Sewing Notions – PDF Patterns

Leslie Wright

PDF patterns are a modern convenience. I've also heard them called a modern nuisance. A lot has happened in the world of PDF patterns since those early days and I think PDF patterns have a lot to offer.

PDF patterns are fast. Almost as soon as you pay for them they are sitting in your inbox ready to go. There are no shipping costs or shipping delays to deal with. PDF patterns can also be printed multiple times. If you cut the wrong size or your pet chews the living daylights out of the centre back panel you can just hit print again. And being printed on printer paper they're not nearly as delicate as their tissue paper counterparts.

Printing PDF patterns out at home is easy. Some cutting and taping is required but putting on a good TV show for company can make that task pretty enjoyable. For those of you that have travelled the cutting and taping route and despite the excellent TV accompaniment have sworn them off for good, there is a new option. Most PDF patterns now come with a large-format file. This is a file that can be taken to a local copy centre where they will print the entire file on one large sheet of paper for you. These kinds of printouts aren't too expensive but they do add to the cost of the pattern. It's just something to consider. Large format PDFs are great for large patterns that have a lot of pieces. Some of the larger print-at-home patterns can span 75 pages or more. That's a lot of cutting and taping.

Some patterns, like lingerie patterns, have pieces that are small enough to fit on individual pieces of paper with no taping required. There aren't many patterns like this but they do exist.

Most patterns fit somewhere in the middle. There is still a lot of cutting and taping but it shouldn't take all three seasons of The Great British Sewing Bee to get it done (not that we would mind watching all three seasons).

When printing a PDF pattern, the first thing to check is how it's layed out. Sometimes there is only one option. You just send that one file to print. Some patterns allow you to print different versions separately. This can really save on paper. Some patterns allow you to print different sizes separately. This works really well if you fit into one size but can be tricky if you transition between different sizes.


Once you've determined what you need to print, it's time to locate the test square. It's usually on the first page of the PDF.

Before you print it, make sure that your Page Setup is at 100%.

In the print menu, be sure that you are only printing the page with the test square on it. Check that your Page Scaling is set to None. And check that the Auto-rotate and Centre button is checked. By checking this box your file won't drift into the unprintable zone on the paper.

Double-check that the square on the printout matches the dimensions given. If you accidentally printed your file at 95% and you didn't know it, a lot of time and effort would be spent on making a scaled model of the garment you were hoping to make.

Once your square is printing accurately, It's time to send the rest of the file to the printer. Double-check that you are now printing all of the pages.

Rather than cutting off all four sides of the paper, just cut off two. Always cut the same long side and the same short side from each piece. It allows for overlapping, easy taping and it cuts the trimming time in half.

Once they're all cut out, they can be arranged by matching up the number/letter combinations on each side.

With the arrows and lines matched up you can start taping the pieces together. I'm pretty frugal with the tape and not because I use fancy washi tape for my PDF patterns. I'm just using it in the example so you can see what I'm talking about. I put a good sized piece where the four pages come together. I put a small piece in the middle of a long span. And I put a piece where the edge of the pattern travels from one page to the next.

Just be sure to cover both sides of the size you're cutting. Once you have it all taped together it's just like a big tissue paper pattern. Get out the scissors, The Great British Sewing Bee and start cutting.

Next time on Sewing Notions we'll be talking about knit fabric vs. woven fabric.

Happy sewing,

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