PDF patterns – let’s talk


I’m interested in hearing people’s experiences, thoughts and suggestions about the supply of PDF patterns – and I think people are interested in talking about it too. 

I’m not talking about the companies, independent vs Big 4, their designs, grading, ease or sizing… just simply the supply of PDF patterns.

Over the Christmas break I decided to sew a shirt using a PDF pattern I’d purchased in a sale. It turned out I didn’t sew that shirt as I couldn’t stomach sticking together 40+ A4 pages on an exceptionally hot summer afternoon.

I decided to clean my sewing room instead. It’s interesting that I considered my time was better invested spending days tidying my sewing room rather than sticking together A4 pages on one afternoon. I think that’s because no one else could/would tidy my sewing room but there are other ways a pattern can be supplied or printed.

I posted on Instagram, curious how other people felt about PDF patterns, how many disliked the A4/letter assembly… was I just precious?

The post generated over 180 comments. Some people love pdfs, some loathe them and others lie in that 50/50 camp of love/hate. And for some, such as myself, the love is conditional on how the print file is supplied.

My experience

I do like PDFs as storage isn’t an issue until you print them. I usually trace them off & read the instructions on my phone/iPad or print the instructions (if I feel I need them) in booklet format to save paper. I rarely keep the actual printed pattern once it’s traced.

I do like paper patterns and have an extensive collection. However with some paper patterns I’ve purchased online I often pay at least $10 postage in addition to the cost of the pattern. I can print an A0 sheet for $4.10. So in some cases the cost is much the same.

PDF A4 (or US letter) assembly patterns

I have tried glue, sticky tape, a paper trimmer, using a huge window, doing them in sections. I can do it quickly, efficiently and precisely. That’s not my issue. It’s not that I can’t do it – I loathe doing it. Like many people, I am time poor and I have become very ruthless with how I allocate my time. I’m also quite intolerant of having my time treated as ‘disposable’.

I’m OK with about 15 or so pages. I think once you reach in excess of 25 pages, as a business you may like to consider the customer experience of the pattern.

Printing

I think there will always been a need to supply A4/letter print formats – the availability of this type of printer is widely available & often in the home or workplace.

Some people do not have access to commercial large format printers. So the choice will always be paper patterns (commercial or independent) or using their home printer for smaller A4 or US letter sheets.

I don’t print my patterns at work. I print at home or use Officeworks (a chain stationary store that also supplies printing services) for large format printing. I have a strong preference for PDF patterns that are provided in A0 format. I dislike patterns that require me to find a commercial printer with a plotter – the patterns which require ‘roll printing’. They are often located in professional design/engineering offices that often don’t supply printing as a normal business service so that in itself is cumbersome to navigate – and frankly… I can’t be bothered.

Here in Australia, many larger regional centres and most city areas have access to a stationary supplies chain store Officeworks which offers A0 printing services for $4.10 per sheet. I know it’s not the case for everyone but I’d rather pay that & I have my time back.

I understand the ‘immediate satisfaction’ that some love, being able to print & immediately start sewing. I tend to plan in advance due to my limited time to sew. So that for me isn’t an issue.

Feedback

I have been contacted by a few designers since that Instagram post. And one of the things that stuck in my mind from those emails and messages was that some companies hadn’t considered  the end-user experience or how we might access printing for PDF patterns.

They also inquired what printing was available. From the instagram comments, it’s evident that printing is largely dependent on location in a metro or regional area – and country.

I did think about creating a Google Forms document to collate the data – however I’m not in the business of advising companies how to run their businesses. I just see this as a discussion forum. If they are interested (and the response to the Instagram posts indicates they are) they can read your comments. 

I think it’s important to acknowledge that a company has a target market and will supply their product accordingly. If they aren’t interested in growing their market share by modifying their product to suit the needs of a new set of customers – that’s absolutely fine. It’s their business.

How you would like your PDF files supplied? What’s your country of residence, printing costs/availability and file type preferences?

Note: I have no financial interest or affiliation with any pattern company. I’m also not in the business of advising pattern companies. This is simply a sewing community discussion.

… I’m going to let this discussion run its course so I may not reply to every comment. I’ll be reading them though. I’ve got a lot going on right now so if I’m quiet that’s why.

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89 thoughts on “PDF patterns – let’s talk

  1. I only buy them if they have the print shop files available. At kinkos (a USA print shop) a PDF pattern printed on large 36″ wide paper, it costs about $12 for a pattern. So it’s not very affordable. However I don’t think sewing is very affordable in general (you can find deals and shop sales etc but in general, buying a RTW shirt is cheaper than making one.)

    So patterns: I rarely buy them anymor. I got tired of having poor print quality, or the pages didn’t line up, or it was 40 pages and they didn’t offer a print shop large format option.

    Ugh.

    • Interesting question! My nearby office supply print services (US) tend to charge a mint to print large format sheets. I’ve been quoted $15-40/sheet. For a pattern like Alabama Chanin’s, there would be multiple sheets for a single garment.

      I’m not 100% against PDF if the price were low enough and the pattern pieces were small. Otherwise, it’s paper patterns only, for me. I find that the drawbacks aren’t worth it at the usual PDF prices.

      No matter how carefully we tape, a large composite introduces error that magnifies with each added sheet. It can mean trouble for a tailored coat or formal gown.

      Storage is another headache. Whether rolled up or folded, a taped-together collage suffers distortions and takes up too much space.

      I’d order a lot of StyleArc, Named and Chanin PDFs, if they worked out a deal with a major store chain in the US where we could get the large sheets printed at a modest fixed cost.

  2. I am in the US, and I have explored printing options for large format at my local FedEx Office — it is very expensive and they want a copyright waiver from the pattern company even when I show them that I have purchased the pdf pattern. I won’t do it anymore, and I absolutely refuse to spend my time taping letter sized printouts together for anything except perhaps a child’s pattern that will fit on four sheets. If a company does not sell paper patterns I am not using their patterns.

  3. I’m someone that doesn’t mind printing them on my letter size paper, cutting and taping together (when pattern scale is accurate) I just do it while watching a movie or TV show. I am one of the lucky ones that could send it to work with my husband to print out (he has the right type of printer ) but I haven’t ever done it. But I’m also a visual person. I like looking thru my box of patterns to find the next project. Would need to print a picture of the pattern to put in that box.
    Great conversation by the way.

