Assembling PDF sewing patterns is:
a.) tedious and fairly boring.
b.) frequently part and parcel of stitching indie patterns.
c.) the downside of getting a new pattern without leaving your house.
d.) All of the above.
How did you do on this quiz, LOL? Yeah, assembling PDF patterns is something you have to go through to get to the good stuff — sewing your next amazing me-made garment. You want this task to take as little time as possible.
I’ve tried every method I can think of for assembling PDF sewing patterns, from taping to glue stick, scissors to a paper cutter. The technique I’m going to share — fold and glue — is the fastest I’ve found, and it has other benefits, too.
Keep reading to discover why the fold-and-glue method for assembling PDF patterns rocks my world, and watch a video of this technique in action.
What Makes Fold-and-Glue a Superior Method?
As Captain of Team Fold-N-Glue, I’ve got four reasons why this method is superior to other PDF-pattern-assembly techniques.
1.) It’s faster.
I timed my actions while making the PDF assembly video (below), and I discovered that it takes me 24 seconds to fold one long and one short edge of paper. It takes me three seconds to apply glue to the long edge. To fold and glue this 30-page PDF pattern, it took me 40 minutes.
When you use tape, glue stick, scissors, a craft knife, or a paper cutter, you make a lot of extra movements compared with folding and gluing. Folding requires ONLY your hands; there’s no cutting device to pick up, grasp, operate, and set down. And think about the inefficiency of tearing individual strips of tape!
Streamlining each PART of a process makes the WHOLE process faster. It’s how assembly lines are optimized, and it’s why Team Fold-N-Glue trumps other PDF-assembly methods.
In regard to trying out the fold-and-glue method for assembling PDF sewing patterns, here are some goodies in which you may be interested!
Handling paper — like, oh, maybe folding a ton of sheets for a PDF pattern — makes your hands dry. I like Aquaphor healing ointment (it’s heavy-duty stuff, good for slathering on at night) and Aveeno Sheer Hydration daily moisturizing lotion (fairly lightweight and long lasting). Look, I live in Wisconsin, and it’s cold and dry here for a lot of the year. I know my lotion.
If you’re going to be printing PDF sewing patterns, ya gotta stock up on printer paper. Try a five-ream case (that’s 2,500 sheets) of AmazonBasics multi-purpose paper.
Oh, and if you’re going to be getting your glue on, ya also gotta stock up on school glue!
Now, we come to fold-and-glue entertainment. Assembling PDF sewing patterns is a wonderful time to catch up on TV, listen to music, or take in an audio book. I’ve got you covered with 30-day free trials for Amazon Prime Video, Amazon Music Unlimited, and Audible.
2.) It’s less expensive.
I did some math using product costs for tape, glue stick, and glue from Amazon.
I estimate it takes three 2-inch strips of Scotch Magic tape to adhere the 11-inch edges of two paper sheets. This cost per use is about $0.02 (USD).
I estimate it takes about 1 gram of glue stick to adhere the 11-inch edges of two sheets. This cost per use is a whisper over $0.01 (USD).
I estimate it takes about one-quarter milliliter of school glue to adhere the 11-inch edges of two sheets. This cost per use is less than $0.01 (USD).
It may not seem like a lot — one cent vs. two cents — but these calculations reveal that tape costs TWICE as much per use as school glue, and glue stick also costs more per use than glue.
If you’re trimming paper edges, you also have costs for scissors, a paper cutter, or a craft knife. To compare, folding is free, because your hands are free! Another point for Team Fold-N-Glue!
3.) It’s less messy.
As long as you don’t get any where you don’t want it, glue is a dream to apply, especially if you apply a veeeery light strip. I always end up getting glue stick on my hands and then it rolls into gross little gummy balls. As far as tape goes, it’s easy to tangle individual pieces.
BUT — the big way in which fold-and-glue is less messy than other methods is it doesn’t create a mound of paper scraps! Hallelujah!
4.) It creates a strong bond.
A strong bond is good for storing PDF patterns. How many times have you put together a PDF pattern with tape or glue stick and found it falling apart when you pulled it out of storage? UGH, what a bummer.
School glue is an underrated adhesive. While it’s still wet, you’ve got a lot of leeway to perfectly place objects. And once said objects are perfectly placed, they REALLY stick together. When it comes to PDF patterns and pattern pieces, glued sheets of paper are adhered for the long haul.
