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?

Kristiann’s Superb Sewing Tips

Last week on the blog Kristiann told us a bit about Victory Patterns – the indie sewing pattern company that she owns and designs for. I asked Kristiann for some tips on working with delicate fabrics and I thought they were so great, and detailed, that they deserved their own space in the limelight…

A couple of your patterns such as the Hazel dress and the Roxanne blouse call for lightweight fabrics, which can be difficult to work with. What are some tips for beginners working with these slippery fabrics?

There’s lots of tip for working with this kind of fabric, from cutting, handling, to the kind of tools you use. The small stuff counts! Be patient and you’ll find that it will all feel better in time! Here’s a few things you can do…


When cutting out your fabric, lay the fabric onto a sheet or onto tissue paper. This helps to keep the fabric from slipping around while you cut. Use fine pins or weights such as soup cans. Use very sharp scissors or a rotary cutter.

When cutting, handle the fabric as little as possible. Work around your pieces and avoid moving the fabric to work around you. Also, don’t lift the fabric off the cutting surface. Moving the fabric after it has been carefully laid cause it to shift and could result in a wonky cutting job.

Always test with two layers of scrap fabric prior to starting the project so you can get used to the hand of the fabric. Make sure that your stitch settings and tension is adjusted for your fabric.

Sewing tips:

Thread and needle: Sew with good quality thread and a thin gauge needle. A needle size of 60/8, 65/9 or 70/10 is suitable. The lower the number the finer the gauge of the needle. Also, If you’ve been sewing with the same needle for a while, it might be a good idea to start with a fresh one so that the tip is sharp. This will help to eliminate puckering and snagging caused by and dull needle.

Backstitching: Hold the threads as you backstitch at the beginning of a stitch. This helps to avoid a messy backstitch and prevents the fabric from getting sucked into the feed, which can easily happen with lighter weights.


-I find that the way to handle lightweight fabric is to hold the fabric taut so that one hand is holding the fabric just behind the needle, and the other is in font guiding the fabric into the machine. By pulling the fabric taut, you are creating rigidity along the fabric surface, which prevents it from slipping.

Pull just enough to create a rigid tension on the fabric, but not so match that you’re going to affect the way it feeds through the machine. Doing so will affect your stitch, and make them inconsistent.

-Make sure fabric edges are aligned. Because the fabric is more slippery, this is something you have to pay attention to. If you want to take extra measure, hand-baste prior to sewing the seam together. This can be don in place of pins to prevent the fabric from stretching and distorting as you sew.

-To prevent slippage, you can sew with a strip of tissue paper along the seam, tissue facing the feed dog side. Once the seam is sewn, tear off the tissue. You can also use a stabilizer along the seam edge, such as a spray on starch. This will help you to manage the fabric during construction.

-You can use a straight stitch throat plate which has small needle entry hole. This prevents the fabric from getting sucked into the needle hole.

Velveteen Stress

I had a huge stress today as I read on Gertie’s blog that velvet is not meant to be kept folded up as ruins the nap. Naturally I freaked out and texted my sister who was home at the time:

Velvet is now safely hanging int wardrobe:


Phew that was close!