    • I also don’t mind printing out patterns at home and taping them together. It’s something I can do while watching tv, and with someone else, which is nice because sometimes sewing can be lonely. I didn’t realize we were such a minority! After I use a pattern, I clip all the pieces together with a binder clip and hang it up on a hanger in the closet. What I haven’t figured out yet, though, is a good system for storing all of the “back-up” original pdf files on my computer.

      • I don’t mind taping either. And I just fold up the pattern pieces and store them in an A3 sheet protector – the clear plastic ones. I store those in an A3 ring binder, alphabetically by pattern house.

        I love knowing I can reprint if my size changes or I wear a pattern out. I loathe tissue paper patterns. So delicate and difficult to get flat. Printer paper and pattern weights is so much easier to cut around.

  4. I loathe them, they don’t always line up accurately in my experience, some sheets are so huge that by the time you get to the end you are fudging the lining up. I try very hard to be accurate. Recently I downloaded a free PDF and it went together really well, so I don’t think it’s me, maybe it is. I hate how you have to cut as well as paste, I sticky tape mine btw. I find it a tedious exercise and extremely time consuming. I now look at how many pages before I buy. And you are right, I think several smaller sheets are easier to manage than a huge one that I did recently and whilst I love nesting, they had all sizes nested right up to 30, I think it was. So a lot of extra pages were printed and cut away. I have now developed a system which has eased the some of the pain. I did think I was clever one time and got my husband to help. He is a pretty accurate fellow and even he got tired and I had to ask him to stop because he wasn’t cutting accurately enough, so now that option is out.

    Also, I had an experience with a local company that made you download a different app for the instructions, I found this totally frustrating as the app would not work, and I had bought and paid for the delivery of a hard copy, but the instructions were not included, go figure!!!

    I hope things get better in this area, whilst I prefer a hard copy delivery is very expensive from overseas unfortunately.

  5. i’ve gotten to where i don’t want to order them if i don’t have too. too much paper and way too much time assembling them. i do however love the way Jalie patterns come on one big sheet so all i have to do is trace them and cut them out.

  6. I’m a 50/50 person! My favorite pdf’s are the ones that tell you exactly which pages to print for certain styles and sizes…I hate the ones where you print, tape together and then end up throwing half of what you printed away. I’ve had a couple where the smaller pattern pieces are actually inside the larger pieces; I think this is a great way to save paper! The main thing that I don’t like though is that they are much bulkier to store once they’ve been assembled. I do love the traditional pattern envelopes for neat storage.

  7. I love the immediacy of pdf patterns and I live very close to an office works shop that can print them out in large format.
    I loathe printing out the A4 pages andsticking them together. I don’t understand why some companies can provide a copy shop version and others don’t. Surely it can’t be that hard to produce both versions. I’m talking to you Burdastyle. I would buy many more patterns from Burdastyle if I didn’t have to stick them together.

  8. i have only recently become aware of independent pattern companies, so this is a new issue for me. I have downloaded some files (free) in order to see if I liked them well enough to purchase patterns this way——I did not! The only thing more tedious is tracing a pattern out of a pattern book. I’m glad I read this post because I was on the verge of looking into a copy shop which could print out a large format pattern. For the price, I would rather get a real pattern and enjoy the beautiful packaging. I want to start making my own patterns soon (after I get my fit issues worked out…..sure wish I had a sewing buddy).

  9. I just don’t buy them. We have a bad track record with printers in our household, they always end up broken after a few months and then it takes me several more months to get around to either getting the machine fixed or buying a new one. Consequently we only own a working printer about 50% of the time. The kids just print stuff they need on the school printer.
    I guess I could print a Pdf pattern at work, and I do sometimes print small things such as school excursion notes or print-at-home tickets at work when we don’t have a printer, but it’s not really good form to be using the work printer for large print runs.
    Taking the PDF elsewhere such as Officeworks sounds like a very big pain in the neck.
    So PDFs, no not appealing.
    I do use Ottobre a lot but have been doing it for years and am quite quick at tracing off patterns. I buy polytrace in large amounts and have a 2b pencil on hand.

  10. Great discussion!!!
    I use PDF patterns for 2 reasons : the main reason being I live in South Africa and it’s difficult to get hold of current paper patterns. They are also 6 months behind when you do eventually get them! The other reason is that I find the PDF patterns to be more “edgy”. However, I loathe all the trimming, sticking etc and always feel that it is never 100% accurate if there are lots of pages. So, now, I only buy if there is an A0 copy shop version. The exception is if there are only a few pattern pieces. It costs me R60 (about USD 4.50) per A0 sheet to print at the print shop.

  11. I have a collection of them.. but in reality I really get tired of the time and money spent printing and putting them together. Now…. I’d rather just pay for a paper pattern unless it is a small pattern.

  12. It has to be a pattern I really really want to go to all the time of taping all pieces together. With Jo Ann’s offering such good deals on pattern, I usually wait till they are on sale and buy then. I tend to buy basic patterns and use then longer.

  13. Hi Lizzy! Thanks for bringing this topic up again.

    I’m in NZ. Like you, it’s often prohibitively expensive to have a physical pattern sent here. For this reason I usually choose PDF, unless I am purchasing a Vogue pattern, in which case I order them online on sale.
    I have access to a stationery chain where I can have A0 sheets printed for $6 each. Usually I’ll only choose this option if the pattern has lots and lots of sheets (over 25-30). Reasons for this: 1. It’s a pain to go to the store (traffic, waiting in line etc – I have little patience for such things, and it does take time) 2. since the staff are often different I get really tired of explaining the whole ‘no scaling’ thing and even then sometimes it doesn’t come out right; 3. When you need more than one sheet, $12 or $18 is a lot to add to the original pattern cost.

    It’s fast, easy and cheap for me to print pdfs at home, especially if I use the economy setting on the printer. I honestly don’t mind sticking pdfs together. I put on a podcast and I might do it in stages, mixed with other sewing tasks or chores around the house. Cut margins one day, stick together another day, etc etc.

    Other reasons I like PDF (also applies to A0 printouts): I like how durable printer paper is compared to tissue; easy to store, folded up in plastic sleeves in a binder; I can print it again if need be.

