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!