In Tutorials

Quick Tips for Assembling PDF Patterns

For Archer Appreciation Month, I decided to share a few tips that make it easier to put together print-at-home PDF sewing patterns. There are many advantages to using PDF patterns: they’re instant (for all your whimsical sewing urges), you don’t have to leave your home to buy them (fellow hermits rejoice!), they’re more durable, and they usually cost less than the packaged versions. I think the only thing that causes people to shy away from them is the stigma that they’re a major pain to assemble, and a waste of resources.


First and foremost:

  • If you have a rotary cutting system at home already, then you should definitely be using it for cutting out your PDF patterns! Rather than throwing away my rotary blades when they get too dull for fabric, I save them for cutting paper. Investing in a separate rotary handle specifically for paper will give you more life out of your blades in the long run. You’re essentially giving each single blade a dual purpose, and therefore, a double shelf life.
  • In an effort to save paper, I never print out the sewing instructions that accompany each PDF pattern, I just look at them on my laptop instead.
  • Make sure you print your test square first before anything else (page 15 on the Archer pattern)! There’s nothing worse than printing all 37 pages of your PDF and then realizing the scale is too big or too small. Once I printed my test square and checked to make sure it was exactly 3 x 3 inches, then I went ahead and printed the rest of my pattern.


You can also save paper by printing only the view you intend to sew. Some companies offer each pattern variation separately, and some you’ll have to look at the pattern layout and decide which pages you want to print. For example, if you were printing a dress pattern, and you know you want it to be sleeveless, then don’t print the pages that include the sleeves! It’s a bit more hassle to print pages 1-16, 27-35, 38, 42 (you get the idea), but it’s worth it to me if I’m saving some paper.

I haven’t decided if I want to sew View A or View B yet, so I printed both Archer variations.


Leave your pages in sequential order and lay out your pieces in assembly line style for faster construction. Technically you do not need to cut out all four sides of each page. I stack three sheets together and cut only the right and bottom edges. By doing this, I can still overlap and connect the matching triangles, but I’m only doing half the work. There were a few pages I had to cut out individually because the paper fed through my printer at a funny angle, but for the most part I can cut 3 or 4 pages stacked on top of each other and everything still lines up (you can hold your stacked pages up to the light before you cut to make sure).

In the photo below, you can see this method in action.


Tape the pattern together as you cut out the pages so you don’t lose any or get them shuffled up. By cutting and taping in the order the pages were printed, everything will go together with ease. You won’t have to worry about finding piece 2D in a sea of paper, it will just conveniently come after 2C.


I use minimal tape initially until I can tell where I need to cut the actual pattern pieces. For example: I don’t need to put a piece of tape on the alignment triangles if they end up being in a space that’s not actually holding my pattern piece together when it’s cut out. Instead, I make sure I have tape holding two pieces together along the cutting lines in my specific size. This way I’m not wasting a lot of tape.

Another thing to consider (and this is actually good advice for working with any kind of pattern) is how much time you need to cut out and assemble your pattern completely, in one sitting. If you get started and then need to put it aside half way through, things are bound to get lost (or subjected to abuse by cats. Trust me, I speak from experience). Eliminate extra frustration by giving yourself ample time, and space for that matter, to prepare your patterns.

Hopefully these quick tips will help make your PDF pattern assembly a little less daunting!

Do you have any tips to add to the list?




  • I’ve yet to use pdf patterns but this will be really helpful for when I take the plunge!

  • Great post! Thanks lovely!

  • Great advice. I generally do all these thing. ANd I can definitely atest to it being harder to stop and start rather than do it all at once. Once I ran out of tape and had to pack everything up because I wasn’t at home, then later try to finish assembling with wonky folded pattern pieces. Yuck!

  • This is so helpful! I have a few PDF patterns but have been so intimidated to use them. Now I’m more confident. Thank you!

  • I actually love using PDF patterns! I don’t mind the assembly process at all, in fact I kind of enjoy it, it’s a great productive activity to do on the couch on those evenings when you’re just too tired to sew. The rotary cutter tip is really fabulous, though I may still do it with scissors as my cat just loves to sit at my feet and play with the strips as they fall to the floor…

  • You’re so right about allotting enough time to do it all in one sitting. It’s so much better if you get into the flow and just go til you’re done! LOL. Also, yes, I hear you about cat interference. One of our cats is still a kitten so I have to wait until she’s asleep to do ANYTHING involving paper… particularly tracing patterns LOL.

  • Thank you very much for these tips! I downloaded my second PDF pattern this week and your post has come just in time. The first one was just a vest so not many pieces. I will use all these ideas! Thank you.

  • Using dull blades to cut the paper patterns is such a great tip – I will definitely be doing this in future. Thanks for giving me more sewing time!!

  • Thanks for this, an excellent summary. I’ve just started using a glue stick – much more stable than tape for me ATM and have realised some companies have a slightly different way of laying out the pattern (as I scratched my head over the Leisel&Co pieces), but regardless, it does become clear once they’re all laid out 😉

    • Ooh, glue stick. Great idea! Saves a small step each time because you just swipe the glue, instead of pulling out the tape before sticking it on. I think I’ll try that.

  • I would love to change to rotary cutting, it looks like it saves some time with pdf patterns.
    I am in the market for a cutting mat, may I ask what the size of yours is? They can be a bit pricey.

    • I always wait until JoAnns has a sale and then they’re much more affordable! Mine is Olfa brand 24″ by 36″.

  • I also love the old rotary blade idea! I also agree with printing only the pages you need by studying the layout. There is nothing worse than having 15 extra pages printed with pieces or sizes that you didn’t need. I don’t bother remove all of the extra edges because sometimes a piece is needed only for a tiny triangle in the bottom. Less work!

  • just printed my Archer pattern last night. I’d never thought of using an old rotary blade on paper patterns… I’ll give that a try! I’ve been using a paper cutter for chopping off the side and bottom as you do, but it’s not 100% accurate. Thanks for sharing! I love the 3×3 test square pic–all perfectly lined up on the cutting mat 😀