PDF patterns: how-to Print and Assemble (+ my Best 7 Tips)

Serger Pepper - Fast & Easy Tips for print and assembly

When I was a little girl (and have never heard of PDF patterns) and Mom was often sewing on our kitchen table and my idea of a sewing pattern was a Huge Messy Sheet with red and green lines overlapping everywhere, surrounded by numbers, letters and weird symbols… pretty confusing, indeed!

I remember that, every single time, she had to trace off the pattern before starting to sew… Time consuming too!

Serger Pepper - Fast & Easy Tips for print and assembly - old burda pattern
Compared to a PDF pattern…phew, this last one is a breeze!

But, let’s go deeper in this compare:

Pro to PDF patterns

  1. PDF Patterns are definitely cheaper than paper version.
  2. You can save them to your pc an reprint if you need to cut a different size or you cut the wrong one.
  3. You choose, buy, print immediately, at any day (or night) time… and we all know the urge to sew!
  4. You can help little designers grow (Thanks <3)

Against PDF Patterns:

  1. You need a little crafting between buying the pattern and sewing: cut and tape sheets can take long time!
  2. … nothing else?

PDF patterns seem to be good choice for any frugal eager sewist (do you know anyone that could fit in this category?), but you need to know some little trick to keep Fast and Easy this (boring) assembling task (I’m going to share mine with you below!).

What you need:

Green Tip #1:

Please do not print your instructions, download the PDF on your laptop or netbook or tablet or smartphone  and read them from there without printing: you’ll save some tree (and ink –> money!).

If you have an iPad, use this tutorial to save on iBooks (for Android is pretty much the same, simply save the Pattern and open it with any PDF Reader you can download for free from Google Play – ask help if you need, I can take some screenshot for you!)

Green Tip #2:

In Serger Pepper’s  PDF patterns, cutting lines for different sizes are drawn in different colors but also with different dotted lines, so there’s no need of a color printer and you can print them in Black and White, if you want (I do!)

Let’s print our PDF pattern

  1. Download the PDF on your PC and save it on a Folder called “My PDF Patterns” (or something similar, just to be sure you’ll find it again next time you’ll need to print it – ask me why I’m telling you this!)
  2. To open a PDF, you have to use a PDF Reader; the most popular is Adobe Reader (same brand of Illustrator and Photoshop, but free! – just be sure to unflag the “Mc.Afee Security Scan plus” square, there’s no need of it!)), but it’s not the only one: if you Google PDF reader free  you’ll see a lot of other FREE programs: choose one and download it, if you still don’t have one on your device!
  3. Any program you chose and download, be sure it has the option of printing “actual scale” or “100%” or “full-scale” or unflag “shrink to fit”… endless options, I know – just to be clear!
  4. Really important step! Print page 1 (or check on your PDF pattern printing layout where the test square is, if it’s not a Serger Pepper PDF pattern!) and measure its sides with a ruler. If the square size matches the described size, go on printing the rest using the same settings – if not, check your printer setting and try printing page 1 again!
  5. Now that you have all your pattern pieces printed out, take one more look to the printing layout inside the Instruction file to see how to tile your sheets of paper:Serger Pepper - Sheer Plaid Top - layout pattern
  6. I found easier tape together sheets by rows, from left to right, so I’d suggest you to start aligning pages 1 to 4 (or whatever is your first row last number on right side) and cut along right side of the frame and bottom side from pages 1 to 3 (while on page 4, being the last of the row, you only need to cut out the bottom). Serger Pepper - Fast & Easy Tips for print and assembly - sheet 1If your pattern has more than two rows (unlike the Sheer Top Plaid that we’re using here in this demo), go on cutting along right and bottom frames on all the pages except the last ones of each rows (where you cut only along the bottom line).Serger Pepper - Fast & Easy Tips for print and assembly - sheet 4
  7. Go on with our second (and last) row: pages 5 to 7: cut only along the right frame linesSerger Pepper - Fast & Easy Tips for print and assembly - sheet 5 page 8 or your last page of last row: nothing to cut!Serger Pepper - Fast & Easy Tips for print and assembly - sheet 8

Take a look to all our pattern pieces, side by side like on the pattern layout: yippie!!! As you can see, I cut along the frame lines highlighted in green:

Serger Pepper - Fast & Easy Tips for print and assembly - tiled together

Why do I bother you with these detailed instructions?

Because when you have to tape together patterns with a lot of pages (unlike with the Sheer Plaid Top, easy and fast), you need to find a way to save your precious time!

Folding (or cutting) along all the frame lines, you’ll double your work and your pattern pieces won’t align perfectly, leaving you with a wonky pattern (less than accurate in sizing, then).

As you can see on photos, I have a guillotine (a recent purchase). With scissors this task is much more time-consuming and really wearisome for your hands (plus: cutting straight with scissors on paper it’s really not my thing, especially on those PDF patterns that don’t have frame lines to follow: this is why Serger Pepper’s PDF patterns have frames!)

Let’s take a deep breath and answer to a question: do you plan to use again this pattern, in other sizes?

Think to:

  • kid’s clothes, where the model will grow and change size, or you’ll sew for brothers/sisters;
  • a pattern you want to sew in different sizes for different people;
  • you’re not sure about the size and you need to sew on a muslin (that could not fit).

If you think you will need it again, trace it into a separate pattern paper (like the one for medical exams). In this case, use long strips of tape (when all tiled together, to reinforce), to be sure your taped and folded PDF pattern will stay together when you unfold it after some time in your storage.

In our demo, being a simple pattern made of only 8 sheets of paper, I would cut it directly and eventually reprint next time (remember to save your PDF for future uses!)

Choose your size and cut

Locate the size chart (it’s on both PDF pattern and instructions), measure yourself and choose the proper size.

Then find the corresponding dotted/solid line on the size legend in the PDF pattern.

It’s time to tape

Knowing which size are you going to cut, you’ll be able to save some tape, putting little strips of it on each corner where sheets meet AND on cutting lines, being sure to tape right above your size lines toward the inside of the pattern.

It’s a little trick and on tiny patterns doesn’t change a lot but, if you’re a pattern hoarder like me (and a couple of sewists I know), on bigger patterns you’ll see the difference!

Serger Pepper - Fast & Easy Tips for print and assembly - tape

You know, I’m frugal and don’t like to wast money!

Tape together the first row, matching frame lines and cutting lines;

Now start taping the second row, sheet by sheet, from left to right, matching horizontal top sides to first row’s horizontal bottom sides and vertical sides of each sheet to the previous one in the same row.

Notice that aligning frame lines you’ll have pattern pieces perfectly matching!

Go on taping any other rows until the last one. 

Now (if you decided you don’t need to trace your size and save your printed pattern) cut along the size lines you chose and …

Have Fun!

My Best Tips for PDF pattern assembling:

  • If you use a print shop service insist they do not scale!
  • If you have a craft table that it’s not your sewing table (or your floor is easily washable – I have wood), you can use a glue stick to tape together your PDF sheets. I hate the mess I always do with a glue stick in my hands, I know it would end with a stained fabric!
  • Seam Allowances: in this demo pattern (Sheer Plaid Top) you have to add your seam allowances. You can add them directly on your paper pattern, instead of on fabric: just draw a line 1 cm far from cutting lines, all around, and 3 cm on hem line of the pattern.
  • Check the fit: if you’re going to sew a new pattern or you’re in doubt with the fit, consider “trying on” the pattern. With our demo PDF patter, you could try it “wearing” the half bodice in front of  mirror to see if it’s long enough for your taste. It’s easier add (or subtract) some length, cutting a line anywhere between the armpit and the slit notch and spacing or overlapping the two bodice pattern pieces (then re-tape them!)
  • When you’re in doubt with sizes, I feel better going upsize and then check the fit; if your bust/waist/hip measurements belong to different sizes on the body chart, you often can mix sizes, following right cutting lines in each point of the pattern (remember to do that in every single pattern piece!)
  • When two sheets of paper don’t share any pattern piece, I usually don’t tape them together!
  • If you tape row by row and then tape row one to row two (and so on), you’ll end up with the last tiles of each row not perfectly aligned (and your pattern pieces not matching… aaaargh!). So much better proceed sheet by sheet, matching both long and short sides in the same moment: you’ll spend some minute more, but your pattern will be more accurate!

