As we talk about how to cut and assemble PDF patterns, we’ll stop to remember that there are almost as many ways to do this as there are sewers!

For this post we won’t even go into IF you like or don’t like PDF Downloaded Patterns, and why. We’ll just assume that for whatever reason you have one and you want to get to the sewing part of the project as soon as possible!

  1. Purchase your PDF
  2. Choose the Print at Home Copy if available (sometimes there are not)
  3. Send to your printer as standard quality or draft.
  • For a new to me pattern company I always print the first page of the PDF in draft so I can see if the numbers, elements and pertinent markings will be dark enough to easily see as I assemble my pattern. Some companies I already know that I’ll need to print in standard mode, some I know draft will be good enough. I hate to waste ink and know you do too!

It doesn’t matter if you start from the bottom and go up, building from the bottom to the top of your pattern sheet in progress or vice versa. It seems most of us tend to start with sheet #1 and go from there. Your pattern instructions will have a diagram that tells you how many sheets your pattern will print on and should have an overview of how each sheet is marked (generally numbers or letters).

Consider for a really large pattern sheet starting with the bottom row. Organize your printed pieces to go in reverse, largest number to smallest. When you lay out that bottom row and as you build upward, you can naturally shift the pattern toward your body, allowing the completed pattern sheet to move toward the floor and allowing a nice working area in front of you without having to stress or strain.

Again, it doesn’t matter— do whatcha do!  Just try to be consistent, it looks better, becomes an automatic habit and makes the process faster!

bluedress yellowglasses divider

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When I assemble a PDF pattern I want to be FAST. I store my patterns carefully folded after cutting them out, smooshed as flat as possible and then I hang them. (We’ll talk about this later in a future blog post!) So, that said, I don’t care that they are as compact as possible. If you’re looking for a compact pattern you are likely to get that from cutting out around all four sides of your PDF and butting the edges together and taping them.

I don’t do that.

Instead, I assemble using what I call the Rule of 7.

The rule of 7 thinks about the pattern as an overlapped set of paper pieces. There are NO flush pieces. And sometimes you get distracted and mis-cut, or things just need a tweak and you can easily do that on the fly.

Ready to give the Rule of 7 a go? Great!  Grab your PDF pattern sheets, a pair of paper cutting scissors and a jumbo tape dispenser.

1

The first 3 pattern pieces are shown above. This first row is the only place where there are straight cuts. Sheet #1 gets NO CHANGES. Sheet 2 will have to have the left margin removed, so cut that away and then tape sheets 1 and 2 together matching the assembly notch. Repeat for sheet #3 and all the way across the first row.

2

You can see in the photo above clearly. The sheet on the left just slides over on top of the first sheet. It makes a clean easy to spot margin without too much bulk.

3

Moving down to the next row, the first sheet on the left will need to have the top margin trimmed away and we’ll keep things fast by cutting off the center (or right) side of that sheet. YOU ARE TRIMMING AWAY IN THE SHAPE OF THE NUMBER 7. (Rule of 7, get it?)  Trim off the 7 and line the pieces up with the first row using the placement notches.

You can see that the next sheet will need to have the same thing done, the only difference is that the top lines up to the piece in the row above it AND you’re going to slide UNDER the untrimmed margin. Move across the row.

4

Keep moving with this pattern of trimming and assembly. If it doesn’t make sense in the reading, when you’re actually assembling a PDF Pattern it will make total sense.

5

There are four pattern sheets meeting up together in the shot above. They line up very cleanly with not a lot of fussy overlap in the back. Keep on moving across all of your rows as you build your pattern sheet.

  • I always tape the bare minimum, going back to add tape pieces before I cut.
  • If there is a seam of paper outside a size you’re going to cut for example, you might not have to tape that particular area.
  • Always use GOOD TAPE! I use 1/2″ wide Scotch brand Magic Tape. While no tape is repositionable, this tape if not pressed hard and burnished down can be moved if you need to shortly after placing.
  • If you need to move a sheet for any reason and pulling off the tape would cause a tear, just cut through the tape along the seam/join line and pretend it’s not there!

6

This is the BACK VIEW. Neat and orderly.

I don’t mind that extra bit of paper. As I said, I hang my pattern pieces so actually, that little extra bit provides good stability of the pattern piece itself.

If for some reason you’ve had to alter your progression to the Rule of 7 cutting pattern, with a bit of though it will still next together just the same, although it may not be as neat in the back.

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Time to Make Notes!

One of the things I love about putting together a PDF Pattern is that I really get to know it up close and personal. When I get the big sheet taped together I jot down notes on each piece that might be relevant. For example, I like to put away my pattern pieces when I’ve cut the fabric out and if I forget to cut interfacing for example, or an important marking, I have to go back and dig out the pattern piece. So, I keep a hot pink gel pen in my sewing space and I circle things I can’t forget; interfacing, mark ‘this dot’, etc.

Then I go ahead and rough cut around each piece. As I cut I remove the box that has the sizes markings. Especially if you have the copy shop print for you, you’ll have all of your sizes on one sheet and will have to know what markings coincide with the size you want to cut. If your PDF has layered sizes (and you’ve remembered to turn off the sizes you don’t want before you print) you won’t have to worry about this step as much.

Cut each pattern piece to size and add any tape to spots that needs the reinforcement.

You did it! The Rule of 7 to the rescue!  

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