    Those are my thoughts… can you tell I’m procrastinating – I should be cleaning the house, it’s a mess! šŸ™‚

  14. In Germany there are online companies, who will print the pattern and send it to you the next day and it is quite cheap.
    What I really dislike are pdf patterns, that are only a4 and they don’t tell you before buying! When I am buying a pdf pattern I am assuming that there is a copyshop version included, unless stated otherwise. A fellow german seamstress wrote a programm, where you can add the single a4 pages to print on a0, but it don’t find it right now.
    What I dislike, too, are pdf patterns where pattern pieces are printed on more sheets than necessary. When you have a flap or smaller pieces that can fit on 1 page, please, please, please position it so it is printed on 1 page.
    Lastly, I like the way Sewaholic pdf patterns are structured – they tell you beforehand, which pages you have to print for each view.
    In general I prefer pdf patterns, because they are cheaper AND you can print them as often as you want. So if you lost a pattern piece or your cat destroys your favorite shift dress pattern (he really did! and that pattern is OOP), you can simply print it again.

  15. I really don’t mind printing a PDF pattern on my home printer and sticking it together, if I really want a pattern. I have become a lot choosier about what I will now print, especially as I have a subscription to Burda and I am confident with their fit for me. Often it isn’t that hard to adjust a Burda pattern that is similar to the latest Indie release, that interests me. Tracing a Burda pattern from their magazine and then cutting all the paper pieces out is also time consuming but when you have been doing it as long as I have, you just accept that it is all part of sewing. And the reason I don’t go to a Copy printer of to Officeworks is simply I have never done it and not sure how to go about it. Babyboomers can be a bit thick sometimes!!

    • I feel the same way as you, I’ll do it if I want the pattern enough, and mostly i would rather trace and modify Burdas. I had not even tried getting PDF’s printed out at Officeworks! I am a baby boomer too. However, technology moves on and I hope all the companies that do PDFs are reading these discussions and will deliver what people want.

  16. With the print prices for A0 or the cost of ink for my printer, I’d rather pay for shipping from overseas (I live in Norway). Also I can’t stand sticking together the A4 pages.
    The only upside with pdf patterns is that they beat the shipping times from ie USA or Canada.
    When I worked in the next room to a plotter, big sized pdf files were great.
    Except for storage.
    I roll up the big sheats, but the paper patterns take up much less space.

  17. I print PDFs A4 size at home or at work. I don’t mind the assembly job. It seems like less work than finding a shop in London who will print large format for a reasonable price – I know they exist but I can’t go one easily and I’d wind up paying postage if I couldn’t get there easily around work.

    My limit for printable pages is around 30, any more than that I’d be very put off. The one thing I wish pattern designers would do is if there’s any large rectangular pieces, to provide a cutting key rather than have them on the printable lay plan. It’s save a lot of wasted paper as it’s no effort to draft rectangles to size yourself. Burda do this for their pdfs.

    I recycle printed pdfs that I’m pretty sure I won’t make again, and store the rest in a file folder system – I’ve got about 25 I keep. Should get in the habit of tracing off because they’d fold much easier!

  18. I’m in Germany and kinda hate A4 pdf patterns. It feels like a waste of time, nerves, money, paper and place to me to print and assemble 40 pages… Since a couple of months I prefer to buy paper patterns or pdf patterns with a copy shop file. In Germany, I’ll get it printed for under 3$ each. So it saves me a lot, especially because I just cut my size from this A0 print and if my size changes I order a second one from the copy shop. It’s really sad that there are still a lot of pattern companies that don’t offer copy shop prints šŸ˜¦ There are so many great patterns outside in A4… šŸ˜¦

  19. I love them, they’re so quick. Ones I’ve bought and had delivered tend to sit there until I get round to it. For some patterns (smaller things other than clothing) I’ll open the pdf and trace it off the laptop or iPad screen rather than print it out. Takes a bit of zooming and moving around but it works well enough. The rest I’ll print at home A4 and sellotape together on the floor while my cat merrily walks all over it!

    I just haven’t mastered how to store them neatly yet! I’m in the UK

  20. I actually really enjoy taping those A4 pieces of paper together – I find it quite relaxing!

    I’ve noticed people say they trim the pages then stick them together, but I’ve found it far easier to just fold the paper instead of trimming, a fold is more likely to be straighter than cutting with scissors, and it’s much quicker.

    Also, I’ve seen comments about taping together the sheets into a huge single sheet which gets unwieldy. As soon as I’ve got a few complete pattern pieces together I rough cut them out so it cuts down on the size of the sheet I’m adding to.

    Most, if not all, of the PDF patterns I’ve bought include a guide to the pieces, so you only have to print the pages you need, but from other peoples comments maybe this isn’t the case for every company. So I too would be annoyed if I had to print more pages than I needed because there was no guide.

    Given a choice of PDF or normal format, I’ll always choose the PDF because it’s cheaper, plus I always trace patterns which come on tissue paper but I HATE tracing! I find I’m not very accurate, no matter how hard I try, but I’ve always found PDFs to be very accurate. With the PDF I just put it together and use it as it is, no tracing required. Then I sometimes throw away the patterns pieces once I’m finished with them if I know I won’t be making that pattern again for awhile, or keep it if I think I will use it again soon, or have made significant adjustments to it. I also like the fact that a PDF takes up absolutely no storage space until you decide to make it.

    I currently live in a reasonable sized town in the UK, but there’s no copyshop in town, however there is one a bit out of town, but I don’t have access to the car very often, so going there to print a PDF is just not appealing at all, it would be such a faff! Also, in the past they have been very hard to convince that it’s OK to print something due to copyright issues, so I can’t be bothered with that hassle either. Oh, and I’ve just remembered, they’re closing down soon!

    Very interesting discussion! šŸ™‚

  21. I dislike PDF patterns. I’ll occasionally use one that comes with an A0 printing option but I won’t stick A4 sheets together! I’m in Cambridge (UK) and have access to several A0 printing places but it’s not super cheap – about 6 ukp. So I have to really love the pattern as the printing alone is as much as many paper patterns cost on sale.

