To Print Or Not To Print

When I started making plans for being an independent pattern designer, I didn’t consider printing my patterns and selling them in an envelope at all.

First of all, I thought it was impossible, financially. I would have to get a loan and not even being sure I could pay it back… well. I didn’t want to go there.


7his has absolutely nothing to do with the post, but it's a sample I did for a class. I started out w 2 pieces of fabric + a zipper}

{This has absolutely nothing to do with the post, but it’s a sample I did for a class. I started out w 2 pieces of fabric + a zipper}

Second, I’ve always felt that the one thing I wanted for my patterns to be unique or just special, would be the thorough instructions. Illustrated with clear photos, and even including fitting advise. With printed patterns, this can’t really be done, because it’s too expensive to print colour photos and to have many pages in the instructions, which is needed for them to truly show step-by-step sewing.

Third, I believe that it’s better (and a lot faster!) for the environment – and for the business to ship via the cheap and energy efficient internet shipping (hah!) than via a more unreliable postal service. And I do believe we will see more and more pdf patterns until they are the norm – and I do want to (and believe I am on the way) be among the first businesses to rely on pdf patterns as an stable income.

{.. I stitched a couple of seams..}

{.. I stitched a couple of seams..}

So. Why do I write that? Well.

A lot of people have written me asking me to print my patterns. And then there was a big talk on Twitter about it. And I got contacted by someone who will actually be able to print smaller amounts (usual minimum is 1000) at a fair price. And then I started thinking.

If people want printed patterns, maybe I can print some, with as detailed instructions as I have room for, and maybe B&W pics, and then give a link and a code to full colour (and fully detailed) instructions?!  What do you think?

{..and then I turned everything and did a few more seams..}

{..and then I turned everything and did a few more seams..}

I can’t do a Kickstarter funding since I’m not a US or UK resident. But I might be able to do a preorder thing that’s working the same way.. I’ll consider (and calculate) a bit more – but I’d love to know what you think!

And you know – I am already selling printed patterns. They are not my own design (but I have translated the instructions), and the instructions are not as thorough as the ones I do. But both the other brands (namely ONION and MiniKrea) are Danish designed patterns, in much the same design philosophy as I use.. And they come with instructions in English.

I send out newsletters with articles and offers for MariaDenmark patterns as well as Onion and MiniKrea (for instance – every month, a new ONION pattern is 25% off – this Month it’s an easy-to-sew jacket or coat.) You can sign up for my newsletter here (and in the sidebar):

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Boxbag made by MariaDenmark

{..and it ended up being a super cute box bag, which I’m using in the fabric store to have my lotion and tissues etc. close by. Lousy Iphone pic – I apologize. But I do love the colour combination }

68 replies
  1. Jane says:

    Hello from South Australia! I have to say I am all in favour of printed patterns, as a consumer and as a retailer about to go into business. I am setting up a small independent fabric, pattern and sewing class store with a business partner. We are stocking up on patterns from independent designers, which we have been unable to find locally. We feel it will be very beneficial to us to be able to sell ‘the whole package’ to our customers; fabric, pattern and notions. Of course we can recommend favourite pdf patterns but there’s nothing in it for us as retailers. And then, as a consumer, I definitely prefer a printed pattern. I hate taping together pages, there’s the cost of all that paper and ink, and the end result is never as pretty and appealing as a ‘proper’ pattern. Having said all that, I think a printed pattern needs to be very visually appealing, with lovely photography and/or illustration and nice packaging, and I understand that makes it prohibitively costly. I wish you all the best and I hope in future we can be selling (wildly successful) printed MariaDenmark patterns in our (wildly successful) shop 🙂

  2. Gillian says:

    I tend to like printed patterns… for some things! Dresses, especially. But for smaller patterns like tops or bottoms, I love the immediacy of being able to print it off right away. I made your cowl pattern, for example, and it was dead simple to tape together. It didn’t take much paper or time. If I had to pay shipping on a pattern like that, I’d be less inclined to buy it! I guess the moral is that everyone has different preferences – I think you have to do what is comfortable for you!

      • BeccaA says:

        I’d be happy to buy printed patterns with a one page order of construction and a web address to find more detailed instructions. I really dislike taping pieces of printer paper together and storing them after sewing.

