What is a Tracing Wheel?

Malcolm Tatum

The tracing wheel is a handy sewing tool that is helpful with a number of tasks associated with the creation of various types of clothing and other fabric articles. Generally, the wheel is made up of a disk equipped with serrated teeth. A handle makes it possible to hold the wheel mechanism in place while the disk is used to create buttonholes or transfer markings and designs onto fabric.

A tracing wheel can work with any type of fabric, including corduroy.
A tracing wheel can work with any type of fabric, including corduroy.

One of the most common applications of the tracing wheel is copying the markings from a pattern onto the material that will be used to create the finished garment. The advantage to using this type of design instrument is that it is possible to transfer the markings without using tracing paper. The wheel makes it possible to apply the markings directly to the fabric and eliminate the sometimes cumbersome process of holding the tracing paper and the pattern in place at the same time.

Along with transferring patterns onto fabric, the tracing wheel can also aid in the execution of a number of common sewing tasks. It can be used to create perforations in the body of the material, making the process of creating buttonholes much easier. A wheel can also be used to create notches in the fabric that will work in conjunction with the placement lines for joining the various pieces created from the pattern.

Another use for a tracing wheel is the creation of visual elements that help to enhance the overall design. For example, this tool is ideal for creating darts that help to tailor the shape of a skirt or blouse so that it is more flattering to the individual who will wear it. It can also be used to create pleats that add visual interest to skirts of the fronts of pants. Because the tracing wheel can work with any type of fabric, it is also possible to make pleats and darts on garments that are heavier, such as corduroy or denim. These two tasks can also come in handy when making curtains or draperies with heavy or lined fabric.

Most fabric stores carry one or more models of tracing wheels, along with other common sewing tools. Craft shops are also an excellent place to locate a good quality tool. While many brands of the wheel are inexpensive, it is a good idea to go with a model that is manufactured for use on heavier fabrics so that it can be used with a wider range of materials.

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Discussion Comments


Be careful using a tracing wheel to mark patterns on some materials like leather or vinyl if you don't want the marks to show. A serrated wheel will damage the fabric and can be visible on the final project.

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