An Absolute Beginner’s Guide: PDF Sewing Patterns

Hi readers, welcome to Monday morning. And when it’s Monday that means The Absolute Beginner’s Guide. So today we’re talking about PDF sewing patterns – what are they? Are they better than an average sewing pattern? How are they assembled? For today’s example we’ll be talking about Simple Sews free Brigitte Dress pattern which I’m actually sewing right now – perfect right?


What are PDF Patterns?
PDF patterns are sewing patterns that you can download from the interwebs, print out at home (or work *wink wink*) and cellotape together. The Big Four offer all their patterns in PDF or solid-printed-in-an-envelope-form. Many indie companies such as Pattern Runway, Victory Patterns, Sinbad and Sailor, Cake Patterns, Simple Sews also offer their patterns in PDF format. Basically, PDF sewing patterns offer an alternative to hard copy patterns for customers because they are nearly always cheaper than the hard copy.

So why aren’t all patterns in PDF Format?
I think Steph from Cake Patterns said it best when I interviewed her last year:
“Even though it’s relatively cheap and easy, most people don’t want to go to the trouble of printing and assembling their own patterns. It’s a personal preference. The market for PDF patterns is really small compared to the number of people who sew. In order for me to be able to make a job out of pattern design, I need to make paper patterns.” Well said Steph.

So… Are They Any Good?
Good question – I mean if you can just order the solid thing online or buy it in a shop why would you fluff about with assembling PDF patterns? I guess the key benefit of buying PDF patterns is that you never have to leave the house! You can print it straight out at home and you’d never have to worry about the retailer running out of the pattern either. Also, totally beneficial to mistake-makers like myself is that you can reprint your pattern if you cut the pattern in the wrong size. But the best coolest thing about PDF patterns is that many indie pattern brands offer a free pattern in PDF format, such as Colette’s Sorbetto, By Hand London’s Polly, Cake’s T-shirt, Victory’s Tailor’s Ham and of course today’s pattern Simple Sews’ Brigitte Dress.


So Let’s Assemble This Pattern!

Let’s get this PDF pattern show on the road. You’ll need everything in the photo above – your whole pattern printed off, cellotape in a despencer, a pen, ruler and some scissors (not your fabric ones, unless you hate them and you want an excuse to buy new ones).

1. Lay out all your A4 sheet, check that all your pages are there. The pages will print out in order and are numbered.


2. Get your ruler and pen. Rule a line at the edge of the printing and cut off this edge. You’ll only need to do this on one side of each two pages that meet (because the other one will be underneith).


3. Line up your trimmed edge with its corresponding page. These pages overlap slightly so you’re looking to see if the edges flow in the curves of the pattern lines. When you’re satisfied with lining up your edge cellotape that badboy down with lots of tape going to whole length of the edge. Repeat for the whole pattern


4. You’re done! It’s all taped together and ready to be cut it out and pinned to your fabric


Do you use PDF sewing patterns? What’s your number one tip for using digital patterns?

An Absolute Beginner’s Guide: Choosing a Pattern

Welcome to my new series An Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Sewing. I don’t claim to have all the answers but I will hopefully provide new sew-ers some with some ideas for your new endeavour – being an awesome seamstress. Every Monday I’ll post my thoughts on a given sewing topic and I encourage you to comment on the posts if you’ve got some advice too! So today’s topic? Choosing A Pattern


Start Simple

One of the big pull factors for getting into sewing is the ability to make amazingly fashionable clothes and half the cost of buying them. The risk with jumping in at the deep end though is the bitter disappointment of spending $35 on a DKNY for Vogue pattern only to discover that the garment is very complicated to put together.

The Big Four pattern companies (Simplicity, Vogue, Butterick and McCall’s) all provide “sewing ratings” that rank the difficulty of making that pattern. There are four ratings – very easy, easy, average and advanced – so my advice would be to go with a very easy or easy pattern. You can also ask to read the instructions in the shop before you buy your pattern. Once you pick you pattern number from the look book ask the sales assistant for the envelope so you could look at the instructions while you’re standing at the counter. This will give you an idea of how many pieces the pattern requires as well as how many steps it is to complete the garment. Trust me this isn’t weird!


Choose a Modern Pattern

Starting simple also means starting modern. It’s pretty hard to miss the 1950s vintage renaissance currently happening, particularly in the field of sewing blogs. But I would caution new sew-ers against learning to sew using vintage patterns. Vintage patterns instructions assume that the reader has a lot of sewing knowledge so it’s not uncommon to read instructions like “insert zipper” or “finish edges” without enlightening you with the details. You’ll be left asking but how? Most, if not all, modern patterns break every step down.

The other pit fall with vintage patterns is that they the vast majority of them only come in one size. Nearly every pre-1970s pattern, and even some 1970s and 1980s patterns will only have one size option. This means that it can be very difficult to grade up or down if your measurements aren’t exactly the same as their sizing charts. My experience of buying vintage patterns is that I’ve only ended up sewing the ones that are my exact sizing, the rest are untouched.

If you really want to learn to sew using a vintage patterns I’d suggest using the modern reproductions of Vintage Vogue Patterns. I presume they’ve updated the instructions for the modern seamstress – perhaps someone could confirm this for me?


Try a Skirt

When you’re learning to sew the less pieces a pattern has the better. Skirt patterns usually have four pieces – the front, two back pieces and a waistband. This is important because it means it is easy to adjust if the sizing is not quite right by taking it in or letting it out down the side seams. If you sew an A line or circle skirt the only part that needs to be fitted is the waist which is even easier. Some good beginner patterns are Sewaholic’s Hollyburn Skirt and By Hand London’s Charlotte Skirt.. Next Monday I’ll be making some suggestions on choosing fabrics.

My final piece of advice on this topic – don’t go for trousers! Which patterns would you recommend for beginner sew-ers?