Blackwood Cardigan Sewalong

HelenBlackwood Cardigan, Blackwood Sewalong, Sewing Tutorials29 Comments

How to put together a PDF Pattern

Blackwood Cardigan Sewalong

I am a big fan of PDF patterns.  Not just because I offer them, but because I prefer them as a home sewist myself.  I almost always go for the PDF over the printed pattern.  I know I’m not alone here, but I also know some people are on the fence or just hate taping (I get it!). Maybe you haven’t tried one yet, or you’re wondering how PDF patterns even work!  There are lots of benefits to PDF patterns, and once you get the hang of assembling them, you can have your next sewing project printed, cut, taped and ready to go in no time!

The benefits of PDF patterns

  1. Endless prints.  You can print the pattern as many times as you like! This is nice because if your copy gets damaged, or you want to significantly alter it to achieve a different look, you can always print off a new copy when needed.
  2. Print only your size.  Not all pattern companies do this, but more and more are starting to include this feature!  Turn sizes on and off using the layers in Adobe Acrobat.
  3. Durable.  Tissue patterns are nice and compact, but I often rip mine when working with them (I’m a bit of a clutz).   Having the paper patterns is nice, much stronger and when using a rotary cutter, you don’t need the light weight tissue.

Let’s get started with our PDF pattern.  I am using the Blackwood Cardigan for this demonstration. The Blackwood is a versatile layering cardigan that is a welcome addition to any wardrobe. You can pick up your copy here!

Don’t forget to make taping a fun activity! I like to listen to music while I tape my PDF’s so I have created a PDF assembly playlist on Spotify to share with you! The playlist is a little long, it shouldn’t take you more than 1 hour to do this, but I always get carried away with playlists! This one is focused on some of my favourite female artists, I hope you enjoy it!


Selecting your size. If your PDF offers size layers like the Blackwood Cardigan does, you can print only the size(s) you need to avoid having all those extra lines. In Adobe Acrobat or Adobe Reader (free), you can open the layers panel and turn the sizes on and off by clicking the eye icon.

Printing the right pages. You want to make sure you are printing the right pages for your PDF. Some patterns will tell you specific pages to omit for your size or view. In the case of the Blackwood Cardigan, there are some guidelines listed on page 1 of the print at home PDF.

Blackwood Cardigan Sewalong


Setting it up for print. In your printer dialogue box, you want to ensure that you are printing the pages at 100% scale or ‘actual size’.  You may need to un-check ‘size to fit’ or ‘scale to size’

Blackwood Cardigan Sewalong


Print the first page of the pattern and measure the square to ensure it is the right scale.  If it is not, return to your printer settings and play with your selections.  Once the square is the right size, print the rest of the pattern.

Blackwood Cardigan Sewalong


Gather your supplies. All you need is scissors and tape.  I like to use a tape dispenser and a paper trimmer, they increase my speed and make things much easier.  If you plan to sew a lot of PDF patterns, these tools are definitely worth the expense!

Blackwood Cardigan Sewalong


Trim the top and right side of every page along the border line.  On the top row, you can leave the top un-cut, but that is optional. I use a paper cutter for this process, because again, it is much faster. You can trim about 5 sheets at once with this! They are quite inexpensive and your hand will thank you!

Blackwood Cardigan Sewalong


Keep things organized.  I like to start with my stack of papers upside-down, and then as I trim them, I place them right side up in a pile. This way, they stay in the correct order, even if I am bulk trimming them with my paper cutter.

Starting with the first two sheets, line up the markings on the border (in this case they are diamonds with numbers in them that come together to form a diamond shape. Also watch any places where pattern lines meet and try to keep them as closely lined up as possible.

Blackwood Cardigan Sewalong


Tape liberally. I like to tape wherever pattern lines meet and in the corners where pages meet. I avoid putting any tape on the back of the pattern, so I can iron on the back to flatten it out later.

Blackwood Cardigan Sewalong


Keep adding pages until you get to the end of the row. You will know you are there because there will be no triangle on the right side of the page.

Blackwood Cardigan Sewalong


Start the next row by taping the upper edge of the page to the bottom edge of your first piece, matching numbers.  It is important to look at the numbers because some patterns might have an overhang in the assembly layout, like the examples below.

Blackwood Cardigan SewalongBlackwood Cardigan Sewalong


Continue adding pages, now taping the side and the top edge down. Another option is to assemble the entire next row and then tape it to the first row. It is personal preference which way you proceed.

Blackwood Cardigan Sewalong


Keep on going until your pattern is complete! If your work surface is small, you can cut off complete pattern pieces as you go. When I do this, I like to crudely cut off pieces just outside the pattern lines and then cut it out properly later.

Blackwood Cardigan Sewalong


Consult the size chart provided before cutting your pattern out. Make any grading adjustment markings and then go to town cutting out your pieces! We will be covering how to grade your pattern tomorrow so if you need to make any adjustments, you could wait before cutting out your pattern.

Pattern storage. I like to store my PDF pattern in large envelopes.  This is a compact way to store them and you can easily find past patterns by taping a picture of the pattern on the front. I also like to include the size chart on the back and the notes page inside the envelope, so I can keep track of adjustments made for next time!

Blackwood Cardigan Sewalong


Getting things flat.  You can iron your paper patterns using a low heat and no steam.  Iron on the back side of your pattern, but only iron if you have not put any tape on the backside!

Winslow Culottes Sewalong


I hope this step by step assembly post has been helpful. Let me know your tips on assembling PDF patterns, I am always happy to learn new tricks!   

Also, don’t forget to check out my PDF pattern assembly playlist on Spotify! I hope you enjoy it 🙂

About the author


Helen Wilkinson is the designer and founder of Helen's Closet Patterns. She also co-hosts the Love to Sew Podcast! Helen is obsessed with all things sewing and strives to share her passion and knowledge with the sewing community.

