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Print Patterns at Home

McCall's (and sister company Butterick) both offer printable pattern downloads for some designs on their websites. Look for the printer icon next to pattern numbers and click on the "Add printable pattern" button on the pattern design page (circled in red).

What can better exemplify the pleasures of instant gratification–especially for a sewer–than the ability to find a pattern and download it immediately from a website? There are so many online outlets now offering pattern downloads, ranging from crafting sites to craft market sites, such as Etsy.com.

More pattern companies, new and long-established, have begun offering downloadable patterns for purchase on their websites, too, including Simplicity, Colette Patterns, HotPatterns, Burda Style, Butterick and McCall’s (look for the printer icon). In fact, there are websites entirely devoted to electronic patterns-some for sale, some free. Many (but not all) of these pattern companies, and others not mentioned here, use PrintSew.com to deliver downloadable patterns purchased through their websites.

Most downloadable patterns come in a format designed to be printed on a home printer and assembled. The full-scale pattern pieces are spread across various sheets of 8.5-inch-by-11-inch printer paper and must be taped together in the correct sequence before you can cut out the pattern and fabric. The benefit is that you can print fresh patterns an unlimited number of times.

Some patterns, such as those offered by BurdaStyle, are also available in a format that is easily delivered to a print shop for full-scale printing on single large sheets of paper like a regular tissue pattern. The same benefits as the home printer variety apply, with the added benefit of eliminating the assembly. However, in addition to paying for the pattern, there are also the print shop’s fees, which in some cases may negate the low cost of the downloaded pattern.

What do you think of downloadable patterns? Are they worth the trouble of printing at home or in a print shop? Do the benefits outweigh the drawbacks? Are some of the electronic file formats you’ve encountered unwieldy, difficult to use, or incompatible with your computer’s operating system?


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  1. jsnoble | | #1

    nay, I say

  2. User avater
    kaitui_kiwi | | #2

    I love downloadable patterns, the cost savings are great for me, but I can cheat and have access to a large format plotter :)

  3. User avater
    Scheri | | #3

    Don't like them but I have used them. I prefer to purchase patterns when on sale online.

  4. Mirandares | | #4

    Have not tried yet but I will try who knows since technology is the forefront of most businesses today it may be the wave of the future.

  5. mastdenman | | #5

    I love them. It's instant gratification. But I also use pattern drafting software, so it's not a terribly different idea for me. I especially like being able to download Burda patterns that I may take a fancy to. That way a subscription is not necessary.

  6. toollaa | | #6

    I love downloadable patterns, the shipping cost to my location in Africa exceeds the cost of most patterns. its cumbersome assembling them....but I'm glad to have this option.

  7. IslandGirl422 | | #7

    Putting them together is a project itself....prefer to buy them - less paper and time.

  8. vane55a | | #8

    Although putting them together takes time, I like the flexibility that it offers. I'm able to print the pattern several times and there is no need to wait for shipping. I haven't take the pattern to get printed at a print shop yet, but that is also an option. I like having options. :)

  9. User avater
    dnjmama | | #9

    I find the result of pasting 8 x 10 inch sheets together to be unsatisfactory and time consuming. Far easier to order on-line or pick-up while running errands. Additionally:
    1)You can not easily use a tracting wheel to transfer markings (paper layers are too thick)
    2) You can not as easily adjust the pieces via either slash and pivot or conventional cut & reposition (too many layers, tape and again too thick to easily do this)
    3) They are extremely bulky to fold and store after one has spend the time to adjust the pattern

    (and I make/made my living via computer technology!)

  10. StitchinTam | | #10

    I've used several downloadable patterns, including some purchased via Etsy or other venues. While it does take a bit of time to assemble a pattern, I still come out ahead because of the time I save by shopping online.

    I can see that tissue patterns have the advantage when fitting is part of the process, but I do most of my sewing for my kids, home dec, and accessories. The durability of paper patterns works great for me in these cases. I do not have a single dedicated sewing space, so I'm frequently moving projects in and out of my sewing area in the dining room--so not having to worry about tearing patterns "in transit" is wonderful.

    And if I need to go up a size as the kids grow, I can easily reprint--which saves me the time of hand-tracing duplicates on durable pattern paper!

  11. prairiesewist | | #11

    I like the idea and am not put off by the process of putting them together, because my sister and I try to get value from our patterns by tracing them for different sizes. BUT even though the regular prices are lower, these pattern cos. often have sales for printed patterns but not for electronic. Bummer.

  12. kapnoel | | #12

    I have used several downloadable free patterns from Burda and several other sources. It´s an OK option for the ones that are free. My rule of thumb is the simpler the pattern the better the result. When you want to print a complicated pattern, it takes real effort to put the pieces together!

    I never bought a downloadable pattern, although I find that the postage to be paid by European customers is quite high. Burda Style is out every month with 20-40 patterns, so if I like a particular pattern I do not have, instead of buying it, I would look at the instructions and adapt a Burda pattern.

  13. user-1138829 | | #13

    I have used about 5 different downloadable patterns. They are mostly from Burdastyle. There are some advantages- once you buy it, you can print out as many as you want. If you are making the same dress for different people (like a bridesmaid gown, for example) you can cut out the pattern in each size you need. (With a store bought pattern, once its cut, you can't make a bigger size.) Another advantage is that you can have the pattern as soon as you want it. You don't have to drive to the store, or order one and wait for it to arrive. Disadvantages- sometimes it can be really hard to figure out which line equals which size! On one dress, I cut out the largest size but that turned out to be quite small (34 inch bust, 26 inch waist, 35 inch hips.) Also, it takes a lot of time to tape together 50 sheets of computer paper to make a whole pattern! It didn't bother me that the patterns aren't transparent like store bought patterns because I don't use many printed fabrics, but I do see how that could bother people to use a pattern on computer paper because you can't see through it to make sure you're cutting it in a way that your stripes, polka dots, or other patterned fabric will line up correctly.

  14. user-1131288 | | #14

    I use downloadable patters a lot, mostly Hot Patterns. It is a bit of a chore putting them together, however. I use pattern paper and trace the pattern size I wish to use. I like the option of being able to make the patterns in 2 or 3 different sizes. I never use my original pasted together pattern.

  15. mackiemort | | #15

    I do not like them either. Have been sewing for nearly 60 years but have tried several of the downloadables. Certainly convenient....no running to a store to hunt for a pattern or wait for the mailman to deliver your order. However, the lines of these epatterns never quite match up perfectly so a fraction of an inch off at the beginning of the patternbecomes a rather large problem at the end. They have not perfected the the system yet.

  16. farmer6 | | #16

    My 4-Hers and grand children use the wild ginger software. It is great and if you have any questions they are so helpful.

  17. user-1128169 | | #17

    find pasting them together a big hassle. I live 60 miles from the nearest store with burda patterns. liked the instancy of them. usually retrace on pattern paper

  18. twobees | | #18

    I haven't tried buying patterns to download & print myself yet. Do I understand from your above description that they are only available to print on 8.5" x 11" paper? Here in NZ we work with A4 paper which is 210mm x 297mm, slightly narrower but longer. Yes I can custom set my printer to a different size paper but if I can't buy it that's no help.

  19. ebd | | #19

    It just seems to open the door to error. Printer paper is unwieldy. I don't see the benefit, unless you can make fitting adjustments before printing.

  20. Brabant | | #20

    The Germans do not sell patterns like Vogue in the UK. Everything is on a sheet to trace out with very difficult lines to follow! Since I live in Germany I put up with that untill Burda woke up to the real world and sold downloadable patterns. They are excellent. Use the most lightweight paper your printer can handle, trace the size you want onto plastified card and there you are a standard pattern to use again and again. Cheaper too. I love Vogue patterns. I hate American taxes which I get charged! Why not downloadables from Vogue too.

  21. User avater
    Thommi | | #21

    I understand how people use it for convenience. But for me the cost of the paper, ink and time out weighs the good. Unless it is a small pattern that uses 4 or less pages.
    As for printing at a print shop, I keep forgetting that this is an option. Have to check that out. :)

  22. ChristineHP | | #22

    I have used Burdastyle and love them. I find they are well drafted and as long as I have plenty of tape, not too hard to assemble. I usually trace them onto lighter weight paper. That said, I don't think I would download a big commercial brand because I live near a Joann's where patterns are often on sale for very cheap. McCalls are only 99 cents this weekend and Vogue is 3.99.

