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.
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."
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.
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.
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!