  22. I am lucky enough to have access to a home A0 printer (my partner is an artist). Before he got it I would do the A4 tape using removable tape, tracing and then bring it back to A 4 and storing in an envelope. Boring and time consuming. I love the current situation for me. I also feel. especially if a pattern has complex seaming, that taping runs the risk of losing grainline and the end result being slightly compromised. I do like that the pattern is on sturdy paper rather than fragile tissue. I always trace onto swedish tracing paper.
    My personal preference is to to buy in a shop but access to said shop and pattern variety is a once a year experience if that. So post and printing it has to be.

  23. I despise PDF patterns and only ever buy them when I really loeve the pattern and it’s not available as a paper pattern.
    Some I have struggled with for years, because the paper pattern is too expensive including postage, but I still refuse to buy the PDF (Tessuti Alice for instance).
    The pages hardly ever line up, and syoring the pattern after is a nightmare.
    I ignore a whole bunch of indie designers if they only supply PDF patterns.
    Funnily enough I always trace off my paper patterns anyway, and never cut into them, so don’t mind the extra time it takes. It’s just therxperience of orinting, cutting, taping and storing PDFs that takes all the joy out of sewing for me.

  24. Thankyou for having this discussion! Like everything there are always pros and cons, and it’s great that pattern companies are becoming more aware of their customers wants/needs/likes when it comes to this kind of thing.

    I LOVE pdf patterns!! For big pattern pieces I do find an A0 printable very handy (through Officeworks) but that can add up $-wise when you’re still paying a relatively high price for a pattern. (especially when lots of indie pattern companies sell in US Dollars and we have the Aussie exchange rate to deal with!!) As a stay-at-home mum printing on my home computer and cutting/pasting suits me best and I don’t find to too labour-some. I love the instant gratification that a pdf pattern gives you, as well as saving the file and re-printing if I would like to change sizes or if I lose a piece.

    Personally, I find the thought of tracing a paper pattern or Burda pattern more painful!!

    For those pattern companies that do offer a pdf and a paper pattern, I do like seeing the price reflected in my choice too. Often if it’s a design that’s a bit different to my usual style, I’m happy to buy it as a pdf when that is a less expensive option.

  25. I love PDF patterns! I’m in NZ, so shipping can often tip the cost of a paper pattern into not-worth-it territory unless there’s a local supplier. I don’t find sticking them together too much of a chore, but I do appreciate it when a pattern company puts some thought into their PDF layout. It’s so annoying when a pattern piece could fit onto one A4 page but instead it gets placed on the intersection of four! I’ll use the A0 option (if there is one) once the pattern gets over 35ish pages, but that does make it less convenient. I also like that I can just cut it out without worrying that I might want to make another size or hack the pattern, as I can just print it again. I store mine in clear sleeves in big lever arch ring binders, so they take up a shelf in my bookcase, but that’s ok.

  26. I don’t mind pdf patterns at all. In fact in many cases I like them, I like the immediacy of them and the fact that as I’m printing them at home and not having to pay shipping costs I am saving money. I print them on my standard A4 printer at home and have no issue with taping them together, which I tend to do on the lounge floor while watching television. I would possibly draw the line at ones with a huge number of pages – I think the biggest used has been around 40 pages, I wouldn’t want to do much more than that.
    I tend to cut mine out once they’ve been taped together – I don’t trace them unless there is no alternative. I think Named patterns pdf’s are overlapped so you have to trace, but then their printed patterns come without seam allowances, so you have to trace both formats in this case. I mention them specifically because I love their designs.
    So, all in all, I’m a pdf fan.

  27. As you were saying it depends on the size of pattern & amount of pages. I don’t mind sticking them together as its great if u want the pattern instantly but like my boxes of paper patterns to browse through!

  28. Hi
    I like paper patterns, but also don’t mind pdf patterns as long as they don’t exceed around 30 pages. I like them to be well designed for minimum print pages. I always use the A4 format and have a trimming and sticking routine (I use a glue stick) that I don’t mind every once in a while. I do like it when different sizes can be turned off as this can save a lot of wastage. Though I also like the fact that another copy can be made at anytime. I like the instruction file to be only a few pages, though I generally try not to print these instead viewing them on screen. Economically pdf are generally cheaper than the printed option and this is a consideration. Also some of the very small indie companies only have pdf options and sometimes style and design wise it is just what I am looking for. I feel a pdf option opens up my pattern horizons.

  29. The convenience of “get it now” is alluring. The less expensive cost even moreso. Having said that my preference is tissue paper patterns with their accompanying envelope sleeve.

    For the mot part I have printed the PDF well let’s just say using resources not my own, ahem. Not something I care to do going forward. Really, had I paid the PDF’s would not have been cost effective. The unwieldy size makes storage less than desirable as I dislike folding them in Kanye turns to fit them in gallonc size bags.

  30. I hate PDF patterns and now only consider buying them if I love the pattern and if it isn’t likely to be available in paper form. eg Paprika & Presto. I find that the occasional PDF that I’ve bought in the past probably doesn’t get made up for a long time as I dislike the sticking together stage. Oddly, the PDF’s that I like best are the small ones eg. bags, hats, pants
    The cost of PDF’s, including the printing, as well as the dislike of the sticking stage has made me look at my existing patterns and try a few more hacking techniques.
    My nearest copy shop is over an hours drive away and so I never consider that option.

  31. I have gone the A4 route. It works well with small items like bags. Anything bigger has me trying to find something else. Printing A0 at Officeworks is my preferred option if I am in a hurry to get the pattern.
    The thing that really really annoys me is when the instructions are in the same document as the pattern so you have to guess which page numbers to print.

  32. I don’t enjoy the whole sticking and cutting of PDFs, although I will do it. I have a Snap printer 5 minutes walk from my house, but they charge $10 per A0 sheet. I have wrangled them down to $7, but keep telling them that they aren’t competitive, and take my business to Officeworks. The problem with this is that I have to drive and park, and I then have to work out the time this takes (and car running costs), with perhaps spending another $6 or $9 on printing (depending on how many sheets there are) at Snap. I then have to add this to the cost of purchasing the pattern, and begin to consider the whole exercise as uneconomic and finish up printing at home, cutting and sticking. I’ve tried inveigling my son into doing it, but he lost the will to live pretty quickly, so it’s back to me. No easy solution to this problem, I’m afraid!

    I hope all is well with you and that 2017 is shaping up to be a better year.

