Working with PDF Sewing Patterns

Last week I mentioned that I found an awesome maternity wrap top pattern. Over the week I made two, and it is seriously amazing. I quickly discovered what I’d been doing wrong with my winging it version, and honestly this top is genius. And so so elegant! My friend told me when she saw me in it that it doesn’t even look like it was made at home, which is the best compliment ever.

In all my purple glory.

In all my purple glory.

So, if you’re looking to make a top like this, here’s the link to the Megan Neilsen Alissa Top. It’s around $15.00 Canadian, and worth every freaking penny. The beauty of the digital age is that when you buy a pattern, it shows up immediately as a PDF that you can print as many times as you want. Which means that when you cut one out to a certain size or style (which this pattern has 4 different styles), you don’t have to try to modify it or put it back together later, you can just print a new one.

I had a few bumps in the road the first time I went through this project, so I thought I’d do a little tutorial on working with PDF sewing patterns.

  1. Printing

So the first step once you get your pattern is to print it. But not so fast! Double check your printer settings. In the case of this specific project, I was printing from a friend’s computer, and we were having a heck of a time getting the pattern to print at 100%. Because sewing patterns are huge, and most people only have 8.5×11 printers, the PDFs come in chunks that you have to put together later. There will be a bordered piece that you cut out, but it’s super important for sizing that the pages print at 100%.

For some reason when we tried to print at 100% it was cutting off the bottom of the pattern pages, so I ended up printing them at 93% and having to made adjustments to my cutting later.

19 pages of gold!

19 pages of gold!

In the top left corner of the first page, Megan very helpfully put a 2″ calibration scale, so that once printed you can measure it and see if it’s actually 2″. Mine was about 1.8″, so I knew I’d have to make some adjustments. I’d planned on using the large size for the pattern, so I bumped it up to the XL and made a mental note to cut a decent seam allowance. Most patterns allot for seam allowance, but I figured it was better to be safe then sorry. You can always take away fabric, but you can’t always add it!

2. First Stage of Cutting

So, once you have your pattern printed (hopefully at %100), it’s time to cut off the borders. I did this with a pair of scissors, but honestly if you’re going to be doing this a lot, a paper cutter would be an asset. It took me the better part of an episode of Once Upon A Time to cut all of the borders out, because it’s a lot of pages and because I suck at cutting in a straight line so I was being super careful. I wanted to make sure that the pattern would fit together perfectly.



3. Patching Together

Now comes the fun part, putting all of the pieces together! The norm for patterns like this are triangles on edges that need to be matched, with a letter/number code (Like 1A, 1B, 1C, etc). If you have a large enough space it helps to get them all organized and lay them out like a puzzle so you have an idea and can double check there aren’t any missing or wonky cut pages.

I did them as I went, because I don't always follow my own advice.

I did them as I went, because I don’t always follow my own advice.

I used good ol scotch tape in small squares to hold the pages together. I tried to keep the inside a pattern piece if I could to make for easier cutting later. If I noticed there were edges right by the edge of a piece, I added some extra tape to make the cutting more stable. If there are four corners meeting inside of a piece, it’s a good idea to tape that too.

All together now!

All together now!

4. Second Stage of Cutting

So here’s the part where things get delicate. Very carefully cut out the pattern pieces to your desired size.

Patchwork patterns!

Patchwork patterns!

And now you can go nuts with the tape. Unless you don’t plan on using this pattern again, or you want to just print it next time, in which case it’s usable like this. But I hate cutting stuff out, so I wanted to get some mileage out of mine. I taped the seams on the edge to avoid paper catching or curling, and added some on the back of the pattern to stabilize. If you’re really anal, feel free to just tape up all the seams, but that isn’t really necessary as long as you’re careful.

5. Use as Normal

Now all that’s left is to pin it your fabric (or lay it down if you prefer tracing your patterns) and it’s off to the races! Most storebought patterns are made of thinner paper, so it might be a little bit of a chore to pin through printer paper. I didn’t have too much of a problem, but there are thinner papers you can buy for printing on if you so desire.

Happy sewing!


One thought on “Working with PDF Sewing Patterns

  1. Pingback: Adventures in Cloth Diaper Making – Part 1 | Voracious Vividity


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