a Serious Opinion about PDF Sewing Patterns

I was emailing Karen back and forth today and it prompted me to weigh in on everyone’s opinion about PDF sewing patterns. Let me be totally upfront with you for a minute. I hate PDF sewing patterns. Hate‘s a pretty strong word too. PDF sewing patterns….the kind you download from the internet, print out on paper (don’t forget to make sure that square on page 25 is 4 inches square), cut the rectangular boxes from paper, tape together (perfectly, I might add) and then finally! from there you can cut your size out – if only you knew what your size was because the size chart is on page 34 and you can’t seem to locate that page after cutting and taping and downloading…..

Now, fellow sewists, this is not to say that I don’t use PDF sewing patterns, because I do admittedly. And for patterns that are free (that’s right, I said FREE – bite me!!!) and for patterns that don’t cost more than say, $5 (OK, ok, $5.40 if you’re Burda) and for patterns that are less than 50 pages (OK, ok you pulled my arm, let me cap that off at 75….it’s only my time here) and for patterns that are smallish projects like a shirt or skirt (Oh, alright, I’ll do the dance for a good jacket, but you are going WAY TOO FAR for a coat) —- they’re OK. For me to print off a PDF sewing pattern, it has to meet at least 2 of the above criteria. But boy, if you want to loose my trust and quite frankly my business real fast, you’ll conveniently purposefully forget to add seam and hem allowances! I mean, tracing off a pattern and adding seam allowances is one thing, but to do the above ditty plus trace off and add seam allowances after all that garbage, you. have. got. to. be. KIDDING. me. Right?

Oh alright, if I had this tape dispenser I might like the process a bit more. Just a bit.

Ok, ok, I’ll level with you. I think that PDF patterns are good for mass production. I do. Everyone can have instant access – but I’ll still pay good more money for all of that jazz to be done for me, like say regular old printed patterns. I also think that for indie pattern companies just starting out, it’s not always possible financially to start out with the standard pattern printed on tissue. That takes some serious cash flow and I get it. I totally understand. And even for sweet little numbers like this and this, I totally don’t mind the PDF thing.

For me though, there’s this certain point in sewing that I’ve come to. That point includes some serious long, time consuming projects. I don’t mind long, time consuming projects either, but I don’t like it when the time consuming part is made longer by an even more time consuming project. I want to sew, not scrapbook. Cutting, printing and taping suuuure seems like scrapbooking to me, just foregoing the creatively cute part. Am I right, or am I right?

Now, is it just me or have these PDF things really started taking off even more in the last few years? Like they’re becoming even more popular? So I have to ask – be honest now, that’s important – what do you think about PDF sewing patterns? Look, I’ve given you my upfront, brutally honest opinion sprinkled with a bit of dark sarcasm (can you blame me?) so I want to hear what you guys really think. Spill your guts. Give me the lowdown dirty truth. And look, I don’t love PDF sewing patterns, but you might and I want to hear that too!

PDF sewing patterns. Yea or Nay?

could you spare a fellow sewist some tape and paper?


139 thoughts on “a Serious Opinion about PDF Sewing Patterns

  1. wow, people are going to have opinions on this one for sure. i actually LOVE pdf sewing patterns for the reasons you mentioned above. i can buy it one evening and start sewing it the next morning. also they are usually much cheaper than paper patterns. i find myself sewing less and less from the big name companies and more from independent pattern makers and pdf makes it much more accessible to me.

  2. Hahaha…”I want to sew, not scrapbook.” Thank you, that’s how I feel. I always choose the paper option (if there is one). I also hand-embroider and I hate that not everything is sold on transferable paper. I also get that it’s a major cost and a lot of companies just don’t have that revenue, but tracing it onto the project is not fun for me.

    So I agree–I’m all about the paper patterns!

  3. I have to say that I agree with you – I also hate PDF patterns. I’ll make do if the pattern is small/simple, free/cheap, and super awesome. It just adds so much more time. Especially since I always have to make alterations. Since printer paper is such a hassle to make alterations with, I end up having to trace the printed PDFs anyway. It adds so much time that I frequently just opt to review the PDFs on the computer, and then draft the pattern from my sloper.

    I understand that new/indie shops might not be able to afford to start with paper patterns, but the sooner as they can offer paper patterns the better!

  4. I hate, hate, hate taping these things together, but if I really like a pattern and that’s the only way it’s available, I’ll do it. I find the process to be less annoying if I cut as I go as much as possible – if I get two complete pieces together and there isn’t any cross over for my size for another piece on those sheets of paper, then I’ll cut them out and the process is less unweildy.

  5. I know I’m in the minority, but because I have access to a plotter that prints on 36″ wide rolls of paper, I wish more designers offered pdf patterns with a “print shop” option that skips the cut-paste of smaller paper sizes! I know Burda has a few with this option, but I wish they had more.

    Right there with ya on the seam allowances… crazy Europeans.

  6. I have not actually used them yet but have downloaded a few, but they are only for bags. I won’t download any that will have a zillion pages, since I may run out of colour ink by the time it’s printed and it would be so frustrationg. Plus it aint cheap printing in colour. I would have to really like the pattern to opt for PDF. I have seen quite a few I like in Burda, so we will see how that pans out. They will only be a top or skirt though.

  7. i. LOVE. them. but i’ve streamlined it:

    ~ customize printer settings to quick & dirty (uses less ink)
    ~ use PDFPenPro to white out all of the stuff i don’t want (like the huge, useless ink eating numbers burdastyle throws on their patterns)
    ~ use a heavier quality photo paper, et voila, great sturdy indestructible pattern
    ~ use fiskars paper cutter to trim edges 6 pages at a time!

    and knowing you can print out another in case (egads) you need a different size for someone else means you can do away with tracing. when i consider unfolding, ironing and tracing an envelope pattern, for me, it works out.

    but i do agree about seam allowances. small companies like “pattern runway” include them on their (absolutely gorgeous) PDFs, can burdastyle really not, in all their might, get on that?!

    1. Oh OONA!!! Please show us your streamlined way of printing out these patterns. I would die for some insider tips. I’m still in the ice age with all that – or at least it feels like it.

  8. I am really liking the pdf patterns.
    I love that they are stored on my computer and backed up. That way I can just print out another if I accidentally spill something on it,rip it, etc. It also is good for storage for me, I have a lot that I have hanging around on my computer that I haven’t gotten around to making and I feel they are safe there. Once they are paper and in my house, I have to worry about storing them to wear they are not getting ruined.
    Also, I have just started sewing and have been tracing all patterns and to me the printed ones have been easier to trace so far. I don’t have to hold them up to a window or have a light box.

  9. Definitely agree with you Ms. Sunni but like you said, sometimes it’s worth it (I have to remind myself as I cut out the massive amounts of paper required for plus size patterns). It’s TRULY vexing when you have a whole sheet of paper for one line…thank goodness for recycling products.

    I do love Ms. Oonaballoona’s tips though. I usually just print at work and hope the office supply police don’t catch me throw me into supply jail but I may have to borrow a few of her ideas next time (I’m on pattern time out though…taking this summer sewing thing a BIT too far). πŸ™‚

  10. I agree with Mika and Sunni, it’s a pain to tape the whole pattern together and with all the alterations I have to make it delays the process so much! However there are a few companies out there who do it right and indie companies should take a hint. Sisboom patterns allow you to print out and out together each price in your size only so your not taping a huge cumbersome hard to work with taped mess! I do use thief PDFs regularly and find them pretty quick to put together!

  11. I love PDF patterns. Here’s why:

    I hate tracing patterns SO MUCH. With a PDF I can cut out just my size and not have to worry about preserving other sizes if it turns out that I need them later on down the road. I still have the pdf and can print it again if needed.

    I can have access to the pattern RIGHT AWAY. I have a Joann’s. It doesn’t carry any patterns of the independent pattern designers that I want to support. It is largely quilter-biased. With PDF, I can download and be on my merry way. I don’t have to wait or pay for shipping.

    I guess I don’t hate the cutting and taping all that much, and I certainly hate tracing far more.

  12. I’m totally with you 100%. I’ll use PDF patterns if that’s all that’s available (and with smaller items it’s not too bad) but if I have the option I’ll ALWAYS pay more for the printed pattern. I trace anyway, which makes the printed pattern a valuable long term resource, so it’s definitely worth it to me πŸ™‚

  13. I’m with you! Except I can go so far as to say I probably will never use a PDF sewing pattern that I have to cut and put together. I just can’t stomach the idea of spending all that time assembling (or having to take it somewhere to get it printed). That’s time I’d rather be creating something, not preparing to create something. Or not having to create something (the pattern) to then create something (sewing) with it.

    Not to mention that the indie designers who do produce paper patterns put so much time and love into their printed patterns that gives me a satisfaction I will never get with a taped together assemblage of printer paper… just looking at a Colette or Sewaholic patterns, it’s practically like a small work of art.

    I know there are a lot of great reasons for me to -want- to like PDF patterns… accessibility, instant gratification, easier for indie designers to get their foot in the door, presumably far smaller carbon footprint overall in printing mass produced ones vs. people printing it off at home)… these are all great and valid reasons. But alas, I still stand in the printed pattern only camp. I honestly hope PDF patterns never become the norm, at least not to the exclusion of paper patterns.

  14. I *love* PDF’s– I love that they’re so instant grat, plus I HATE tracing patterns, which I always feel like I need to do. I’m not very confident with fitting/sizing concerns, so I like that if the size doesn’t work out and I have drastic issues, I can just run off a new one. I haven’t really had to do that, but somehow it makes me more confident knowing that I could. πŸ™‚ I don’t really use Burda patterns, though– I hate adding seam allowances, and I don’t feel like the Burda patterns always print out nicely and true up. I use an exacto knife, a ruler, and a cutting mat to cut the squares, which works like a charm, but if I’m in a hurry, sometimes I’ll borrow a paper cutter from work. So fast!

  15. Nay nay nay. I don’t even own a printer! I don’t want to pay for one, make space for one, or maintain the cost of ink on one. I like the idea of PDF patterns, I really do, but it just isn’t for me. I’ve printed two PDF patterns from my parents’ computer while visiting in the past but haven’t had the desire to piece them together whatsoever. It’s a matter of time and labor, but also the fact that I can’t store them in the same way as my envelope patterns. The thought of cluttering my pattern storage with ugly slippery Ziploc bags and thick stapled computer paper, oh lordy.

  16. NAY. I don’t like them at all. I have used them before and they make me unhappy. I have loved a design, printed it out and taped it all together and then in the end have no motivation to make the garment. I also hate storing these bad boys. They are so bulky and unruly when trying to put them neatly away.

  17. I hate PDF sewing patterns. Hate hate hate hate. That’s not to say I don’t sew them – if there is something I reeeeally want to make that is strictly PDF – at this point, the Bombshell dress is pretty much the only thing that comes to mind – I’ll deal. Also, I don’t mind PDFs too terribly much if it’s for pattern testing. But that’s it! I hate printing the pages, hate taping them together. I never have tape on hand, the lines never match up, and never have enough space to get that big sheet assembled anyway. And then you have the problem of storing it – those giant taped pages need a big envelope, and call me a snotty mc snot snot but they don’t fiiiiit with my other patterns. So I just avoid them at many costs. I think it’s wonderful for people who want to post free patterns, or kick off their pattern business, or offer both PDF+printed (like Colette patterns) for those who can’t afford overseas shipment costs. But personally – I’ll stick with the tissue version, and gladly pay extra for the luxury.

  18. I love ’em! Not only are they convenient but they allow me to be spontaneous with my projects. Since they are on my computer, they are clean to store. Plus, I don’t feel the need to trace them since I can always run off additional copies if I cut the wrong size or want to make one for a friend.
    In addition, like you said, I appreciate that small designers can get their work published more easily and without the huge costs of traditional printed patterns.

  19. I really like the option of PDF sewing patterns. It saves the time and cost of shipping, and the patterns are generally cheaper too. I don’t mind taping all the pieces together, it’s mindless so I can do it while watching t.v.. I cut the bottom and right side off of all the pieces first, then when taping I overlap the pieces over the left and top edges. I don’t tape out the entire rectangle, I just tape together the pieces where there is actual pattern. I will say that I do not like poorly designed PDF patterns… ones where they don’t consider where the pattern pieces are in relation to the paper lines, and a pattern piece gets split in two when it could have been on a single page, or just tiny slivers of the pattern piece ends up on separate pages.

    I might be weird, but I like no seam allowances. It means I can measure the actual finished measurements quite easily. I can also add whatever width I like, and I often prefer 6mm rather than 1.5mm seam allowances.

    The nicest PDF patterns I’ve come across are from Tamanegi Kobo. They show both the stitching lines and the seam allowance lines, and they use layers in the PDF document, so you can pick which sizes and which lines you actually print.

  20. I think I fall more on your side of this issue. I love a PDF pattern when it’s something simple (I’ve made three Wiksten Tova tops so far with more in the works). This is mainly because sometimes I just get an itch to make something right that second and it’s 10 pm and all the stores are closed so I can’t go grab a new pattern. And I’m pitiful at drafting my own patterns, so forget that. Anything more complicated than a simple tunic or skirt though, would, I think, be the unmaking of me. The Tova was around 25 pages and that’s all I can handle I’ve decided.

  21. You know, I would’ve said I quite like them (as long as they’re cheap)—but my list of what I’m willing to do with them is pretty much identical to yours! (Not too expensive, not too many pages, should be usable without having to trace or add seam allowances). I do like that they let some small indie companies start with a lower overhead.

    For more complicated patterns like coats, I generally end up making enough fitting changes that it’s easier to just draft my own extra pieces (facings, lining, etc.) once the fitting’s done. So if I can figure out how to only print the pieces I need, I’ll do that. πŸ™‚

  22. I love PDFs..kinda. I live in a very rural community, and you cannot buy a pattern here. When I want to sew something, I don’t want to have to wait weeks for a pattern to arrive by mail (Canada Post & USPS seem to have joined forces to see just how long they can stretch the delivery of anything this year). I agree with Kristine, above. I have access to a plotter, and being able to print off on larger paper would be a bonus.

  23. I don’t mind PDF patterns much but it isn’t my preference. I definitely wouldn’t print out a large pattern, like a coat, just because the time/space involved. They’re also a bit more annoying to store as the paper is thicker and they don’t come with an envelope. The one thing I really *do* like about printed patterns is that I can cut along my size line but still have the other sizes available to me later (granted, you have to do the taping dance all over again but I can deal with that if I don’t have to do the tracing wheel dance to preserve my pattern).

  24. I sew for fun. Cutting out pieces of paper and taping them together is not fun. Therefore it’s just not worth the precious little time I have to sew!

  25. I don’t enjoy assembling PDF patterns. I find it tedious and inaccurate, but I do like being able to print out a new, fresh copy if I mangle my original, which makes it all kind of a wash, I guess. I also really like when there are no seam or hem allowances included. I like tracing the seam lines directly onto the fabric and following those lines instead of trying to keep my fabric aligned with a mark on my machine throat plate. It’s not a big deal on straight seams but really curvy seams and corners can be harder to get right, for me.

