Hi, y'all! Amy here. This blog post is intended to help those sewists who may feel intimidated or straight up confused about how to use PDF patterns (and maybe provide a few tips to the digital pros among you). As sewists, we often find old habits are hard to break. You are either in the pin/scissor camp, or you live and die by pattern weights and a rotary cutter. You love hand basting, or you would rather poke out your own eye than pick up a needle. Either you adore tissue, or you do a little dance of joy every time you start printing a pattern at home. While there is certainly no reason to "fix something that ain't broke", it's always good to push ourselves to try something new.
While we love our printed patterns, there are lots of benefits to using PDFs. Not only is it instant gratification central (as in, you have an idea and 2 minutes later you're making it a reality), but PDFs have a lower carbon footprint since nothing needs to be shipped. You don't have to worry about tracing since you can print and cut your pattern as many times as you want. And perhaps most importantly, you'll benefit from getting instant updates if the pattern is ever changed by the designer. While the following info is specific to us, you should be able to follow more or less the same steps for any PDF pattern out there.
When you purchase a PDF from us, you can either download your purchase immediately after checkout, or by using the link sent in the order confirmation we'll send by email. Hot tip: If you ever lose your download link, you can get sent a new one by entering your email address here! Now, as a best practice, the minute you download your pattern, save it somewhere safe. We love Dropbox for cloud storage, but if you're on a computer, please create a folder just for your digital patterns. It's fun to build up a digital library you can browse when you need inspo!
Our digital patterns always come with the following files:
- A digital instruction booklet in Letter/A4 format. Depending on the pattern, it may include hyperlinks to supplementary online content. You can print this, but we prefer to follow along on a phone or tablet to save paper.
- Print at home pattern: letter/A4 paper. This format can be used on any home printer, whether you're using imperial or metric paper.
- Copyshop pattern: 46"x48"/A0 paper. This is the file you'll send to your copyshop to print on a large scale plotter printer. It will work on imperial or metric paper.
- Copy Shop File Directions: This will explain how to print our files at a copyshop, and give you permission to print it.
PRINTING PATTERNS AT A COPYSHOP
If you would like to save yourself time from taping and assembling our patterns at home, you can print our larger copyshop/A0 files at any copyshop with a large format printer. Any print shop who prepares blueprints for architects will be able to print our files; look under the local yellow pages for "blueprint printing". Each one of our copyshop files includes a message making it permissible to print copies for individual use (located next to our logo). Here are a few important things to note:
- Our copyshop files are copyright protected and cannot be opened in Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop - they MUST be printed from a PDF viewer such as Adobe Acrobat or Reader, or Mac Preview. If your copyshop tells you they can't open the file, it's because they are trying to do it in illustrator. Let them know they must use a PDF viewing app.
- Most of our files are in A0 format but will fit on a standard imperial 36" x 48" sheet
- The copyshop must print at "no scaling" or 100% scaling to ensure the scale is correct.
If you would like to send your file away to be printed and shipped to you, here are a few online businesses who will do this:
- Pdfplotting.com - inexpensive with fast shipping. Our size sheets (will fit on 36" x 48") cost about $1.20 each. Minimum order is $7.50 and shipping is $7 within the US.
- Blueprints Printing - Sheets are $1.50 each, with a set-up fee of $7 when your order is under $35.
- Staples - available in person or online but may be more expensive than the first two options.
- Sew YYC - $5 a page, no minimums when mailed folded.
- Net Printer - A0 Sheets are £0.75, postage is £3.
- Printing & Plotting - A0 sheets are £0.70, minimum order is £5, postage is £5.
- Sysiden - (Denmark)
- Schnittherzchen - (Germany)
- Preiswertplotten.de - (Germany)
- Repro-plotservice.nl - (Netherlands)
- Allkopi - (Norway)
Australia & New Zealand
- OfficeWorks - A0 sheets are AUS $4.10 a page. Order online or pickup.
- Warehouse Stationery - A0 sheets are NZ$6.50 each. Order online or pickup.
PRINTING PATTERNS AT HOME
To print at home, you'll need to use Adobe Reader or Acrobat (Reader is free, Acrobat is the more feature-rich paid version), or Preview on a Mac. I just downloaded the Adobe Reader app on my tablet and it's super handy! It saves all your PDFs in the app, but you should still save a backup if you can.
As of February 2019, we have started layering our PDF patterns, which means for select patterns you can turn on only the sizes you need prior to printing. You will need to open your pattern file with Adobe Reader, since Mac Preview doesn't yet support layers. The layers icon, once selected, should reveal a drop-down menu of the sizes. Click the eye icon on and off next to the corresponding sizes you want to print. Always keep the text layer activated when you print. If you need to grade between sizes, you can select the sizes you need and then trace between them on your printed pattern.
It is very important that you print your pattern to the proper scale. We get frequent emails from customers who are having issues with patterns being way too big or way too small, and the answer always turns out to be a scaling issue. Here's how to ensure the scale prints properly:
Mac users will be able to print our files from "Preview"; ensure scale is set to 100%.
If using Adobe, select "No scaling" or "actual size" in the printer dialogues box settings. If you are still having scale issues, set scale to 100%.
Print off the first page (with the scaling box) and measure with a ruler to ensure the scale is the correct size. Even a fraction of an inch can make a big difference! Our scaling box is always 4" or 10.2 cm square (measuring from the center of the line).
Once you have ensured the scale is correct, print off the remainder of your pages. Use the pattern printing diagrams to determine exactly what pages you need to print for your chosen view and dress length. It also helps to understand how the page tiles are set out. Just because a pattern is 60 pages, doesn't mean you need to assemble all of those in one mega sheet. We often break up pattern pieces into blocks. As you can see below, there are a few sections in this pattern where a natural break occurs.
ASSEMBLING YOUR PATTERN
To assemble your pattern, you will need scissors or an exacto knife and a glue stick or tape. Cut off the right and bottom edges of each sheet only; this ensures you have a bit of paper to glue the next sheet to. We often get questions about where exactly to cut; straight down the middle of the line is the most accurate. If you don't see that light grey border line on your sheets, make sure the Text layer is turned on!
Once each sheet is trimmed, start assembling the pattern in rows. I prefer to do one row at a time, and then glue them all together at the end. This also ensures you can visualize where a natural break is (ie. where pattern pieces don't intersect with the bounding box) so you don't need to make a mega sheet. Glue sticks are easiest, but feel free to go to town with tape as well.
Follow the numbered guides to assemble your pattern in the correct order. At CCP, we give each row the same number, and then each page in that row a letter. That way it's easy to make your row.
Overlap your sheets and then glue or tape them together. If things don't line up *exactly*, don't have a cow, man. You may need to "true" or smooth to your line when you cut everything out but as long as it's not crazy distorted you should be fine.
Once you have your pages assembled, it's time to cut it out! You can of course use scissors, but for the speed demons among us, using an Exacto blade or an old rotary blade (for paper only!) on a self-healing matt takes no time at all. And if you're feeling super fancy, invest in a pattern notcher. It makes the cleanest cuts and makes it super easy to see your notches when you're cutting your fabric.
And that's it! From there everything is the same as an old school tissue pattern. At the studio, we are total PDF converts since you can mark, grade, or draft directly onto your printed pattern. Best of all, if you decide to make it again you can use the same one or print out a fresh one and make new adjustments or try a new size. If you've never tried a PDF, we highly suggest trying it out! You'll be surprised by how fast and easy it is.
Do you have any PDF printing or assembling tips we should know about? Please share with the class!