Thursday, 31 January 2013

How to Use Digital Sewing Patterns


If you’re new to digital print-at-home PDF sewing patterns, this post will guide you through the simple steps to turn the file on your computer into a full-size paper pattern.

While assembling a digital pattern does add an extra step to your sewing project, there are soooo many benefits to using them:

  • They’re cheaper to buy than hard copy patterns, as you’re not paying for professional printing, packaging or postage
  • If you accidentally cut the wrong size or spill your tea all over it, you can reprint the file
  • You can support independent designers who can’t afford the costs or minimum print numbers involved in hard copy patterns
  • You can get your hands of them instantly as soon as you get that urge to sew!

You will need:

  • Home / office / copy shop printer
  • A4 or US letter paper
  • Paper scissors or guillotine 
  • Glue stick or tape

1. Download your pattern and save it to your computer files. Open it in a PDF reader such as Adobe Reader, which you can download for free. Other PDF readers are available, but you may find that some scale the pattern to the wrong size (see below).



2. This bit is super important! You need to ensure that the pattern is printed at full scale so your garment turns out the size it was intended to be. Just a few % out and your garment could end up annoyingly tight. Go into your print settings and select “actual size” or “set scaling to 100%” or “turn off scaling” (depending on what options your system gives you).



3. Print page 1 only to check the print settings are correct. On Tilly and the Buttons digital sewing patterns, page 1 has a test square on it. If you're using another pattern, the test square is often somewhere in the middle of the pattern - locate the square and print that page only. Measure the test square – on my patterns it should measure exactly 60mm x 60mm. If it’s a even a couple of mm out, check your print settings or PDF reader and try again.

4. Once you’re happy with the scale settings, print the full pattern.



5. Cut along the frame lines - one long side and one short side - on each piece of paper.



6. Align the little triangles, matching up page markers – 1A with 1A, 1B with 1B… etc. Stick the pages together with glue or tape.



Et voilà! Your pattern is now ready to use. Take a look at Tilly and the Buttons digital sewing patterns in my shop.

32 comments:

  1. Hi Tilly, thank you for the post. One of the nicest things I find about using PDF patterns is that the patterns come out on copy paper. I HATE how flimsy tissue is and this is a real plus for me.

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    1. I know what you mean - tissue can tear so easily.

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  2. Oh cool! I've been wondering how this works. Now I guess I have no excuse not to buy that blouse pattern. :)

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  3. Thank for this tut, I need this and I need to learn how to put my pattern to pdf..hm, I just started with pdf, anyway-thanks, I follow you

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  4. Hey Tilly, I am loving your learn to sew series. Although most of it so far is stuff I have already done, I find the more I read the more I learn and improve, especially on the basics. I was wondering if you're going to cover adding seam allowance to digital pattterns. Does the Mathilde Blouse already have them? I love the immediacy of digital patterns but I can't for the life of me fathom why so many of them leave off seam allowance? Any ideas?
    Alice x

    p.s. The Mathilde Blouse is super cute x

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    1. Thanks Alice! The Mathilde Blouse includes seam allowances. I don't really understand why a pattern would leave them out, to be honest. You can use a pattern master to draw them in, or you can get a gadget like a double tracing wheel. Hope this helps!

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  5. I only started using printable patterns in the last year and at first, they seemed not that great. Now I prefer them to hardcopy patterns. The ease! The organization! The price! All great reasons to use them.

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    1. Yes, I know not everyone is a fan of digital patterns, but they have so much going for them!

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  6. Good post!

    It's worth also adding that certain browsers will just not give you a true to size test square, regardless of the settings you choose, so sometimes you need to try different browsers. I've found that Google Chrome is guilty of not printing to true size. Can't remember which one worked, but it was either Firefox or Windows Explorer.

    Hope this helps others too!

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    1. Hmm... you shouldn't really need to view it in an internet browser. Just download it onto your computer, then open with a PDF reader. Even those can open documents at different scales, annoyingly, so if in doubt go with Adobe Reader. (I'm wary of saying that - I don't have shares in them or anything!)

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  7. PS Masking tape is handy for sticking the sheets together. It's less tacky than Sellotape, so if you get it wrong, you can generally unstick and restick it without tearing the paper. You can also write on it if need be...

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    1. Great tip! Some brands of transparent tape work like that too (while others can be a bit annoyingly smudgey if you write on them).

