Sharing a studio with my daughter (when she’s not away at school!) lets us bounce creative ideas and challenges off each other. The other day I was telling her that although my Angel Gown pdf pattern has been downloaded hundreds of times from sewists all over the world, I do get requests for vector images to make clear laser-cut Lucite patterns. Often the gowns are cut out from donated weddings dresses, and clear patterns make it easier to center or place embellishments and embroideries that are already stitched into the dress fabric.
Unfortunately I don’t have the software to create vector images (I use my daughter’s old hand-me down computer). Her immediate answer: “Why not just trace the paper patterns onto clear sheet-protectors?”
Why didn’t I think of that? We always have sheet protectors at home: I use them to organize pdf patterns and sewing notes. (PS: they are also awesome for storing cooking recipes and keeping splatters off):
An alternative to clear sheet-protectors is common vinyl sheeting, the stuff used to protect furniture. I picked up a half-yard at Joann’s for around $5.00:
8/26/17 Update: One clever reader suggests using clear shower curtains…brilliant!! Thanks, Marianne!
11/22/17 Update: Debby Rosser had another idea: Hi! I am the founder & executive director of Angel Robes Alabama and we will be using your micro preemie pattern for our robes. I found boxes of overhead transparencies at a yard sale and bought them to print patterns!
Still, I have promised people who want to have Plexiglass patterns made that I would try to get them vector files, and so my daughter has made this file available:
Be sure to first download the pattern and then print it. This means rather than simply clicking the link and opening the PDF in a browser window, you should click on the pattern link using the “right click” or “control click” option on your mouse or keyboard. This will give you the option to “Download the linked file.” Once the file is downloaded, it should print like a charm!) If you print directly without downloading, the size may not be accurate to the 2″ test square.
She also made an outline-cutting file that anyone can take to a laser-printing service. This file has the three most popular sizes (Preemie, Tiny and Micro) fitted onto an 18″ by 32″ rectangle which is the standard surface area for laser-cutting machines.
Note: when this post was originally written, laser services needed AI files, now they only need the PDF file. To give you an idea of the price, The Laser Specialists at Etsy charge:
Laser cut service $30
You can save a LOT by ordering multiple sets at the same time. My original idea was to order in bulk and sell at cost in my own Etsy shop, however I was accused of having “bad intentions” so I’m not going there.
8/26/2017 Update: The ShannonAngelSisters group in Shannon, Ireland contacted a local laser cutting service who graciously provided them with 18 sets of clear polycarbon patterns free of charge! I imagine that other small businesses would also be amenable to such an idea; it’s always worth asking!
Going back to the cheaper DIY clear options…first I tried the sheet protectors. If you open up an 11″ x 8.5″ sheet protector, it’s the perfect size to trace a pattern:
Using a ruler, you can draw in the outlines with a permanent marker like a Sharpie (just let the ink dry a few seconds before touching it). The result is very lightweight but definitely usable:
Next I tried tracing a pattern onto vinyl by the yard:
The result is (of course) much thicker and therefore a bit easier to use:
Next step was to try using the clear pattern for determining trim placement. Here’s the dress I’m cutting up this week:
We’re not supposed to have favorites, but the extravagant gowns from the 1980’s are special to me because they have yards and yards of fabric and lots of trim. I usually work with donated gowns, but I still look for gowns in thrift shops, and couldn’t pass up this steal:
Honestly if it were a dress that somebody would wear these days, I would leave it on the rack for a lucky bride-to-be….but today’s brides want the sleek fitted styles, not the poufy fluffy look like Rachel in the first episode of “Friends” with the big sleeves. So I don’t feel badly cutting this one up.
While I was playing with the clear patterns, the dress was in the wash. It was pretty filthy.
Yes the cleaning instructions say “Dry Clean Only” and if it was a silk dress or a family heirloom, I would definitely send it to a professional cleaner, or maybe soak in the bathtub. However I know these 1980’s polyester gowns are tough as nails, and they can take the gently cycle:
I let the dress air-dry; the dryer would probably melt the sequins and pearls:
Here are the sleeves from the gown. I tried placing the lace motifs at the upper bodice of the preemie pattern:
… and then I tried placement lower on the skirt:
This is where clear patterns come in really handy. I decided on the bodice placement, and then combined that with fabric from the gown’s skirt:
I stitched the two fabrics together along the bottom edge of the lace appliques:
….then trimmed the excess bodice fabric away from the back: