Paper or PDF sewing patterns. Which is best?

In this blog post, I shall cover the pros and cons of PDF and paper patterns. Is it better to buy paper patterns or should you print them out yourself at home?

I’m probably one of few who much prefer PDF patterns, reason being is that I can be quite impulsive with my sewing, and don’t really want to wait for a pattern to arrive in the post. I also like that I don’t need to worry about tracing the pattern, or being unable to reuse it if my size changes.

So how does a PDF sewing pattern work?

To get hold of a PDF pattern, also known as a digital pattern, you need to order it online. You usually receive it instantly, although in some cases it can take up to 2 hours for the email to get through. You then print out the pattern and instructions. Though I usually just keep the instructions on my phone/tablet/laptop.

In most cases assembling the pattern is really quite easy. A lot of companies, such as Seamwork use cutting lines and guides to help you put them together. Personally I cut the side and bottom of each sheet then match up the notches (triangles).

notches on PDF patterns
Source: Seamwork Myrna

In the world of indie patterns, there are varying degrees of help to help you assemble the various sheet of paper. Deer and Doe for one, are really good at helping you assemble patterns. However, I have come across some that don’t give you cutting lines, or any guidance whatsoever on how you should assemble them, making it quite difficult. I tend to avoid those companies.

So back on to the question of whether paper or pdf patterns are best, I understand that a lot of people still prefer hard-copy paper patterns though so I thought I’d summarise the differences in a table.

More expensiveCheaper
Smaller range of sizesWider range of sizes
Either trace or only use onceAssembly required
No equipment neededPrinter needed
Postage time neededInstant
All big 4 patternsLimited big 4 patterns
Limited rangeLimited range

Moreover, something else that I have been trying to take into account with everything I do when sewing is the environmental cost: I’ve always thought that because shipping is not required then, it’s better for the environment. I guess you can also choose what paper you use (ie. recycled).

What kind of pattern do you prefer? Answers in the comments below.

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