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How to: Deal with PDF patterns

When they first really hit the market a half dozen years ago, PDF patterns were new and exciting and usually fit on just a couple pages. Today there are hundreds of patterns available in PDF format for everything from tops to wallets to coats to quilts. Smaller patterns, like the Necessary Clutch Wallet, are easy. You simply print and cut out the pattern pieces.  For apparel patterns, it takes a little more effort.

For the first few years of using PDF patterns, I would tape together the entire thing and then cut out the pattern pieces. I decided a while ago that that wasn’t the best way to do it. It made me frustrated and took up a ton of space that I didn’t have. While using one of Liesl + Co.‘s patterns, I noticed that Liesl designed all the patterns so that the pieces didn’t overlap pages and I could just tape together the pages printed with the sleeve pattern or the bodice front pattern or whatever. It was great and I love this aspect of her patterns (as well as the fact that hers are hands-down the best written patterns out there).

But most patterns aren’t printed that way. They overlap pieces on pages to save space, so I had to figure out another way.  So here’s my technique to taping/ cutting patterns that saves my floor space, sanity and frustration.

First I print all the pattern pages out. Make sure you do it single-sided (you can guess how I figured that one out…)

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Some pattern companies will number the pages (Colette’s Seamwork patterns do this and it’s helpful), but this one is not. Either way, I simply mark the pages I will need to cut out. You can see here that on a couple of the pages there are parts for both pattern pieces. This is where you can get confused, so go ahead and mark the pages any way that works for you.

One Hour Top PDF layout

Then I figure out what size I am for the pattern and start on page one, cutting out the piece on the cutting line, if it’s there. I also cut off the margin on top and right on all the pieces. This helps in taping them together consistently. Cutting out PDF patternsI cut out the pieces from page one and page two, then tape them together with washi tape. There are a couple reasons I prefer washi. One, because it’s cute. Two, because it’s not permanent. When I need to re-tape and move pieces, I can without tearing the paper.

taping together PDF

After taping a full row together, I add the next row one page at a time, taping the top and sides so they match as well as possible. Suddenly I have a complete pattern piece! Yay! I set that aside and tackle the remaining pieces the same way.

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I use the taped together pattern piece to cut out my first try. This time I used some gorgeous knit from Alexander Henry Fabrics with these great bats and roses and spiderwebs all over it.  If I really like the finished piece, then I will transfer the pattern to Swedish Tracing Paper for easier storage. You can find it fabric stores and online.

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I whipped this One Hour Top up in just over a half-hour. Super quick, easy and cute (even though I cut the front piece upside–oops!)

Finished one hour top