  26. Oh, you’ve expressed my opinion succinctly! I despise pdf patterns.(Hate, loathe, despise, dislike, detest, abhor, abominate, etc.) I’d rather take the little gridded wonders from the back of 1970s sewing books and grade them up to size with a wooden ruler and a pencil sharpened with a paring knife, than print out and tape together a pdf pattern. Although I have taped pdf patterns before, and probably will again … . Easier to draft from scratch, imo. I don’t begrudge pattern companies the tiny bit of profit they make from my purchase of their preprinted goods.

  27. I HATE digital sewing patterns. HATE HATE HATE them. I will consider them for small items like a tank top/shell, short skirt, or purse, particularly if they’re free, but I feel like cutting out patterns takes enough time as it is without having to also print out and tape together a billion pages. The only nice things about it are the instant gratification (not really instant because of the massive amount of prep time) and the ability to easily reprint directions or cut out a different size. I cut out all the pieces for my Colette Crepe dress and then lost the directions, for instance, so I had to kind of wing it when putting it all together, and in that case it would have been great to just print out a replacement set of instructions.

  28. I don’t like the process of using PDF patterns but I LOVE the fact that they make great designs instantly available without paying outrageous postage costs. Here in Ireland no one stocks indie patterns and even UK shops tend to have high postage charges to Europe, so at least through PDFs I get them at a fair price.

  29. I Hate PDF patterns!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’ve only worked with one, a wrap knit top. Love the finished project but getting there was a b****! I also hate scrap booking………… ;>

  30. I am not too crazy about them since I tend to forget they exist because I don’t see them in my pattern storage box. That said, I still occasionally use them if I really really like the pattern.

  31. I don’t like them much — if the patterns is something I really like I will still get them — but I don’t even own a printer so it’s definitely way more of a pain than printed patterns. I will gladly pay more for printed patterns. But then some stuff from Salme, Victory Patterns, and Ohhh Lulu is too cute to pass up. My 0.02$.

  32. I haven’t had a printer for 8 years because the ink cartridges for personal printers are wasteful. As much as I’d love to be able to print off a pattern as soon as I see it, I prefer tissue patterns. That being said, I wish I had better access to a printer for some of the Victory Patterns; those are damn cute!

  33. I don’t love the extra work involved with a PDF pattern and so the designers have to recognise that we want to pay much much less for PDF patterns. I’m with you that I would expect a PDF pattern to be not more than $5 or so rather than just a few dollars less than the cost of a tissue pattern. I wouldn’t want to lose the tissue patterns altogether though as there’s nothing like browsing through a collection of paper patterns.

  34. I really don’t like using PDF patterns for several reasons. I hate taping them together and hoping all the pages print right, and I hate having to waste that much paper. And then the regular paper is way too thick when it comes to pinning the pieces to my fabric. BUT, I am a very nearly broke college student who (during the summer) lives in the absolute middle of nowhere. I only make it into a town big enough to have a Joann’s about twice a month (when my family does our grocery shopping), so if i want to make something, I either have to wait till we go to town or order it online. And then wait anyway. So finding a site like Burda was great for me, especially with the free patterns. So for me, I will tolerate taping a bunch of sheets of paper together if that’s what it takes to make something while I still have the inspiration in my mind.

  35. I’m not fond of the few I’ve used–of course the designs were wonderful, but the process to get there sucked. At first I really like the immediate access, and I still like the fact that I have the original untouched on file; but there are too many down sides in my opinion. There’s the printing- and who wants that much wear on their printer without a good reason- and the assembling-which takes FOREVER- that really turn me off. Of course I would never look a Free gift horse in the mouth; and will probably continue to sparingly use free/low cost digital patterns when I come across one that I find particularly appealing.

  36. yup… i also hate’em! But I do appreciate that they have opened up the pattern industry to small pattern companies. And when I was *first* starting, it was nice to be able to download a $2 or $4 pattern from Burdastyle. Much less intimidating than rifling through the pattern catalogues in the shop.

  37. Since Colette have made their new patterns available digitally, I can get a pattern for around $15 instead of over $30 (inc p&h). I hate them, but SOLD! to the penny-pinching o/s customer!!

  38. yeah, not a fan of the pdf either. i’ll use it if i have to for a simple project, definitely not a complicated one unless there is a really good reason! when i do use them, i tend to lay out all the printed sheets first and only cut off the edges i have to (overlapping part of the paper, helps to keep everything a tad bit straighter) and only taping within the actual pattern pieces to minimize the waste. that said, if i plan to use a pdf pattern more than once i trace it onto tissue so it’s easier to fold up and store.

  39. I will go to any lengths to avoid PDF patterns. The Starlet Jacket project completely reinforced this perspective. And you are right – they’re becoming ever more popular because they’re (relatively) easily corrected by the designers (if mistakes are found) and they’re cheaper to produce. (I also think there’s a market for them, or they just couldn’t proliferate. I barely have a working printer at this point. Too expensive for those cartridges. Esp. when you have to reprint half the pattern 3 times due to errors in positioning or cutting or the like.)

  40. I’m on the fence, really. I hate putting them together, but I have to say, the durability is excellent, and just not something you see with tissue patterns. And it’s great that you can re-print, it really is. But the seam allowance thing DRIVES ME UP THE WALL. COME on, it’s just being lazy!

    The thing is, too, that it’s very democratic, the pdf pattern. Lots of people can use the same pattern, which is kind of brilliant, especially when it comes to vintage patterns that have been made into PDFs, and independent patterns that aren’t available in your average fabric store. So more people have more access to more options, which I do think is great. I just hate dealing with the taping and cutting, it increases your sewing time exponentially. That being said, I hate cutting out tissue patterns too, I find that deeply annoying as well.

  41. I hate pdf patterns. I don’t like spending the time on them, I don’t like all the seams in my pattern pieces. I do like the occational free pattern and the ability to have the pattern right away. The time, though, is cancelled out if it takes me a couple of days and a reem of paper to get the thing put together.

  42. Honestly, I’ve never used a PDF sewing pattern. And there’s a reason for that. Many reasons, in fact, and you’ve just listed most of them. I have yet to see a PDF pattern that would compel me to go through everything you’ve just described. And those “free” patterns aren’t free–not when I have to print them out on paper I’ve purchased, using ink I’ve purchased (which ain’t cheap). It would have to be an extremely attractive pattern unlike anything I could get anywhere else, otherwise it wouldn’t be worth the trouble.

  43. Fantastic post and one that’s certainly got people’s attention! Like you, I don’t mind PDFs for smaller/simpler patterns – I know they can be way more time consuming to use, but I consider the cheaper price and instant access to be a good trade off. I am, however, instantly put off if they don’t include seam allowance…there’s no real excuse for that is there (I could be missing something though in this respect)?!? Also, I think if I had a significant project in mind, I’d rather not work from a PDF, as I don’t 100% trust myself to have the patience put it together as well correctly as I should.

  44. I have to say I agree with you! I do not particularly like PDFs and will only use them if I love the design and can’t have it in another form.But I am a bit lazy and like to get down to sewing as soon as possible.
    However, it’s really hard for small pattern designers to get out there straight on print. I’m hoping to have a small pattern line and “desperate” to be able to offer patterns in print but I have to consider costings very carefully. In my case it also seems to be impossible to find a printer in UK who will print large format paper tissue. (If anyone knows please let me know πŸ˜‰

  45. Not a huge fan of pdf pattern. After I tape it all together I trace my size off onto tissue paper. One of the annoying things for me is storing them.
    I do prefer to use a tissue pattern and might consider a pdf pattern if there is not that many pattern pieces or if I am in love with the pattern and that is the only method of getting it.

    Also, the pdf patterns shouldn’t be the same price as the printed patterns.

  46. I don’t really like them. Being plus sized I’m used to grading up patterns, it’s become a second nature to me.

    But add on to that constant measuring, more cutting and sticking, even more measuring – it gets old quick.

