The Sewing Pattern Tutorials 14: Printing Copy Shop and PDF Sewing Patterns



Hi, it’s Rachel here on the blog today with the next instalment of our popular Pattern Tutorial series. We get lots of emails asking us about the best way to download and print PDF sewing patterns. We know many of you don’t like to print out PDF patterns at home, so we’ll also go through copy shop sewing pattern printing options too. This is the best of both worlds! We thought it would be helpful to share some resources and sewing tips about this so you can make the process of getting your sewing pattern ready as painless as possible. Over the last few years we’ve seen a big increase in the number of designers producing PDF patterns and more recently A0 copy shop pattern files, we will talk though all the options you have for printing your sewing patterns below. If you didn’t know, we now offer a sewing pattern printing service where you can get any A0 sewing pattern printed with us and posted to you! Our trust printer is called Brenda and she can print any A0 sized copy shop or large format PDF sewing pattern. We also offer a free troubleshooting service where you can email us your copy shop sewing patterns if you are having problems printing them. Take a look at the options we offer for uploading sewing patterns for printing here.

What is a digital PDF sewing pattern?

Traditionally sewing patterns are printed on large sheets of thin tissue type paper, which you can cut straight out or trace off. In recent years the sewing industry has been transformed with the emergence of digital sewing patterns in PDF format. PDF (portable document format) is a file format that was developed by Adobe and is compatible across operating systems. This means sewing pattern designers can generate digital files of the patterns they have created in different formats. Essentially a PDF sewing pattern is just the digital version of a paper pattern. Pattern pieces can be laid out on large copy shop A0 sheets or smaller pages, divided over multiple sheets of overlapping A4 paper. You can purchase these files and download them onto your own computer for printing using a copy shop service or on a home printer.

The advantages of using digital sewing patterns over paper patterns are:

  • They are usually cheaper
  • You avoid expensive postage or customs charges for patterns purchased from other countries
  • You can save paper by not printing out the instructions
  • If your PDF pattern is interactive with layers, you may be able to select just your size to print out
  • You can get sewing straight away with an A4 digital pattern file or you can still get the pattern printed using the A0 copy shop file.

The disadvantages include that you don’t get nice packaging to store you sewing pattern pieces in and when printing goes wrong it can be frustrating and waste paper (or worse still fabric!)

What are the different file types you might receive as part of your PDF sewing pattern?

Here are the most common file types you might receive as part of your PDF sewing pattern purchase. It is worth noting that not all designers provide these file types so you should check before buying the pattern. If they are PDF files, the file name will end in ‘.pdf’.


A4 PDF file

In the UK the standard paper size is A4 (210mm x 297mm) and this fits most domestic printers. How sewing patterns are laid out on A4 sheets varies quite a bit and it is worth taking the time if you are a beginner to make sure the files have lots of annotations to help you stick them together once they are printed. Some designers will overlap their sewing pattern pieces across A4 sheets and include a margin around the edge so that when you print the pattern you don’t risk losing any of the pattern pieces.

Depending on the complexity of the pattern, it could have anything from around 20 – 60 sheets that need printing. In the example A4 PDF sewing pattern above, it shows some of the key annotations that will make printing and sticking together a PDF sewing pattern much easier. The ‘Overlapping A4 paper sheet margin’ is the space around the edge of the A4 paper that might contain some pattern pieces but these will be repeated on the overlapping sheets. This area is included to make sure that you don’t miss anything if your printer doesn’t print close to the margin. The ‘pattern box’ is everything contained within the dotted lines, you need to make sure everything within this box is printed. The test square is used to help you make sure you have printed the pattern to scale (100%, find out more about this below). The ‘joining page markers’ are really useful annotations that help you match up the A4 sheets with each other. 1A on this sheet will overlap with 1A on page 2 etc.

The designer may also include a PDF file is US or Letter format. This is the standard paper used in America for home printers (216mm x 279mm). As long as the designer has included a generous print margin and you set the scale to 100%, it is usually possible to print a US or Letter format PDF pattern on a UK A4 printer.

The advantages of using A4 digital sewing patterns are:

  • After buying the pattern you can start sewing immediately if you have a home printer
  • You can print the pattern multiple times. This is especially useful if you make a mistake the first time!
  • If your PDF pattern is interactive with layers, you may be able to select just your size to print out
  • If you print on standard printer paper at home, it is thicker than the tissue paper used to print traditional patterns. This can make it easier to cut out and pin your pattern pieces to fabric.

The disadvantages include that it can take quite a while to stick together all the A4 pieces of paper, you don’t get nice packaging to store you sewing pattern pieces in and when printing goes wrong it can be frustrating and waste paper.



