the secret to never again taping together PDF sewing patterns


I mother three little people, which means my leisure time is, well, rather skinny. The LAST thing I want to do with my precious sewing time is assemble and tape together 42 pages of a print-at-home PDF pattern. It makes my knees hurt just thinking about it. Fortunately, I'll never have to do it again, thanks to a new printing option I discovered recently.

While print-at-home patterns have their place, particularly with smaller children's patterns, most independent pattern companies have started including larger-format copy shop files in their digital patterns. The idea behind the copy shop file is lovely - the customer can send their file to a local print shop like FedEx Office or Staples and have them print it off full-size on a sturdy piece of paper. No assembly required. But there's a catch.  Sometimes the copy shop staff doesn't know how to deal with the file and they end up fitting the patterns to the page, drastically throwing off the scale and therefore the fit of the pattern.

If you get your pattern properly printed (make sure to always check the measurements of the test square before paying for your pattern!) you are likely to be surprised by the cost. I've been charged anywhere between $8 and $23 to print off the pattern pieces for one pattern. Lastly, it's too much of a hassle to swing by the shop to pick up your pattern that you eventually forget it's there. (Yep! That's happened to me twice.)

Such was the rather deplorable state of digital pattern printing until I learned about PDF Plotting from one of my Stasia Dress testers. (I'm not receiving any sort of compensation for promoting their work - I just feel that their service revolutionizes sewists' experience of digital patterns!)

If you are willing to wait and print three (or more) PDF patterns at once, the price per pattern will be between $1.20 and $3.75, plus $7 per order for shipping. (That's where it becomes a better deal to print of many patterns at once, to offset the shipping cost.) I recently spent $15 to print and ship three patterns to my door. My order arrived 2 business days after I placed it, and the patterns were printed on quality paper and shipped in a roll so there were no creases to iron out. 

Screenshot (4)To place an order, you'll need to first download the digital pattern to your computer. (Don't attempt to download to your tablet or phone - those operating systems don't often handle large files.) Some files, like those from Sew Liberated, are delivered as a zip file, which means that the files are compressed in order to be sent over email. You will need to extract the files (follow the instructions for your computer's operating system by asking Google. It's as simple as pressing the "Extract" button on my system, for example.) Once you have your files extracted and saved to your hard drive, determine the size of the files you need to print. All of Sew Liberated's copy shop files are sized either A0 (33.1" x 46.8") or A1 (33.1" x 23.4"). The file size is stated in the file name - if it's not, just open it in Adobe Reader (available as a free download) and move your cursor to the lower left corner of the file. The dimensions will pop up for you. Head to PDFplotting.com and click on "B&W Prints."

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As most copy shop files will be A0 size, you will pick the 36" x 48" option above. In the drop-down menu, select 1 for # of originals and 1 for # of sets.  Click on the "Choose File" button and add your file.

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I'm not sure if it's necessary, but I opted to click on the "My file(s) require special sizing instructions" button, and added the above text, just to be sure.

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Add the pattern to your cart, then click on "Continue Shopping." There is a $7.49 cart minimum to place an order, so add those other patterns you've had languishing on your hard drive  (or pick up a few new ones you've had your eyes on!)

If you end up using PDF Plotter, or if you have any other suggestions on how to best print PDF patterns, let everyone know in the comments below!

child's apron revisited

baking apron

This humble little apron means more to me than you would think it warrants. It's a simple design, really - so easy to make, and so gratifying to give to a young child. It represents joyful, messy times together with children, both in my classroom and now in my own home, baking and making art with my little one.

But it's more to me than that, even. It was the first sewing pattern that I mustered up the courage to share with others. I remember drafting the pattern while I was still living and teaching in Mexico, hoping that it would be of use to other Montessori teachers and parents as they made materials for their own classrooms and homes. I was nervous putting it out into the world. The basic apron has been a downloadable tutorial on my blog ever since.

Yet, it doesn't stop there, my appreciation for this little apron. It soon became apparent that others really enjoyed the pattern, both for its sewing ease, its design that promotes a young child's independence, and for its practical use in the home. The feedback I received from the first users of the pattern was positive, and it gave me the confidence I needed to start writing up patterns for my other designs (like the Emmeline Apron - the apron I wore daily in my classroom!)

Before I knew it, I was designing patterns as well as teaching. Now, I'm mothering and designing patterns whenever I can find a moment. (Most moments courtesy of my dear husband, who is Super Dad.) Occasionally, enough of those moments come together and allow me to write a book.

Growing Up Sew Liberated is about to be released (official launch date is June 6) and I couldn't be more excited. It is written for those exact same people I drafted the apron pattern for - but there's oh so much more inside its pages. It was such a joy to write, and I hope that you love it as much as you loved the humble little apron.

So, with a nod to my roots as a designer, I'm really pleased that Interweave, my publisher, wanted to re-release the child's apron with a few more bells and whistles.

laundry apron

laundry apron detail

plant care apron

You can read Tricia's write-up about Growing Up Sew Liberated on Sew Daily, where you can also download the new-and-improved Child's Apron pattern. The new pattern features two size ranges (3-5 years and 6-8 years,) as well as instructions on making two new versions of the apron: a waterproof, whimsically embroidered Laundry Day Apron, and the playfull and practical Plant Care Apron.

Click here to download the new pattern.

Happy sewing!


play dough sculpting

Finn keeps the new art area bustling with activity. Sculpting with play dough was the first art experience that I put on the shelf, knowing that, if we first made the play dough together in the kitchen (I used this recipe, and it's stayed good for three weeks now) then he would be gung-ho to play with it. Here he is after a sculpting session, putting everything away.

And just to disabuse you of the (albeit hilarious) notion that the fairy singing in the background is Patrick, we were listening to Joanna Newsom, an innovative musician and acquaintance of mine from high school.

Finn is free to get out the sculpting kit at any time. Most of the time he puts it away without any reminders, as that was how I presented the activity to him - the putting away was just as interesting as the playing itself. I showed him how to do it a few times, then he took over, with varying degrees of success. What you see in the video is the result of a bit of practice on his part, and a lot of holding back from unnecessary intervention on my part. I think that's pretty much the key - don't intervene unless there is noticeable frustration on the child's part. I blogged a bit about my thoughts on being okay with your child's mistakes here. There are a lot of moments in this video where we adults might be tempted to intervene, which would mean that Finn wouldn't have had the opportunity to troubleshoot or explore on his own. It takes a while, and the road to success is often circuitous, but ultimately standing back and observing (and respecting) a toddler's own process is what allows the child to learn directly from his own experiences.  

Okay, enough Montessori jibber jabber. For those of you interested in setting up your own play dough sculpting kit, here's what you'll need:

- A homemade playdough recipe. The one I used is here, there are also some great versions in First Art , and Jean has her own suggestions for jazzing it up here.

- An air-tight container that is easily opened and closed by a toddler. I used a Good Grips pop container. I've found them to be much easier for little hands to use correctly than a typical tupperware container. We also keep our cat food in one of these and Finn enjoys his daily task of feeding the cats all by himself.

- A storage container for the sculpting tools. Our little "suitcase" was used as an innovative gift wrapping for one of Finn's baby shower gifts, but I recently saw something very similar at Michael's. Again, the key is that it's easily handled by a toddler.

play dough sculpting kit

- Sculpting tools. I was very inspired by this article in the Winter issue of Rhythm of the Home. I scrounged around for tools in my own house, then went to a thrift store to see what I could find. As it turns out, Finn's favorite sculpting tools have been a butter knife, a pattern tracing wheel, and some small sticks that I found in my backyard. He also uses the handmade cork stamps.

- A canvas mat. I quickly sewed mine up from a scrap of canvas fabric that I had on hand. I backed it with the left over non-skid rubber rug pad that I used under the Rainbow Rug.

Happy Play-doughing!

the snow pixie hat tutorial

I'm so giddy to have my Snow Pixie Hat tutorial published in the Winter edition of Petite Purls! This hat is quick to whip up, so the answer is "YES, you can make one in time for the holidays!" It takes maybe an hour to make. 

Snow Pixie Hat for Petite Purls Winter 2010 2

Snow Pixie Hat for Petite Purls Winter 2010 5

Snow Pixie Hat for Petite Purls Winter 2010 9

Snow Pixie Hat for Petite Purls Winter 2010 4

Snow Pixie Hat for Petite Purls Winter 2010 3

Snow Pixie Hat for Petite Purls Winter 2010 7

My inspiration for the Snow Pixie Hat was the oh-so-famous Stella Pixie. I knew I wanted to create a sewn version that would enable all of the folks out there who sew, but aren't so comfortable with knitting needles, to create their own pixie hat. Because really, the more babies and toddlers out there who wear handmade pixie hats, the better. It's the kind of hat that makes us adults smile, and has the added benefit of keeping little ones snug and warm.

I hope you enjoy the tutorial! I'm also honored to have been interviewed for the issue here, on the topic of being a work-at-home mom. And while you're at it, if you knit (and especially if you knit for boys) check out these amazing boy projects!

With warm wishes this holiday season,


P.S. Be sure to come back later today and tomorrow to enter two generous giveaways from my sponsors!

a different kind of black friday - low cost "big" gifts for children

Hooray! We're back online and, most importantly, showering with hot water! The dinner yesterday was spectacular. My mom has a knack for making an incredible food spread look effortless. If I had been in charge, I would have looked haggard, food stuck to my hair and clothing, unable to hold a conversation with anyone until everything was on the table. She rocks the kitchen, that mom of mine.

one mess of a puppet head

I thought you would get a kick out of my Black Friday "shopping" excursion this morning. It started at the end of my parents' driveway where I grabbed a handful of newspapers that had been put at the curb to be recycled. I threw those in the back of the car and headed to the craft store, where I bought four styrofoam balls and some masking tape.

Styrofoam balls, masking tape, newspaper, flour and water ... all I need to begin my most ambitious holiday handmade gift of the season. Puppets. Four of them, with a door frame puppet theater from fabric in my stash. I'm planning on using the tutorial for the theater below, which can be found at Petite Purls


Photo, design and tutorial by Nancy Anderson

This gift isn't for Finn, as he's too little yet to really use such a toy, but my nieces (who are four and six) will most certainly put it to use.

I've been thinking a lot this holiday season about being thrifty, perhaps more than usual, given the health care costs we will be incurring due to Lachlan's condition. The main thing I'm doing for Finn this year is putting together the art/playroom, and trying to spend virtually no money on the endeavor. (More on that when I return home from our time in California.) He will get a few quality, wooden toys, but other than that, it's a simple stocking and a new playspace.

Since so many of us are needing to tighten the belts of our gifting budgets, I thought I'd point to some great, low-cost ideas for children's gifts.

  • Put together a new playspace for your child, using thrifted furniture cut down to size (i.e. saw off the legs of an old desk to make a child-sized table. Again, more on this later!) Here's an article with some helpful ideas.
  • Organize a spectacular dress-up area. Keep your eyes peeled for fun hats, shoes and outfits during thrifting excursions, or make your own. Dedicate a space for dress up in your home - set up one of those cheap wall mirrors next to a peg shelf. Add ribbon loops to all shirts and pants so they can be hung from the peg shelf, assuring that they are easily accessible to children and don't get lost in a bottomless toy chest. Place shoes and accessories in bins below the peg shelf. Remember to rotate the items on occasion to maintain the child's interest.
  • Put together a "kit-in-a-box" gift that caters to your child's particular interests. I thought the veterinarian's case Amanda put together for her daughter was amazing. You could take this idea and apply it to any interest - an field explorer's kit, a baking kit, a sewing kit, a florist's kit ... really any interest you see emerging in your child could be nourished through such a gift.
  • Stock your child's play kitchen with handmade felt food.
  • Set up a birding area near a large window in your home.
  • Re-organize and re-stock your child's art space or reading nook.

Leave a comment to share your own ideas!

handmades for a newborn

for my cousin's baby boy

My cousin is having a little boy in a few weeks - her first - and I knew some special handmades were in order. (When are they not?) Being an Autumn baby, he'll be wearing plenty of hats to keep him warm. If you're going to wear hats, I say, why not make them the cutest hats ever? And these are. I should call them Finn's hits.

finn's pixie hat

Because really, friends, if you want to have strangers come up and compliment you on something you've made by hand and tell you how cute your baby is, dress your baby in a Stella Pixie hat. I never ever get oohed and aahed over when I wear a scarf I knitted or even a sweater - they just look like piles of organized yarn plopped on my not-as-cute-as-a-baby body. But the Stella Pixie on a baby? My my.

Sigh. So tiny he was (yet so chubby) just nine months ago.

mini stella pixie

I made the Stella Pixie out of the yarn I had leftover from making Finn's version. This one, however, is sized down. Finn's will still fit him this winter, and he has a rather large noggin. Take a peek at other people's ravelry notes for their suggestions on how to size it down - I'm not going to recommend anything until I know how it fits on a newborn's head. All I have here is a gargantuan toddler head with which to measure. And Finn's doll - neither of which did the trick.

sweet pea pilot cap on doll

The blue striped hat is a Sweet Pea Pilot Cap - a free tutorial for you in my side bar. It's the newborn size. My hope is that it fits the little fellow for his trip home from the hospital.

leaf elephants. clever.

We wrapped it up in some pretty paper and added a very clever elephants-made-from-leaves card, which we found at our local fair trade store.

Notice my choice of pronouns for the previous sentence? I did not wrap alone. I had a very industrious little helper, who apparently prefers to work in silence.

don't you remember how fun this was when you were a kid?

Nothing like scotch tape to keep a toddler busy, and a mama laughing!

quick change trousers for the cloth-diapered bum

quick change trousers5

The adorable (and reversible!) Quick Change Trousers from Handmade Beginnings passed the battery of very stringent toddler tests!

quick change trousers6

Comfortable and cute while walking tentatively - check.

quick change trousers3

Comfortable and cute while marching with stick in hand - check.

quick change trousers4

Comfortable and cute while poking stick into grass that's nearly as tall as you - check.

quick change trousers1

Comfortable and cute while climbing a hill of dirt - check.

quick change trousers2

Comfortable and cute while squishing mulberries between fingers - check.

I made a slightly modified version of the trousers to fit over Finn's ample, cloth-diapered rear. First, I made one size up (size 18 months is shown). Then, I modified the pattern piece "C - Back Leg" by lowering and extending the back seat rise by about 1 cm (the adjustments are shown as dotted lines).


After making this adjustment in the rise, you'll need to adjust for the loss of inseam length by extending the inseam by 1 cm below the cuff. Make your new lines as perpendicular as possible! Cut out your new "C" pattern piece and you're good to go - follow the instructions as written, except you'll probably want to use a 1/4" - 3/8" seam allowance when sewing the outer side seams in step 10, just to give a bit more wiggle room around that bulky diaper.

I'll definitely be making more of these, both for Finn and for gifts. Stop by on Friday for my chat with Anna Maria about mamahood and sewing, and for her tips on sewing with a little one around!

***Keep you comments coming! (One per day, please!) I'll be drawing the winners of the four Handmade Beginnings books on Friday!***