When it comes to patterns, you'll get different answers from every patternmaker and cutter you talk to about how they ought to be done, so there are no hard and fast rules about which type of pattern paper you should use. But here are some guidelines on the various types of papers we sell at Southstar and how they are best used in patternmaking:
KRAFT PAPER: This is the brown paper from which grocery saces are made (that is, if you choose paper, not plastic!). The weight we stock is 40# (read: forty pound). That's not how heavy the roll is. It is a measurement of the thickness of the paper. 40# kraft is roughly the thickness of a paper sack you'd get at the dime store, not the heavy duty bags in the grocery store. It is great for wrapping things, for using as filler paper in packaging, and for using as an underlay below a spread of fabric. It can also be used as one of the cheapest options for pattern paper, especially if the patterns are being made for temporary use.
PLOTTER PAPER: This is a 30# bleached plain white paper, used by computerized cutting rooms for their pattern plotter to draw on, but also a popular alternative to kraft paper for folks doing patterns "on the cheap" because you can see your marks easier than on kraft paper.
ALPHA-NUMERIC PAPER: Also known as "1-to-5", "Alphabet", or "Dotted" marking paper, alpha-numeric paper is like plotter paper which has been printed with a grid of light blue numbers and/or letters and/or dots spacedone inch apart which make it easy to line up pattern pieces straight for tracing outlines. The paper is also thin enough that you can see through it to trace a pattern lying below it. It is often laid right on top of the fabric spread and cut right along with the fabric. It is too thin for most people to use for making master pattern pieces, as the edges are not rigid enough to trace around.
SELF-DUPLICATING PATTERN PAPER: Also known as "Multi-Mark" or "Redi-Roll", this is basically three or five sheets of carbonless dublicating paper (the kind that makes a copy of what you're writing on the sheet below it without a sheet of carbon paper) rolled together into one roll so that you just grasp the ends of the sheets from the self-dispensing carton (like an aluminum foil dispenser box you'd have at home, only much larger) and pull the paper down your cutting table. Then draw your pattern pieces on the top layer (which has an alpha-numeric grid on it) and presto-change-o, you've made yourself extra copies on the lower layers. It's expensive, but it saves tons of time when you need to make multiple copies but cannot afford a pattern copying machine.
MANILA PATTERN PAPER: Now, when you're making your patterns out of manila paper, you're getting professional! Also known as "Granite Tag" or "Oak Tag" paper, manila paper is the type of paper that makes the manila file folders you use in the office. It is bright, so marks contrast well with it, and smooth, for easy, accurate marking. We stock the 2X (0.010") thickness, which is hardy enough to last through more than one season, but thin enough to yield a lot of yardage per roll.
PATTERN PLASTIC: When you are more interested in the durability of your patterns from year to year than in cost--for example, if you are making timeless upholstery patterns rather then frequently changing fashion apparel patterns--pattern plastic, also known as "Duraplast", is the ticket. At 0.020" thickness, it is flexible yet strong, about like the plastic used on report covers. Note that we stock it only in sheets, not rolls.
HI-YIELD SEPARATING TISSUE: This is NOT pattern paper tissue. This tissue is very light and coarse. It is not good for wrapping and not particularly good as packaging material. It is used for separating layers in a spread of fabric. For example, if you want to mark every twelfth layer of a fabric you are spreading, you spread a layer of tissue so that you can separate your dozens easily after cutting. We stock it in pink only.
WAXED PAPER: This is also NOT a pattern paper. Also known as "Lubritex", it is spread between layers of heat sensitive fabric to reduce fusing when cutting with a high speed straight knife.