    Like you, cheap/free patterns, I can deal with – but it kinda takes all the joy out of it.
    And I have that tape dispenser – still dislike it.

  47. I’ll have to say I disagree, Sunny. I own and work with different kinds of patterns, most, if not all of them I trace first- if it’s the Burda pages, a vintage pattern or even a multi-sized Vogue. That’s pretty annoying too. So I really don’t know any good way to shorten the pre-production process. Now for me- living in the Middle East for God’s sake, it’s a great thing to be able to download and start a project right when I’m in the mood for it, even if it takes a bit of taping (still much better than a week in the mail). And my last point is that some patterns, such as Angela Kane’s for example are more convenient than others, and I really don’t understand why Burdastyle Magazine has not adopted this – they are printed without borders, so you just hit 100%, print and tape the pages as they come out, no cutting, or folding the paper. Last but not least, is the seam allowances issue. I love the old fashioned/couture way of working with the seam lines, it’s easier to trace, and much more accurate to sew, and I actually prefer to add my own, sometimes wider allowances, or play with the hem length as I want. I do thing it should be stated clearly in the directions. So I am sorry, I disagree almost about everything you said in the post, but I am kind of curious what was the pattern that pissed you off so much.. πŸ™‚ Loved the sarcasm, btw.

  48. I, like you, like PDF patterns that are free. My biggest issue with PDFs is that nothing I do can get them to lay flat when I have them taped together. Matching all the points and lines always gets me in a bubble of paper somewhere. But I persevere and have probably 500 sheets of paper laying about my sewing room because I’m going to get to making that soon. Ha!

  49. I fall into the hate camp as well. I will buy a preprinted pattern over a PDF any day (and have.. I bought the hand drawn Wiksten patterns instead of the PDFs even if they were way more expensive and would never consider buying a Colette PDF). The convenience of PDF is overshadowed by all of the work that goes into putting the paper together and then cutting. I have limited time every day to work on projects, so this task alone can eat up my work time for a day.

    Not to say that I haven’t used them, though only for small items.

  50. I like PDFs for patterns for my daughter, since they’re so small. I printed a free one from burda and was appalled that it was 50 pages for a pretty simple skirt. I hate wasting paper and ink but I’m also not very good at folding up tissue paper patterns. PS the pattern for your sew along is on sale at Joann’s this week for $1.99!

  51. I agree with you, I too really dislike them. When I wanted to start my pattern line, I knew that for me it was either find a way to print them, or not do it, because personally I really dislike working with PDF patterns. That being said, I of course have a PDF pattern for my Craftsy class, because that was the only option. Similarly, I will do the whole printing and taping situation for a pattern I REALLY like and is ONLY available in PDF form, like Victory Patterns. And it’s great when people like Colette Patterns offer free patterns on their blog, and that is something I will be doing too on my blog. So there are exceptions to the rule, but these are the only conditions that would get me to use a PDF pattern over a printed one. Though, I must admit that I live in the US, so most patterns companies are close enough for inexpensive shipping. If I lived in Australia, I might really dig PDF patterns, as I wouldn’t have to pay for expensive shipping costs!

  52. Haven’t read all the comments, but I HATE downloadable patterns.

    After wasting hours of my life taping all those pieces together, only to have to cut the pattern out of this big mosaic and make sure the tape lands INSIDE the pattern so the pieces stay taped together after cutting, I say NEVER AGAIN. Plus you can always find cheap used patterns on Etsy. You just won’t have instant access to them. Great post!

  53. I produced a pdf pattern. It was for a bikini, so it didn’t take many pages. I was testing the water with pattern making before I went and looked for a printer. I didn’t do a lot of promotion (only on my blog), but I don’t think anybody made it up…so perhaps there is very little demand for bikini patterns? I didn’t go into production. But then, maybe if I had got it printed I would have put a lot more effort into advertising?

    PS It was free and it does have seam allowances, and the size chart and instructions are separate. I think it is pretty fabulous and I wore my version all last summer. I’d still love for somebody to make it up.

  54. When I first started using PDF patterns I was not very fond of them. Six or seven years ago I purchased patterning software for my business (I do a fair amount of custom wedding attire in addition to my alterations business). The first patterns I attempted seemed to take me forever to put together and when I had a fitting issue I had to start over and waste more paper:-p

    But as time has gone by and I have become a better taper and liner upper of my paper pieces, I don’t mind the PDF patterns so much. I can plug my measurements into the computer, design my dress, and have a pattern printing in 20 minutes. Much quicker than driving 30 miles to the nearest fabric store to then search for a pattern of a design that may or may not exist. I set my seam allowances in the software so that is never an issue. And the design is all mine.

    I agree with the others that PDF patterns are an excellent way for small companies to start. I am personally very tired of the big companies with their same old boring stuff:-p

    I would love it if the paper supply world would come out with a lighter weight paper, though! Something between tissue and copy paper. The tissue paper of commercial patterns rips and tears a little too easy for my likes and the copy paper is a little too heavy for pinning and marking through.

  55. Not a great fan of them for all the same reasons, but down here in New Zealand it is sometimes the most cost effective way of getting patterns. Much as I would love to have the pre-printed form, by the time postage is added on we are talking $30 plus for a pattern and several weeks waiting for the post. But argh no seam allowances … wouldn’t bother unless it was a super pattern.

  56. Call me crazy, and maybe I’m the only one who does this, but I never print off the PDFs. I pull them up on my screen, size them till the little box measures right, and carefully trace it onto a large piece of paper (white wrapping paper works great for this). Sure you have to be careful not to damage your screen but it saves ink, paper, tape, and some of the hassle. Granted I have only done 3 or 4 of these and they all have been toddler patterns (i have a bunch of pdfs for me but haven’t ever used any as I usually drape or just modify one of the many paper ones I already have), but this has worked really well for me. Since you agree that *free* is good, maybe this will take the edge off of your ire?

  57. I hate the pdf patterns and try to avoid them. Even when a pattern is super cute. I’ll try to find a similar one that is not in pdf format and only if I can’t find one will I buy the pdf pattern. So please, I beg of the smaller companies, don’t *only* put out pdfs!

  58. I don’t mind the PDFs, and they don’t seem any more tedious to me than ironing the damn tissue! Man, I hate doing that! I’ll put off starting a new project for days just because I hate ironing the tissue so much! Come to think of it, I’d rather print out a PDF and tape it together!

  59. Count me in the hate pdf pattern camp.

    The printing, cutting and taping process sucks not only the joy but also my motivation to start a new project. Sad to say but I don’t support small pattern companies because of it.

  60. Whew! I’m glad it’s not just me! I hate pdf patterns and will gladly pay the extra for a pre-printed, fully assembled pattern. The only time that you can really convince me to do one is if it’s for a Craftsy class (lookin’ at you Gertie and the sassy librarian blouse) and even then it took me about three months before I finally decided to sign up for the courses because of it. I’m so glad to know I’m not the only one because I feel like I’m constantly reading about all of these bloggers who seem to only be working with pdfs. I felt like I was just being lazy. Well, maybe I am, but I’m saving my sewing time for actual sewing and (like you said) not scrapbooking!

  61. I used to really like pdf patterns- because of the instant gratification and i had no access to getting paper patterns in a timely manner. however, after spending almost as much time taping pdf patterns together as sewing- i can’t stand them. i think that they will be around in the long run- and are the way of the future- mainly because there is literally no extra cost in producing the pattern- the company is pushing the cost onto the consumer. i wish that all producers of pdf patterns would also give a full size already put together pattern so you could theoretically go to kinkos/fedex office and have them print them out full size for you, saving you the pain of trimming and taping.

