Ed. Note: many of Gwen’s helpful tips and tricks apply to other non-Bootstrap PDF patterns, too!
While Bootstrap does offer a copy shop print option, I will focus entirely on printing at home on standard letter sized paper (8.5” x 11”, specifically, however, but it should apply to A4, too). If anyone outside of the U.S. has tips on printing and using bootstrap patterns on A4 or other papers, please do let us know in the comments! We all love learning new tips and tricks! Also, take a look at Bootstrap’s FAQ videos on printing and assembling their patterns for additional help.
One thing I’ve learned from the variety of PDF sewing patterns I’ve used is that they are not all equal and constructing the pattern isn’t always the same. Lines, layout, so many things can vary. The consistency Bootstrap has in their print-outs is something I’ve come to depend on.
I always print this sheet and verify. Every time. This is like that “measure twice, cut once” lesson we all hear. Rather than print 45 pages, I’d much rather print one, verify that Adobe software has not updated, nor has Microsoft, nor has my printer software. OR, the other one that gets me is when I print something 2 sided or some other revision and forget to make adjustments to how I need it to print. Goodness, there can easily be so many things that can affect our printing, can’t there? So, to ensure I have everything in order, similar to making a toile, I print the last page or sizing sheet and measure.
Now, Bootstrap is a little different: their very LAST page is where the sizing square is located. Once I’ve measured and verified that it matches 10cm x 10cm (I keep a clear ruler around that has both centimeters and inches on it), I check all my other aspects.
Now we may have to enter into the tricky realm of troubleshooting our printing. Keep in mind, I am an engineer. This is the foundation for how I think about everything. It can help anyone solve ANY problem: What do I know? What do I want to know? How do I get there?
To keep things simple let’s look only at the first question and lay out all our assumptions. When I think about troubleshooting (which can even apply to fitting), I have found that identifying my assumptions can help me solve a problem fast. In many cases, our assumptions are never voiced, written, or even identified, which makes it really hard to fix a problem! In a case where you can identify an assumption which is “ill fitting” for the situation, you can often solve your original problem quickly and avoid further work! Here are my printing assumptions:
- Page Sizing & Handling: For my printer, “Actual Size” nearly always works out best. Though, I don’t assume that with all patterns. For Bootstrap, that’s been a pretty safe assumption.
- Orientation: Auto, but typically Portrait.
- Which computer am I using: Home
- Which printer am I using: Home
Beyond that, I usually don’t touch the default settings. However, when I change computers, I do check because things like this can even vary from computer to computer, or printer to printer. So, if you print at the library or at a friend’s house or somewhere different, then be sure to verify settings. For your sanity, I’ve included a screenshot of the settings. Note that you may need to click on “properties” next to the printer name and dig in there if you’re having any further issues.
Now, I’ve also discovered another tip that I find quite exciting. Yes, it excites me that I can make printing PDF patterns even easier! Sometimes, when the “size” tab yields a print out that goes off the page or doesn’t properly print, I’ve found that treating the entire document like a poster which is tiled can get the print out aligned on the page. The neat part about “poster” is that it handles the overlap and the margins. So, if you still have print out trouble, you have a setting or value you can easily adjust more or less according to your printer.
Click on the button that is in the “Page Sizing & Handling” section next to the word “Size” which is called “Poster” and has a cute green icon with 4 squares. (NOTE: it’s best to set the previous settings for the “size” to actual and “portrait” before moving to this, otherwise your poster printing will not work out for the best. I also don’t make any further adjustments to my settings once I set them under “size” and click “Poster.” I leave the tile scale as is and I also leave the overlap as is (0.005 in). However, you may need to play around with these settings before they work properly for your printer and paper sizing. If you can use the defaults or try the ones I’m showing, great! Maybe it’ll be as easy for you as it is for me.). Then, check several pages of the preview to make sure that it looks close to what it should print out like. You can do this by scrolling using the left and right arrows below the preview. If all is well, print, print, print away!
To make my pattern piecing easiest, I choose to use a paper cutter. I used to cut all edges with my paper scissors, but that just resulted in an aching hand. I have discovered that trimming 2 sides with a paper cutter saves me a huge amount of time.
