A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post on the Pros and Cons of Digital Patterns. (You can read that post here). So given that paper and digital patterns each have their pros and cons, how do you choose the best format?
7 Things to Consider when deciding to purchase a digital or printed sewing pattern:
Is this going to be a tried and true pattern that you will sew multiple times?
Will this be a tried and true pattern that will be sewn repeatedly, and in different sizes?
If purchasing a digital pattern, how many pages are there to print out and tape together?
Does the digital pattern come with additional instructions or guides, and if it does will those additions be helpful?
If using a digital pattern, are there pieces you can avoid printing because the measurements are given (such as the dimensions for a rectangular skirt piece) or because they are for a view you aren't sewing?
How difficult is it to get the paper pattern?
Do you have a system to store your patterns, paper or digital, that will allow you to easily find the pattern you are looking for?
So how do all of these factors work together? As an example, let's say that Sally Sewist wants to sew the Pink Hollybush Lil'Honey and Honey patterns for her granddaughters. Sally knows that for many this basic knit, pull over the top dress pattern, is a tried and true pattern. Sally plans to sew it for her granddaughters in a size 2 and a size 6 but she suspects that a year from now she will be sewing it again. While there are 30 pages to print out and tape together for the Honey pattern, and 22 for Lil' Honey, the digital pattern includes the dimensions to cut the skirt so there is no need to print out those pieces. The digital pattern also includes photo instructions for each of the smocking stitches which Sally would like to have and isn't included in the paper pattern. While some people may be fortunate to have a shop near to them that carries Pink Hollybush patterns, Sally isn't that fortunate so if she goes the paper pattern route, she needs to order it and wait for it to arrive. If Sally happens to live outside of the United States, that may take quite a bit of time! Sally has a great system for storing patterns on her computer so she is confident that she won't loose a digital pattern, but she hasn't figured out a good way to store the digital pattern pieces once they are printed out. She stores paper patterns quite easily in her sewing room. Sally also prefers the ease of pinning and sewing with a professionally printed paper pattern rather than a digital pattern.
In the end, it may all come down to convenience and timing! Sally has a block of time this weekend to sew and fabric in her stash to sew with. While she would like a paper pattern, it won't make it to her in time for this weekend, so she is going to purchase a digital Lil' Honey pattern. While she will probably only be making one Lil' Honey for her granddaughter because her granddaughter will then be in Honey sizes, Sally figures that Lil' Honey is going to be her standard gift for baby showers going forward. Sally knows new moms often receive tons of clothes that are in the smaller sizes so she is going to print off the size 2 Lil' Honey and make that her "go to" gift size as well. She also knows that she can easily store the size 2 pattern in a zip lock or project bag because the pieces are small so it won't be in the way in the sewing room. Sally is going to order the paper version of Honey even though she will be tracing off the different sizes each time. She only plans on sewing Honey for her granddaughters and it will take a while for the younger granddaughter to need the size that she traced off for her older granddaughter. The paper version will be easier to store.
I hope my example helps. This weekend I will be sewing Vogue 1681 and another muslin of the Clare coat for my daughter. All 90 pieces of the Clare coat that needed to be taped together are scattered around my sewing room making a mess. I gladly would have paid for a paper version if one had been available. On the other hand, this blog post is late because I took an hour to drive to JoAnns and back to purchase the Vogue pattern for this weekend. I would have much preferred to tape it together this evening while watching a show on TV...