This is a photo diary of my costuming "travels"; where I've learned and struggled to make historical costumes for myself. They're not always pretty, but always fun. most of the time. And I want to share with others what I learn along the way. **You can find me on Facebook, or have my posts delivered to your email by signing up at the lower part of the right column.**

About Me

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HI, my name is Val. I'm a member of Costumer's Guild West in Los Angeles, Dean Emeritus of 2018 Costume College; member & Past President of the San Diego Costume Guild, member of Orange County Costume Guild, a representative of the San Diego History Center, & an honorary member of SITU (Someplace in Time, Unlimited) in Seattle. I make my own historical costumes but don't sell any unless I get tired of one.The eras I've made so far are 1770 up to 1918. My favorite is the 1880s bustle.


Friday, May 20, 2016


I’m sure any historical costumer, or maybe any pattern buyer, has noticed the recent trend of digital patterns. You purchase the digital pattern online, it’s emailed to you, and you print it out on maybe 20-40 sheets of paper, depending on the size pattern. An average full sheet of pattern uses 35 sheets. So if it's a full dress, it may take 2 sheets. So plan for enough paper to print it. The fun part is taping them all together. It’s a bit tedious and time consuming BUT you get the pattern instantly, and it’s usually less expensive than the printed paper one. That’s especially good for buyers in other countries where it costs an arm and a leg to ship, or even shipping costs in the US, thank you US Postal Service.

**ADDED INFO FROM The Fashion Archeologist: "You know, I keep forgetting to mention that people can take these wide-format PDF scans on a jump stick (aka memory stick/thumb drive) to a local print shop and have them run off one copy. You would just need to be sure the print shop has a 36" wide format printer. The cost per sheet varies but most cities of a reasonable size have at least one print shop that can do this work."
***UPDATE ADDED 10-7-18--- At Staples, when having a pattern printed, ask for engineering print.
**UPDATE ADDED  2-1-19-- A friend of mine told me you can now have patterns printed for you from Pattern Printing Company.  "Emailed Dale for a quote which was $2.35 to print the sheets and $2.95 for shipping.  I didn't have him print out the instructions which I think I can do from my printer."

**PATTERN CORRECTION FROM The Fashion Archeologist: "the piece for the decorative front bow was inadvertently marked "Cut Two" on the pattern itself, although the sewing instructions do refer to a single piece."

I had purchased one from  WEARING HISTORY   in the past but just haven’t had a need to make it yet so its sitting in my computer, waiting. But after recently coming across two 1912 patterns by a fairly new pattern company, Edwardian Rose, selling as the Fashion Archeologist, I decided to give it a shot. It’s a small company, and financially she can’t carry much stock of her printed patterns. So trying one of her digital patterns sounded interesting. The 1912 Afternoon Dress doesn’t look to have too many confusing parts for a beginner either. She even shows completed dresses made with her patterns.
FROM BOTH PATTERN COMPANIES: Make sure you read the READ ME FIRST file before you print the pattern to make sure you have the settings right before you print.

When you print the pages out, you need to check the box on your printer page that says CUT MARKS. This will make little crosses on the sheets that you will line up when you put it all together.  I didn’t have to make any other changes to my printer instructions other than click on POSTER size.
The written directions that come with the pattern are very clear but once I printed out the first set of pages that make up the first sheet, they looked intimidating. This pattern has two sheets. There didn’t seem any rhyme or reason to them. But once I started laying them out as directed, I began to see the light. All around the outside of the pattern, the outside pages are numbered. And even if it confuses you a bit, as long as you do the layout as directed, it works. I kept my stack of pages clipped together so I didn’t get them mixed up, because the middle ones aren’t numbered.
My friend Sally had asked if each page was numbered, and they’re not, only the outside ones. However, YOU can number them yourself if you prefer. I would keep them in the stack as it was printed and just go to each page and make a tiny number on it yourself. This way if your stack gets messed up you can get them back together properly. OR you could lay them out and then put a number on them. Just depends on how brave you are.
It’s suggested you lay it all out in the order they were printed on a wooden floor or flat surface and then tape them together. The Fashion Archeologist directions suggests using Scotch Removable tape at this point so you can lift and move them if necessary. I laid mine out on a cutting board on my bed and after laying a couple rows down, saw I was doing it right, then decided I’d just work on two rows at a time because it was going to be pretty big. I tried lining up the little crosses on the pattern corners but couldn’t see through my printer paper very well. Fashion Archeologist suggests thin paper that you can see the crosses through but I used my regular printer paper. I just tacked the center of each page down onto the next sheet, got one row done, did the next, then tried to line it up with the first row. It was a bit catty-wompus, so I had to peel back the tape on a few to realign them. It still wasn’t working because I don’t think I was lining them up very well.

