PDF patterns are a rather new concept to me. As someone who grew up using the Big 4, I didn't even know PDF patterns existed until just a few years ago! Honestly, having access to them has opened my eyes as well as so many doors in my own sewing practice!
I know that there are loads of sewists who simply do not like PDF patterns, just as there are many sewists who don't enjoy working with tissue patterns. Both have their pros and cons, but for me, PDF patterns far outweigh tissue paper patterns, and here are my reasons why:
- You don't have to print them until you really want to work on your project! Better yet, you don't even have to put them together right away! This is great because it not only saves paper that would have been used to create a tissue pattern that may or may not ever be sold, but it also allows you to chose a size based on your measurements when you actually go to sew! Which brings me to...
- You can chose to print only the sizes of your pattern that you need! This isn't true of all PDF patterns, but for many (including mine!) you can literally pick the few sizes you need and only print those off. No more struggling to find your size in a sea of slightly differently dotted lines.
- You get free updates on your patterns as they come out! This is especially great if a designer decides to expand their size range or fixes a major error found in the files. You don't have to re-purchase your pattern for the updates- simply reprint!
- PDF patterns are pretty durable because they are printed on normal paper you have at home. This means they tend to last longer and can be reused for years and years, so long as you keep them safe!
- You can re-print your pattern as many times as you want! Whether you need a new print out because you lost or damaged the original, you are making a gift for your friend who is a different size than you, you have changed sizes and need a new copy, or you want to print out a different option than your first pattern, you can do it all because you aren't limited to just one copy!
For those of you who maybe aren't keen on printing and taping together PDF patterns, no worries! Many pattern designers offer copyshop files that you can pick up at your local copyshop or online. Copyshop patterns are printed on large format paper making them a great option to you if your favorite designer doesn't offer their own printed patterns. If you would like to learn more about copyshop patterns, check out my blog post outlining how to work with them!
I personally LOVE to tape together a bunch of PDF patterns in one sitting. Generally, I do this when I am in the mood to get something done, but not enough to move around a bunch or sew an entire project. This is especially true during the colder months. I put on a fire, pop on my favorite TV show on Netflix, grab a warm cup of cocoa, and get to work! I like to break my PDF assembly up over a few days since I am typically putting together quite a few patterns, but you can generally smash out one entire pattern pretty quickly!
Let's get started!
For this tutorial, I will be using the Nathalie Bodysuit + Top as my example. I really love this pattern and it doesn't require too many pages (Depending on the view you choose), so it's a great one to start off with!
Printing Your Pattern
The first thing you will want to do is grab your computer and select the page size you wish to print from. I offer all my pattern in both A4 and Letter sizing.
Next, did you know that you can choose which sizes of the pattern you want to print? All of my files come with size layers, so you only have to print the sizes you need! For my patterns, you will find this option located under the little page layer icon, followed by the drop down arrow.
If you click on the little eye icon next to any of the sizes, you will hide that size. So if you only wanted to print size D, you could hide all of the other icons (except text! You want to keep that visible) and only print out size D! Pretty neat, right?
Many of my patterns also offer a page in the instruction booklet that help you save on the number of pages you might print depending on which view you wish to sew. It can feel quite overwhelming to see all of those numbers and pages listed, so if this is your first PDF printing experience, I suggest just printing out all of the pages for now.
If you would like to try printing out specific pages for a specific view you are sewing, I find it helpful to highlight the pages needed or write them down on a separate sheet of paper. That way, it feels less overwhelming and you can slowly type in which pages you'd like to print.
Once you have your size selected and the pages you need to print at the ready, it's time to actually Print!
Whenever you are printing a PDF pattern, you want to triple check that your scale is correct. That means making sure that your printer is set to print "Actual Size" or "100% Scale".
Then, you will want to print only the first page of your pattern (or whichever page has the little test square on it)! I always put my test square on the first page so that you don't have to sift through to find it.