  62. I don’t mind it so much with smaller patterns, like the Sorbetto, because there’s not that many sheets to tape together. I do mind it with the larger ones, because it’s hard for me to find a large enough surface to accommodate all of the pieces. And I do agree that printing it out, taping it together, and then having to add seam allowances on top of that is particularly evil. I’m rather sad that my local Barnes & Noble stopped carrying the BurdaStyle magazines like they used to, so I could just cherry-pick the (increasingly rare) issues with actual good designs. I have to admit, I’m barely bothering with the BurdaStyle website these days, because I would rather just rework patterns I have than to go through all of that hassle of buying/downloading/taping/adding seam allowances with little scraps of paper because they don’t allow enough space between pieces/etc.

  63. I agree with you completely. I only go to the effort if the pattern is quite unique and/or cheap. I have far too little spare time to waste cutting and pasting. More often, I send it to a large format printer and have the thing printed on one huge sheet. The new Oliver+S digital patterns offer both printing options, which is super convienent for must have out of print cuteness.

  64. I think I’m in the in between category. I get plenty annoyed with the printing and cutting and lining up and taping and cutting again, etc. BUT I do love the fact that once the pages are taped, I have no qualms about cutting the size I want from the paper. If I happen to want to make the pattern for my sister, or I lose weight magically, I still have the file and can print it again and make it in a new size without compromising the original pattern in any way.

    But I also suspect that I’m a digital information hoarder. I keep files just because I might need them one day. I never do seem to. Funny, ’cause I don’t hoard anything else. I don’t even have a fabric stash to speak of.

    My one pet peeve: digital patterns (or anything else digital these days: books, MP3s, etc.) that cost the same price as the real paper copies. $2 off the list price does nothing for me either. I’ll just buy the paper pattern. If I can’t afford the full price of the pattern on paper (some patterns these days are CRAZY expensive!) then I’ll just not spend money with your company if the pattern on PDF is not significantly cheaper.

  65. I’m pretty new to all this sewing fun but i have use both printed tissue patterns and a PDF pattern, what I don’t understand (and I apologise if it’s really very obvious to everyone else)is why in heck seam allowances aren’t included in so many of these patterns, I just don’t get it. Is there a magical way to sew without seams? I mean, why leave out such an integral part of a pattern, it’s not as if a pattern would be printed with the side note ‘oh by the way there are darts in this pattern but we decided not to print them’. Can someone enlighten my beginners brain as to why this is so baffilingly common?
    Alice x

    1. I actually don’t usually take the time to put seam allowances on the patterns I make (only for myself, I’m not a business or anything fancy). I mark the seam lines & match points & baste or pin baste those together. Since that line matching up is the important part, I can make my seam allowance any width I need for a project. It is particularly helpful for items that are very closely fitted and really important for when I do corsets which need to be very accurate in the measurements. This is definitely not something I recommend for someone new to sewing, and certainly unnecessary for most garment sewing. I hope that answers your question at least a little.

      That said, when I’ve made a pattern digitally (I’m still experimenting with it; I don’t have a real version of AutoCAD but a very pared down knock-off freeware program) it was **SUPER** easy to add seam allowances once the seam lines for my pattern were done, so I really don’t see why a company *wouldn’t* take the extra 2-3 min to add them in, especially since most people find them so helpful.

  66. I’m of two minds. On one hand, I love the range of sizes they come in. It makes it possible for my two girls to match. (ages one and four) But on the other hand, I hate taping the darn thing together, only to have to trace the sizes I need because they’re so far apart. And there’s the hidden cost of printer ink to consider, too. I could easily go to the dollar sales and buy ten patterns for what it costs me to buy and print one pdf pattern. Not to mention that I would rather have a paper copy of the instructions right in front of me–I paid extra to have it printed once, and they neglected to print the instructions, too!

  67. I haven’t read all comments here, but it seems that I am in the minority. I do love the PDF patterns. It’s all because that I feel I can easily modify/alter/change patterns whenever I like with printable patterns. Although I have never tried to have any modification on the pattern in the PDF file, I have some minor alterations in the printed pattern I use on more than 90% projects. For me, it’s easier to feel free to add “extra” on the original pattern using PDFs than using hard copy original. I don’t like the situation that I should remember the alterations/changes in my brain but not in the pattern when I cut the fabric, so I have to recreate a pattern for a project in either way. I feel I can try many versions of alterations/adjustments and I don’t have to be sorry even if it doesn’t work because I have an complete original in my computer. If there are the choices, I buy PDF. If there isn’t, I try not to buy paper ones. I don’t want to take against either side, because it all depends what is expected by the individual. Sincerely, yoshimi

  68. I really dislike them, for most of the reasons you stated. I made the Sorbetto top from Colette, and that’s about as complex as I’m willing to go for a PDF. All that taping just kills the joy for me.

  69. Like the ipad was a better Sony walkman, I want something better but different! PDF’s that you print yourself are just more of the same badness. I can order up a dress from ishakti for $65 made in my size when the printed price on a paper pattern is $30. Why can’t I pick out a pattern, order it in a set of measurements with maybe a forward shoulder adjustment and have it printed on fabric in weight similar to the recommended fabric (drapey, knit, crisp) and have that delivered to my door. This eliminates the tracing step and the first muslin step. This also eliminates the need a small designer to order thousands patterns to be printed whether or not anyone buys them.

  70. Where I live (Northern China), I have yet to find a printed pattern in any language. I have a very hard time finding notions of any kind, and the quality of what I do find leaves a lot to be desired. The cost of shipping patterns prices me right out of the pattern market, and it can take up to 3 months to get a pattern if I do decide to spend my retirement fund on the shipping. So, for me it is PDF or nothing πŸ™‚

  71. Personally, I like PDF sewing patterns. For one, the pattern is always saved it can be printed out at any time, even years later. Also, I think PDF patterns is a great way to preserve vintage patterns. Paper will eventually disintegrate but if the pattern can be transfer from paper into the computer before it disintegrates, the design will last forever. But I do understand your points and frustration. Really, I do. As much as I’m an online reader of newspapers and magazines, sometimes it feels so good to read an actually newspaper of magazine. The same goes for patterns. It’s the old school in me πŸ™‚

  72. I have one huge complaint with regular, buy at the store patterns. I totally hate that tissue paper. It’s harder to cut perfectly; even when I iron it, it wrinkles up and pulls and distorts; and it is impossible to store! it’s like refolding the stupidest map ever. On top of that, I think I have torn almost every pattern I own from pinholes. I prefer printer paper that folds up and stores nicely, that lasts a really long time, that I can easily write on.

    1. “It’s like refolding the stupidest map ever.”

      I don’t know that I agree with you generally (I find tissue patterns easier to deal with than printouts, on the whole) but that is the BEST description of the refolding problem.

  73. I don’t mind them really because when you add on cost of postage which for me here in NZ is often way more than the actual pattern on its own and I’m not sure if I’m going to make it up right now or “sometime in the future”, a pdf download can be the way to go for me. But I also cheat: I have access to large format printers so you won’t catch me playing around with sticky tape and scissors πŸ˜‰

  74. While I see the market for PDF patterns, I choose not to bother. I have a few, printed them out cut them, add seam allowances, etc. etc. Then I needed a nap. I don’t have the time essentially or the patience. I have a large pattern collection that I can modify for just about any use, if not, I will pay up.

    For those start ups who use the PDF format for cost reasons, I wish the best. After some success they will likely want to ante up and go to paper. That is where a large portion of the market is, and I think will likely remain.

  75. Also factor in the cost of paper and ink to print out the pattern, especially those w/several pieces – plus the time to do that and later, to assemble it all together – it’s often more expensive than if you simply purchased the paper pattern! I only do pdf patterns if it is something simple, or if a paper pattern is not available.

  76. I am a YAY for pdf patterns for only 1 reason — I am extremely short and printing at a 90% allows me to resize the pattern to my shortness easily and proportionally!

