There's been an undeniable increase in PDF sewing patterns from independent companies in recent years, providing instant and affordable access to some seriously gorgeous designs. Opinion remains largely divided; however, with some people favoring traditional paper patterns. For a large number though, it's mainly trepidation about how to print, assemble and trace PDF sewing patterns that holds them back. If you fall into this camp, I'm hoping to demystify the process for you and opening up an exciting new world of pattern possibilities.
Discover the basics to working with PDF sewing patterns!
If you're new to PDF sewing patterns, my best advice is to start off with a simple one that has few pattern pieces. There's a really great selection available out there, but my top picks for blouses (pictured above) include:
- The Afternoon Blouse - Jennifer Lauren
- Tiny Pocket Tank – Grainline Studio
- Kanerva Button Back Shirt – Named
- Sorbetto – Colette Patterns.
You can also browse the Craftsy pattern gallery for plenty of inspiration too!
How to print your PDF pattern
Printing your PDF sewing pattern correctly is crucial to ensuring that the pattern sizing remains accurate, so here are a few handy tips:
- Printers vary across the board, but look out for setting options to "print at actual size" or "scale 100%".
- Turn the "two-sided printing" option off, so your pattern only prints on one side of the paper.
- Most PDF sewing patterns include a test box. Print this page first, and measure the test box to determine if you have printed at the correct scale. Adjust your print settings if necessary. Once satisfied, you can go ahead and print the whole pattern.
- Some companies make the different variations/views of their pattern available as separate PDFs, which can save you both time and printing costs.
How to assemble PDF sewing patterns
Most PDF sewing patterns include a pattern layout, illustrating how your printed pieces of paper should fit together. Study this before you get started and together with the following pointers, assembling your PDF pattern should be a breeze:
- Instead of wasting unnecessary time trimming all four sides of your pattern sheets, just fold / cut away the bottom and right hand side borders of each sheet. Judging by the pattern layout, you can save even more time by not folding / cutting the borders of sheets that are last in a row.
- Sometimes pattern sheets are helpfully numbered and labelled, making assembly much easier. Alternatively, most PDFs have alphanumerical notches that you can use to match up your sheets.
- If your pattern is particularly large, you may find it easier to tape all horizontal sheets together first, followed by all the rows next.
- To physically stick your pattern sheets together, sticky tape or glue do an equally good job.
How to trace PDF sewing patterns
When it comes to sewing patterns, people seem to fall into two categories – those who boldly cut and those who carefully trace. PDF sewing patterns are no different, and whilst you may be happy cutting them out, here's a few tracing tips for the more cautious among you:
- Some PDF sewing patterns contain overlapped pattern pieces, so tracing is necessary. To make life easier, try defining the pattern pieces by going over each one with a different color felt tip.
- Everyone has their own tracing preferences, but I like to keep things cheap and simple. I use baking paper (beware of the greaseproof stuff as it doesn't like felt tip pens very much) and tinned food as weights.
- Trace off all markings (notches, fold lines, darts, etc.) and label your pattern pieces to avoid any head-scratching later on.