Copy shop file (A0 or long format)

A copy shop file may have also be labelled as A0 PDF or large format. This is a large digital file and in the UK it is 841mm x 1189mm and in America it is usually 36″ x 48″. Several pattern pieces can be fitted onto one A0 sheet and a typical pattern would fit across two to three sheets. In the example above, you can see the pattern pieces for a tank top on one A0 pattern sheet. Similarly to an A4 PDF file, they should also come with a test square to make sure the file is printed to the correct scale (100%, more on this below). Sometimes the designer will create the copy shop file as one long continuous sheet instead of multiple sheets. This means the file will contain all the pattern pieces on one long page, whilst still being 841mm wide. It can be harder to find somewhere to print these longer files but we do offer a long copy shop printing service here.

The advantages of using copy shop PDF sewing patterns are:

  • You can get a printed version of a pattern where a paper option is not otherwise available.
  • You can send the file for printing multiple times.
  • Copy shop printers often print on standard paper, which is thicker than the tissue paper used to print traditional patterns. This can make it easier to cut out and pin your pattern pieces to fabric. We print on 75gsm paper.
  • Copy shop options make PDF patterns more accessible because cutting and sticking lots of pieces of paper together can be physically challenging.
  • If the copy shop pattern comes with layers, you can ask the printing service to only print your size. This is also a service we offer.
  • If you get your sewing patterns printed with us, you will receive a free envelope to store your pattern pieces in.

The disadvantages include that you need to print off the instructions at home or if you don’t want to, it can be challenging to view them on a computer or tablet and you have to wait for your copy shop pattern to be printed and delivered.

Digital sewing pattern instructions 

You should also receive a PDF file with detailed instructions on how to sew up your garment. This may also include the size chart, finished garment measurements, supplies list, lay plans and fabric requirements.

Pattern printing permission letter

Some designers also include a signed digital letter, which you can print out and taken to a local copy shop printer to show your have permission to print the file you have purchased.

How do you download digital sewing patterns?

Most computers are preset to store any files you download into the ‘Downloads’ folder. We recommend you move your digital files from here to a safe place on your computer where you can easily local them at a later date, especially as some designers include a limit on the number of times you can download a file or that it must be done within a limited time frame. At The Fold Line we send you the digital PDF files singularly, rather than in a .zip folder so that you can open and view them on a tablet. As an example, here are the two ways you can download digital PDF sewing patterns at The Fold Line.

As soon as you have purchased your digital sewing pattern you can download it from the confirmation order page. Click on the link and the file will download onto your computer.

You can also download the PDF files from the email you will receive within a few minutes, again by clicking on the links, as shown in the example above. Always check your junk/spam folder if you don’t receive the email within five minutes.

How do you view PDF sewing patterns on your home computer or tablet?

The best way to view your PDF sewing pattern is using Adobe Acrobat Reader. If you don’t already have this on your computer, you can download directly from Adobe for free here. Remember to keep your version up to date so your files will open easily. You can use your computer’s default PDF reader e.g. Preview on a Mac, but you won’t be able to access the layers option (more on this below). Don’t try to print the PDF pattern directly from your web browser as the scale won’t be correct.

What are layers and how do you select your size?

Many designers now include ‘layers’ in their A4/US PDF sewing pattern files. These are digital layers in the PDF file that are on top of each other. With the layers tool in Adobe Acrobat Reader, you can choose to show these or hide them. This means you can select to only show and therefore only print just your size for the sewing pattern. First open your file in Adobe Acrobat Reader and then to remove/hide any sizes you don’t want to print click on the ‘layers’ symbol on the left hadn’t side and then click on the ‘eye’ symbols (see in the examples below). If you don’t see the ‘layers’ symbol when you open a PDF file, this means it doesn’t have this option available.

If you want to know if a designer includes layers with their PDF patterns take a look at the product description of the pattern you are interested in on our website in the section ‘PDF pattern includes’.

What are the benefits of removing layers you don’t need to print?

  • Layers make the pattern much easier to cut out and accessible, as it can be challenging to visually separate out the different sizes and identify markings such as notches when they partially overlap.
  • If you are in-between sizes, you can choose to print off just two or three sizes.
  • It saves ink, printing off just the size you need means your printer will use less ink.
  • Depending on how the pattern pieces have been laid out in the digital PDF file, you may be able to print out less sheets.

How do you print copy shop sewing patterns?

