Earth Day idea- The Advantages of PDF Patterns

Nuts and Bolts Scrappy Modern Quilt Pattern Easy

photo by Cate Dingley


In honor of Earth Day this week (April 22), I wanted to talk about PDF quilt patterns. I think they are so great. For both buyers and sellers. When I design a new quilt pattern, I offer it in PDF form (the buyer downloads as soon as they purchase, then print at home if they want), and in printed form (sourced and printed from a local company, packaged in a clear envelope, shipped, etc).


I remember years ago when the idea of PDF patterns first became a thing, I immediately thought “that’s great, but I’d rather have the printed pattern”, all folded neatly and sleeved. I’d become very used to working with that format and was resistant to making a switch. I have all my purchased sewing and quilting patterns neatly stored and ready for me to use when I am ready. I can make notes in the pattern pages, I can carry the pattern to my work table, it helps me to have a printed copy.


But over the years, I’ve come around completely to the idea of PDF patterns. I buy and use a PDF form almost exclusively for my own sewing these days. For those still firmly in the printed pattern camp, I thought I would offer up a list of things to consider. It may not change anyone’s mind, but even being “a little bit” more mindful is a start.


photo by Cate Dingley


Advantages of PDF Quilt Patterns-

  • The obvious- less waste. We relocated in August of last year. Before we moved, we downsized our lives and possessions- from a house with 3 floors that were actively used on a daily basis, to 1. No extra storage, not a sliver of extra room. Very quickly, those printed patterns I’d been storing became very much a dilemma. Do I toss/recycle? Donate? Give to a friend? Keep? Most people I knew were also actively purging things, most didn’t want more paper in their lives. If I’d only had paperless copies of them, it would have been a non-issue.
  • Another aspect of less waste- Only print what you need. A printed quilt pattern, no matter how “green” we try to make it (recycled paper, print on both sides, etc) uses paper to print pages that don’t necessarily need to be printed. Owning a PDF version can avoid printing out any page that can easily be read on a computer screen or mobile device. If the quilt has a template that needs to be printed, then of course you would need to print the template, but usually not all the other pages.
  • Immediate updates. A big mistake on a printed pattern can happen, even after proofing and reproofing, etc. The mistake can be big enough to render them useless in an instant. This can be a big financial hit for a small business. However, in PDF form, the designer can quickly make the correction, upload a new version of the pattern, and make the buyers aware that it is available to download immediately. A much easier fix. Another aspect to consider- We can actually use more pages to add more helpful info. If you’re looking at the pages on a screen, it’s ok that the pattern is a bit longer if it is useful.
  • Links within the pattern itself. I have created dozens of videos for all kinds of common questions a quilter might have- how to make binding, square up the edges of the quilt layers, how to create a portable design wall, how to use my Ruby Ruler™ are just a few examples. In the PDF version of my quilt patterns, I have the ability to create links within the pattern. Meaning, if you are looking at one of the pages on your device, and there’s a link to a how-to video available, you can go straight to it be tapping. I can only list a long website url in a printed pattern, there’s no link to tap.
  • Virtual storage versus actual storage. I can tell you that making a folder on your device- laptop, in the cloud, etc.- and storing your quilt patterns there is so easy. It is always there, taking up no physical space, not sitting around to have coffee spilled on them, or to get misplaced.


Why am I talking about PDF patterns?

I was reminded of all these reasons last week. I gave the covers of two existing quilt patterns a much-needed update- Echo Star and Nuts and Bolts. Both of these patterns have been popular and have sold well, but needed of an updated look (they were released in 2016). I realized that there were several parts of the inside pages that could be updated as well. Today they are being relaunched with shiny new covers, expanded quilt size directions, clearer illustrations, helpful links to videos, etc. I’m super proud of their new look!

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