  77. I have just finished a phase of using them heaps.

    Pros: Instant access, durability as paper better than tissue paper, can alter direct to pattern and can reprint if I totally mess it up. Great for kids patterns as not as many pages involved. Can get tricky and scale pattern up and down by changing print scale (like juebejue who prints at 90% and gets the perfect size for her petite frame!! Thats clever.) Its great for little tops or other small items. I don’t mind it for pencil skirts.

    Cons: 100+ sheets of paper to cut and stick together, which I did recently. OMG. I will never do that again. Never again. Total total nightmare. I took so long to get the pattern ready. Plus the paper wastage gave me the horrors: I filled a rubbish bin with the offcuts. I am sure the cost of the paper, printer ink, glue and sticky tape would offset the cheaper cost of the pattern. I would have to be pretty keen on the pattern and not be able to get it elsewhere to do this again for a dress pattern or something else that is going to need alot of paper.

    I think they serve a useful purpose but I am a bit over it. Mind you, they are a great way of getting an OOP pattern.

  78. I am a firm believer of PDF patterns! The money I save on shipping I can buy more PDF patterns! I live in Kuala Lumpur and shipping will be costly every time (read often) I fancy a pattern.

    Yes, sticking the patterns pieces together is killjoy. So I now psyche myself and draw a deep breath and get on with the necessary task!

  79. The low cost of PDF is what has enabled me to be able to sew some really nice clothes for myself. I always jump at the chance to buy a book with patterns in it as they are good value too. Printer paper is so sturdy that now tissue paper seams scary. I will buy a few and have a pattern printing, sticking, cutting and tracing session or I skip the tracing and cut the pattern directly as I do have the backup of printing it again (I have not had to do this). I am really good at sticking the patterns together I do not stick all the pages together only the pattern pieces. This takes up less room and its easier to get each pattern piece accurate than whole 50 pages or so. This also means less cutting if there is no pattern piece touching the side of the paper that side wont get cut. I have found them a necessary evil. The closest pattern/fabric shop is 65km away the petrol cost is far more than the paper and ink cost plus its 50min each way so if I am printing and cutting one pattern I am in front time wise.

  80. Hate them. I’ll tack them together if the garment is really fabulous, but if, like you said, it’s a coat then I’ll ignore it completely. And sadly this means that indie companies often get ignored by me, because I just want to cut the fabric and sew! Maybe if I was more patient I would, but I find it easier to just draft for myself!

  81. I quite like the pdf patterns, as it means I can hack the pattern to pieces making alterations if i want to but don’t have to worry about destroying the pattern in the process, as I can always print it again if i want (or if i want to make a different size). Also, there’s been times when I’ve been away and sewing (eg staying with my parents) where I’ve wanted to make a pattern I already own but don’t have it with me, whereas if it were a pdf pattern that wouldn’t be a problem.

    I do agree that for some patterns that involve too many sheets it’s not as good.

    I do wish that even when you buy the paper pattern you could then have access to the instructions as a pdf, as that’s often easier than having it on paper.

  82. I LOVE them! Since I live in Africa, I would have to wait until I visit the U.S. to buy patterns. Instead, if itΒ΄s available in pdf, I get it nearly instantly. I think they are awesome. In fact, my life would suck without them.

  83. Neat! My biggest takeaway from reading the comments is that a lot of the commenters are living more internationally than I would have guessed! I didn’t sew garments when I was living in Japan (for 5 years, until last year), but there were very few paper patterns available there… and what was for sale was all boxy loose j-fashion that would have been awful on me! I guess in that situation I would have used more pdfs.
    And yet… even in Canada, I rarely buy patterns in person. I’d rather pay the shipping on a few really great patterns than download and tape just anything! I always worry that the small mistakes in taping will lead to fitting problems later down the line. It’s just too much hassle!

  84. I find it imposible to be 100% accurate when cutting and taping the pages together. I think that there is a better way to produce downloadable patterns. Rather than having to tape all of the pages together into those giant sheets, you should be able to tape together each pattern piece seperately. There should be an illustration showing all of the pattern pieces with their corresponding letter and which pieces are needed to make each view (like in most paper patterns), then there should be an index saying which pages to print to get each pattern piece. There are usually a few pieces that can fit onto 1 page such as sleeve bands, collar pieces, facings, and these pieces should just be printed 1 per page. Larger pieces should still be separated – to print back bodice, print pages 10-18 and tape together and cut out. And what’s with cutting off the borders of the pages before taping them together, why can’t they use the whole page?

  85. I love digital patterns! I will purchase them over paper patterns. I don’t have a lot of space to store paper patterns. I will not cut my paper patterns so I end up tracing them to preserve all the sizes. With digital patterns, I print, tape, and cut my size. After I have my muslin complete, the paper is recycled. I wish all patterns were available digitally. I operate in a digital world though. My life is organized by my iPhone, I read by my Kindle Fire, and take sewing classes online.

  86. I just discovered your blog and love it but I have to disagree with you about PDF patterns. (Am declaring bias here: I design them – small ones for girls clothes – myself :). I do what Sara (above commenter) suggested and make my patterns so that each piece can be taped separately rather than all the sheets having to be taped together.

    Generally speaking, I hate tissue paper with a passion and, like some other commenters above, find refolding them the most fiddly and ridiculous task ever.

    Since sewing requires a definite investment in time, let’s face it, printing and assembling a quality PDF pattern is hardly such a big ask!!


  87. I’m a fan of PDF patterns – I don’t love cutting and taping, but I also don’t like waiting for shipping! As for Burda patterns – I rarely buy them, but it is soooo much easier for me to buy and print one, than to strain my eyes tracing it from Burda’s magazine.

    Caveat: I recently bought a Simplicity PDF online because I don’t live close to any 99 cent pattern sales, and I wanted to make up a pattern pronto. That was the WORST PDF printing experience ever – I think it ended up printing close to 140 pages! It wasn’t formulated to think of a home sewer printing it out, it was probably just the regular tissue pattern digitized. Think of a regular tissue pattern sheet: how there is plenty of empty space and how the pieces are kind of spread out. Plus the sizes went from XXS-XXL, so there were repeats of each piece – like one sleeve was printed for XXS-M, and the same sleeve printed in L-XXL. It was such a waste of paper and time – I would not buy a Simplicity PDF pattern ever again

  88. I love them and I hate them. For small things, like bag patterns they’re great. The Burda Jenny skirt and Colette Sorbetto are as complex as I want to go really though for garment cut and stick. This is for the simple reason that I still have to trace once I’ve done with taping because it is nigh on impossible to do an accurate FBA on taped printer paper. Plus they’re a beggar to store once taped up!
    I can understand why Colette are now offering their patterns as a PDF, but I’ll pay the few Β£s more for the hard copy. Because I’m gonna have to trace it anyway so why add an additional level of headache.
    Plus as others have commented, once you factor in the paper, ink, scotch tape and importantly for me time, the saving is negligible if at all existent, for me. But then I’m in the UK where patterns are reasonable (if not in the 99c category, oh I dream!) and postage less than the pattern, so I can understand the appeal and necessity for those who don’t have that sort of access…

  89. I don’t mind them for small things, hate them for garments and have so far refused to purchase any. I’d rather spend a bit more and get the real thing. I have enough issues with the “trace from the multicoloured master sheet” thing.

  90. I love digital patterns for many reasons. 1) Price of shipping to Japan sometimes exceeds the price of the pattern. 2) I can reuse the same pattern multiple times. In general I don’t cut a pattern, but make a muslin or transfer my size to a tracing paper when the modifications are necessary. 3) I can change the scale of it to make it fit perfectly. 4) Great way to protect vintage patterns. Personally, I have buying torn or disintegrated vintage patterns.