29 Comments on “How to put together a PDF Pattern”

  1. Hi Helen, great post. I’m a convert to the glue-stick now, I find it much quicker and I think it lasts longer, so far anyway, I often find that the tape doesn’t wear well and when I open the pattern up a year later, the tape’s lost a bit of it’s sticky. – give it a go. And thanks for the playlist – Bonus!

    1. Thanks! I have never tried the glue stick method, but I will have to give it a go! I haven’t experienced the tape falling off yet, but I only started using PDF patterns a couple years ago. Enjoy the music!

  2. I tape my PDF patterns with micropore (first aid) tape so it is iron-able. I also iron freezer paper to the back of PDF patterns, and then hang them from skirt hangers. Works very well.

    1. Elle! That is genius! I have not heard of the freezer paper method, does that give the pattern more stability and make it easer to iron? I will have to give both these tips a try, thanks!

      1. It makes the pattern very stable and stiff. If you like to fold your patterns after sewing, I wouldn’t recommend my method. That’s why I hang them on a skirt hanger after ironing on the freezer paper, although rolling the pattern and storing in a tube might work too.

        1. Makes sense. I have printed smaller bra patterns on card stock before to get that stiffness, and it is really helpful when cutting out smaller pieces. I can see the benefit for sure – i just need room to hang things!

  3. Thanks Helen. I’m the one running the other way when PDF patterns are mentioned, LOL. That being said, I am trying to overcome my dislike of them….just downloaded a PDF yesterday in fact. Your tips, especially the paper cutter, are really helpful thanks! And the ironing too. So, you don’t find the tape falls away after bringing a PDF out from an envelope?

    1. Haha, I hear you, Sue! I used to not like the taping part, but since I got the extra tools and a good sized table, I actually enjoy it now! I also like the more stable paper, the tissue just frustrates me. I have not experienced the tape falling away yet! This is the first I am hearing of it, but it is not surprising. My oldest pdf is only about 2 years old, so maybe in time it will fall off. I tend to sew patterns once or twice and then get distracted by shiny new things anyways!

      1. Well I just used my paper cutter and that shaved off {haha, me so funny} quite a bit of time!!! My tape sometimes falls off as soon as I try and fold the pattern pieces to fit in an envelope. Maybe I need better tape…or maybe I’ll try the glue stick…

  4. I tape my patterns with Post-it tape, yes there is such a thing. You can iron over it and it removes without tearing your pattern. It even works well on commercial tissue paper patterns. I also use it all over my sewing machines to make note of what size needle is in and the date and as a reminder to open the automatic needle converter on my Janome before removing the needle plate. That was an expensive mistake but I don’t trust myself not to do it again!

    1. Great tip, Gail! I will have to try that out! The fear of ironing over a piece of tape is real, the last thing I want to do is clean my iron, haha!

  5. I LOVE the playlist bonus, Helen! Thanks! Great idea.

    I also use a paper cutter, but one of those big guillotine-style ones that you’d see in a school office. It’s quite satisfying to slice through pages.

    I swear, though, with all the PDF patterns I assemble, I go through 3M Scotch tape like it’s my job, haha. 😀

  6. I am new to sewing so haven’t tried a pdf yet but this article has given me the confidence to consider it. Surely if it falls apart it can be reprinted during storage it can be reprinted?

    1. Hi Emi! That is great to hear, I hope you like working with your first PDF. I often re-enforce tape here and there if I use it again, but it is not hard to touch things up! You can always re-print, that is the beauty of it!

  7. How do you transfer markings from your pattern to your fabric? I like to use tailor tacks and find that impossible (well, difficult) on heavier printer paper. Which is why I prefer tissue patterns to pdfs (although I do use pdfs sometimes). I store my pdfs on a big piece of cardboard under a bed; cardboard so I can just pull the whole pile out easily. Closet Case suggested getting some big hooks and hanging pdf patterns on them in a closet which I plan to try.

    1. Hi Catherine, This is an excellent point. If you like using tailors tacks you can make a small hole in the paper in order to get through. I don’t often use tailors tacks, or if I do, I will make hold the pattern down with my finger, lift up the edge, and mark with chalk or fabric pen where the tacks need to go. Then I can sew them on after I lift up the pattern. I have also used a tracing wheel and chalk to make markings and that has worked well, too. I hope this helps!

  8. Pingback: Granger Bag Sewalong Schedule – Helen's Closet

  9. Okay…maybe I’ll conquer my aversion to pdfs and try one. Love the Blackwood cardigan so maybe…

  10. I have printed in A4 size and I don’t have a top and right to trim. It looks like I can tape without any trimming??

  11. Hi Helen – I have the pattern for the Winslow printed and just want to confirm – I was unable to make Adobe Acrobat work with my Google Chrome device, so I ended up printing all sizes. I am assuming I just trim to the size(s) I need and work from there, yes? I’m making an 18 for my waist but can grade down to a 16 for the hips. Thanks – very excited to be sewing this pattern.

  12. Hi Helen i have never printed a pdf pattern before Do you recommend that i start off with something small to begin with please ?

  13. Great advice. I want to get the Winslow but I have a larger waist in relation to my hips, which size do I go by? Do I get the larger one for my waist and cut it down for my hips or get the size for my hips and make it bigger for my waist?

  14. Does anyone have the problem I have with my printer not printing the full width of the page… and the registration marks/diamonds don’t get printed? I have it set to actual size and the 2″ square is spot on… but the margins cut off the edge that I need. I have searched and can’t seem to find a solution. I am doing it the old-fashioned way… using a pencil to write in the missing letters!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *