Tuesday, April 16, 2013

sewing with PDF patterns: Summer Maxi Dress by Heidi and Finn

I was lucky enough to be chosen to receive the Summer Maxi Dress pattern for free as a pattern tester. I haven't received any payment or product for writing this post.

I am a bit old school with my sewing. I learnt to use paper patterns, mostly New Look and Simplicity, Vogue if it was something fancy, at my mum's knee. Cutting out the pieces from the brown wafery paper on our brown carpet. Pinning the pieces to the folded over fabric (right sides together) with the small victory of squeezing the pieces on less fabric than the pattern recommended. Following the instructions, codes and symbols for 'cut on fold' and little triangle matching notches. Later, I studied Textiles and Design through high school, and learned more again from my Home-Ec teacher mother-in-law-to-be. Like cheaty nifty ways to put pants together.

Now back to sewing garments years later, and I wondered what all the excitement was about PDF patterns, which you purchase online and download for instant sewing gratification. I couldn't see the point in paying almost the same amount for a pattern which I then had to print myself. So I stuck to my old school ways.

Then I answered a pattern tester call, on a whim, from the amazing PDF pattern designer, Heidi & Finn. And I got picked! Which was very nice indeed. Here is how I found the process of using a Heidi & Finn PDF pattern, as an experienced sewer, but a PDF pattern novice...
Firstly, when using a PDF pattern, you need the ability to download, view and print it. You may get an instant download upon purchase (like if you buy from Heidi and Finn's new Craftsy store), or you may receive your download via email fairly quickly (remembering that designers may be sleeping when you purchase if you live in different hemispheres). Set up a folder on your hard drive where you keep you patterns, and 'save as' to download. You will need Adobe Reader to view your pattern. I was a little nervous printing, as there is a difference between standard US paper and Australian, but no worries, it printed perfectly. Before you print, check to make sure that your printer scaling setting is set to 'none'.  Check the little one inch square on the first page to make sure the print size is correct.
Next you need to trim and align the pages, and join together. You can either cut out the size you need from here, but I like to keep the initial print as a master, then take a tracing of the size I need on tracing paper, or cheap greaseproof paper. I do this with my paper patterns, too.
Then it's simply a matter of following the instructions provided with the pattern to assemble your garment. And this is where I had my little epiphany about using PDF patterns as opposed to commercial paper patterns. As I was following the Heidi & Finn instructions, it felt to me that I was hanging out with a clever sewing friend, drinking tea and learning some cool new techniques. The steps are clearly written, with very little sewing jargon. There are fabulous photos, clearly linked to the steps, to show you what your progress should be looking like. If I was new to sewing, this Heidi & Finn pattern would be a fantastic start. There is even a tutorial for making your own bias binding! Superb! The Summer Maxi Dress went together very easily. As with all Heidi & Finn patterns, you don't need fancy equipment, and you will have a gorgeous, individual piece.
I was inspired by summery images of my childhood: sunny boys, fringed beach umbrellas and stripy towels. I picked up this lovely beach-coloured stripe cotton and added some crisp white cotton bias binding and pom-pom fringe. If the question is in regards to pom-pom fringe, I think the answer is always 'yes', don't you? I think my little girl enjoyed wearing her new pitty dess.

stuff and nonsense hints for sewing with PDF patterns:
1. Buy quality, especially if you are learning. The instructions will be clearer, the size gradings will be more accurate. You will be more likely to have success and come back for more!
2. Take your time printing to get the settings right. Check and double check before you cut into your fabric.
3. Save your patterns somewhere central by choosing 'save as' rather than sending them into a random downloads folder in the bowels of your hard drive.
4. Read through all the instructions before launching a sewing assault.
5. Trace each size onto tracing paper, keeping the printed pattern as a master. I find the lighter paper much easier to pin to my fabric, and I like knowing I don't have to print each new size.


  1. What a gorgeous dress! I've worked with a few pdf patterns and have been very happy with them too... I'm off to see if this dress pattern is in my daughters size!

    Sophie xo

  2. Well I couldn't sew to save my life, I even pay to get all my pants hemmed :( So i can see just how amazingly talented you are! The dress came up beautifully!
    And it's lovely to see some of your photos again too, hope it felt good to have the camera out.
    Talking about camera's what type do you have? I have my 30th coming up this year, and I want to get my first dslr, if the bank account lets me :)

  3. What a gorgeous dress! Love the stripes and the pom poms. Would I be making a correct assumption that there are no buttons or zips? If so my little girl might actually wear this one. Would this be manageable for a beginner sewer? mel x

  4. That bow at the back! And those pom poms!

    My mom taught me to sew when I was young...I remember the satisfaction of lining up those little triangles.
    The skill has since been lost...just on me, my mother is a master crafter...but when I go home in June I am going to have her give me a refresher course.

  5. That is such a gorgeous maxi dress. Love the pom poms!



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