    Putting the digital pattern together is definitely not fun, but I do it while watching a movie, and it does not seem so painful πŸ˜‰ Vive digital patterns!

  91. I absolutely agree with everything you’re saying Sunni. I too use PDFs but only for small simple projects and I HATE taping them together, especially since my cat always jumps in on me at the moment of sticking down. I just completed the dress kimono from Salme patterns and only when I stuck it all together did I realise that I had to add seam allowances too. ARGH! I understand that smaller companies haven’t got the capital to print but I think we’d all pay a wee bit more for this option so I really hope PDFs don’t become the norm. I’ve got a Hazel dress from Victory patterns languishing in my sewing room because I just don’t have the heart to start taping it together. Now that’s not good for me OR the sewing company is it? Because I won’t be recommending it until I make it.

  92. Like many others I don’t live in the US and shipping costs can kill me. So I do like pdf patterns. Not to mention I hate that flimsy tissue paper and multicolored master sheet. I’d love if patterns were printed on smaller pieces of paper…I never cut them out…I trace them on another piece of paper to preserve them….but having such a large sheet makes it difficult to do on a regular size table.

  93. I was grown with my aunt who is a dressmaker until now, and thought me too how to sew. she thought me how to make paper patters. I may say that using paper patterns are more accurate in sewing. and it is more reliable.

  94. In my opinion PDF patterns are a typical love-hate thing. They are accessible from everywhere and as long as you are patient enough with your printer and all the creative juice killing PDF mess, you can have a nice variety of everything without waiting for mail (after paying out of mind shipping costs as I live in Europe) or searching the stores.
    But that’s just the reasonable part in me who was writing this. I go mad over the printing, cutting and taping!!!!!!!!!!! GAH!!!!! The only ones who love it are my cats who are playing with the 125 pages around me gasping, screaming, cursing mess of a hobby seamstress πŸ˜‰

  95. So much fun to read through the comments! Thank you for raising the question! =)

    I’ve so far printed two patterns, one of them rests unassembled and un-sewed (bad sewist!). I actually thought the whole piecing together was kind of fun, a bit like laying a huge puzzle that will end up as a pretty dress one can wear. I do not like storing it though, the huge pieces of paper are impossible! So unless I really really really want the pattern, I’ll stick to buying it in paper or -my favorite- draft it myself =)

    One thing that makes me smile a bit though… what on earth is wrong with a pattern not having seamallowance or hem marked out?! I love that I can choose myself how wide to make them, depending on make, fabric and how much fabric I have etc. Also, making pattern alterations is so much easier when one doesn’t have a fiddly seamallowance to bother with.

    In the end I suppose it’s all about what one is used to.

  96. I really don’t mind PDF’s, instant gratification, plus I have to travel 30 miles if I want to buy a pattern in a shop, as I live in the middle of nowhere. And I have to admit that I like a bit of mindless repetitive activity, cutting and taping is quite soothing, as I cut and tape, I run through what sort of fabrics I’ll use, whether I’ll use trims and any changes I might make.

    This will probably sound a bit silly, but I find pdf patterns liberating, in that I can hack it up and experiment with the pattern, if it goes wrong I can just print it out again.
    I’m less likely to do that with a shop bought pattern. Strangely, I absolutely loathe pattern tracing.

  97. HATE them. For all the reasons you describe above. Seriously so annoying. I’d pay extra any day of the week for a reglar old pattern AND wait to have it shipped to me.

  98. Nay, unless it is a really tiny pattern for a top of lingerie, etc. It is just to much work. I have a 1 year old so my crafting time is limited. I am not going to waste it printing, taping and adding seam allowances.

  99. Yay to PDF patterns. I prefer Angela Kane’s method in which she does not have margins so there is not trimming or overlapping. You simply print them with no resizing and then butt the edges of the paper together and tape. Much less bulk at the joins which makes further alterations easier. She also uses fewer pages to per pattern. The downside to her patterns is that they aren’t multi sized so it’s not possible to blend between sizes.

    Overall I really like PDF patterns because I can reprint them to frankensew them anyway I please.

    1. Now this interests me a lot! I must hop on over to Angela Kane’s site (will do this NOW!) and see what this is all about. Not have to cut out each paper after it prints would take a big chunk of time out of the process. Big chunk! In fact, I think that’s the part I hate the most!

  100. I’m rather “meh” on digital patterns, although I have thought of making up a few myself to offer before. For small items, like tops (the Sorbetto top springs to mind) or accessories I don’t mind, since the page count is usually under 10. But any bigger than that and I start to loathe the process of having to tape everything together and get it lined up *just so*. I’d rather have to trace one of my hard copy patterns than got through that any day! I know a lot of companies do it because of costs (printing tissue patterns requires a pretty big investment; I’ve looked into it and it’s pretty steep), but if I really love a pattern, I’d almost rather pay more for a pattern that I can get a copy of already printed. I also trace most of the pdf patterns I’ve used, since I hate pinning through letter weight paper!

  101. Hate ’em. I will only download and use them if: 1) they are free, 2) the resulting pattern requires printing 15 letter sized pages or less, AND 3) I know I will sew the pattern in the next few months. I don’t know what I’d do if printed patterns became a thing of the past! I adore, adore, adore Victory Patterns but have yet to make a purchase because they’re only available digitally and I don’t even have a printer at home anymore.

  102. They are fine if they are free (I have a few saved in the laptop) and if they are very short in the number of pages but they are a pain when like today I went to print a pattern and I have hardly any ink left and my daughter ha=d stolen the last of my printer paper for her drawing box! Its off to the shops to buy ink and paper so I could have gone and brought a pattern! πŸ™‚

  103. Hate them. But I think the thing that is so frustrating is that the flaws in pdf patterns are so fixable. How hard is it to just add the seam allowance?!?!? Maureen Cunningham’s solution is also something I would pay good money for…

  104. Despite shipping costs I would often rather buy a paper pattern over a PDF pattern. Something small like Sorbetto or a pair of shorts I can live with. Most of the time the thought of cutting out and taping together multiple sheets of paper which are then a pain to store is not appealing at all.
    Some of the indie companies have such great packaging it is nice to own them as paper patterns – much for collectable. Yeah, I’ll be selling them on ebay in 50 years time….

  105. this is a tough one. i’m in the UK so agree with those above who prefer to save on the shipping costs. but as a newbie sewist i often trace “real” patterns so that if i trash the piece with my clumsy alterations, i can start again. so it’s not really any more hassle than that. and i print them at work so don’t worry about paper and ink! (naughty). but i just received my first colette patterns in the post yesterday and the packaging was so lovely that it almost swayed me to printed patterns!

  106. I agree. I bought the Twinkie sewing book and didn’t realize I would have to PRINT ALL MY PIECES MYSELF after paying almost $30 for the book. I was disgusted. Really. Who has the time and money to do that? I should have read all the fine print before I bought it, but come on. I thought the pack in the back were the pattern pieces. Most books are set up this way. One pattern had 90 pages to print! What!?

    Okay, so after you tape all of this together, what do you do with them when you’re done? Where do you store them? I don’t have sewing room or area to keep these sheets flat or even rolled.

    I also buy PDF patterns and love the “instant access” to projects like bags, home decor, accessories and quilts. But I do not like them for garments at all. I understand the cost restraints new designers have, so I am just letting it out here. I’ll still buy PDF’s and would actually like to put some of my own designs on some. I just wanted to chime in. Thanks for all the great posts….Angie

  107. Funny post! I occasionally buy pdf patterns, although I’d prefer if they were paper. I add (or reduce) my own SAs so that part isn’t extra time. But yes, the 50 page ones are really time-consuming and they never line up quite right. I love that BurdaStyle patterns (not the magazine downloads) allow you the choice of purchasing a wide-printer version instead of a tiled one. It’d be cool if more pattern sellers doing pdfs offered those. They start out that way and then get tiled afterward, so I don’t know why more people don’t offer them. It’s another 10 bucks but has saved by butt a few times!