So here’s my first tip: On the edge that will overlap the next sheet, trim that edge off. Don’t do both edges because then you have nothing to tape over. And this way you can see them line up exactly. You’ll also see the pattern lines matching up too.
2nd tip: When you trim off those edges, draw a line down the side using a ruler from the cross at one end down to the other. Don’t try and just eye-ball it and cut it off. Use a ruler to get a straight edge. DON’T CUT OFF THE EDGES ALL THE WAY AROUND EACH SHEET.  *read that line again* You only want the top and one side to be trimmed.  See the red arrows?

I just came across a review page from 2014 that was showing how to print digital patterns, and although it's really outdated, it had one good suggestion. Instead of drawing the cutting lines on each sheet, then cutting, it suggested using a paper cutter. That would go MUCH quicker. 

So here is how I did this, and once I had all this figured out, it went pretty quickly.
I laid down the first row, only trimming the right side of each page that would overlap the next sheet. I only tacked the center of each page in an area without any lettering in case I had to peel it off again. Line the edges up like I show with the red arrow until the crosses match and the pattern lines look like they’re running into each other.

Then I laid out the next row, and used my ruler and pen and traced the lines along the top and right side of each page that will overlap, trimmed them, and then tacked them down to each sheet.
I lined up that row to the first row along its bottom, and starting with the center page, tacked it and then gently moved it around until it lined up the full length. Once I was satisfied, I tacked them to each other.  On to the next row, and so on and so on.
In the end, it looked like this. 
I put a small piece of tape diagonally across each dissecting corner of the four pages, and along the outside edges. I wouldn’t waste a lot of tape by putting it along the entire seam line. In the end, hopefully you might just trace out your size and cut that. Or it you are going to cut this pattern, then just tape the parts of the pattern that would remain after you cut the pieces out.
**Today while cutting my pattern out so I can cut out a muslin, I remembered I hadn't mentioned to take note of a couple patterns that say ADD " for seam allowance, or the hem. I just cut it lining up with the top of the arrows for now.**

**Here’s a great suggestion from Fashion Archeologist- “What I like about the idea of PDFs is that you can always print out another copy, so you can thrash your initial one, write on it, chop it up, make changes, then start fresh with another printout (even to use a different size) any time you like!**
Tomorrow when I have more light, I’ll be putting together page 2 the same way. Per the pattern, this takes 40 sheets of paper, which I was told isn’t really a lot of paper, and it doesn’t use a lot of ink since it’s just printing the lines you’ll be cutting.  I thought I made my first mistake this morning when I saw just my one sheet took 40 pages, and when I looked at her screen print of the printer, it said it was 42.5” x 55”.  Mine was 42.5” x 88”. I had missed that tiny print on it. But after a panicked message to her, she calmed me down saying that sample was from another pattern, and mine showed Full size 100% printout. Whew! Thought I’d have to do that all over again.

This is where you can buy her patterns.

MORE UPDATES:  As I test putting together other digital patterns from different pattern companies, I'm going to add them to this blog post. 

Testing an easy one from WEARING HISTORY , her Edwardian Bust Improvers. Since I was just finishing up the other pattern, I didn't want to go too involved in a second one at this time, so I tried one of her's that I had. I also have the 1910-1916 suit pattern but that's for another day. 

Lauren's set-up is really similar to Edwardian Rose's so that was easy but she said her's cannot be put onto a thumb drive to print out at the printers, since her's are not wide format. But they still print out on regular size home computer paper. She said different companies may use different formats too so I need to look into that. 

These pages have the lines marked on them already for you to trim off some edges to do the overlap, so that makes it quicker, AND each page has a number dead center on it. So there you go for those of you who need that. 

I've started a project now to try and test some other companies, but since I have to purchase them, I'm probably going to keep them to the specific time periods that I wear. 


  1. I like the instant gratification you get when downloading. When I get the bug, I want to make it NOW, not a week or more later when I get the pattern. Excited to see how this works out.

  2. Brilliant information, thanks kindly :)

    1. Kura, I just added this info from her on the digitals.
      "You know, I keep forgetting to mention that people can take these wide-format PDF scans on a jump stick (aka memory stick/thumb drive) to a local print shop and have them run off one copy. You would just need to be sure the print shop has a 36" wide format printer. The cost per sheet varies, but most cities and towns of a reasonable size have at least one print shop that can do this work."


I would love to hear if this was any help to you. Pretty please!