How to download, print and assemble a PDF sewing pattern

Not much beats the immediate satisfaction of being able to buy, download and print a PDF sewing pattern, all in the comfort of your own home and without having to wait like a desperate pup for the postman to come. However, If you've not yet gone down the PDF pattern route, the initial process from purchase to print can seem pretty daunting - so much so that its original appeal can be forgotten quite quickly! No fear - we're here to hold your hand...

OK. Let's talk technicalities. If you've never downloaded and printed a pattern at home, don't worry! Just like a paper pattern, it's all very easy and straight forward: once you've purchased the pattern, you'll be getting a confirmation email from us with a download link (check your spam folder if it's not popping up in your inbox!). Simply click the link to download the pattern file to your computer...

*Please be aware that you will be downloading a .zip file, and this can only be opened from a computer; you will not be able to open and/or print your PDF pattern from a smartphone or tablet*

Printing your pattern at home

Once you have opened the .zip file, you'll see that the folder contains two or more PDF files: the instruction booklet, and the pattern itself - which will sometimes be split up into multiple files in order to minimise paper wastage. For example, our Anna Dress pattern has separate files for the bodice and two skirt variations so you don't have to print off the maxi skirt pages if all you want is the midi. Same goes for our latest pattern, the Zeena Dress, which has separate files for the two different bodice variations so you only have to print off the one you want to make there and then. We recommend printing only the pattern files, and keeping the instructions up on your computer screen as you sew to save paper.

Once you've opened up the pattern file in a PDF reader such as Preview, Adobe Acrobat or Reader, you'll see that the first page is a "test square" - we need to print this off first to check that everything is printing off to the right scale. In your print preview, choose to print page 1 only, and make sure that is it set to 100%, 'no scaling' or 'actual size'.

Print off the test square, check that it all measures up, and if it does - hooray! - you can print off the rest of the pattern in the same way.

If your test square does not measure up, then you'll need to go back into the print preview to double check that you've set your printer to 100% scale or 'actual size', and not 'auto' or 'scale to fit' or anything like that!

Assembling your pattern

Once you've got your pattern all printed off, lay out the pages on the floor matching the border notches, and using the image in the 'Assembly' page as a guide.

When you're happy with the layout, trim away the borders and carefully tape or glue your pattern together, matching the notches. We particularly like masking tape for this job as you can easily peel it off if you need to fix a mistake. You're now ready to trace or cut around your size and go about the making of your garment as normal!

We are very aware of the fact that printing patterns at home can be very draining to the old paper and ink supply. We've done our absolute best to keep pages to a minimum, and maximised the space on each page by making the borders around the pattern as narrow as possible, whilst still being suitable to print on both A4 or US letter paper. 

Printing your pattern at a copyshop

For some, the idea of printing and assembling multiple pages of A4/US letter paper is more than a little bit tedious, especially when it comes to maxi dress patterns... Enter the 'copyshop file'. To print your pattern intact on large sheets of nice 'n' sturdy paper, simply locate your nearest copyshop or printers, and email them the 'copyshop' files that come with your PDF sewing pattern (alternatively you could take the files in on a flash drive). They'll need to be able to print on paper that is at least 841mm wide, and from a continuous roll of paper. Then simply pick up your pattern, skip on home and cut that bad boy right out! No trimming, no sticking, no mess, no fuss. Phew!

We really hope that this post will have shed some light on the process of buying and sewing from PDF patterns. Please feel free to chime in or ask us anything in the comments below.

  • Elisalex de Castro Peake
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Comments on this post ( 26 )

  • Oct 04, 2016

    Hi Melissa,

    Our PDF print at home patterns are sized so that they fit in both A4 and US letter paper – as long as your test square is measuring up correctly, you’re good to go!

    ~ Elisalex

    — Elisalex - By Hand London

  • Oct 02, 2016

    I just read an article about the difference in paper size between A4 and US letter and how it affects the printout sizing. I notice in the screen capture that you have the paper size set at A4- I’m in the US where A4 isn’t sold. Is there anything I can do to ensure my printout is accurate to your design? I have it all printed and pieced and the 4" square measures correctly, just wondered. Thanks

    — Melissa

  • Jul 30, 2015

    Hi Freddie, the breakdown of pages for the Anna is as follows – bodice, 15 pages; midi skirt, 17 pages; maxi skirt, 43 pages. Hope this helps!

    — Elisalex - By Hand London

  • Jul 30, 2015

    Hi guys,
    Just wondering how many pages the Anna download is?

    My printer delivery has been delayed and I’d love to get started on it ASAP, so was thinking I might go to my library to use their printers!


    — Freddie

  • Jul 02, 2015

    Hi DT & Tracy, we do indeed have plans to update all the PDF patterns to include a print at copyshop file! We’re working on it now, so please bear with us… Either way, all previous purchases will be able to re-download the pattern with the copyshop file without having to buy the pattern again. ~Elisalex x

    — Elisalex - By Hand London

  • Jul 02, 2015

    Hi ladies,
    Thank you so much for this post!!
    I am so open to your recommendations and fully trust your advice… so much so that you have made me more open minded about PDF patterns. I am so scared of them – feel they are draining and complex to put together… but your post simplifies it all!