Often, I tend to cut all my pages as follows: 1) Cut right side, 2) Cut top side. Whatever order you choose to cut in, be as consistent as possible. If you cut the left side and the top, then always cut left side and top until you can easily visualize which ones to cut.
I’m consistent about that, even for the edge sheets, so that I can cut them all at once, not think too hard about it and get on to the good stuff – the cutting fabric and sewing bits. As much as I love and have found Zen when taping together PDF patterns, I don’t like to spend forever on it either.
Even when I don’t have a paper cutter, I follow this method. When I am reliant upon scissors, I am more judicious about which pages I choose to cut the edges on so I can save my hands from overwork. Let’s use the image above for an example and let’s assume I will cut left and top side of every page except the very top of the grid. That means I would not cut the top edges off of 1/1, 2/1, 3/1, 4/1, through 6/1. As Bootstrap prints in columns, not rows, I don’t need to cut the beginnings of rows, either. This means, for my 6 column x 4 row grid, I would skip/not cut the left edge from 1/1 through 1/4. Finally, keep a look out for blank pages. In this example, pages 4/4, 5/4, and 6/4 are blank. If I catch that early enough I will not print them. If I forget, I will simply omit them from both cutting and taping. But sometimes, it’s just faster to cut every page on the paper cutter and then omit later and use as scratch paper.
When I begin taping, I make sure to keep the Bootstrap taping layout (the first page in every pattern) close at hand along with scissors, tape (in a weighted dispenser), and a paper bag to dump the scraps in for easy recycling.
As you can see from my photo below, my sheets already have the left and top edges cut off:
Sometimes, when I work with PDF, it makes sense to align with the curves of the pattern. You look at where the curve is heading and you line up your piece with the curve and sometimes the result is better than lining up edges. What I’ve found with Bootstrap is it’s best to align with the edges or black lines on the edges.
The best and easiest method for taping Bootstrap is to match those little dashes up just darn near perfect. When you lay them one atop the other, by golly everything on that pattern lines up, too! Be sure to align the top and bottom lines if you notice that the pattern isn’t quite working like you’d expect. Here are a few photos to illustrate what I mean:
1) Line up the top edge.
2) Line up the bottom edge.
3) Line up the little dashes side by side.
4) Slide the paper so the dashes lay exactly atop one another.
5) Observe pattern pieces. Do they line up? (“Practically perfect in every way!” – Mary Poppins)
6) Repeat with all sheets in that row. I could shift and do rows or columns, but I find it is easier to follow the taping order by going through all the 1/X pages then the 2/X, etc.
7) Align column 1 with column 2. Or, if your pattern layout is based on columns, then row 1 to row 2. NOTE: Because I’m often working in a space that is small, typically I will work one sheet at a time. If I can cut an entire pattern piece out before taping the next row AND assuming it won’t affect any other pieces, I will cut before I tape all the columns together.
8) Now cut out your pieces and be sure to leave the seam allowances on if you purchased them. Or, if you didn’t and you want to add seam allowance, check to see if there is room to draw them on quickly before you cut out the pieces. If not, usually I will transfer the piece onto a new sheet of butcher paper, then add seam allowances.
The photos above are showing Bootstrap’s freebie sleeves. These sleeves are free add-ons to any pattern. Both Kelly Hogaboom and I have expressed interest to the Bootstrap team about small add-ons to patterns as it would be nice to have a different sleeve to freshen up a pattern look. Sleeves were was one of the things they so kindly offered (maybe not just because of our request, but the sleeves did come out after we asked for them!). I was thrilled when I saw how many they offer! However, be forewarned. There are no guidelines on how to properly measure armscyes and a couple other measurements. So, you will want to measure the pattern you’re working with before ordering.
That’s it for Part 2 of our Demystifying Bootstrap series! If you have any of your own tips and tricks, please share in the comments! We’d all love to learn. Stay tuned for the next in our series with more on Fabric & Pattern Layout and Construction. Thanks for reading!