So, let me explain. First of all, pdf was invented by Adobe Systems and stands for Portable Document Format (PDF). It is open standard for electronic document exchange. It is a way of sharing files online. Adobe makes Acrobat Reader, the free software product most of us use to read these documents. If you want to edit one or make your own, you will need to purchase other software to do so.
Secondly, pdf patterns used to be called e-files, or electronic files, but now seem to mostly be referred as simply pdfs. When you purchase a pdf pattern, the designers sends to you the file necessary for making the pattern. It will include directions and pattern pieces, if necessary, and also should (in my opinion) also include a lot of pictures. The great benefit of pdf patterns, the thing that makes them so much better (for the most part) than paper patterns is the photos! Pdf patterns are tutorials! The photos help you understand the directions.
When you buy a pdf pattern, and after you download and open the file, you will have the option of printing the pattern pieces at home or, occasionally, at a print shop. You need to read the directions and stick to them. The pattern is copyrighted, so be sure to read my blog about how to follow copyright. You may be able to print your pattern pieces at a print shop but you should not be emailing it anywhere to do so. If you have any questions, email the designer. She should gladly help you! And remember! - no sharing of pdf files with friends or family!!
So, now that you know what a pdf pattern is, how do you choose one? There are hundreds! Perhaps thousands! If you search google, you will find so many it is mind-boggling. Even going to craftsy or etsy or youcanmakethis.com or other pattern stores, there are often dozens of choices for any particular style. How do you choose which one to buy? That is where the pdf pattern buying guide comes in handy!
1. Stick to designers you know and love
If you have a designer you love, you can be sure her new patterns will also be the high quality you expect. I know, when I buy a Brownie-Goose pattern or a Millie-Rose pattern that their directions will be clear and fun to read and their photos will be excellent and helpful. Amy, of BG, and Melissa of MR, are my friends, though, so trying their patterns out was a no-brainer. Of course, I wanted to support my friends' businesses. Now I know their patterns are as excellent as these ladies are sweet. But, I had to start somewhere in choosing a pattern when I was first starting to use pdf patterns.
2. Check out photos
When I first started using pdf patterns, the first place I looked was Etsy. The very first pdf pattern I ever bought was on February 6, 2010 and it was Monkeybug's Easy Twirled Skirt. I had seen pictures in a sewing group of skirts made by others, using that pattern and thought it would be a very useful pattern for someone with two girls. And it has been a great pattern!! I have sewn it many times. Sewing forums are a great place to find pictures of what real people do with a pattern. I highly recommend you look past the pictures in the designer's pattern store and look at the tester photos, flickr photos, sewing group photos, and any other photos you can find. When you look at how others made the garment, how does it look? Do the seams look straight, is the collar even, do the cuffs seem to fit, is the length good for the model? Use a discriminating eye. If the collar looks wonky or the sleeves too long or the seams not straight, in every picture, something is probably wrong with the pattern. Don't waste your $5-12 on a pattern that repeatedly produces a garment that does not look very nice. And trust me, they are out there. There are patterns like this. The finished garments should look good! Consistently.
3. Ask friends for recommendations
There are a variety of places you can talk to actual people about sewing patterns. On Facebook, if you search for sewing groups, you will find at least a dozen. Sew, Mama, Sew has a community you can join. Sewing Mamas has a chat forum. There are plenty of places to talk to people about patterns. Not everyone is going to be unique in their impressions of a pattern. Ask questions. Is the pattern worth $12? Maybe not but maybe it is worth $5. What makes it worth more? The point is to spend your money wisely. Be sure to ask specific questions. Some people are better at sewing and some need beginner options. What do you need? Do you like a lot of options or do you want a simple pattern that has very clear directions? And what do you want to do with it? What have friends done with it?
4. Look for deals or bundles
Many pattern designers offer bundles. Tie Dye Diva, for example, offers you 25% off if you buy 3 or more patterns, with code BUNDLE. Create Kids Couture has a pattern of the month club. Southern Institute has the occasional Sew Fab deal. Watch for them! They can be a great way to get more patterns for your buck.
5. Read reviews
There are a number of places to find pdf pattern reviews. When you go to youcanmakethis.com, you can search patterns by ratings. This means number of stars. But, you can also look at reviews for patterns. For example, this Violette Field Threads pattern gets 5 stars but also has several very nice reviews you can read. These rankings are done by users, of their own volition, and they are not edited, so they are a good measure of what the pattern is going to be like. At the pattern review website, you can not only find and write reviews of patterns, but you will also find a free forum you can join where you can chat about patterns and machines with members. These reviews are also written by members and not edited, so they are also a good measure of what the pattern is really going to be like. For example, this Scientific Seamstress pattern got a very good review! The third place I know of to read reviews for pdf patterns is the Pattern Revolution blog. These reviews are written by request from the website and they do not publish reviews with anything negative in them, so they are not exactly a true review. They are fun to read, though, and you can definitely judge the pictures a bit for how well the pattern is written. Interestingly, there is a wide variety of garment quality in these reviews, which you can tell by examining the photos. Judge them wisely!
I hope this guide helps you buy patterns more wisely! If you have any other buying ideas, please let me know!