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How to print, cut, and tape PDF sewing patterns.
If, like me, you spend your evenings surfing Instagram, Pinterest, and the other corners of the Interweb for inspiration of things to make, you’ve probably been struck by that impulse buy where a new digital sewing pattern just somehow falls into your inbox because you need to make it – like, now. But then you’re faced with a 726 page document, that somehow you need to make into just 1 page, and somehow the inspiration fades slightly.
Is that just me? Actually I’m much better at this now – I’ve done it often enough that the fear is more that my naughty dog will run away with one of the pages than problems putting it together. So, just in case you need some tips too, here’s my top tips on how to put a PDF pattern together.
You will need:
Tape (I like to use a cheap washi tape or masking tape)
Scissors and/ or rotary cutter
The first thing to know is that you need to print your PDF to a certain size. Now, don’t panic – the designer will have made their file just the right size, you just need to make sure your printer is set to print at ‘Actual Size’, or 100%. Sometimes, you may have a little box on your print settings called something like ‘Scale to fit’ – and you need to make sure this box is NOT checked.
These days, digital sewing pattern designers sometimes throw in some fancy options, such as a layered version, where you can print only the size that you want, or a copyshop version. We’re going to ignore all of these, and just go for the straight forward print option.
To save paper I quite often don’t print out the instructions – I can have these open on my ipad, so why waste paper? I also, especially with children’s patterns where there’s a couple of different garment options, scroll down to the pages the precise garment I want to make is, and just select those to print. This is easier with some patterns than others, but you do need to make sure you don’t miss any pieces. I recently made the reversible jacket from the Oliver + S Lullaby Layette, and from a document of 47 pages, I printed 9.
On one of the first pages of your document you’ll see a box with a size specified in it. To save printing a bunch of scrap paper that’s all scaled to the wrong size, you might find it worth printing out that page and checking it’s the right size. You want to measure that box, and check it’s the same size as it says it should be.
So – if you’re all set up and ready to go, press print! You’ll probably end up with a chunk of paper that looks something like this.
Here, I’ve printed out the Jennifer Lauren Handmade Hunter Tank – check it, it’s totally cute. I’m aiming to make it part of my summer wardrobe.
This digital pattern has a border around the page, and page numbers, but you’ll find each designer uses a slightly different method, usually specifying a layout in the instructions, and/ or page numbers in the corners of the page.
If a pattern has a border around it, I usually trim 2 sides of the page. I make sure it’s the same 2 sides on each page, so I can use the other non cut bit as a base for the overlap between pages. You can see if you look closely, you can see the shadow below here where I’ve cut the right side and overlaid it on the left side of another.
I do this to all of my pages to start off with, before laying them out. It makes the process smoother later.
I use a quilter’s ruler and rotary cutter to cut these straight lines out – it speeds the process no end, although if you have a guillotine, that’d work too!
Other people have favourite methods as to what sort of tape they use – my personal favourite is actually a washi tape. The reason I like this, is that it’s fairly re-positionable. If I stick wrong, I can just peel it up and start again. It doesn’t hurt that it also looks pretty. You can pick up fairly cheap bulk packs on ebay.
You might find it useful to anchor your pages down with a weight – I use anything I have to hand – my phone, a mug, my rotary cutter. It just stops me accidentally knocking one of the pages when I have my fingers covered in tape.
Start taping your lines. It’s best to look at the pattern lines and tape the actual pattern pieces rather than the blank space – that’s just a waste of tape! However you might need to sometimes tape blank space as an anchor for the whole. Concentrate on pattern piece edges, so you don’t have any loose flaps.
It’s wise to use your ruler – especially on trim pieces and grainlines to check they’re still straight
Try to stick your tape on straight. See this tape below is a little wonky? A bit of wonk like that can throw off lines massively a bit further up. The reason I like the washi tape comes into play here – I can peel it off and stick it on straight.
I like to put a tab of tape on the back of each place in a pattern piece where 4 pages intersect.
Once all your papers are stuck together, you can cut out the actual pattern. Figure out your size – not from the size number, but from your measurements! – and either trace or go straight to cut out the size.
Again I use a rotary cutter to cut out the pattern. The smaller the cutter the easier it is to get around the tight curves. I’m using a 45mm blade here, but I often use a 28mm and it’s just so much easier!
Once you’re done, you’re ready to go. If I’m putting it away for a later use, I like to fold all the small pieces and tuck them into a bigger piece, store them in an envelope, and write the name of the pattern and size on the envelope. I also write on the envelope how many pieces the sewing pattern has, so I don’t lose one along the way. I’d like to know how you guys store your sewing patterns? What’s your preferred method?