Clothing Patterns ~ Digital or Printed?


There are so many options for clothing patterns out there now!  Have you thought about making your own clothes & just don’t know where to start?  Should you choose a digital pattern & print it at home or by a printed pattern?  Well, today I’m going to give you some tips for using both & the pros & cons of each.  This is all my opinion {for what that’s worth!} & comes from 20+ years of using clothing patterns.  Maybe someone will find what they need to go ahead & make that first garment.  Then you get to say “Oh, this?  I made it myself!”  If you want to see me in my very first me-made garment, be sure to read {or scroll} all the way to the end.  ; )

Disclaimer:  This post contains affiliate links which means I may receive a small commission if you buy something through my link or ad.  This does not change your cost it just helps keep this blog running.  Thanks for your support!  See Privacy Policy & Affiliate Deals page for more information.

Printed Patterns

When I say printed patterns, most people think of the ones that come in a package at your local fabric/craft store.  Maybe Simplicity or McCall’s comes to mind.  What you may not know, is that there are many smaller companies that offer printed & digital patterns.  One that comes to my mind is Violette Field Threads – which I have seen at my local Joann’s on a pattern rack!

One good thing about printed patterns, is that they come with their own envelope.  All the information you need about fabric selection, size, & notions is found right on the back.

There’s an instruction sheet included in most printed patterns & the pattern is printed on tissue paper, usually.

A tissue paper pattern is easier to pin down & make adjustments to.  It’s also easier to tear, which can be a drawback.

I used to stock up on these types of patterns during 99 cents sales at my local craft store.  Something that can be a big drawback to buying the pre-printed patterns in the store is finding one in your size.  I have found patterns I loved only to realize the store didn’t have it in my size.  You can order them online as well, but then shipping costs come into play.

Some of the printed patterns I have are in my Burda Style magazines.  These magazines come with 18 or so patterns & a year subscription makes them about $7.50 an issue.  {You can find out of print magazines on Etsy as well}

At that price, the patterns are around $2.40 each, which is a steal considering patterns are usually $10 or more each.  The trade off is that you have to find the pieces for each pattern in their maze of a pattern insert!

That can be a real headache!  You can find most of the patterns from the magazine on their website to purchase individually at about $6.  Of course, that makes them a digital pattern, which comes with it’s own set of problems!

Digital Patterns {PDF}

I have to say, since I discovered digital patterns several years ago, I haven’t bought a printed one!  That’s got more to do with instantly having the pattern, than preferring digital over printed.  Something I definitely do not like about digital patterns is that you have to print them out & tape them together!

This pattern was printed on paper I recycled.  That’s why there’s an old FPP pattern on the back.  I thought y’all might see the lines peaking through the front & wonder what it was.  ; )

You will definitely need some paper scissors & tape for digital patterns.  A printer that’s not an ink hog is best too, since some digital patterns can use 10 to 20 sheets of paper, maybe even more.  I’m looking for a new one & this one looks like a good candidate.  My current printer is a big ink hog & now it sounds like a machine gun when it gets ready to print!

One tip when dealing with digital patterns is to read the instructions on putting it together.  While most of them connect the same way, it’s good to make sure where the overlap happens between the sheets.  In the picture below, you can see that I didn’t quite get the overlap right.

I had already added a piece of tape, but it’s not that hard to remedy.  Just start a notch with scissors at one end of the tape & it usually just comes right apart.

Once I piece all of my sections together, I like to trim close to the outermost cutting line to remove some of the bulk.

After I print a digital pattern & put it together, I trace the pieces/size I want to use onto tracing paper so I can make adjustments there.  This just keeps me from having to print it out again if I need a different size or version of the pattern.

Pattern Storage & Adjustments

All of my printed digital patterns get stored in large manila envelopes with reusable clasps.  I keep the original & any traced & altered copies together.

I note the pattern name, company, sizes, & such right on the front with a permanent marker.  All my patterns are stored in my large filing cabinet.

When I talk about tracing paper for patterns, I’m really talking about exam table paper!

This is the cheapest pattern paper/tracing paper available!  I bought a box of 12 on Amazon for about $24 & I’m still working on using the first roll.  That was at least 3 years ago!

These items come in handy as well when altering clothing patterns of any kind.  A see thru ruler {great for quilts too}, a styling design ruler, a pencil, & ultra fine Sharpie.

All my trimmed bits of printer paper go into my recycle box for future paper making!

Whichever type of pattern you chose to start with, just start – that’s the only way you’ll learn!

My First Me-Made Garment

I started sewing around the age of 16.  My birthday falls in mid-October & as a teenager I often had costume parties to celebrate.  The first garment I ever sewed was made from an old silver, satin bed sheet.  I wanted to be a sorceress & it was the perfect material for that!  Since I had no pattern or sewing machine, I had to get creative.  I laid on the sheet & had a friend trace my outline – chalk person style!  Then I cut it out & hand sewed everything together.  Some sponge painted moons & stars & a blue silk scarf where added to complete the outfit.  Wallah – my first me-made garment was born!  Then I was hooked for life!  : D

By the way, my dad made the table I’m standing beside & my mother made the cake!


Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. Joyce Stratton says:

    I love to sew and have been making my own clothes since I was 12. Digital patterns are great for the instant gratification but I really like printed patterns best. I love the patterns you get in some of the sewing magazines. You’re right, they’re a good deal!

  2. Skye says:

    I grew up with my Nan being a seamstress. I used to hang at her place looking through simplicity pattern catalogues, choosing what I wanted, reading patterns, having Nan explain it all to me 😃 oh those were the days 😁 I made dolls clothes in the chalk person way 😂 then moved up to simplicity and butterick patterns for me and other items like bags – my mum still has my first beach bag. I learnt to use tracing paper even with the tissue paper patterns so they can be used heaps of times, yes the price is higher here down under. I started making my own designs in my late teens and early 20s, using a design pack my Nan gave me that’s virtually unfindable now, I wish I kept that pack but I don’t make clothes now, just pjs. It was full of instructions, templates and rulers for pants, tops and dresses for women, kids and men. I just can’t use PDF patterns for clothes and persevere with other crafts but prefer books and physical patterns. A funny story, I once found on the side of the road, a dress form which I carried back and gave to my mum, she was ecstatic 😁

Leave a Reply