How to Fold-and-Glue a PDF Pattern
Start with a fully printed PDF pattern. You’ll get the hang of this technique in no time.
1.) Consult the pattern layout map.
Most, but unfortunately not all, PDF patterns include a pattern layout map (example above). The pattern layout map is important because it lets you see what your finished PDF pattern assembly will look like. Take note of rows and columns; this will help you understand which edges DON’T need to be folded and how all the sheets will come together. It’s like looking at the outside of the puzzle box as you’re working on a puzzle.
If you don’t have a pattern layout map, I highly suggest laying the printed sheets on the floor to get a bird’s-eye view of what you’re working toward.
2.) Fold one long edge and one short edge.
Make sure it’s the SAME two sides for each piece of paper when all pieces of paper are in the same orientation. Remember, you don’t have to fold the outer edges of the pattern layout.
I like to make all the folds first and then move to gluing. That way, you’re not switching between folding and gluing.
3.) Apply a thin stripe of glue and press to bond.
Apply a THIN line of glue to an unfolded edge; you don’t want soggy paper. Stick a folded edge to an unfolded edge and press.
You barely need any volume of school glue to create a strong bond, so a bottle will last a long time. You can *briefly* shift positions of glued edges before it creates a strong bond.
4.) Work in manageable units.
Create one row at a time. After you’ve made all the individual rows, combine rows. It’s best to build the smaller pieces first vs. putting all the rows together at once. You’ll have greater accuracy working with smaller elements.
5.) Celebrate your accomplishment!
You did it! You assembled a PDF pattern as fast as possible! Let the pattern layout dry flat for a few hours before storing it or cutting out pattern pieces.
That’s it, sewing friends. What do you think of this PDF pattern assembly method? Think you can go faster with another technique? If yes, please let us know in the comments! Thanks for reading.
P.S. Here’s the previous post: 12 Totally Topical DIY Halloween Costumes for 2019.
P.P.S. Speaking of prepping pattern pieces for stitching, here’s how I crush another non-sewing sewing chore: Tracing Sewing Patterns: How I Attack My Least Favorite Sewing Task.
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Have you ever tried using a hole punch? I see that tip a lot but I’ve never tried it myself. You use a hole punch to punch through the corners of the trim lines and then you can just look through the hole to line up the corners.
Hi, Emily! Thanks for reading. I’m not quite sure about one part of this method – what do you do with the overhanging paper? Do you trim it away BEFORE the hole punch? I like the accuracy this technique provides, but it feels like an extra step to me. What do you think? Maybe I’m not understanding it correctly?
Interesting and helpful – thanks!
Glad you liked it! Thanks for reading. Can I ask you a favor – if you think other sewists would like this post, could you please share it on your socials? Maybe pin it? Thanks for your consideration; sharing is caring! ♥️
Hi Erin, thanks for the post and video. I’m just curious if you actually tried a paper cutter? If you have one, I think it’s faster than folding. You mention it takes 24 seconds to fold one sheet. I timed myself on the paper cutter and came in at 16-22 seconds. At the top end it’s not as big of a difference as I thought, but this was just a few sheets and I used some scrap paper that was a bit curled, which slowed me down a bit. I’m sure I would get quicker and end up at the lower end (perhaps even faster). And if you’re very careful you can even cut multiple sheets at the same time.
So I would definitely recommend the paper cutter if you have one. Perhaps it would even be worth getting one if people use a lot of pdf patterns. I wouldn’t want to be without it.
Hey, Hilde! Thanks for your thoughtful comment!
I have tried a paper cutter. I found that it was easy to slightly cut the edge crookedly; I would get the top aligned and the blade would drift a bit at the bottom.
I also discovered that I couldn’t cut multiple pieces of paper because my printer would sometimes print the pattern tiles crookedly – and you couldn’t see it unless you stacked 2-3 pieces of paper and held them in front of a window. It’s a subtle thing, but if you have page after page that’s off a little bit, the pages, when assembled, won’t lay flat.
The other thing I don’t like about the paper cutter method is the pile of scraps. That’s an Erin problem, though.
If using a paper cutter works for you, you should definitely use it! That’s the beauty of sewing – there’s a ton of different ways to get to the same place!