PDF sewing pattern printing and troubleshooting checklist

There are hundreds of guides for downloading and assembling a PDF sewing pattern on the Internet.

This article that originally was called “Download, print, and assemble a PDF pattern” but due to the quality of the guides out there I chose to cut the original and save what I thought was the most useful part.

I hope it helps!

This post will guide you through some common errors you may encounter when you are about to print your PDF sewing pattern. I call it The PDF Sewing Pattern Printing And Troubleshooting Checklist (for lack of a more imaginative title.)

Sewing Pattern Printing Checklist

1 Opening the zip file

Find the zip file on your computer and unzip the files by clicking it. The icon looks something like this;

A zip file icon


Some mobile phones and tablets don’t handle zip files very well. To be sure everything will work perfectly, use your computer to download the zip file.

Open the PDF file with the Adobe Reader software.

Adobe is the company that created the PDF file format and the only program that is 100% certain to display the pattern exactly as it was designed.

Get Adobe Reader through the link below. It’s free to download and free to use and will guarantee that your pattern shows correctly when you want to print it.


If you print the pattern yourself, the two print-at-home files are yours to choose from. We’ll go through the difference between the two options below.

2 Selecting what file to print

The zip file contains all variations of the pattern that a particular designer offers. For example, you find 6 PDF files in a Morphí pattern, looking like this when you open the folder;

File formats in a digital sewing pattern

The different files in a PDF pattern zipped folder.

Let’s go through the different options:

Instructions file

Print it or have it open on your computer or mobile when you sew

Copyshop files

There are usually two different large format files; select which one to use depending on where in the world you’ll print your pattern. Ask your Copyshop what standard they use. Save the file to a portable drive and take it to your Copyshop of choice for printing. Be sure to check their prices before they print.

Projector file

Requires a projector. Project the pattern onto your fabric and trace it with tailor’s chalk or cut out the pieces directly.

Trimless print-at-home file

With guides that allow you to tape or glue the pages on top of each other without trimming off any margins.

Regular print-at-home file

Has margins you cut off with scissors or a roller cutter and symbols you match up when taping the papers together.

3 Checking the printer settings

Adobe Reader opens the PDF file in the print direction it’s saved in. So, for example, if the designer saves her pattern as “portrait” (standing) pages, it will also open and print that direction.

You can check how the pages will print in the preview window, but it’s best to leave the setting as is and let the file and printer do their default thing.

Between brands, all printer settings have different terminology, but the principles of printing a PDF pattern are the same for all of them:

  • Print actual size
  • No scaling
  • Automatic print direction (the default discussed above)

This is what it looks like in my printer’s user interface (it’s in Swedish, but hopefully, you get the general picture.)

Printer settings for PDF patterns

The Actual size, No scaling, and Automatic print settings.

4 Printing the pattern

If you print your PDF pattern at home, you have two options:

The regular trim file. It’s the standard among indie PDF sewing patterns; I call it the cut/tape version.

Cut off one of the short and one of the long side margins. Line up the pages beside each other, match the pattern lines, then tape the pages together.

The “trimless” file. It’s created with offset grid lines and options for both the US and A4 formats.

Match up the grid and tape or glue the pattern together; no cutting is needed.


A fair warning about the trimless pattern option. Even if it’s supposed to save you time from cutting/trimming it can sometimes cause trouble when matching up the pieces.

So, if your printer is a bit old and frail like mine, you may save both time and frustration by printing the regular pattern instead.

Always print the test square first; you usually find it on the first pattern page.

Measure the square and make sure it’s the same size as indicated. For example, the pictured test square is 5 cm and 1 in wide and high.

Test square on a sewing pattern

An example of a test square.

Layers view in a PDF sewing pattern

The Layers view in Acrobat Reader.

After measuring the test square, it’s time to print the rest of the pages you want.


To save paper, I check out the pattern layout first to determine if I need to print all of the pages or only some of them.

Pattern layout in a PDF pattern.

The Pattern layout view.

Pattern printing troubleshooting checklist

Sometimes the gadgets we use don’t want to do what we want them to.

When that happens when we’re about to indulge in sewing a new fantastic creation, it’s easy to run out of patience fast!

Don’t give up!

You can probably (hopefully) work it out.

Use this list of common issues I’ve compiled over time. The solutions are all tried by yours truly.

Check if you have:


    • Downloaded the zip file to a mobile or tablet?
      Download it again but to a computer this time.


    • Opened the PDF file in your computer’s preview mode?
      Open the PDF file in Adobe Acrobat Reader instead.


    • Tampered with the default printing orientation setting?
      Close the file and open it again, leave the default orientation settings as-is.


    • Mismatched (or no match) pattern lines?
      Inspect the paper tray for skewed, stuck, and loose papers.


    • Hardly visible pattern lines?
      Analyze the ink cartridge status; it may be time for a refill.


    • Half-printed or no printed pattern at all?
      Check the manufacturer’s homepage FAQ for common issues.


    • Error messages you can’t decode?
      It might be time to download new drivers or update the printer software.


    • No printer action at all?
      Check the communication between your computer and your printer. How’s the Wi-Fi status? Maybe your cat jumped on the router, so the cord slipped out of place? (Ask me how I know 😺)



Always use the latest version of Adobe Reader, update it if needed.

Before you start sewing, maybe you want to check out this article about 3 common fit issues and how to fix them.

Sew great!

signature flaming needle