PDF Patterns: Print Them at Home or Send Them Out?

Image of a yellow file cabinet with an open drawer showing many folded PDF sewing patterns
Previously Rolled Up Patterns, Folded

I haven’t bought a paper pattern in a few years. I used to wait until Joann had a huge sale and buy 10 patterns for $10 dollars. That was before I came to the following realizations: 1. I had to wait months to get a pattern; 2. I was buying all sorts of random patterns and not sewing any of them. There had to be a better way to get the exact pattern I wanted when I wanted it.

Enter PDF sewing patterns. You find one you like, add it to your online shopping cart, enter your credit card, and you can have the pattern in your email inbox in minutes. Yay, you celebrate! But between downloading the file and actually having the pattern ready to use, one step can stop you dead in your tracks: Getting the pattern assembled.

The question is, are you going to print it at home and tape it yourself, or are you going to send it to a print shop?

Consider three variables: Time, money, and energy. You choice will likely depend on which of these variables you have available.

The Case for Printing Them at Home

Image of a black printer against sitting on a wooden table

One of the best aspects of PDF patterns that is you can have it in your hands in a few minutes. But it is not really the pattern that you have but a file you have to print. If you have a printer, glue, and adhesive tape, you can do this! Download the file, check the printing instructions (usually found in the pattern booklet), and get ready for the many sheets of A4 paper to come out from your printer.

If you have time and energy and want instant gratification, this is the path for you. Get yourself some the, coffee, or the beverage of your choice and start taping that sucker! You will save money and get right to sewing.

The Case for Sending Them to a Print Shop

Image of an AO plotter printer

If you don’t have a printer, or if the idea of taping multiple A4 sheets seems less than attractive, you are ready to send that file to a print shop. Sending the job out will cost you money, but if you are not desperate to start on that project right now, you will save yourself time and energy.

Working with a print shop can be a little confusing. You will have to provide the size each PDF file page, and how many pages it will take to print the whole pattern. But fear not: If you make any mistakes, someone will reach out to you with a corrected version of your print job.

Storing Your PDF Files

Image of two PDF patterns, one rolled up and held with a piece of fabric, the other folded, on a green cutting mat
Rolled or Folded?

I love PDF patterns, but I really dislike how hard they are to store. Some print shops will send out patterns as rolled sheets of paper. I found these gigantic rolls to be very hard to work with and put away. Others offer a much finer (but still sturdy paper), and the patterns come folded.

Folded patterns are much easier to store, but they tend to be more expensive. If you have extra room and like the idea of your patterns without any folds, embrace the roll. If you want to conserve the little storage space you have, you can pay extra and get the folded pattern.

You can, of course, fold the rolled patterns and save some cash, but the process is kind of a pain. I know because I did this—for dozens of patterns. My back and knees were very upset. I’m not doing that again.

What I Do

I have had patterns printed with PDF Plotting. The prices are good, and shipping is fast. Shipping is UPS Ground Services from $9.99 – $14.99—expensive if you are ordering one pattern, so it makes sense to wait until you have a bunch of patterns to print. Prints are rolled up and sent to you in a sturdy tube.

Lately, I have been using The Plotted Pattern. The prints are more expensive, but the paper is much nicer, and the patterns come folded inside of a cute paper bag. I don’t mind paying extra to have someone else fold my patterns for me.

If you want options, Helen’s Closet has a great list of copy shops all over the world. It includes price per sheet, shipping, and how the pattern will get to you (rolled or folded).

What Do You Do?

Do you like PDF patterns? Do you print them at home, or do you send them out? Do you have a preferred copy shop? I’d love to hear from you. Go ahead and leave a comment below.


  1. Kristina GerwigKristina
    February 8, 2023 / 2:01 pm

    Have you ever considered a projector??? I have been toying with the idea. There’s no paper to store. It projects right onto your fabric, so no tracing….
    Just a thought.

    • SewGoth
      February 8, 2023 / 2:04 pm

      Yes, I’ve read about it on a couple of blogs. I love the idea, but the whole mounting the projector on the ceiling part kinda gives me pause.

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