Quick Tips for Assembling PDF Patterns

December 12, 2013

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?