How to work with digital patterns
When you purchase a PDF pattern from Colette Patterns or Seamwork, the final page will include a link to your account’s download page where you can download the file. You will also receive an email with the same link.
If you’d like to download your pattern later, you can always navigate back to it by clicking the “Downloads” tab on the top of the web site. If you don’t see that downloads link, make sure you’re signed into your account.
Once you click “download now” to download the pattern, it’s a good idea to immediately locate the file – depending on your computer settings it usually goes either to your Downloads folder or your Desktop – and move it to a designated place in your Documents folder.
Our pattern downloads are zip files that contain several PDF files. These will involve a PDF for the instructions and one or more PDFs for the pattern pieces. If a pattern has different versions, there may be separate PDFs for each version.
These pattern files will be formatted as tiles across a number of printer paper-sized sheets. The best way to imagine it is to think about a large piece of pattern tissue unfolded and cut into small rectangles. The PDF will be printed on your home printer and the pages will be taped together to reconstruct the pattern tissue-sized layout.
All Colette Patterns also come bundled with a separate file that can be printed on a wide format printer.
Once you have purchased and downloaded your file, the next step is printing out your pattern.
Regardless of which printing method you choose, the most important thing about printing a PDF pattern is setting the print scale properly. Many printers try to scale a document to best fit a paper size. You don’t want to do this with a sewing pattern because it would make the pattern pieces the wrong size.
Print at Home
Printing a PDF pattern at home is pretty much like printing any document. Open the PDF, making sure you are opening the correct one if your purchase came with multiple files.
After you choose File>Print and your print dialogue box opens, set the print scale at 100%. Do not check “Scale to Fit”.
Before printing the entire pattern, locate the page in your pattern that has the test square. Always print this page first on its own to check that you got the 100% scale correct. Measure the test square, and if it does not measure correctly, check your print scaling options.
Note for Windows 8 users: Windows 8 has limited ability to work with PDFs without a third-party application. If you do not see a print settings dialog similar to the above when printing your PDFs, you will likely need a separate program such as the free Adobe Reader.
Another factor you can control is the printing quality. Choosing an option like “draft” or “fast” will use less ink.
Print at a copy shop
If you have access to a wide format printer or would like to print your pattern at a local copy shop, locate the wide format file, drag and drop it onto a USB drive and take it to your nearest copy shop. They will print it on a wide format printer so that it is all one piece and you don’t have to do any assembly. These patterns will print on any 36 inch printer.
Be sure to tell them that the image must be scaled at 100%, and measure the scale square on the pattern while you are still there so you can have them reprint it if it isn’t correct.
Ask them to print it on the cheapeast/thinnest paper they have, as some places by default print it on paper that is a little thicker than your standard printer paper.
The first step of PDF pattern assembly is trimming. This will allow us to overlap the edges accurately.
From every page, trim off the left and top margins. If you’d like, you can skip the top along the first row of pages, and the left on the first page in each row.
You can use paper scissors and cut each page one at a time, or you can use a paper cutter and trim a few together. Just make sure that when you stack them up, all the cutting lines are aligned.
Another option is to fold the margins back rather than trimming them off. This can be a bit faster than trimming.
Once the pages are all trimmed you can start putting them together. Your pattern will have an alphanumeric marking system to help you figure out which pages should be next to each other. Line up the marks and all pattern lines and use clear tape to tape the pages together. Make sure you are lining up the edges super straight and that the pages are laying flat.
As you’re taping, try to put tape through any cutting lines that go across the page edges, as well as where the four corners of the pages meet. This will ensure that your pattern pieces don’t have any flapping parts. Everywhere else, put your tape pieces a few inches apart at most.
Alternatively, you can use a glue stick to assemble the pages, which makes for a very neat pattern. The only drawback is that you must wait for the glue to dry completely before you cut out the pattern pieces.
Once all your pages are taped together, cut out your pattern pieces just as you would pattern tissue.
One of the things people seem to dislike the most about PDF patterns is the assembly. It can be a bit cumbersome to tape the entire thing together at once, especially if you are working in a confined space.
If this is the case, you can assemble and cut out each pattern piece as you go. This is a little trickier because the pattern pieces are laid out a bit like a Tetris game to fit the most efficiently on the smallest amount of paper. This means that one PDF page might have little bits of multiple pattern pieces on it. But as long as you are careful, it’s doable.
After trimming, start assembling the pattern, and find all the pages that are involved in the first piece. This may involve going out of sequence in your stack of pages. Tape them together and cut out the pattern piece. Then move on to the next one.
Save all your paper scraps until you are sure you have assembled and cut out all the pieces, because you might not realize that something you thought was trash actually has part of one of your pattern pieces on it. Also double check with your pattern instructions and cutting layouts that you didn’t miss any of the pieces.
Tracing the pattern
If you prefer, you can assemble all the pieces and then trace your size off so that if you need a different size you don’t have to reassemble the pattern.
Sewing with PDF patterns
Once you have all your pattern pieces cut, using them is exactly the same as using a tissue pattern. Refer to the sewing instructions to get started.
Want some more tips?
If you’re having trouble downloading your digital files, please read Downloading Digital Patterns.
If you’d like more tips on working with digital sewing patterns, you can find an expanded version of this article here on the Coletterie blog.