    — Neeno - Sew Me Love

  • Jul 01, 2015

    I much prefer the large format, print at copy shop option also. I just find all that printing, trimming & sticking together is very tedious & time consuming. I also can’t use my home printer (as it seems to take almost a whole $20 ink cartridge just to print one or two PDF patterns!) so I have to go elsewhere & pay to print anyway. It is much easier to be able to print in AO size at a copy shop.

    — Tracy

  • Jul 01, 2015

    Is there any chance you’ll start including copy shop versions in your PDF patterns? I, and I think many others, find those very convenient.

    — dt

  • Aug 12, 2014

    Ive used print at home its certainly the way forward for anyone who owns a computer. The big advantage is your pattern is preserved for future use. No lost or torn bits, no issue with sizes after cutting it first time.

    The big pain is having to stick it together. Ive stuck a 60 page pattern, I did it on the floor and I was worn out afterwards.

    If you gave the file as a printshop print as well it would be fabulous as they can print it off for us for a couple of pounds. Please consider this you already have it as a digital pattern. Thanks

    — Aisha

  • Jul 29, 2014

    Hi Lucy, all you need to do is use a ruler to simply extend the side seam lines of the skirt panels at the same angle until you reach your desired length. Hope this helps!

    — Elisalex - By Hand London

  • Jul 28, 2014

    Hi, thanks girls I love the Anna dress especially in pdf! However, I want to make the maxi version and would
    like to know how. I see the line of where to lengthen the dress but is there not some maths that needs to be done to make the flare of the dress right? I can’t seem to find any instructions for this and I am new to sewing so don’t know these things!! Xx

    — Lucy

  • Jul 25, 2014

    Wow, that’s great news! Can’t wait for the Flora now, wish it was already available! I have to attend a baptism shortly (short notice) so I would have definitely made myself a hi-low Flora!

    — Mariana

  • Jul 21, 2014

    How exciting! I have made the Anna dress and love it so much. I’m looking forward to sewing more of your patterns, and I was wishing you would offer PDFs so we wouldn’t have the shipping cost. Thank you!

    — Kim

  • Jul 15, 2014

    This is awesome, thank you so much !
    I’m looking forward to the release of the flora dress now !

    — Marie

  • Jul 14, 2014

    Hi Gillian & Alex – thanks for getting in touch! We’ve definitely had mixed opinions on the Anna PDF as to whether offering only the midi skirt to save paper was a good idea or not! As with all new ventures, we want to keep on improving until we have something perfect, so rejigging the file to include the maxi is something we are now seriously considering. If we do go ahead and change it, rest assured that you (and everyone who has bought the Anna PDF) will be sent the update free of charge as soon as it becomes available!


    — Elisalex - By Hand London

  • Jul 12, 2014

    First of all: thank you! I actually prefer pdf patterns since I have trouble with tracing paper patterns.
    That said: why did you only include the midi skirt version? I mean, wouldn’t it be easier to offer another pdf with the maxi skirt pattern and let your buyers choose if they want to waste the paper or not? It’s not as if you have to print the pdf pattern out.

    — Alex

  • Jul 12, 2014

    Hi! I really wish the maxi skirt was included already! If I wanted to draft my own and do the math for all 4 pieces, I would have just done that from the start. Would it be possible in future versions to have the additional skirt pieces as a separate file, so we can choose if we want to print them or not? My sister bought the pattern for me to sew for her, so I hadn’t read the description beforehand. I appreciate that you’ve been up front about it, I just don’t understand the logic. You have lots of pattern hacks on the blog, and of course I don’t expect pattern pieces for those in the pattern… but when all the line drawings and examples include maxis, I’d like the pieces to be included! Let me decide if I want to save paper by not printing them.

    — Gillian

  • Jul 08, 2014

    Hi Adelle & Gergana – I’m afraid that it is a print at home situation – every page is set up with the borders that need to be trimmed away in order to stick the pattern together. We’ve taken your comments on board, however, and if we get enough requests to include an option for people to print big, then we’ll definitely consider ;)

    — Elisalex - By Hand London

  • Jul 08, 2014

    I have the same question as Gergana. At school I have access to plotter type printers that print 45in by 60in (~1.14m by 1.5m) sheets of paper. If I bought the downloaded version, is there a way it would work in this way?

    Thank you

    — Adelle

  • Jul 06, 2014

    Is there one big copy shop file along with A4/letter, or it’s just print-at-home option?

    — Gergana

  • Jul 04, 2014

    AWESOME!!!! Thanks girls! I definitely see an Anna in my future :)

    — Rebecca

  • Jul 04, 2014

    Yayyy! I love pdf’s and i love the instant gratification..some fabric..some unexpected free time and the ability to download straight away! Great move…and i don’t have ‘Anna’ yet! Will definitely be downloading!

    — Jo

  • Jul 04, 2014

    THANK you!
    Best news all summer – just purchased Anna!!!

    Looking forward to adding Georgia to my collection as well!

    — Anne

  • Jul 04, 2014

    This is awesome!! Flora next pls and thank you :)

    — Cecillia

  • Jul 04, 2014

    Woohoo! I’ve been waiting to purchase the Anna and Flora dresses! Yay! I majorly love PDF patterns! Thanks for taking this step, ladies!

    — Rachel Booth

  • Jul 04, 2014

    Looking forward for Victoria Blazer and Elisalex!!! I love print patterns, it is just so hard to receive them with the post here. Thank you for the effort you put to have them available also .PDF Grazie!!!!!!!!

    — Nicoletta

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