliant and for some reason unheard of in supermarkets here. I have to get mine off the internet!

“Reader”, you could tape the paper to a window instead of using a glass topped table.

Kathi Alderink

Great idea! Does it leave any residue on fabrics? Do you need to apply to wrong side thus needing to trace pattern wrong side also?



What a great idea! This just made my day


Someone voiced concern about sharpening the scissors after cutting freezer paper. Here is a video on how to sharpen your scissors using a drinking glass from your kitchen.


I spent two years learning to make woman’s clothes in Sweden 30 years ago and I’ve always used tracing paper to “copy” the patterns. Here I wasn’t able to find the wide paper I was used to but I got a roll of “Pattern Tracing Paper” from Clothilde’s. The roll was 21″ x 77 yards so it has lasted me for many years.

When our grandson was born a few months ago, I found out about using freezer paper. It’s great for knitted fabric. But these days I prefer to use freezer paper even for other fabric. It’s so much quicker because I don’t have to pin anything and the paper sticks to the fabric a lot better than I could ever pin it, so the markings are a lot more exact. When I need the paper to be wider I use a strip of stabilizer or interfacing to combine two pieces, that way I can iron without risking to get tape on the iron. The freezer paper lasts about 10 times and by that time I have to make a larger size for him anyway. One time I had a really thin knit and actually kept the freezer paper on the fabric while I made the shirt. You can stitch right through the paper.


I’m a new sewer …What kind of stabilizer or interfacing works best for putting two pieces of freezer paper together?

Kathi sorensen

Blue painters masking tape is a great, cheap alternative to special post-it tape. I use it to label my pattern pieces “right” side and to remind myself of special instructions for each segment of the sewing process. At 70, I need reminders….


Thanks for the suggestion about using a window and for the source for freezer paper in bulk.


Very new to this method, but with very thin, “wiggly” hard to locate/high priced fabric…this sounds perfect!

This might be obvious, yet do you iron the right side or wrong side to the freezer paper?

Thank you!

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