Once you print your test square, measure it. Make sure that it is the size it says it is. If something is off, you'll need to play with your printer settings a bit until the square comes out the correct size. This is SUPER important! I once printed an entire pattern that was 1/4" (0,6 cm) too small, and the entire pattern wound up being child sized on me!
Putting Your Pattern Together
All you need to put your pattern together is a chunk of time, some scissors and some tape. Or you might prefer a paper cutter and some glue. You might not even need scissors if you prefer to follow @minimalistmachinist method of putting together patterns (it seems pretty cool TBH!) . There are so many fun ways of putting together patterns! For now, I will show you how I put together patterns!
Usually I use Cellulose tape as it is biodegradable, but I recently ran out, so I am using what I have on hand!
I start by sifting through my freshly printed PDF pattern and grouping the "rows" into one stack. You can find out which pages belong to which rows by referencing the PDF printing layout in your instructions.
I then stack each of my stacks perpendicular to each other so that they don't get all mixed up. Something like this:
Next, I take one stack at a time and carefully trim off the top and right edges of the pages.
Once I have a small stack complete, I put it face down next to me and move on to the next stack.
I keep going, placing each finished stack perpendicularly on top of my last finished stack, face down so that I wind up with a new stack that looked like my old stack, just upside down.
I then flip my entire stack of stacks over (oh that's such a weird sentence!) and begin taping each row together. I take this part slowly and do one set of pages at a time.
With the first two pages, line up the little grey triangles with each other. You can also use the pattern pieces themselves as a reference to make sure everything is lined up properly. You want to keep everything as closely aligned as possible, but don't fret too much if something is a smidge off.
Once everything is lined up and you are satisfied, go ahead and tape tape tape that baby together! I tend to tape right at the triangle and then any place where my pattern pieces meet one another.
You will continue doing this with each page until you run out of pages for your row, or simply get to the end of your row.
There are many different ways of continuing forward, but I personally enjoy taping together all of my rows separately before taping the rows together to form one massive pattern. Play around with a few different methods to see what works best for you!
Once you have all of your rows taped (if you are opting to try my method!), start lining up the first row with the second. You will be lining up your grey triangles and pattern pieces just as you had before, but instead of focusing from left to right, you will focus from top to bottom.
Continue taping your rows to one another until you run out of rows to work with!
Cutting + Storing Your Pattern
Everyone has there own preferences for storing their patterns as well as cutting into their OG pattern pieces. For myself, I like to keep my pattern sizes completely intact. What that means is that I don't cut out my current size. My size has fluctuated throughout the years and I prefer having the original sizes to a pattern so that I can get the most use from my pattern.
That being said, there are two ways I have found I enjoy storing my patterns while keeping the sizes intact. The first involves simply rolling my pattern up into a cylinder, either by itself or around a cylindrical tube. I have found myself enjoying this method of storage more seeing as I don't have a lot of cabinet space in my studio. Plus it allows me to skip the need for ironing my patterns every time I want to use them!
I save the rubber bands that come on my veggies from the market and reuse them for things like this!
The second method I have enjoyed using for pattern storage is to roughly cut around the largest size of each pattern piece and then fold each piece neatly before putting it into a manila envelope. When I do this, I am able to tape the size chart + pattern name to the front of the envelope for super easy reference which is pretty neat!
When taking patterns from a manila envelope, they do typically need to be ironed flat before using. To do this, simply place your pattern piece right side down on your ironing board and iron your paper. I have read places that you should do this with low heat, no steam, but I have done it with steam and it seems to be just fine! As long as your iron doesn't leak, that is!
Also, if you are planning on ironing your pattern, make sure you don't have any tape stuck to the backside. I have melted some right on to my iron before and it's not fun trying to remove - yikes!
I think that is everything I can possibly think of that you might need to know about assembling your PDF patterns at home! If I have forgotten anything, feel free to drop a comment or question for me below. Or if you have any tips/ tricks you like to use when putting together your PDF patterns, feel free to share - there is always so much to learn in the world of sewing which makes it all the more fun :)