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  8. I was unsure of printing patterns at first, now I really like it as I find the printer paper is much firmer and stands up better to multiple uses.

    I have just bought your pattern and plan to print out this evening ready for a weekend of sewing!

    Congrats on your first pattern fro sale!

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  9. Hi Tilly
    Can you do 'tissue fitting' like the fit for real people book with self printed patterns? For me the jury is still out - instant gratification BUT an extra sewing process. I also find they usually aren't much cheaper, if at all, then getting one in a pretty envelope - and surrounding myself with beautiful things is part of the joy of creating!

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    Replies
    1. In the same way that you can trace tissue patterns onto sturdier paper to make them last longer and less likely to rip, you can trace printer paper patterns onto tissue if you want to mould it over your body.

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  10. It might be worth mentioning that Victory, Salme and Pattern Runway pdf patterns all offer the copy shop option that Burdastyle offers (on request) i.e. untiled large format pdfs that you don't need to cut and glue/ tape. This is the only option I use for pdf patterns. My local copyshop has a large format printer (the paper is about a metre across and as long as you want-i.e. it's a spool) and the most I've ever paid for a single pattern to be printed like that is A$8.80 for Burdastyle's Adam coat. They also have a paper slicer with which they slice off all the white bits so there's very little cutting to do also. Any copyshop near a school/ uni wil have this type of printer (for poster printing).
    I don't do the whole A4 cutting/pasting/ taping thing because I don't have the floor space and consider that sort of stuff a waste of time I could otherwise be sewing with.

    Cheers.

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  11. Hi Tilly, Can you explain how to make the skirt shorter?

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  12. You know I've been really scratching my head about this, and now you've demystified it for me. Bless you girl!

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  13. I just purchased this pattern and I cannot wait to start sewing. I'm reading the instructions carefiully as this will be the first garment I've sewn in 19 years! SO EXCITED!!!! I've set my printer settings as stated in the instructions, but I still can't get a true size for that test box. Do you think it's wise I just make my shirt one size larger to ensure it's not too snug of a fit?

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  14. Tilly

    I have bought the GBSB book, the free patterns included, I am assuming need to be scanned in, the instructions saying increase to 500% so does the advice basically apply to that process too?
    P.S. Loved GBSB, your ideas were really exciting too.

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  15. Hi Tilly,
    Can you tell us what kind of software have you been used for making the digital patterns? Illustrator, CAD...?

    Thank you sooo much for this blog.
    It's well designed and very useful.

    Cheers!
    Vesna :)

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  16. I'm probably being a bit stupid- but when you say cut along the frame lines (one long and one short side)which long and short side?! Would really appreciate an answer, thanks x

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    1. Hi Liz, whichever you like, just keep it consistent. It'll make sense once you start piecing it together, I promise!

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  17. I downloaded one today and beacause it was in 25 bits I thought it was wrong so threw it away.Now I know what I have to doso thanks for the tips. It's going to take a bit of organisation though.

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  18. Hi Tilly I have just printed this pattern, stuck it together and cut it out ready to start after shopping for the chosen fabric i will use. Last year i retired and decided it was time to start sewing again, i have not sewn anything except curtains, since my children grew up, and then --- I found your blog and fell in love with this wonderful blouse. Thankyou for your clear instructions, i will probably need them,lol, i can't wait to make it. Thanks again Tilly you are an inspiration to us all, i can't wait to see your next pattern.

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  19. About to attempt my first proper item of clothing with the Miette skirt in a beautiful floral pattern (was originally an old duvet cover which I salvaged from my Mum who was going to dell them!) xx

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  20. Super excited to get back behind the wheel of a sewing machine!! I trained as a costume maker at uni but since leaving, a few years ago, I have scarcely used my construction skills and have almost totally lost my confidence. Silly huh! I think working in a wardrobe department that doesn't make, but maintains costumes, has made me a little lazy and scared. But upon leaving my job and moving abroad to live with my boyfriend, a month ago, I have decided to reclaim my stitching abilities and am starting with your gorgeous skirt! Here goes!!!!

    Gemma

    fadedwindmills.blogspot.co.uk

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  21. Thank you for this post. I have never used a PDF pattern because I am old school (very old school) and had no idea how it would work. Now I might take the plunge.

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  22. Ah! I'm new to sewing and I wanted to start buying all the PDF patterns but had no idea what I'd be getting myself into. Thanks!!

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