  23. User avater
    user-220030 | | #23

    I have purchased Burda downloadable patterns, which a simplistic and easy to pay for an download. Butterick was a completely different story and a real pain in the neck, in fact such a pain that I ordered the patterns and had them delivered rather than print them off. So with Butterick, I paid for the printable patterns, talked to the help desk, could not print the patterns, did not receive a refund, and had to order and pay for the three patterns from Vogue. I suppose it comes down to the efficiency and service from the provider. I will always purchase printable patterns from Burda as it is a simple process.

    Rae, New Zealand

  24. mgottawa98 | | #24

    I have used them and do not use them any more. 1. too time consuming for me (print the copies & tape them together) 2. you can't trace very easily through the copy paper and 3. storing the bulky pattern when finished with it. No thanks...

    You also need a pair of scissors just for cutting through the copy paper pattern and fabric. I don't want to ruin my good scissors on paper patterns.

    I order my patterns on the internet and in no time they arrive. Try the BMV club..you can save money that way, which makes up for the shipping costs.

  25. User avater
    IreneT | | #25

    I have used them and find pasting them together a real chore and the finished pattern is then very bulky and awkward to store. I was also very surprised after purchase to find that you are only allowed a limited amount of times to print them.
    By the time you work out printing costs and time to paste together, it really is not worth the effort.
    If you do use them be very careful to set your printer correctly. Select NONE in the printer scaling box
    or the pattern will be scaled wrongly. Easy to miss. The instructions also print out very small and cannot be saved to your PC. Or at least i did not find a way to do this.

  26. user-2270844 | | #26

    I can't see the point in it for mainstream patterns like the big 4 - the price differential is not sufficient to compensate for the fuss and bother of reproducing the pattern. But I have recently started experimenting with Lekala patterns. These patterns are supposedly engineered to your specific measurements by a drafting program before you download. The concencus on Pattern Review, and in my own limited experience, is that it does result in a better fit. So in this case I think the effort of printing out is compensated by the time saving at fitting, and quite a few of their designs are interesting as well. The downside is that the English instructions are relatively brief so you need to have a reasonable amount of confidence in the construction process. I have bought Lekala patterns from two sources, if you buy them directly from Lekala you do get provided with the pdf (or whatever format you prefer) and so can reprint as many times as you want.

  27. User avater
    Sewista | | #27

    Too much effort. The only patterns I download now are for doll clothes as the pieces are very small and don't require much "putting together". Downloading and taping patterns is not my idea of fun.

    I can see that for newbie sewists, who really don't know much different and are so digitally aware, this could be the way to go for them. But there is a part of the learning curve that demands the traditional before proceeding to the more difficult skill set. Learning to master a pattern and all it's idiosyncrasies is learning to sew.

  28. sewfashionista | | #28

    I have downloaded patterns. I don't mind the assembly process. I do trace-off my working pattern onto a lighter weight pattern paper - but I do that with commercial patterns also. I'm not sure that the cost savings is that significant
    (if you are in the U.S.) considering the cost of printer ink. Storage is challenging. If I decide to keep the "master pattern," I fold and then roll it, and store in a paper towel roll. I can then write information on the roll or tape the line drawing to it. With all of that said, I still prefer commercial patterns and keep a BMV membership. However, I want the option of both.

  29. User avater
    jillmandy | | #29

    I like it cause some pattern companies do not ship to Canada yet.

  30. User avater
    MissPat | | #30

    For now, I think I will stick to purchasing the patterns. Downloading is fine for knitting and crochet and in some cases, quilting, but large-scale patterns are, at this time, not really an option.

  31. User avater
    Bellbird | | #31

    I have mixed feelings about downloadable patterns. I love being able to instantly access the pattern I have ordered and I appreciate the considerable cost savings for postage to Australia. The task of printing out and assembling the pattern is very tedious and I'm not sure that once I factor in the cost of printer ink and paper that I have actually saved as much as I would like to think.

  32. User avater
    Kraai | | #32

    I live in a small town in Botswana, Africa and there is nowhere here that I can buy a sewing pattern and delivery can take 8 weeks sdhould I order one. So I love downloading and printing patterns. Yes it is an effort to assemble it but so worth it for me. Now I have 1000's of patterns at my fingertips. So thankful!

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