If you’re in trouble, you can always drop me a line, and I’ll be more than happy to help you!

Do you have a PDF pattern assembling trick to share with us? Comment section is here for you!


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About the Author:

Hi there! I love sewing, creating my own patterns and refashioning pre-loved clothes... If you love the same things, why not be friends? See you on Pinterest http://Pinterest.com/MammaNene

15 Comments

  1. Slizzy January 27, 2014 at 13:26 - Reply

    I had never used a pdf pattern before this one. I more or less fitted it together like you did here. I am quite a fan now of patterns in pdf form. As you say they are a money saver. Thank you for sharing these tips.

    • Mamma Nene January 29, 2014 at 12:50 - Reply

      Thanks Su! I had soe questions about cutting all around the frame or folding down… I think this is my favorite way doing that, the faster… and PDF patterns are really money-saver, so I can’t see why I should spend an arm and a leg for tape or half an afternoon for cutting and assembling… must be fast and cheap 😉

  2. justine January 27, 2014 at 15:10 - Reply

    So many great tips! I especially like the one about NOT printing out the instructions and downloading them to a tablet. I usex to print them or run into the other room to read thecomputer screen. Good luck with your pattern!

    • Mamma Nene January 29, 2014 at 12:53 - Reply

      Thanks Justine! I feel like I’m doing good for the environment, like this, while I can benefit from bright colored photos too!
      PS I have a laptop, often in balance on my sewing table, with scissors hidden under it… I bet you can easily fihure out what I mean 😉

  3. Beatriz Azuara January 29, 2014 at 15:44 - Reply

    You have been a very good tutorial, perfectly understands and cares for the environment, a treat, I if I used more than once patterns in Pdf and even I’ve got the hang to copy the pattern directly from the screen of the laptop that transforms in tablet and remains the same, that I’ve done it more than once when I’ve run out of ink in the printer and the store was already closed photocopying or some time in the shop have been confused with the size and have seen then home and I could not wait for me, enlarging the size pdf showing the square, but I recommend using the printer is more simple and convenient printing. 🙂

    • Mamma Nene January 30, 2014 at 14:13 - Reply

      Thanks Bea! It’s a nice suggestion, I’ve never thought to it…

    • Mamma Nene January 30, 2014 at 14:16 - Reply

      Hi Bea, thanks for your suggestion, I’ve never thought doing it this way!

  4. […] Here you can find MamaNene’s great tutorial for assembling PDF Patterns […]

  5. Pam @Threading My Way February 8, 2014 at 06:00 - Reply

    I used to have magazines filled with lots of patterns on the one page… so hard to see the pattern you want. Such detailed instructions, Irene and so useful for anyone starting out with PDFs.

    • Mamma Nene February 9, 2014 at 10:36 - Reply

      Thanks Pam! I had so many requests in this way that I though it was better to write all my tips together and send here anyone was asking me about it, than answer the same things to everyone! Basically: I’m lazy LOL

  6. Kathy July 20, 2014 at 20:42 - Reply

    If the yest square doesn’t print at the right measurement, how do I make adjustments?

    • Mamma Nene July 21, 2014 at 18:02 - Reply

      Hi Kathy!
      To fix a wrong size test square you need to check your printer settings: usually somewhere, depending on the program you’re using (Adobe Acrpobat Reader or other PDF readers), you’ll find something to unflag any sort of fit to page, resize, adapt dimension functionality has to be unflagged (assuming the designer saved its pattern right size, obviously!).
      If you’re stuck, let me know, we’ll try to figure out – also if it’s not one of my patterns, send me a scrrenshot and we’ll see 😉
      Thanks for your visit, come back soon <3

  7. Kathy July 20, 2014 at 20:43 - Reply

    Test square!! Oops!

  8. […] The PDF sewing pattern can be print in both A4 and legal size paper sheets. If you need some tip for easily printing and assembling one of my patterns, refer to this post. […]

  9. […] you are using a PDF sewing pattern, you need to print, trim and tape the sheets together. If you follow the directions and use the right tools, it can be even […]

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