  33. I buy a lot of PDF patterns, mainly because of postage on paper patterns, but also because I like to have that file saved and be able to print it out any time if I need to (for instance, if I was lazy and cut out the pattern rather than traced it, and now I want to make it for someone else in a different size).

    If money were no object, I’d definitely buy paper patterns (physically, I would also prefer to work with printed tissue), but as things are that would really limit my pattern acquisition! Also, some newer companies start out with only PDFs available. I don’t exactly like sticking them together, but it’s the perfect job for when I have a bit of time but my brain is too fried to get out my sewing machine – it’s mindless, mechanical, and at least you’ve achieved something with that time!

    The only thing that really drives me crazy is when the layout wastes space. I’ve printed so many patterns that I could’ve fit onto 20 sheets instead of 26. Or 30 sheets instead of 38. Some designers seem to squash them together a bit better, but to be honest I feel that’s something most could improve upon.

  34. I will never buy PDF patterns again. Why? They are not worth the time to put them together and the expense of printer’s inks. For example, I just printed 36 pages for the pattern alone and not one of them had a number, letter, or mark on them to connect the pages. I looked in the instructions and there was no diagram or layout page !! That was the final straw -never again will I waste my time and monies.

  35. I’ve bought PDF patterns but not used them because it was too much trouble to put them together – life’s too short for that. Printed patterns for me in future.

  36. I’ve pretty much abandoned pdf patterns except for small pieces like bags or patterns for my infant granddaughter. The last one I printed off (at home on standard paper) was from Tessuti and by the time it was pieced together it was so unwieldy that I threw it away rather than trace it. Tessuti isn’t available yet in US and is a fortune to ship. I’m glad Style Arc has started to sell some of their patterns through Amazon so I can purchase without the high charges. I agree, I have better things to do with my time than all that taping!

  37. I avoided PDFs to begin with and after the first few failed attempts of sticking together A4 sheets abandoned them. However, if a pattern has a copy shop version then I am likely to buy it in PDF form, esp. if A0 is included. I can get an A0 printed via an online printer fairly economically (UK based) and I like the stiffer paper it comes on. I’ve had some trouble and expense taking non A0 copy shop versions to Staples to print, whereby the pattern is too big for the printer and bits have been cut off. Doing it this way may not be the most economical way, but it works for me.

  38. I don’t mind PDF’s. I live in the US and in a rural area. It is a 110 mile round trip drive to a large format printer and I feel like it is very expensive. I have certainly done it. But it really isn’t an option I like. Even if I have a paper pattern I would trace it. It is also a 110 mile round trip drive to purchase paper patterns. One is Joanns and the other a relatively new fabric store that are now stocking a lot of the indie brands so this has increased my buying paper patterns. If any of the pattern makers are watching this thread, availibity of patterns really does have some affect on my purchasing. There are 2 companies that I can think of that I don’t see their patterns being stocked in US stores; Deer and Doe and Papercut Patterns. I am sure they have well thought out reasons for not making them more available but I can say that being able to purchase indie patterns in my area has definitely resulted in me buying more patterns. I only say indie patterns because I don’t ever seem to want to buy any of the big 4. Nothing against them.

  39. Right off I want to say that in general I HATE PDF patterns šŸ™‚ Now that doesn’t mean I haven’t bought them (only because that was the only option) but in general principle I avoid them. They are expensive (I’m in Canada and in a city so I can have them printed at the print shop for between $15 – $18 with the cost of the pattern can mean a pattern typically cost about $30) and time consuming whether I’m pasting it together at home or tripping off the copy shop. I understand indie pattern makers find them their best profit option but for the consumer (unless they are FREE) they are horrid. In my humble opinion. I am resolute for 2017 not to purchase a single one šŸ™‚

  40. I don’t mind PDFs at all. I don’t particularly enjoy sticking them together, but nor do I enjoy tracing paper patterns. PDFs are usually cheaper (even excluding postage), so I figure I may as well go for the cheaper option, as I have a disagreeable job to do either way. My absolute pet hate though is PDFs that also need to be traced (looking at you Named!). I still buy their patterns, I just complain about it! šŸ˜‚

    • I haven’t tried Named patterns yet. Do they print out on less pages? How do they compare with Burdastyle magazines In terms of printout size? I’m a tracer so I’d rather have overlapped pieces if it means less printing & taping!

  41. I only print PDFs if I really, REALLY want that pattern, and given that I am happy to trace from those train-track sewing magazine sheets it very rarely happens that I really, REALLY want a PDF pattern. But if I do, cost is an issue for me. I would not buy a paper pattern if the cost for postage was high, in that case I would bite the bullet and glue stick the pdf, no doubt while swearing all the time that this would definitely be the last time…

  42. This is such an good topic and I think the big pattern companies are watching with interest to see if the demand is rising or if people are getting fed up with PDF patterns. I’m in the US and the vast majority of patterns from indie lines don’t interest me at all – they are way to repetitive so I don’t bother. the only PDF patterns I use are Burda patterns which are the magazine patterns (where I don’t subscribe) but usually want one or two per issue so buying the PDF is fine. Also Burda is good about not having too many pages, plus taping together is a lot easier than tracing from their magazine sheets. They also are economical with the pattern pieces so for example a lined jacket they indicate how to turn the jacket pieces into the lining pieces – so don’t make you print separate pages for the lining pieces. But all in all I am very thankful for traditional envelope patterns which are a lot easier to use and store. I also use Bootstrap Fashion and Lekala patterns sometimes but they are worth the extra minutes for the custom fit. Also they are good with the minimizing of number pages to print. Also I look at the print preview on my computer and sometimes choose which pages to print – sometimes you can eliminate some of them. Once I have printed a pattern I tape together, trace my size onto tracing paper, add seam allowances if needed, and then basically recycle the printer paper for grocery lists or notepaper. Because storing a taped together mess is just not feasible.

  43. I’ve only ever bought one pdf pattern and that was from Wearing History in the US (I’m in the UK). The only reason I bought in pdf format was because of the size split – I didn’t want to buy a paper pattern, wait for it, pay taxes, customs charges and the delivery administration fee for it to turn out to be either too big or too small. I still haven’t made it up. I’ll probably never buy another one though, far too much hassle / time to deal with (I don’t trace paper patterns either…). There are so many patterns out there now, so for me to even consider buying (or even downloading foc) pdf patterns they will have to be very, very special indeed.

