5 reasons I prefer PDF patterns

It seems like you’re either a lover or hater of PDF sewing patterns. Personally, I’m a big fan and here are some of my reasons why.

1. No tracing

This is the biggy for me because I HATE tracing. I dread it and put it off for ages. I’d far rather sit on the living room floor in front of the telly or listening to the radio and trim and stick a PDF pattern together. These days I use a paper cutter (I have this one) to trim the sheets and Pritt stick (generic glue sticks don’t stick at all in my experience) rather than tape to stick them together. I find using a glue stick much quicker and it gives you a bit of repositioning wiggle room that you don’t have when you’re using tape.

I’ve also seen people cut off more of the edges off than they need to. I only cut the left edge off the top row pieces and then the top and left edges off all the subsequent pieces. Depending on how the pattern has been laid out you sometimes don’t even have to cut that many off.

2. Cost

PDF patterns are usually cheaper, though not always by much. And I’m sure once you add in paper and ink they’re not actually cheaper but I enjoy the feeling of false economy.

3. Storage

If I had all of my patterns as physical patterns I have no idea where I’d put the things. Of course the printed out PDF patterns take up space but as I trace my printed patterns they take up double space. I’ve gone through a few different storage methods with my patterns including plastic document wallets, a filling box thingy and poly pockets in ring binders. My current method is C4 envelopes. At the moment I’ve got them in a paper box but I’m going to get some magazine files when I next go to Ikea and divide them up into garment types.

In terms of digital storage I keep all of my patterns in a folder on my Google Drive called Patterns. Each pattern company then has a folder, where each pattern also gets a folder – even if the pattern is only one file.

4. Errata/updates

This is a great aspect of PDF patterns that I wouldn’t have thought of. If there turns out to have been an error in a pattern you are usually given updated versions for free. It happened with the Megan Nielsen Tania culottes, where I gained an extra version. I also had an updated version of the Ginger jeans when Heather Lou added the pocket stay and made some other changes.

5. Thicker paper

Tissue paper freaks me out. I’m always convinced I’m going to rip it. I prefer the printed patterns that use thicker paper too like Tilly and the Buttons and Deer and Doe. I can see why you wouldn’t if you cut your patterns and like to tissue fit though. Because I cut using a rotary cutter and weights I like that the thicker paper keeps me a harder edge to follow.


Of course I’m not immune to pretty packaging. I love the look of Sew Over It patterns in particular and have a a few of them. The dream would be for pattern companies to offer a bundle. So you could choose to buy the printed one but for a little bit more money have a digital version too. Deer and Doe have been doing a cool thing with the patterns they’ve updated to have a PDF version. You can fill in a form to prove that you bought the printed pattern and they’ll send you a link to buy the PDF for €3.

Another benefit of PDF patterns is that they’re cheaper and less risky for pattern designers than printed patterns. That means we get to enjoy more patterns. Some of my favourite patterns have been PDF only and they would have been a huge risk for the designers to release in paper format so they just wouldn’t exist without PDF patterns being possible.

What about you, are you Team PDF or Team Printed?

14 thoughts on “5 reasons I prefer PDF patterns

  1. I’m on Team Printed! I’m that Geek that loves to retold the tissue. I know. ..

    What about a roundup of your favorite PDF only patterns? My interest is piqued!

    Also, do you cut the paper pattern pieces out, or cut the paper along with the fabric? (Ouch!)

    1. Haha, do you follow the original factory folds? I used to try and then get cross.

      That’s a great idea. I’ll have a think.

      Oh god no, I cut out the paper first and then cut around them on the fabric. Just the thought of how much that’d wreck the blade makes me cringe.

  2. I’m on team ‘love both’ just to be awkward! One thing you didn’t mention about PDF is the immediacy of them, you see a new pattern announcement by your favourite designer & bam £10 and 10 minutes later it’s in your inbox! But I don’t mind tissue paper & in fact I found a great way of not cutting into them by tracing around your size with a sharpie straight through the pattern on to the fabric, (only works with light coloured fabrics), so either or for me. Also for those who hate trying to refold tissue patterns you can go over with a cool iron & fold the sheets however you like.

    1. I was gonna put a bit about the immediacy but I don’t tend to sew new patterns straight away so it’s not a huge deal for me. (Even when I’ve excitedly bought them instantly) I know that’s what lots of people love though. That’s a good tip about the sharpie. I think some people also use a tracing wheel and dressmakers carbon paper to trace the pattern onto fabric.

  3. Yes, I confess. I fold on the factory folds. (I find it relaxing. ???) My college roommate says I’m the only person she knows who can do that. And…the only person she knows who would even bother! LOL…

  4. I love the PDF patterns too! No waiting, no shipping. It doesn’t take long to stick them together and I use the misprints that accumulate around the office printer, so no paper is wasted. The ink is not a lot since you only have a few lines per page. I also love the variety possible with PDFs and the quick publishing, so patterns can be up to the minute.

  5. Because I am not a tracer either with paper or pdf patterns, I appreciate that pdf patterns allow me to print multiple sizes. And I am also in the “fold tissue patters on the factory fold lines” odd group. Maybe because I did a lot of origami as a kid? =)

    1. That is a great aspect of PDF patterns. I’ve even printed just the pages with the crotch points on for one pattern where I wanted to go down a size and the nesting meant I’d chopped a bit of smaller size’s crotch off. If that makes any sense.

    1. Hi, I use weights (big washers from B&Q) and a rotary cutter on a big cutting mat. I sew with a lot of shifty fabric and I find it works best for me. I didn’t really get on with scissors but lots of other people much prefer them.

Gimme a clue

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