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Sewing with PDF Patterns, A Beginner’s Guide

PDF pattern organization

Lately I’ve been using a lot of PDF patterns.

Beach bag for shellsOne big reason is the convenience, but as I’ve used them I’ve discovered more advantages than just being able to print them out from my home!

  • Convenience = This was the first reason I started using PDF patterns.  I live over an hour away from the closest store that carries patterns.  And then I also don’t have to chase small children around the store while trying to pick out patterns.
  • Affordable = PDF patterns run around the same price (or cheaper) than traditional patterns.
  • Tested = I’m not sure who tests traditional patterns, but it’s not mom’s with little kids, which is who is producing PDF patterns.  Then those mom’s pass it on to all their sewing cohorts who test it again, give them feedback and perfect it.
  • Durable = I LOVE working with paper over tissue.  Maybe it’s just me, but the traditional tissue patterns always end up with more than one tear in them.  Which brings me to my next point…
  • Reusable = Usually the PDF patterns are in good enough shape to reuse again, if I’m making a smaller size or (because kids grow) if I’m making a larger size, I can just print out the pattern again and cut out a larger size.  Try that with the flimsy tissue ones!
  • Smart = The makers of PDF patterns don’t treat me like I’m a liability with warnings like “always use caution when using pins” or “be sure to keep the hot part of the iron away from small children!”
  • Clean = I’ve always hated all the dots, triangles, and extra marking on traditional patterns and skip right over them and the marking part.  Maybe I haven’t started sewing complex enough PDF patterns yet, but please, I can match the top and bottom of matching pattern pieces without three triangles in between to help me!
  • Clear Directions = Usually I have to read the directions on a traditional pattern more than once (okay more than twice!) to get the gist of what they want me to do!  Not so with PDF patterns!  Maybe it’s because of the…
  • Real pictures = Yes, if I can see it, I can do it!  I’ve wondered if the illustrators of traditional patterns are the same as the writers, and if they both speak the same language!
  • Cuteness = I have never found a traditional pattern that has the basic cuteness of a PDF pattern unless it’s one so complicated I know I’ll never make it because it would make my eyes roll back into my head!
  • Customizable = It could be me, but when I make a traditional pattern, I have to follow the directions to a T, not deviating in the least.  But with a PDF pattern, I am easily able to make changes as I go.

I’ve worked with 5 different PDF pattern companies making 7 different PDF patterns.

Josephine Blouse and Dress PatternI started with Violet Field Threads and made the Josephine blouse

wrap pocketsThen I made the Puddle Jumper Rain Coat by peek-a-boo pattern shop

Beach Outfits for Spring BreakNext it was the Beachy Boatneck Tees from Blank Slate Patterns

The Betty SkirtAnd I made The Betty Skirt by The Shaffer Sisters to complete the outfit. 

PDF patternsEarlier in the week I was working with another Blank Slate Pattern, this one from the free selection on Melly Sews.  And today I’m working with one from Heidi & Finn!

 I just have a few tips for sewing on PDF patterns because of all the advantages listed above!

  • Read the instructions all the way through before you start.  Then go back and read the page of tips the PDF pattern maker wrote at the beginning, they really are life saving!
  • If you run into trouble, contact the PDF pattern maker.  They almost always include their contact information at the beginning of the pattern, and really do respond when you ask for help!
  • Look at the versions other people made!  It’s fun, inspiring and helps you if you get stuck.

PDF pattern organization

  • If/when you start accumulating several of these PDF patterns because of their awesomeness, you can organize them like I did.  I 3 hole punched the instruction papers and put them in a 3 ring binder.  Then I slid all the pattern pieces into clear plastic page protectors and put them in the 3 ring binder also.  If/when I get a whole bunch, I’ll add divider tabs and sort them by type.

PDF pattern organization

Well, that’s all my PDF pattern tips for beginning PDF pattern sew-ers!  Now get out there and get sewing!

Make it beautiful,


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Girl’s Josephine Blouse and Dress Modified Outfit

Josephine Blouse and Dress Pattern

We are so pleased to present you our version of the Josephine blouse pattern by Violet Fields Threads.

Josephine blouse and dress patternWe started with the Josephine blouse and dress pattern because we were inspired by Frances & Suzanne’s Flip this Pattern contest.  The contestants are sewing some amazing creations, and we wanted to sew along.  The things we love most about this pattern are the pin tucks and the ruffles, and we wanted to accentuate those two things without drowning them out in a printed material.  Now we’ve seen the Josephine blouse and dress pattern made with a print material, and it’s absolutely adorable, but our goal was to emphasize the pin tucks and ruffles.

pin tucks and rufflesFor the little blouse, we started with some fabric we fell in love with when we saw what Venus over at Suburbia Soup did with this material for her submission to Elegance & Elephants Root Sewing Series –  Sew Your Heritage.  She mentioned that she’d gotten her fabric from JoAnn Fabrics, and you can be sure we hightailed it over there just as fast as we could!  They had some, and we snapped it up!

josephine back detailThis fabric fits perfectly with our goal of emphasizing texture in our Josephine ensemble.  We made a few adjustments to the original pattern, but we will go into depth on the design elements in our designer post this week.  For now, we’ll just generalize and say we changed the shape of the collar to a more Peter Pan collar shape, shortened the long sleeves to elbow length, and used our only printed fabric for the V-cuffs.

josephine blouse and dress pattern

A little about this printed fabric.  We found this fabric a few years ago, and it was one of those where we didn’t know exactly what we were going to do with it, but we knew it was coming home with us!  It was designed by Luana Rubin for Robert Kaufman with proceeds benefitting breast cancer research.  It was made in at least 6 colors!  In fact, we HAD TO get some of this fabric in both purple/blue and browns.  It is the most amazing fabric…the detail of the roses is so exquisite, and the ombre effect is stunning.  We only used a little of the darkest part of the ombre as that’s what matched our skirt fabric the best.

pin tucks and ruffled skirt The skirt fabric is a sueded blue cotton we picked up at JoAnn Fabrics also.  Again, it matched our goal of emphasizing texture perfectly.  Now since we were so in love with the pin tucks and ruffles, we decided to flip them from horizontal to vertical on the skirt!  We also wanted the ruffle on the bottom of the skirt to have the same tightness of ruffling as the ruffle on the blouse, so after some intense algebra, we figured out how much fabric we needed to gather into a ruffle!  But more about that in our design post, later!  We also added in just a touch of our amazing rose printed fabric to tie the two pieces together.

Josephine blouse sewing pattern

Just because we are slightly crazy, we’ve entered this little outfit in Project Run & Play’s Season 9 Contestant Search!  How it works it you enter your piece, and the contestant is chosen by vote.  So that means we need your vote! 

Josephine Blouse and Dress PatternPlease click through on this link and vote for us!  The voting begins at midnight Wednesday the 19th, so after that time:

Click on This Link (it’ll open a new window) to Vote For Us (we’re #38)

Make it beautiful,