Assembly of a PDF sewing pattern or how our printers fool us

Did you, like me, believe that if the test square on a PDF sewing pattern prints correctly your PDF sewing pattern will also print correctly and you should be able to assemble the pattern without trouble? You are wrong.

This story began when I decided that I wanted to make the Lady Skater Dress from Kitschy Coo. I’ve seen many great versions popping up and I think there is a good chance that this dress will look good on my body shape so I bought the pattern a couple of months ago.

This week I decided it was time to get started. The printed test square was exactly 1’’ so I eagerly started the assembly process. Things did not go well. Lines did not match up. Yes, I did follow the instructions for printing the pattern. I made sure the scaling was set at none and that the auto-rotate and centre box was ticked. Tiles 14 and 15 (back bodice) are a good example of my issues. The grey rectangles that surround each tile are not the same size  and when I matched up the centre back on the two tiles, the armholes were completely off. In this case they are off by 1/8”. It drove me nuts because this was obviously not going to work.

A4&A4

Printer page setting: A4
Printed on: A4
Auto-rotate and centre turned on.
The two tiles are off by 1/8” making it impossible to correctly assemble the pattern.

I could of course have thought “this pattern is just not good, move on and make something else” but I was not yet ready to do this. I had trouble believing that every person that had blogged happily about how great this dress is had encountered this same problem. My boyfriend suggested that perhaps the auto-rotate and centre option was the problem. I thought he could have a point because I have also used PDF patterns where they specifically tell you to turn this option off. Those patterns, however, have white space around the tiles in the PDF. In this pattern the edge of the PDF page for each pattern tile is the grey rectangle. If you do not tick the auto-rotate and centre option some of the pattern will not print (see picture below). However, when I turned it off, the alignment of the lines improved significantly. So, I definitely think this printer setting might be part of the issue. At least for my printer, which is an HP Officejet 6700 Premium, I think checking this option does result in some sort of scaling despite having ticked the no scaling option as well.

A4&A4&rotatecenteroff

Printer page setting: A4
Printed on: A4
Auto-rotate and centre turned off.
The lines align better, but part of the pattern is not printed.

Then I mistakenly thought that this is a US pattern (it’s not, it’s British). In the US they don’t use A4, they use Letter sized paper. What will happen if I set the page settings while I am printing to Letter and also use my foundation paper piecing paper that is also Letter size? Suddenly my lines matched up!

Letter&Letter

Printer page setting: Letter
Printed on: Letter
Hey, now my lines are suddenly a pretty good match!

I didn’t really want to use my foundation paper piecing paper to print PDF sewing patterns because it is much more expensive than regular printer paper. I printed the same tiles a 4th time, but now with the printer page settings on Letter, while printing on A4 paper. This was certainly a huge improvement from having the printer settings on A4, but the lines were still a little off, not as much though as when the page settings were on A4.

A4&Letter

Printer page setting: Letter
Printed on: A4
Definitely better than when the printer is set on A4 but still the lines don’t quite match up.

Does this story have a happy ending? Yes, I printed the entire pattern on my foundation paper piecing paper with the printer page settings on Letter. The pattern assembled in a breeze and I am now ready to trace the pattern pieces in my size and cut them out of fabric. The weird thing is though, when I tried to print these pages again with printer page setting on Letter and Letter sized paper the result was similar to when I used page settings letter and A4 sized paper,  again I had some trouble aligning them perfectly. I suspect this printer is trying to mess with my head.

Success!

Success!

I figured I might not be the only person who from time to time struggles with PDF sewing pattern assembly and thought that this information on how changing the printer page settings can help fix some problems might be useful. I am a little baffled though how changing this setting could have this effect. If anyone has any suggestions I’d like to hear them!

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14 comments on “Assembly of a PDF sewing pattern or how our printers fool us

  1. This is exactly why I have been too chicken to purchase a PDF pattern! Thank you for the great blog post. I’m sure it will be helpful for many frustrated sewers!

    • Emmely says:

      Usually I don’t have problems with PDF patterns, but this experience was so weird that I just had to share! I think the problem was mostly caused by the printer that I used. I hadn’t used it before to print a PDF pattern. I’ll have to wait and see how it works out with future patterns.

  2. Wow, this is really good to know for future reference. I’ve only used one pdf pattern so far (and I asked my sister to print it for me!) but have seen so many others that I’d love to try. Thanks for sharing your tips!

    • Emmely says:

      Thank you. I think it will be pattern and printer dependent how often you’ll have to adjust the standard settings when printing a PDF pattern. I was mostly surprised that my printer apparently scales when I tell it not to and that the amount of scaling depends on the paper size I tell the printer to use. It still doesn’t make sense to me.

  3. Nakisha says:

    Thank you for this. I taped my LSD pattern together tonight and almost pulled my hair out at the non-matching seam lines. I figured either no one was honestly saying , the pdf is bad, or something went wonky. Someone else printed mine so I can only hope it was a printer error and not a “this PDF is poorly executed” problem.

    • Emmely says:

      I now do believe it is a printer problem as I’ve tried several patterns on different printers and mine simply does weird things. I’ve no idea how to fix it except to get a different printer or not to use this one for PDF patterns. Despite my issues with the lady skater pattern I did eventually end up with a pretty great dress that I love to wear so I hope you won’t give up.

  4. R says:

    Thank you so much, I have such problems with pdf patterns not matching and I’ve also wondered how come no one else seems to mention this. They’ll match on one edge but not another and YES I have turned scaling off. I’ve also encountered a test square that is 3″ by 3 1/8″- what am I supposed to do about that? It seems to me that my printer is stretching the print along one edge, so 1 long side is 1/8″ longer than the other. I will try this auto rotate fix and see if this helps. I’ve also noticed a couple of companies offer a print at a print shop on a large piece of paper version, I think I may try that sometime too.

    • Emmely says:

      From trying different printers with the same pattern I’ve come to the conclusion that it really is my printer that is causing the problems. I’ve decided to no longer use this printer for PDF sewing patterns because it causes too much issues. So my advice would either be to get a new printer or try if you can print the patterns elsewhere. A printshop could be a good (although somewhat expensive) alternative. They should be able to print these patterns accurately.

  5. […] printing out by a couple of millimetres compared to the other side – I must give this blog post from Infectious Stitches about this problem with pdf’s a good read before I next try printing out a pdf pattern) and then I got ill and ignored […]

  6. […] shop available, I will certainly think twice before trying it again. So, for me, it’s back to figuring out how to get my printer to print a pdf “properly” – or maybe I should stop getting pattern idea’s from blogs and start looking at […]

  7. Thanks for this tip! I have encountered this problem with most of the PDF patterns I have purchased to varying degrees. I’ll certainly be trying your tips! Thanks again.

  8. Ryann says:

    found this when I was trying to sort through an issue with my printer that had never had issues printing patterns & then all of a sudden, part of the lines were ‘falling off’ the page. Turns out (for me at least) the issue was unchecking the “choose paper source by PDF page size”, so thought I’d mention it here.

    it took a number of ‘wasted’ test pages before I found the solution since the wording of that check box didn’t seem related at all to my issues!

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