PS: I know Sewaholic did a post just last week on this same subject, which was a complete coincidence, I swear. :)
We live in an age where you can get many things instantly, and sewing patterns are no exception.
All Colette Patterns are available for purchase as instant downloadable PDFs, which can then be printed on a home printer. Buying a pattern in PDF format costs less, has no shipping charge, and allows for reprinting if a piece is lost or a different size is needed. It also lets you start a project immediately if you simply can’t wait to get sewing!
When you use a PDF pattern it does take some extra time up front to put everything together, but there is some basic knowledge that can help the experience be more successful and painless. In this post we’ll cover those basics.
When you purchase a PDF pattern from the Colette Patterns shop, the final page will include a link to your account’s download page where you can download the file. You will also receive an email with the same link.
If you’d like to download your pattern later, you can always navigate back to it by clicking the “Downloads” tab on the top of the Colette Patterns site. If you don’t see that downloads link, make sure you’re signed into your account.
Once you click “download now” to download the pattern, it’s a good idea to immediately locate the file – depending on your computer settings it usually goes either to your Downloads folder or your Desktop – and move it to a designated place in your Documents folder.
Some downloads contain only one PDF file, meaning the instructions and pattern pieces are all opened and viewed as one document. Other downloads may be a zip file that actually contains several files. These will involve a PDF for the instructions and one or more PDFs for the pattern pieces. If a pattern has different versions, there may be separate PDFs for each version.
Regardless of how the pattern pieces are organized, they will be formatted as tiles across a number of printer paper-sized sheets. The best way to imagine it is to think about a large piece of pattern tissue unfolded and cut into small rectangles. The PDF will be printed on your home printer and the pages will be taped together to reconstruct the pattern tissue-sized layout.
Some of the more recent patterns also come bundled with a separate file that can be printed on a wide format printer.
Once you have purchased and downloaded your file, the next step is printing out your pattern.
Regardless of which printing method you choose, the most important thing about printing a PDF pattern is setting the print scale properly. Many printers try to scale a document to best fit a paper size. You don’t want to do this with a sewing pattern because it would make the pattern pieces the wrong size.
Print at Home
Printing a PDF pattern at home is pretty much like printing any document. Open the PDF, making sure you are opening the correct one if your purchase came with multiple files.
After you choose File>Print and your print dialogue box opens, set the print scale at 100%. Do not check “Scale to Fit”.
Before printing the entire pattern, locate the page in your pattern that has the test square. Always print this page first on its own to check that you got the 100% scale correct. Measure the test square, and if it does not measure correctly, check your print scaling options.
You can also set a specific page range if your instructions and pattern pieces are all in one file and you want to skip printing the instructions.
Another factor you can control is the printing quality. Choosing an option like “draft” or “fast” will use less ink.
If your pattern came with a wide format file, drag and drop it onto a USB drive and take it to your nearest copy shop. They will print it on a wide format printer so that it is all one piece and you don’t have to do any assembly.
Be sure to tell them that the image must be scaled at 100%, and measure the scale square on the pattern while you are still there so you can have them reprint it if it isn’t correct.
If your PDF pattern did not come with a wide format file but you’d still like to skip using your home printer, you can put the file on a USB drive and have them print the tiled version for you at the copy shop.
Again, make sure you check the scale. Tell them to print it on the cheapeast/thinnest paper they have, as some places by default print it on paper that is a little thicker than your standard printer paper.
The first step of PDF pattern assembly is trimming. This will allow us to overlap the edges accurately.
From every page, trim off the left and top margins. If you’d like, you can skip the top along the first row of pages, and the left on the first page in each row.
You can use paper scissors and cut each page one at a time, or you can use a paper cutter and trim a few together. Just make sure that when you stack them up, all the cutting lines are aligned.
Another option is to fold the margins back rather than trimming them off. This can be a bit faster than trimming.
Once the pages are all trimmed you can start putting them together. Your pattern will have an alphanumeric marking system to help you figure out which pages should be next to each other. Line up the marks and all pattern lines and use clear tape to tape the pages together. Make sure you are lining up the edges super straight and that the pages are laying flat.
As you’re taping, try to put tape through any cutting lines that go across the page edges, as well as where the four corners of the pages meet. This will ensure that your pattern pieces don’t have any flapping parts. Everywhere else, put your tape pieces a few inches apart at most.
Alternatively, you can use a glue stick to assemble the pages, which makes for a very neat pattern. The only drawback is that you must wait for the glue to dry completely before you cut out the pattern pieces.
Once all your pages are taped together, cut out your pattern pieces just as you would pattern tissue.
SPACE SAVING ASSEMBLY
One of the things people seem to dislike the most about PDF patterns is the assembly. It can be a bit cumbersome to tape the entire thing together at once, especially if you are working in a confined space.
If this is the case, you can assemble and cut out each pattern piece as you go. This is a little trickier because the pattern pieces are laid out a bit like a Tetris game to fit the most efficiently on the smallest amount of paper. This means that one PDF page might have little bits of multiple pattern pieces on it. But as long as you are careful, it’s doable.
After trimming, start assembling the pattern, and find all the pages that are involved in the first piece. This may involve going out of sequence in your stack of pages. Tape them together and cut out the pattern piece. Then move on to the next one.
Save all your paper scraps until you are sure you have assembled and cut out all the pieces, because you might not realize that something you thought was trash actually has part of one of your pattern pieces on it. Also double check with your pattern instructions and cutting layouts that you didn’t miss any of the pieces.
TRACING THE PATTERN
If you prefer, you can assemble all the pieces and then trace your size off so that if you need a different size you don’t have to reassemble the pattern.
SEWING WITH PDF PATTERNS
Once you have all your pattern pieces cut, using them is exactly the same as using a tissue pattern. Refer to the sewing instructions to get started. I never print the instructions to save on printer ink, so I just view them on a laptop/iPad/etc as I sew.
STORING PDF PATTERNS
Since PDF patterns are printed on computer paper, you can’t fold them up quite as small as tissue patterns. Everyone has their own pattern storage preferences, but here are a few ideas:
Fold. Fold up the pattern pieces and store each one in a labeled manilla envelope or gallon ziplock bag. The next time you use them, you can give them a quick going-over with a dry iron on low heat to get rid of the creases. Just make sure you avoid the tape. It’s also a good idea to use a pressing cloth on the ink side of the pattern piece, since heat sometimes causes home printer ink to transfer.
Roll. Stack the pattern pieces with the largest ones on the bottom and smallest ones on top. Roll up the stack and either secure with a rubber band or use a cardboard tube as detailed in this Snippets mail.. Store upright in a (clean!) trash can, bucket or bin.
Hang. Put a piece of tape on each pattern piece near an edge and punch a hole through the tape. Use a fastener such as these loose leaf rings to attach them all together, then put them over the top end of a hanger. Alternatively, use a pants hanger or binder clips to clip all the pieces to the bottom edge of a hanger.
Do you have any special tips or tricks to add for using PDF patterns efficiently?
Here’s the interactive checklist for you to download. It’s pretty cool – the checkboxes actually work in your PDF reader!
You can use this checklist each and every time you use a new digital pattern. Keep a copy on hand and you’ll blow through the download and assembly process much faster.
Just click the link below to get your copy!