  44. I hardly buy PDF patterns, like you say: my tjme is limited and cutting and taping is not my hobby. Also I’m still sorting out how to store them, it takes so much more space and the folds annoy me.

    Having said that, I might change my opinion, because I just found out tha my neighbor can print A0 for me. I live in the Netherlands and A0 printing is nog easily accessible and not cheap (about ā‚¬10,- per page).

    I used my neighbors help once so far, and I really liked the sturdiness of the paper. I’ve stored it in a roll, so maybe I will change my opinion!

  45. I quite like the PDF patterns. I would prefer to buy a paper copy in a store, mainly because I like supporting local businesses, but if I can’t get something in a store I’d rather the pdf version. I like the immediacy of it. there are however three things that I need from a pdf pattern.
    First a test square. I had one pattern that had no test square (a bra no less where a slight variation in size makes a big difference) and that was horrible, especially for someone like me who uses both A$ and letter – when a company doesn’t specify what paper size and has no test square it really makes you wonder.
    Second a layout page showing which pieces are on what number pages. I’ve will often only print out a couple of pieces of a pattern and I hate having to print it all out and put it all together to figure out which pieces I need. Tell me before hand where each piece will be.
    third – a cheaper price – I don’t think its fair to charge the same price for a printed or pdf copy. with pdf I do have to pay for my on paper and ink whilst the company doesn’t so it stands to reason that the pdf should be cheaper.

    I’ve never used a copy shop to print a pattern and probably never will – if I have to leave the house and pay extra for something I’d much prefer to just buy the paper pattern.

  46. I really HATE dealing with pdf patterns. It feels as though the seller has off-loaded finishing their product from themselves to the consumer. While the pdf patterns are often cheaper, I resent having to put their product together before I can use it. I tried to like them for a while, but I finally realized that it was just too much time and effort to make it worth it for me. I would rather wait for a professionally printed pattern and spend my time and effort on sewing. I don’t buy them. Since there are hardly any original patterns, just different iterations of the same ones, I look for a similar design and buy it. I hope the designers who only offer pdf patterns finally realize that they are overlooking a part of the market they could have if they offered a printed version.
    This is a great conversation, by the way! Thanks!

    • Question is if the printed version cost a lot more would you still buy them? Would there be enough people willing to pay higher prices for printed patterns? I can imagine for indie designers starting out they may not be able to afford the cost of printed version, especially if they’re not located in a big country with a good size home sewing community & pattern printing services like the US. Totally understand though as consumers PDF may not be worthwhile, but I think not all pattern businesses are being lazy/cheeky – it may just not be feasible to offer printed patterns.

  47. I actually sort of love cutting out patterns and taping them together. I find it MUCH less cumbersome than tracing off a pattern. I refuse to trace – flat out refuse. Being able to print off another pattern if my first one gets damaged for whatever reason is a BIG draw for me.

  48. I live in Australia and use PDF patterns to avoid postage costs but, like others, I really don’t enjoy the trimming and pasting together – and storing the bulky, unwieldy pattern. Office works quoted me $9 per sheet to print A0 copies so I checked out a nearby copy shop. They are wonderful! The cost is $5.50, I email the file and it is printed immediately. I have a 40 minute drive to the shop but the very obliging owner has offered to drop printed copies off at my place as he lives nearby! If I really want to get started on a pattern, I will print at home on A4. My preference, if the overall price is competitive and I have the time to wait for delivery, is a printed pattern as I love the feel and look of a new pattern, and storage is so much easier.

  49. I don’t mind PDF patterns but I need to be in the right frame of mind and not rushed. It’s a bit like doing a jigsaw puzzle. I am going to try Officeworks for my next lot of patterns to try it out.

  50. I’m in the love PDFs camp and the sheer majority of my pattern purchases have been in pdf format. My primary reasons for buying pdf over paper are the cost and instant gratification from a PDF purchase. Paper patterns are already more expensive than PDFs and then there is the postage costs to ship them, which as you are aware in Australia can be quite substantial as most patterns ship from OS and those bought from Australian online shops are already marked up quite a bit. Add to that the wait time to receive the pattern and I would rather just download the PDF and stick it together whilst I listen to a podcast or watch some tv. I also like that I can open up a folder on my computer and see my whole pattern collection there rather than sift through packages to find something. Although I suppose I have a similar problem when remaking a pattern and I have to find the plastic sleeve with the pieces in it. I also like that I can just cut out the PDF pieces (because I know I can print another size) rather than trace them to preserve the sizing options as I would for paper.

    Although I’m a PDF fan girl I do get frustrated when I cut and tape large patterns only for the sheets to not quite match up. Has anyone else had that or is it just my inprecise taping? For these large patterns I should really look into getting them copyshop printed BUT there is only one small place in the regional town that I live in (no Officeworks for 3 hours) and I have a sneaking suspicion that they would be really expensive. However, I could be wrong so I should make enquiries.

  51. Great discussion. For me time is most valuable. My local copy shop in Melbs is opposite my fave fabric shop and the delightful owner will print in advance if I email and only charges about $4/sheet too, so I am fortunate. I will do A4’s if no other Option but my accuracy is not great. I tend to isolate specific pattern pieces and cut/paste in fragments to avoid a big unwieldy sheet of paper that is always a few mm out by the time I get a few rows in!

  52. I live in the middle of now where Montana. Finding a place on the floor that is not floating with stray dog hairs is difficult. The “I WANT IT NOW!!” always wins, I print, half tape together and then have a mess that I don’t know what or where the other pieces belong. Now that I am in my own space, maybe this will get better.

  53. I’m in a major regional town in Australia. have a couple of PDF patterns. I printed one A4 paper and made it but it didn’t work, there was something wrong with the pattern- neckline and collar didn’t fit the shirt, looked weird. I haven’t tried the other although I intend to. I had not thought of Officeworks for printing. I will try that for the one I already have. I don’t think I will buy them anymore because of the time it takes… There is a good fabric and pattern shop nearby, as close as Officeworks and I will gladly pay the same or a little extra for convenience. I often un-pick clothes I already have as well. So I don’t buy a lot of patterns. When I do they are a special project. Time is important to me.

