I'm going to save so much ink and paper now I know how to use a layered PDF sewing pattern and just print the size I want.

Software for creating sewing patterns is improving all the time. As I invest in some of the new and rather pricey software and the training that goes with it, I’m hoping to create better patterns for you.

One of the improvements you’ll see coming up is what’s known as a ‘layered PDF file’. In easy terms, this simply means that the different sizes are all within the same file but at the same time, they are separated onto different layers so you can choose to turn them on and off.

I have a new pattern coming out for you tomorrow and this will be the first with the new layered PDF design so it’s going to be helpful for me to show you how that works, as you might not have seen one before – and it’s cool!

How to print a layered PDF file

Firstly, make sure you are using the latest version of Adobe Reader so you can take advantage of all the super-cool tools. If you need to upgrade, you can do so here.

Then open your PDF file in Adobe Reader. Sometimes you can open a PDF file in your internet browser, but that might look ok on the screen, but usually, you’ll end up with some problems when you print – so stick to opening the PDF with Adobe Reader for best results.

page 2

This is what the file looks like. We are looking at page 2 here so you can see all of the pattern lines for the different sizes. Now this pattern has a lot of sizes and where they overlap it can be pretty crazy and hard to follow your right size.

The good news is that with this new improvement you can turn off the sizes you don’t need to print and just see the size you need. This saves you eye strain and printer ink and just makes the whole thing a lot easier to see.

To select the layers you want to see and print, go over to the menu with little icons on the left-hand side here.


Pick the icon that looks like one sheet of paper on top of the other – that is the layers tool. Now you can see all of the separate layers in your pattern. These will usually correspond to your sizes.

There will usually be one layer that has all of the ‘fixed’ information on it, such as the test square, size chart, pattern piece names, descriptions, and so on.  In our example, this is called ‘Print for all sizes‘.  Then there are the size layers, one layer for each size from 34-56 inches.  Next to the layers is a little icon that looks like an eye.  You can click here to turn each layer on and off, so you can see it, or not see it.


Here is the same page 2.  I’ve kept on the standard layer and also the layer for size 40-inch hips and turned off all the other layers.  Look how much easier and cleaner that is!


It really comes into its own when you have lots of pattern grading lines close to each other.  This is page 9 before and after.  It would be difficult to follow all those close lines to find your correct size on the before, but it’s a breeze when you turn off the layers you don’t need.  A breath of fresh air.

phg 9

Now you don’t have to turn layers on and off, you can of course just print it as standard with all the layers if you want to.  But why waste ink and print out that maze of lines if you don’t need to!

How to print the layered pattern – only the layers you want

Once you have your layers selected and displayed or not displayed, it’s time to print. Up at the top menu, select File, then Print, and up comes the print preview box.  Let’s scroll through to that page 9 again and check what layers we can see.  Perfect, just the size we want and the standard layer with our test square, etc.


Make sure you have selected Actual Size as the print option so that there isn’t any scaling of the pattern.  Don’t select Fit to page or Shrink Oversized Pages. You can use the arrows under the preview on the right to see all of the pages.  If you are printing a smaller size, you might scroll through and find that you don’t even need to print all of the pages.  See here that the size 40 doesn’t have any lines on page 6, although the larger sizes do.  So you can choose not to print any pages you don’t need, therefore saving you paper and ink.


Hit print, check out the picture of what the assembled pattern should look like, and then trim or fold your edges so the pieces match up. This pattern has circles in the corners.  Four pieces of pie make a circle.


How to grade between sizes

What if you are printing a dress pattern and need to grade between sizes, maybe size  C at the bust and size D at the hip.  Well, that’s easy too.  When you select the layers, select the two sizes you need and only those will print off, allowing you to easily see where you need to transition between the sizes.


And that’s it.  You can now print out the pattern just in the size you need.  Earlier patterns don’t have this feature, but the future ones should.  Every little bit helps.

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