How to: Deal with PDF patterns

When they first really hit the market a half dozen years ago, PDF patterns were new and exciting and usually fit on just a couple pages. Today there are hundreds of patterns available in PDF format for everything from tops to wallets to coats to quilts. Smaller patterns, like the Necessary Clutch Wallet, are easy. You simply print and cut out the pattern pieces.  For apparel patterns, it takes a little more effort.

For the first few years of using PDF patterns, I would tape together the entire thing and then cut out the pattern pieces. I decided a while ago that that wasn’t the best way to do it. It made me frustrated and took up a ton of space that I didn’t have. While using one of Liesl + Co.‘s patterns, I noticed that Liesl designed all the patterns so that the pieces didn’t overlap pages and I could just tape together the pages printed with the sleeve pattern or the bodice front pattern or whatever. It was great and I love this aspect of her patterns (as well as the fact that hers are hands-down the best written patterns out there).

But most patterns aren’t printed that way. They overlap pieces on pages to save space, so I had to figure out another way.  So here’s my technique to taping/ cutting patterns that saves my floor space, sanity and frustration.

First I print all the pattern pages out. Make sure you do it single-sided (you can guess how I figured that one out…)

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Some pattern companies will number the pages (Colette’s Seamwork patterns do this and it’s helpful), but this one is not. Either way, I simply mark the pages I will need to cut out. You can see here that on a couple of the pages there are parts for both pattern pieces. This is where you can get confused, so go ahead and mark the pages any way that works for you.

One Hour Top PDF layout

Then I figure out what size I am for the pattern and start on page one, cutting out the piece on the cutting line, if it’s there. I also cut off the margin on top and right on all the pieces. This helps in taping them together consistently. Cutting out PDF patternsI cut out the pieces from page one and page two, then tape them together with washi tape. There are a couple reasons I prefer washi. One, because it’s cute. Two, because it’s not permanent. When I need to re-tape and move pieces, I can without tearing the paper.

taping together PDF

After taping a full row together, I add the next row one page at a time, taping the top and sides so they match as well as possible. Suddenly I have a complete pattern piece! Yay! I set that aside and tackle the remaining pieces the same way.

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I use the taped together pattern piece to cut out my first try. This time I used some gorgeous knit from Alexander Henry Fabrics with these great bats and roses and spiderwebs all over it.  If I really like the finished piece, then I will transfer the pattern to Swedish Tracing Paper for easier storage. You can find it fabric stores and online.

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I whipped this One Hour Top up in just over a half-hour. Super quick, easy and cute (even though I cut the front piece upside–oops!)

Finished one hour top

An Imperfect Storm at Sea

A month ago I was in Houston for both Quilt Market and Quilt Festival. Two weeks hanging out in the Shannon Fabrics booths during the day and in the hotel room at night. It was super fun and super duper tiring. My favorite part of these eventsis seeing what is happening out in the quilting world. I don’t get to shops very often and rely on the Internet too much to keep me abreast of what’s new and exciting. So getting out and walking the aisles at Quilt Festival was a real treat.

In one of my quick forays out, I ran across the Flynn Quilt Frame Company booth full of tiny little quilts. Intricately-pieced traditional designs. While I love a good modern quilt, I’m a sucker for the traditional as well. I couldn’t help but swoon over the array and it didn’t take me long to settle on this itty bitty  Storm at Sea kit. (And the fact that it’s been out for 8 years and I’ve never seen it before makes me a little sad, but we’ve remedied that!)

Storm At Sea mini quilt kit

I’m a sucker for a good challenge and this one ranked right up there. I’d brought along my Singer Featherweight so I didn’t have to go weeks without sewing (because you know I’d lose my mind). I pulled the little machine out of the box that night and started piecing the laser-cut square-in-a-square bits. mini square in square blocks

You don’t even have to look that closely to see that most of them aren’t even real squares. The 1/4″ seam allowance wasn’t perfectly straight on each one. Angles ended up being slightly wonky. But that wasn’t the point of this project… I just wanted to make it  for my mom. I could do it perfectly and make it frustrate me. Or I could just sew it up because I love my mom and know that she likes purple and she won’t care that it isn’t perfect because either am I and she still loves me.

sewing my Storm at Sew mini

I sewed after Quilt Festival closed each night and spent a few more days working on it after Festival and before I went back home to Los Angeles. The need for perfection is there, assuredly, and there were a few times I had to take stitches out to get it slightly closer to perfect. But my mom is worth it.

laying out my Storm at Sea mini

I sewed the sections, one bit at a time until I could lay them out on the floor. I was hoping I could get some cool layout with them, but truthfully  Quilt Market Hangover is real and when you add in a little Quilt Festival Hangover, too, my brain was just too too tired to do anything really fun with it. I convinced myself that it was pretty enough as is.

Sewing together Storm at Sea blocks
Each quilt block finishes at 4 1/2″ wide (ish), so room for error was basically nil. Most of these blocks didn’t come anywhere near the perfection that I had wanted and there were a few times I had to talk myself out of simply throwing them all away. Those little overhangs and wonky intersections that don’t match… Even now they kill me a little, but this was an exercise in just letting go. Let it be. Don’t get stressed out about it. Just do it with love and acceptance. This mantra repetition was so hard for me, to be honest, but I knew I needed it. I can be ridiculously hard on myself for no reason.

I’m sure I’m not the only one either. We can all pick on ourselves more than we should and there are so many times where the internal berating has made me do some dumb things (take a rotary cutter to an imperfect quilt block, throw away an unfinished dress, toss out patterns). None of these things make me feel better in the end; they only reinforce my self-bashing. I swore I wouldn’t and I didn’t. Instead I just worked through it, tried my best without getting angry for the mistakes and finished the whole top.
As a whole, I thought it was beautiful and I convinced myself to stop looking at the little bits. Take in the big picture–it’s a lovely little quilt top. But it needed to be quilted and I really, really am not good at that one yet.

I gave it a try on my regular Pfaff 130 with the industrial motor. Great for piecing, not so quilt for quilting this guy. Despite using a walking foot it would get help up on seam intersections. It didn’t stay straight. I quilted about half of it. Had a good cry and picked it all out.

quilting with the Singer FeatherweightI took it to the Featherweight instead and that little beauty did it as well as I could have ever expected. I have a lot to learn on how to make the quilting look good and keep it even, but hey, it turned out. It’s usable. I won’t be humiliated to have my mom hang it in her home.

I’m not perfect. Either are my quilts. I’m learning that that’s okay.

Storm at Sea mini quilt

It’s Giveaway Day!

I nearly forgot it was Sew, Mama, Sew’s Giveaway Day, but thank social media for the reminder! (I knew it was good for something..)

full_6225_203059_Mirthapaperpiecedwallquilt_3In the holiday spirit, I’m giving away a PDF copy of my Mirth wall quilt pattern! It uses 9 different fabrics to create a nine-block quilt. The full-size paper piecing template is included (you’ll make some copies of it) for easy and precise piecing.

All you have to do is leave me a comment telling me something you’d like to learn about sewing and quilting in 2017.  I want to know what you want to know. Maybe I can help you learn or maybe it’s something I want to learn, too!

And then head back to Sew, Mama, Sew to see what else people are giving away today!
Mirth quilt pattern by Teresa Coates _Crinkle Dreams
Winner will be announced on Monday, December 12, 2016.  is Kathy E.! Thanks to everyone for their input–it’s given me some great idea for tutorials in 2017.