Are you an analogue or a digital kind of a sewer? How will you decide between the convenience of a downloadable pdf pattern or the solidity of a paper pattern?
The benefits of digital patterns are obvious – you can purchase a pattern and receive it almost immediately. You don’t have to pay for or wait for postage, you can print the pattern from home and start making straight away, and you can print it again and again and again, in different sizes, you can make sizing alterations without tracing, and you can keep it safely on your computer.
But how much do you really enjoy taping multiple sheets of A4 together? Unless you have a home plotter or are willing to take your pattern to the local print shop (which negates the immediacy of the digital pattern, as well as the cost saving of not having to pay for postage), printing, trimming and taping sheet after sheet of A4 is what you will be doing. As a crafty type you might well enjoy this, or you might find it frustrating when you just want to get to the good bits.
Paper patterns are real things. They are solid, actual things – things that you have bought and can hold, touch and feel, unlike the ‘virtual’ pdf. You can admire them, display them, stroke them, even rub them against your cheek and sniff them if the urge takes you (I haven’t met anybody yet who doesn’t love that new-book smell).
This means that unless you buy your pattern in a proper, bricks-and-mortar shop, there is delayed gratification with paper patterns. You choose your pattern, order it, pay extra for postage and wait patiently for you lovely postman to pop it through your door.
Unless you only intend to use your paper pattern once, you will probably choose to trace it before starting the making, which you might find as frustrating as taping together a digital print out. Or, being a crafty type, you might enjoy it as part of the process. Personally I find I’m physically unable to cut a paper pattern. Not only does it feel incredibly wasteful, but I love doing the tracing. It’s a chance for me to study the pattern, make size changes or alterations, and to understand how the pieces go together. It’s a bit like taking a deep breath before unleashing the scissors.
Storing paper patterns is as easy as popping them in a box. Or if you have many, several boxes, most likely labelled, and maybe even protected in acid-free archive envelopes. You can photograph and catalogue them with pattern details, suggest suitable fabrics from your stash (which may also be catalogued) and the pattern location if you have several boxes, all of which can be kept in a handy database on your laptop or phone. (Or maybe that’s just me.)
You can browse paper patterns, re-discover ones you’d forgotten, inherit vintage patterns from relatives (how many of your current patterns will be the next generation’s ‘vintage’?), and just SEE them.
Digital patterns take much less physical room. You can keep them in your hard drive, on an USB drive or in the Cloud. (I would opt for cloud storage personally – I’ve had too many hard drives die, lost and damaged USB drives. And there are patterns that I know I’ve bought and sewn previously and would quite like to make again, but I have no idea where I saved them to. It’s probably best to keep them all in the same place so you don’t misplace them like I seem to do.) This is all much neater, but you can’t browse digital patterns in quite the same way.
I buy and use both – but I am an analogue girl at heart, and I do love my paper patterns.