  108. I rarely use patterns as it is, and haven’t ever used a PDF, but since I don’t have a printer you can bet that I prefer paper patterns when I do use one!

  109. I do buy PDFs but hate the taping together. I like how Burda has the option of the wide printer version that can be taken to a print shop. For me living in Barbados, because of the shipping, its cheaper to buy the PDF and take it to a print shop for printing.

    1. I have to admit, I’ve not tried printing at the print shop, but I’m seriously considering the Jorinde from Burda Style – because it’s free, has seam allowances and it’s a pretty decent pattern. Ok, ok I’m definitely going to try it!

  110. I think pdf’s are ok. I live in DK (costs of postage are same as to the UK, I think, or maybe even more). I like the fact that I can fall in love with a pattern and print it the next second.
    I don’t have a prize- og page-limit on pdf’s. If I love a pattern, I love it. The only thing I’ll never get used to is seam allowances included in patterns. I find that SO irritating! It’s much easier to make alterations, if they are not there to begin with!

  111. I loathe pdf patterns. Loathe loathe loathe. I am in Malta, Europe and sometimes pay loads of postage to buy patterns – but it’s worth it. Colette has started doing PDFs. Can you imagine matching up all those tiny lines on her amazingly detailed patterns? I was dying for Hazel but ordered it from her site. I will only get PDFs if I am totally enamoured of something and cannot get it any other way – like Victory Patterns. I am still hoping she’ll start printing though! Even a simple two piecer like Sorbetto tooke me ages to put together – hassle… as a person with a full time job who lives with my sister and therefore also has to do a huge amount of housework, I would rather pay a little bit more and have that extra time to sew. It’s hard enough finding time to do the sewing! Plus, I don’t like patterns on stiff paper. I trace them onto greaseproof paper as I find it easier to handle. So it’s even more work.
    What really gets me is the PDFs that are sold at high prices. There’s a cute little blouse pattern on etsy from someone called Osborn – her prices are like $16. That’s a print pattern price. No way would I buy something which means so much work for the price of something I could get ready, especially when VP go for under 10.
    If I were a part time worker or a student with time to spare I suppose I might use PDFs more but probably even then I would go for the print πŸ™‚

  112. I live in the Philippines and there are no patterns available here. It’s not only the cost of shipping that stops me ordering on-line but the time it takes, as well as the chance things will go missing in transit! My only option used to be to bring pattern magazines from Europe and trace them out. So I LOVE PDF patterns and consider the time spent sticking them together well worth it. Tracing pattern or printing/sticking takes about the same amount of time anyway. I don’t add seam allowances to my patterns, as I prefer to cut huge allowance so I have ample lee way to fit every garment I sew. So that does not cost me any additional time either. I also love that PDF patterns are generally substantially cheaper than printed ones (at least Burda’s are). I find the fastest way to stick them together is to cut off the margins from all tops and left sides of the printed paper (or bottoms and right sides – doesn’t really matter as long as you are consistent. I then use a glue stick on the remaining margins and align and stick on the matching pieces. To avoid the pattern sheet becoming too unmanageable as it grows, I cut out the individual pattern pieces as they come together.

  113. I greatly dislike them – which is a bummer because it usually means that I don’t buy a lot of the indie patterns I’d love to support. I don’t have a printer at home which means that if I buy a PDF pattern I have to print it out at work and that always makes me feel guilty and sneaky for wasting their paper (but less anxious than using up a ream of my OWN paper – i guess…) And the cutting and taping usually is a sure thing to get me in a bad mood. Cat hair gets stuck in everything – not to mention that my cat has a freaking party on all those little papers.
    But I understand why they’re popular. No packaging and wide accessibility. And since I have no preciousness about PDF patterns I have no problem cutting them out instead of tracing them.

  114. If they are free, I will consider printing it if it is for a small project. I have purchased a few for small projects. But I will not pay $15 for a PDF pattern that I have to print, cut, and tape together!

  115. I’m another non-US seamstress who’s glad for the PDF e-patterns, no matter the page count. I have a long practice of tracing ALL my patterns (raised on Burda, Big 4 not sold locally etc) so I actually trace the PDFs too. How does one pin through Bond paper???? And I’m waiting for Colette to go all digital to go all CRAZY myself, LOL! The expense and ANXIETY of international mail can be crippling, believe me!

  116. I hate them. I’ve done a couple and they’re *ok*. For really small things like halter tops, I’d do it if I was in love with it (and I did), but I’d rather pay postage and wait for a paper pattern in the mail. And I’m REALLY impatient, so that should tell you what I think.
    It’s just not worth it to me to spend my ink, paper, tape, and time putting them all together, only to cut them apart again. Cutting is my LEAST favorite thing about sewing, so adding to the cutting time is like pulling teeth.
    Being a small pattern company I can tell you that tissue paper printing is not the only option for patterns. In fact, I hate tissue paper patterns *almost* as much as PDF patterns. Good sturdy bond paper or vellum printed patterns for the win!! They’re hearty, substantial, easy to trace off, and don’t tear. Novel, that. I actually was extremely disappointed that some of my favorite indie companies switched over to tissue. Total bummer. The bond paper patterns may cost more if you’re doing thousands of them, but the quality, in my opinion, is So.Much.Better.

  117. Honestly, I haven’t tried one yet. Why just the other day while at Sense & Sensibility I actually attempted to consider it and came up with a big “Naaaaaaaaaaaaaahhh; I don’t think so!” I’ve got enough to contend with in remaking my entire wardrobe to 18/19th century/1950’s dresses and skirts without adding the project of stick and glue.

    This is a way cool, funny discussion. Good job ladies. Keep ’em coming.


    P.S. Also, I’m old school; taught to sew in the 60’s. Thus, ain’t nothing wrong with tissue paper to me. Old habits sometimes die hard.

  118. I live in the middle no where. Getting access to sewing patterns is difficult. I like the instant-ness of pdf for a handful of patterns, and especially nice for me to try out a new pattern company. I find the cutting and taping tedious, especially considering that I will also need to do extensive pattern modifications. So, generally speaking I prefer regular patterns. But, I will try out a new one here or there. Sometimes you just get a gem. I tried out the Sorbetto pattern from Colette Patterns. I’ve made the blouse (about three times now) and have purchased several patterns from her now. I love her style, her instructions and the packaging of her patterns. I wouldn’t have just ordered a pattern online to test out, but after testing a free one line, I was sold — many times over.

  119. I am a young mum of two little ones and I love sewing for them. However I also have hip problems and experience a lot of pain and am often unable to drive or get out to the shops so PDF patterns help me feel a bit more useful when I’m physically restricted.

  120. Hello Sunni,
    I love your site — just found it.
    I make and sell PDF patterns —-I know what you are saying because when I first found out that they existed I just laughed and laughed. I have been a designer and patternmaker all my life, 40+ years in the rag trade. I just opened my little Etsy shop to see how it goes and plan a web site later. Yes it’s a bit fidely sticking it together BUT the upside is it’s really cheap and instantly available to everyone with a computer and a desk top printer. People who sew for fun usually don’t mind the sticky tape biz and once you’ve assembled one you usually get the idea and just do it automatically.
    Only spare a thought for all the work that goes into producing these little gems — it is a huge amount of work to get a pattern file ready for sale. I definitely agree with you that small is best when it comes to PDF patterns, that’s why I don’t do wedding dresses. I think if PDF patterns reach more people and encourage more poeple to sew that’s just great, it’s good for the soul to be able to say “I made it”. Steph.

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