  3. BeccaA says:

    I bought one of your patterns on craftsy months ago but I have not yet printed it out because I hate hate hate dealing with my printer and taping things together. I feel like there is a whole lot of room for error in taping each of the pages just slightly inaccurately. I would definitely be interested in printed patterns.

    • mariadenmark says:

      Thank you for your thoughts!
      Actually I think you’ll find that my patterns are easier to tape together (there is the grid and everything). But I’ll just tell you – a few millimeters off doesn’t really matter. Just think about it – if you trace and/or cut you’ll make the same little mistakes. You’ll fix it in the sewing

  4. Steph A says:

    Like Gillian, I’ve got my feet in both camps! For patterns with smaller pieces, like tops and lingerie, I like PDFs because they are pretty instant. But patterns for garments with bigger pieces, like dresses, pants and coats, I’d prefer printed patterns. I always have a hard time lining up the section pieces, especially when I’m printing a pattern from A4 onto US letter size (the bottom of the page is always missing!)
    I love your idea of including a link to more detailed colour instructions.

    • mariadenmark says:

      Thank you!
      Actually my patterns are made to print on letter printers as well as A4. – I made the pages of both instructions and pattern slightly smaller than both A4 and letter format – But it does mean that it’s really important to make sure the “print to actual size” is ticked…

  5. Andrea says:

    I agree with Gillian and Steph A – pdfs are okay for small projects but they are oh, so tedious for dresses or trousers. In addition, I just bought a couple of your pdf patterns and because I don’t have access to a printer right now, went to the copy shop to print them only to find out when I got home that I did it all wrong! The A4 conversion to letter paper meant that I’m missing slivers from each page. I had been so excited about making your patterns and now I have to wait until I get to a print shop again to retry the printing. This is not your fault of course! But all that to say that pdfs, especially A4 pdfs, are not my favourite and I would be all in favour of a pre-order option for paper patterns… or at least some clear instructions on how to convert the print of A4 to letter.

  6. Vicki Kate says:

    I think printed with a link to extra info is a genius idea. Kind of like a sewalong but without the daily posting as you can prepare it all pre-print. It could be a really great USP (unique selling point). A pattern and a bit of a class all at once!

  7. Shell says:

    Hi Maria, for my personal sewing, I find I’m using increasingly more pdfs. I don’t find the printing or taping together a problem, regardless of where any of the patterns are from (I’m in Australia so use A4 paper) so long as the no scaling/print to actual size is done as per instructions. I like the immediacy, the money I save on petrol & sometimes pattern price, and the (often) very detailed/clearly photographed instructions. To save printer ink, for easier patterns I only print out the relevant pages of instructions, or even none at all, referring to them on the laptop if need be. For the future though, I have similar dreams to what Jane above is doing, and I take her point that there’s nothing in it for the shop retailer in pdfs. And I guess for beginners, who I want to teach & inspire into this great sewing world, printing, taping etc are all just extra steps to worry about before you even get to cutting. I guess it depends where you see your market being & who you want to reach?

  8. Rachel says:

    There are other options other than kickstarter with the same principle. Is Pozible available in your area? (

    I actually like pdf patterns for small garments – i don’t have to worry about tracing and if I want to make it again in a different size i can re-print the pattern. But i don’t like pdfs for something that has big pattern pieces, it’s just too much effort sticking it all together for massive pieces.

  9. Blogless Anna says:

    Like others above, I too have a foot in both camps. I’m happy to purchase pdfs for children’s clothes or adults tops/shorts/skirts. Simple things where there isn’t too much taping together. For more larger scales projects – winter jackets, dresses, pants etc. – I’d much prefer a paper pattern. That being said, I’ve been know to buy an paper copy of something that was available in pdf even though it was more than twice the price. The Valerie Top ( springs to mind. It was AUS$10 for pdf and AUS$25 for hardcopy and I purchased the hardcopy in store. I’m not sure that I’m being helpful at all. I think it comes down to the pattern (does it appeal or not), what format it is available in, and the cost (including having it shipped if it’s hardcopy). No simple answer. Maybe it does come down to what suits you? Made-by-Rae has a similar dilemma with her Washi Dress. She ended up doing a small print run. It might be good to see if she can shed any light. Good luck.