  54. Thanks for starting this discussion! I live in a major Canadian city and can have patterns printed off at a copyshop but I always print the A4/letter version (at work, don’t tell!) and put it together while I’m watching a movie. I find it quite relaxing. The copyshop is not really worth the expense and I think by the time I drove to Kinkos, found parking, waited in line and explained to the clerk what I wanted I could have just taped the the darn thing myself.

    I’m sure I’m in the minority but I find the envelope patternsannoying. I almost always trace off multiple versions for fitting so they don’t save much time and I think it’s much easier to just print off some new pages. The only benefit is they take less physical storage space.

    However, not all PDF patterns are created equal! The really good ones:

    -Number the pages clearly (great when you need to print off just a few pages to make a size adjustment–you can easily located the pages you need.
    -Are layered so you can print off only the sizes you need
    -Have a clear border around the page and a system of numbers and symbols to match the pages. (Named PDFs are particularly crazy making in this regard–there’s no page border so I had to use a ruler to draw a line where I thought the cut should go on each page and was never confident my final result was correct.)
    -Lay out the pattern pieces in a way that minimizes the cutting and taping needed.

    If any pattern companies are reading this, check out Hey June and Liesl + Co. for inspiration. They are the best I’ve used!

  55. I am lucky in that I print them off at work. I then trace them so they don’t take up too much room in my sewing space and recycle the paper.

    What probably irks me the most is pattern makers who are not mindful of how they place their patterns (tessuti!). I do like pattern makers who allow you to layer your patterns so if you need to print different sizes for top and bottom for example you can select the sizes you only want. I also like the companies that show you the layout so you can see what you only need to print or at least tell you what you need to print if there are different versions to a garment. The only times I have used A0, the pattern didn’t fit onto one sheet so it ended up costing me over $15.

    I am 50/50 with PDF’s and paper patterns; I use both. I always trace my patterns so either way there is work for me to do. I don’t tend to sew a bazillion of outfits like some sewers so it is not a real issue for me.

    I do though balk at the price of some paper patterns and how far we are behind. I tend to buy these from overseas when they are on sale.

    cheers

  56. I hate to handle A4 pdfs. I would print them only for t shirts or so with a few pieces. When sticking them together, I would roughly cut the finished pattern pieces out while sticking, so the paper wouldn’t get too large. Since I have got really sharp paper scissors, I no longer loath it so much. Liesl+co have provided the best pdfs so far, I liked Megan Nielsen’s, too.

    I wait until I have got several patterns, then send them to an online copy shop. I think one A0 sheet is about 1,50ā‚¬, so the cost is not too much with postage when printing several ones (supposed the pdf is really cheaper than the paper pattern).

    I am really annoyed with the Named Isla Trench pattern. I didn’t realize that it was only A4 and not nested. I do not want to stick a zillion paper sheets together. I am considering buying the paper pattern but it annoys me a lot.

    The good thing of pdf prints is that you can print them multiple times. I do not trace the patterns but cut them out. So you can cut out different sizes without tracing them.

  57. I like the instant gratification of getting a pattern quickly with a PDF but I have to say I also loathe the taping. I have limited sewing time and don’t want to waste hours taping rather than sewing. I have also found that some types of tape cause problems. Some seem to pucker up over time so that when I want to reuse a pattern I can’t get it to lie flat anymore. I have started trying to mainly buy hard copies rather than PDFs.
    A little while ago I bought a paper pattern at a craft fair for $25 (AUD). I was very disappointed to open it up at home and discover it contained the pattern on many A4 sheets that required the dreaded taping! I thought I had skipped that step and felt misled and a bit ripped off by the price. Even worse, when I taped it, the pattern did not line up well making the whole experience even more frustrating. Definitely put me off buying patterns from the same company again.
    I probably will still buy some pdfs especially from overseas companies, but I am planning to try the Officeworks option for printing them. I do like the idea of the pattern being on one sheet of paper I can trace from and roll up to store.

  58. Great discussion Lizzie!
    I personally have a love/hate relationship. Like others I love immediate delivery but I find that my sewing time has been dramatically reduced since they came out.
    Pros:
    Fast
    Immediate
    Relatively cheap on a home printer in fast draft
    No Tissue to rip!
    Re-printable if sizing needs change

    Cons:
    Sewing time has now become taping pdf time
    Wasted edge paper (Used to fold but wasn’t accurate enough)
    Not always accurate with line matches
    Less spontaneity to start a project.

    Sometimes I save them up so if I’m on a quiet weekend at work I can cut and tape them there but it has seriously slowed down my spontaneity in my sewing. However that might stop me making things I won’t wear. Its tricky.

  59. Great post! I’m in The Netherlands where printing A0 costs 22 euros. I get the instant gratification part of pdf patterns, although ‘instant’ obviously gets a different meaning when you have to cut and glue 50+ pages first. When I found myself postponing that job for longer than it would take a pattern to arrive by mail I gave up on pdf’s altogether. Luckily I’m a speedy tracer with easy access to Knipmode and Burda magazines!

  60. I have a few PDF patterns, but if there is an option to buy the printed pattern, I much prefer that. Storing the PDF pattern after printing takes up so much more space too. I print them at home, but I really don’t like the amount of ink that I have to use to get a pattern printed! Also, with printed patterns in an envelope, I like to be able to sit and file through my patterns for ideas. Sometimes I forget patterns I have saved on my computer. If shipping costs are ridiculous, I buy PDF. Some companies only offer PDF, so then there is no choice at all if I want it.

  61. Here in London I haven’t yet figure places to print A0 cheaply, so have made do with home A4 printing. It is an hassle, but I don’t mind if the pattern is not available pre-printed & cheap. I typically reuse back side of printouts I no longer need to save money & environment.

    I like Baste & Gather’s approach of size specific layers in the PDF so you can print only the size(s) you need to avoid line traffic jams.

    Like you I also trace patterns – even with preprinted patterns. So it would be great if companies can offer condensed printout option like the old Burda magazines to minimise number of pages needed. Combined with size layer selection I think it would make PDF patterns much easier to use.

  62. Love this topic! I’ve stopped buying PDF patterns…it’s just too much time and work to print and assemble. I find them hard to store too. I’m happy with the paper pattern options that are available and chooose them every time.