Printing copy shop files is really easy. You can either take the file to a local copy shop or upload the A0 file online for printing and it will be posted to you. You can upload your A0 copy shop files for printing at The Fold Line or order most digital PDF patterns we sell with printed copy shop sheets included, so you don’t even need to upload any files!

To print A0 copy shop patterns with us click ‘choose file’ to upload your PDF file and then click ‘Upload file’. Our software will automatically detect how many sheets there are in the file you have uploaded. Click ‘Add to Basket’ and that’s it! We will print the pattern and post it to you, next working day.

We also send you an envelope to store your copy shop pattern in, once it’s been cut out. If you have any problems uploading your A0 PDF sewing pattern files drop us an email at [email protected] and send us the file you are trying to print.

How do you print A4 or US digital sewing patterns at home?

Follow these steps to print out your digital PDF sewing patterns at home and you’ll be sewing in no time! Initially just print the first page of the A4/US PDF file so you can check the scale is correct.

  • With file open in Adobe Acrobat Reader, click on ‘File’ and then ‘Print’.
  • Unfortunately printers are often set to print everything at a default of around 96% so it will fit nicely onto an A4 page but you must change this to 100% so your PDF sewing pattern prints at full scale. To achieve this, make sure you select ‘Custom Scale 100%’.
  • Once you have printed the first page, take a ruler or measuring tape and make sure the ‘test square’ is the correct size. This is also a good time to check your printer is working correctly and the pattern is centred on the A4 page. If all this has gone well so far, print the whole PDF pattern out but remember to make sure the printer settings are still set to ‘custom scale 100%’!

How do you assemble PDF sewing pattern?

To save time and using the dotted or solid line guides, just cut off the left hand side and bottom edge of each page of the PDF pattern. This will make the pages easier to stick together. If you want to save even more time, fold over these edges instead (although this will make the pattern a bit bulky when you stick it together).

The best tape to use to stick the pages together is Scotch tape, because it can be easily removed and reapplied, it is a bit more expensive to buy than other types of tape but worth it! Some people prefer to glue their pages together using something like Pritt-stick and this may be an easier option if using tape is difficult for you. Try both options out and see what works best for you.

It’s really important when sticking all the pages together that it is done as accurately as possible, otherwise you will add to or reduce the size of the pattern pieces. This will affect how they sew together and how the garment fits you. Using the guides included by the designer, match up the pages using the numbers or letters on the margins. There can be lots of pages for more complicated patterns (60 pages +), so make sure all the pages are stuck together in the right order. Most designers include an overlap of the pattern markings outside of the dotted or solid rectangle box on each page, this is also to help you line up the pages with each other and ensures if your printer doesn’t print all the way to the edge, you aren’t going to lose any of the pattern details.

How can you store your PDF sewing patterns?

Check out our blog post about how to store your printed and PDF sewing patterns with free templates to download and organise your stash.

Trouble-shooting PDF pattern problems

Below is a list of the top PDF queries we get asked and how to solve them.

I’ve measured the box on my pattern and its 9.6cm x 9.6cm, what’s gone wrong?

I’ve stuck all my pattern pieces together but they are too small/ the garment I’ve sewn is too small?

This is the printer settings. If the box measures slightly less than what it should do (e.g. 9.6cm x 9.6cm rather than 10cm x 10cm) your printer has printed it out at 96% not 100%. Next time print out the first page of the pattern only and check the measurements before printing all the pages to save paper.

When you select print, make sure that the scale is set correctly. Most printers automatically shrink the size of an image before printing slightly so you must manually change this. Make sure that either ‘actual size’ or if you have the option ‘100%’ is selected in your printing size options. If your printer settings has a tick box called ‘fit to page’, make sure this is unticked. This will ensure that all the pattern pieces will be printed out at the correct scale, at the size the designer intended.

I’m missing some pages of the pattern?

This can happen when the printer feeds more than one piece of paper though the printer at the same time and some pages don’t get printed out at all. Instead of printing all the pages out again, just select the pages you are missing in your printing settings and print again.

There are no guides to help me stick the PDF pages together?

Some designers don’t include a rectangular box or letters and numbers on each page, which act as a guide to assembling the PDF pattern. Unfortunately there isn’t much you can do about this other than to take your time and be as accurate as you can in matching up the pages. Try to make sure the overlap between the pages is the same where possible. You could measure the pattern pieces to double check the fitted garment measurements to be absolutely sure you have the right sized pattern pieces.

The pattern pieces fit together along the sides but not along the bottom (or vice versa)?

The is a printing problem and to do with how the paper is being fed into your printer. If the lines are not printed accurately on the page and seem distorted our advice would be to use a different printer to get better accuracy.

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