  10. theperfectnose says:

    I was going to suggest indiegogo instead of Kickstarter. I print all pdfs untiled at the local copyshop. I’ve done this with Burdastyle, Victory patterns and Salme patterns. The most its ever cost is A$8.80 for the multi-size Burda Adam coat. I do not stick/ glue/ tape A4s. I don’t want the hassle. I’d rather spend my time sewing. I rarely buy envelope patterns and generally stick to tracing from my magazines (old Burdas, Knipmode, La Mia Boutique and Patrones).

  11. Scruffy Badger says:

    I’m a bit two minded about this too – I love the spontaneous ability to print & go & have loved making your tops this way – really fits with my nature, but yes, larger items are more mentally challenging to print & tape. And it can take quite a long time – but saying that – it saves on postage, is more environmentally friendly & la la la. Another bonus with home printing is that *if* you are the kind of person that traces, then you don’t really need to – you can just print a different size. (But you know I am a lazy person at heart, always looking for short cuts & avoid that tracing thang)
    There is something special about a ready printed pattern, taking it out for the first time. I think that Vicki Kate’s comment was fitting – best of both worlds if you had links on your website to more detail.

  12. Lizzy says:

    I don’t mind either. Larger patterns are easier as printed patterns. However tops etc are quite small and I found the Day-to-night top easy to put together as the two pieces could be put together separately – so I ony; had to match up 2 lots of 6 sheets rather than 12 sheets. The more sheets that you have to piece together the larger the room for error becomes.
    I always trace my patterns so I do love that I can just cut out a PDF pattern to my size – if I need another size I can just print it out. If I lose it in the sewing room I can open it on my iPad or iPhone and read the instructions as I sew. I do love that ability – as I also like to google sewing issues and watch youTube as I sew!

  13. sewing princess says:

    I totally hear you on the dilemma…if money was not an issue, you could give printing a try…but it’s not so easy and you don’t want to end up wasting money. I do both printing and buying. I like printing because I don’t have to wait weeks before getting patterns and get anxious over getting them lost in the post. Also printing saves me from tracing out the pattern.
    As for printed patterns I hate it when the shipping cost makes the price double. And I also hate those flimsy papers.
    Paco Peralta seems to have found a cost-effective (albeit time-consuming) in hand-copying patterns on a great sturdy paper. Maybe it could be an option before trying the print-run. Another option would be finding a cheaper printing provider abroad like Steph and her Tiramisu pattern.
    Let me tell you I had no issues at all printing your Winnie trousers. I wonder if it couldn’t be easier if you made more sheets of paper but allowed to print only one pattern section at the time, e.g. 3 sheets for the front to tape together and separately 3 sheets for the back. It would be more paper, but less space to tape together and risk of carrying over mistakes.

  14. Kay says:

    Maria, do what works for you … you’ll be happy in the long run!

    Lot of people have problem printing and taping papers together – I don’t have that problem, for me its like a puzzle waiting to be solved! – but I understand how it might be difficult for others… So, for them, maybe you might want to think about a pdf where they can take it to the copiers and print it in one big paper (ala Burdastyle)??

    Or in case if you already have access to a huge printer like that (any libraries/local businesses where you can pay per print?), you can have this option in your website too, where you can print this whole pdf in one paper for them and mail it away? That way, you are not investing a huge cost, but print only when people have paid up already.

  15. Karen says:

    Overall it would seem you are best to do both options 2 and 4.

    So far I have only used PDF for bags, and I love that I can have them straight away and not pay postage. I have your Winnie Wide Legged Trousers on my desk to put together later, so I will see how I get on with something larger. Previously all my patterns were printed, and I have bought some from the US and Australia and resented the postage cost and the wait.

    If you streamline the printed version and had more details accessible on-line you could save bulk in the packet. (Kat Southern of does this for her bags). I keep all my old pattern packets stored in resealable plastic bags now. The old envelopes always tore and tissue is sooo flimsy and useless to try on. Of course now we have swedish tracing paper or cheap interfacing to use. I suppose we could iron-on fusible interfacing to the tissue pattern pieces?

    Hedge your bets, do both and see how it goes.



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