  63. I HATE PDFs!!! It’s more expensive for me-I did the math. AND they prevent me from folding the paper pattern back into its original folded package. (I LOVE doing that!) So, if I want to do a jigsaw puzzle I’ll do one, and skip the cutting and pasting of a PDF.

  64. Tried a PDF pattern once, never again, give me the old paper patterns any day. I am in the over 65 and in the larger size group so that maybe why I prefer the old way. It is so much of a hassle to me.

  65. I’ve printed out two PDF patterns but have never finished cutting them out. I also haven’t bought a By Hand London dress pattern because of the PDF only availability. I’d say I’m not a fan.

  66. I live in US and most of the time buy regular patterns. I actually take the time to trace most of my patterns before using them so it’s not just the extra time spent putting the pdf together. I prefer the space saving and ease of use of pre-printed patterns. The only time I get PDF patterns is a) if I need something RIGHT NOW or b) it was offered free online. When I do get PDFs, I always print them at home. Going to a printing shop would negate cost and time savings of getting a pdf. If I had time/patience to drive to a printing shop and wait, I would have just waited for shipping of a standard pattern especially since I have a lot of different options in my area with pretty quick delivery. I also agree that ~15 pages is where I start loathing the process of cutting and taping. Some patterns utilize the area pretty well, but there are some that drive me crazy. I forget which pattern it was, but once I ended up with more empty or nearly empty pages then the actual pattern. My size is on the smaller side so often times I end up with pages that printed for a size I don’t even need. I wish companies that charged for PDF patterns provided a way to just select a specific size and/or pieces before printing. I also feel like printed patterns are messier to store and I prefer working with soft Swedish tracing paper or even tissue so I can pin it on my or the form.

  67. I’m in rural and remote NSW, at least 3 hour drive to my nearest Officeworks. The availability of PDF patterns and printing on A4 has made such a difference for me. I can buy, print and sew without having to wait for that trip away, and it’s cheaper.
    It has made modern, up to date patterns available, added to that online fabric purchases and I can sew when I have the time, in my own time.
    I still need to visit, in person, fabric stores, when I’m visiting the city, to get that hands on feeling of fabric.
    I use sticky tape, and look at the whole layout before taping together, as it’s been possible to limit the amount of pages to be taped together.
    Great discussion, for those of us living in rural & remote it’s fantastic.
    Anne

  68. I use a lot of Burda and Lekala patterns. The Lekala ones are $2-3 USD so even with the printing the cost is low enough for me. There is usually a ‘map’ of the layout so I print that off first then figure out what I need from there. Also, I tape one or two pattern pieces at a time before cutting them out, not the whole thing. It keeps the process from getting too tedious.

  69. I have a lot of vintage and newer patterns. I love the photos and drawings on the pattern envelopes. I love being able to look through them all to decide what i want to make – or just look through them like reading a good book. Perhaps someday someone will collect my old patterns and call them vintage. I do not hate putting together a PDF pattern, but then I only order a PDF pattern if I can’t find anything similar in a printed pattern. If PDF is my only choice and I really really want it then I’ll buy it. After I am finished with a PDF I roll it on a long cardboard tube – like wrapping paper comes on – so it is handy if I want to use it again.

  70. When I sew anything I’m either taping together a PDF or tracing. Both involve the same amount of tedium. The only exception is Style Arc, which only requires cutting out. Maybe that’s why I sew so many Style Arc patterns.

  71. Not a fan of PDF’s. Once in a while, they have their place (when I want to make an item right then), but for the most part, I have trouble printing them (my printer never seems to get the size right the first time) and the storage issues are messy. Plus it takes me a long time to tape them together. Call me old fashioned, but I like conventional patterns much more.

  72. I like pdfs, since I live in Italy, and can’t always justify high shipping rated for buying paper patterns abroad. I don’t care about large formats, since there aren’t any copyshops in the area, so I print everything on my home ink printer. I do care, though, if it’s A4 formatted, and if the end user is taken into account – when placing pieces on the file, in order to help saving paper. For this reason, I’ve stopped buying Colette patterns, as well as printable patterns from printsew – I’d rather buy similar patterns, than print their 65-over 100 pages pdfs.
    I will buy paper patterns during sales, if the online shop has reasonable shipping prices.

  73. I love when companies tell you that patterns which are not selling quickly will be continued in PDF format. I wrote to Jalie a while back asking them if they had a shorts pattern suitable for swimming. I wanted it to have a three part front, be fairly fitted, and not cause the dreaded wedgie…or worse still the double wedgie that only females can get. It doesn’t cause a wedgie because it has a crotch gusset, so nice! Turns out they had released such a pattern a long time ago, and they put it back on their site as a PDF. I bought it, and have made it twice. Ironically, I haven’t yet made it for myself..but both friends love their new swim bottoms. For those of us who want practical stuff that isn’t ‘shiny, new’ it sure is nice to have basics available as PDFs any time!
    Plus, I am living overseas. Shipping is prohibitive, and although I prefer enveloped patterns over PDFs most of the time PDFs make more sense.

  74. I am in an all PDF camp. I love my PDF patterns and I do not mind taping them at all. I find it soothing. On the other hand I detest tracing. With a PDF pattern I can tape it together and just cut out the size I need. I don’t have to save the pattern for future use as I have an electronic version I can print anytime. I also prefer the weight of the printing paper to the tracing paper. I like my patterns a little heftier šŸ™‚ These are my 2 cents.

  75. I really loathe PDFs and will choose paper patterns every time. I live in the UK, so have no difficulty buying them, but can understand this is not so easy for others. The requirements I want from a pattern are that the instructions are clear and the pattern is well drafted. I have no interest in little packaging details that make it “pretty”, something the independents seem very keen on. Just sell it me the way the big 4 have been doing for years and I am happy with that.

  76. I’ve been sewing for a long time so I grew up with paper patterns. I’d be willing to try PDF if they have a large printer format. I’m willing to pay for that convenience or for a paper pattern vs one I have to put together. I am excited that since re-entering the sewing world, there are so many independent designers, blogs and tutorials! I am concerned that whatever version I have of a pattern, I’ll need to do a fair amount of alteration so I have to trace the pattern, but am looking forward to having unique clothes that fit.

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