How to use PDF sewing patterns

We love digital patterns, and there has been a real increase in demand for the PDF sewing patterns over the last few years. These provide sewers with instant access to all sorts of patterns, some of which are only available this way

Digital patterns are great but not everyone knows how to use the PDF sewing patterns as they can be downloaded in many different forms from A0, copyshop and A4 printer.

Here are our top 10 tips for printing out, assembling and tracing your sewing pattern downloads:


1. If you’re new to digital patterns, start with a simple pattern that doesn’t have too many pieces which will be easy to put together.


2. Printing your pattern correctly is key. Patterns can be viewed in the Adobe Acrobat Reader.

3. PDF patterns will come with a test square. Print this off first to make sure you have the pattern scale correct. If it isn’t the correct size, go back and check you printed at actual size or 100 per cent.

4.  When downloading your pattern, remember to save and store it somewhere safely on your computer. We have a folder on our computer and save by company and pattern name so they are always easy to find. 

5. We recommend printing your patterns in draft to save your printers ink. They are still readable but print out much quickly and the ink dries quicker.

6. PDF sewing patterns will include a pattern layout, illustrating how your printed pattern pieces should fit together – it probably isn’t necessary to print these out as you can refer to them on your iPad or computer.


7. Trim off any excess blank borders and cut roughly around the pattern pieces. Don’t worry about trimming to size – this is easy to do when pinned to the fabric.

8. Pattern sheets are usually numbered to help you put them together. Use tiny pieces of transparent Sellotape to stick pattern pieces together making sure you put them together as accurately as possible.

9. Make sure you mark all the usual notches and other marks in the normal way.


10. Some PDF sewing patterns contain overlapped pattern pieces, so tracing is necessary. Go around each pattern piece with a different coloured pen tip so each piece is easily identifiable. Burda do a range of gridded papers that can be purchased or you could just use brown paper.

Advantages of PDF sewing patterns include:

  • If you want to make again, you can simply print it out again.
  • All the patterns can be stored digitally saving lots of sewing room!
  • To avoid the guilt make sure you recycle any paper scraps when cutting out.
  • Some PDF patterns are interactive, which means you can choose your size to print out.

Disadvantages of PDF sewing patterns include:

  • It does take time to piece together.
  • As there’s no pattern envelope, you need to find ways to store your cut-out patterns either in a large brown envelope or if you have a dedicated sewing area, we’ve seen some sewers clip to a coat hanger and store on a rail.

To find more advice and sewing tips, visit our Learn to Sew page – click here