Ask Kat: About Patterns by pdf Download


here’s a question we’re fielding more & more lately, particularly from our international customers. Oh, we’ve been hearing this request for years, but for some reason the appeals of late have seemed more frequent and more imploring, so I thought it might be in my best interest to more fully explain our point of view here. The subject in question is…

Can our handbag patterns be obtained by pdf download?

And if not… why not?

Most of you know that we’ve been delivering our eBook and free patterns by pdf download for years, and since it’s been virtually a problem-free system for us, I understand why folks would wonder why we don’t deliver our full-sized products in like manner.

And the truth is, I’ve given this subject a LOT of thought. I’ve done the research and over time I’ve come to the conclusion that delivering our full-sized patterns by pdf is just not the right decision for us… at least for right now. I realize however that many of you won’t understand our reasoning because the truth is… there are some very distinct advantages for the consumer as well as the seller when utilizing a pdf delivery system.

Here’s FIVE good reasons for selling PDF Patterns:

  1. There’s no shipping involved– No shipping means a time savings for the seller and a cost savings for the consumer. This is an especially big deal for our international customers and probably the number one reason folks are clamoring for this option. Postal fees have risen disproportionately higher for our friends overseas in the past few years and I understand that this would be a big savings for them.
  2. Immediate gratification for the shopper– There’s no waiting for a package to arrive in the mail and there’s no doubt about it, customers like this option, particularly our younger customers.
  3. There’s less expense associated with pdf patterns– There’s no doubt about it. A virtual product is a whole lot less expensive to produce. There’s no color cover, no printed components, no labor involved in packaging the finished pattern, no shipping supplies and no time involved in packing and shipping orders. Theoretically, this savings should trickle down to the customer.
  4. There’s less storage involved for us. Let’s face it, a great deal of our studio space is dedicated to storing finished patterns. I have to have them packed and ready to ship at a moment’s notice. If I get an order for 100+ of a particular pattern from a distributor, I don’t want to have to stop what I’m doing in order to get them ready to ship. So if we started shipping a virtual product, we would theoretically free up a LOT of storage area!
  5. The pdf pattern can also be sold on other downloadable pattern sites-  There are a few sites on the web now that sell pdf patterns (such as Craftsy, PatternPile etc).

Now that’s a pretty great looking list isn’t it? And you know what, if that’s all there was to it, I wouldn’t have to think twice. I’d have those patterns available by download so fast it would make your head spin, but now let’s look at the flipside of the issue.

Here’s TEN compelling reasons that we need to stick with hard-copy patterns.

  1. It takes a whole lot of paper to print each pattern. Due to the fact that not too many people have home printers that can print 11″ X 17″ pattern sheets (or larger), these huge layouts have to be sectioned off so they can be printed on standard 8.5″ X 11″ paper, then recombined (like pieces of a puzzle) into the original 11″X 17″ sheet. This means you could easily be printing 50 pages or more and that’s a WHOLE lot of paper and ink! Which brings up the next negative…
  2. The endless tapingPiecing a pdf pattern together just adds another step to the construction sequence. MANY of these pages have to be very carefully &  accurately recombined and then taped together in such a way that they don’t just fall apart when you start cutting, leaving a LOT of room for error. If the sheets are taped together incorrectly, then there’s no way the project’s going to come out right. Which brings up another negative…
  3. Storing PDF patterns is totally annoying! There’s no pattern envelope and WAY more bulk with all of those taped-together pages to store. And here’s another drawback…
  4. It just looks and feels less “professional“. I take great pride in the total package that eventually gets placed in a customers hands. We carefully choose our cover bag, the color scheme and fonts and we even coordinate the color of our instruction sheet with the cover to create a beautiful overall look. The fact is, I like producing a good-looking product. The thought of someone haphazardly taping sheets together with little or no concern for precision and calling it our product sends shivers up my spine. And you know what? This brings us to the next problem…
  5. MANY customers want no part of a pdf pattern. They either have an aversion to e-patterns because of one of the above reasons, or maybe they have no internet connection (or a slow one). But either way this means that there would always be a certain number of patterns would certainly have to be produced in the more expensive ‘hardcopy’ format. But this would negate much of the savings we were supposed to realize by selling in the pdf format to begin with, right? Simple economics says that it costs WAY more per pattern to get 100 copies printed, that it does to get 1000 printed, so our profit margin on having fewer hard-copy patterns printed will be CONSIDERABLY lower.
  6. It becomes all-to-easy for customers to ‘share’ files or photocopy the pattern. Even customers who otherwise would never think of engaging in this behavior could (and would) be tempted to pass along a pattern this way. Let’s face it, all it takes is the click of a mouse to share it with their entire sewing group.  Hopefully no one would do that, but as much as I fear this could be a problem, it’s pales in comparison to the next issue…
  7. I would lose most if not all of my wholesale and catalog sales. You probably didn’t know this but in a typical year, over 65% of my pattern sales originate from retail stores and catalogs. That’s a HUGE part of my business plan. And here’s the deal… if you know anything about wholesale distribution you know that I sell my products to these stores & catalogs at a reduced rate in exchange for them buying in volume. It’s a win-win proposition for both of us. I can offer access to customers who live nowhere near a store that sells our patterns or the hardware & supplies that go with them. But if the customer’s local store does sell our patterns, they’ll generally come out better buying it locally, since they’ll avoid shipping charges and they’ll be no waiting for the order to arrive in the mail. And you know what? I’m genuinely happy either way! I really value my retail and catalog accounts because they increase my reach, they often teach classes on my patterns, and they support my line by stocking zippers and notions that can be used in my bag patterns as well as those of other pattern designers. Bottomline– If this was a hobby or a creative diversion for us, then pdf would probably be the best fit, but this is my livelihood. It’s a serious business for us. I absolutely need the additional reach that my distributors and retailers provide for me. Now I can hear what some of you are thinking… I know some designers have “solved” this problem by selling their pdf patterns at the same price as their hardcopy patterns in order to avoid undercutting their distribution system, BUT– consider this…
  8.  Eventually the only place you’ll see my patterns is on my website- Think about it… If I start selling my patterns by pdf, at a lower pricepoint than my retailers, most if not all of them will quit stocking my patterns. As a matter of fact, even if I sell them at the same price as the hardcopy (which some designers do), I would face criticism from the customer base for doing so, AND a still significant loss in sales. After all, if a customer can download the pattern they want instantly from our website with no shipping charges or sales tax, why would they drive to a store only to pay MORE ? And what’s just as scary is that this mass exodus might actually have a ripple effect, because without our pattern line….
  9. Stores & catalogs might have less incentive to carry our zippers and notions–  I’ve never been sorry that we expanded our line to include Zippers & Notions. They’re the perfect compliment to our handbag line! But without pattern line to support the sale of our Zippers & Notions, how long will they continue to carry them? And this is a HUGE problem for me because….
  10. I’ve spent years building the relationships I have with stores & catalogs and this would be a HUGE change– Remember… over 65% of my pattern sales originate in these establishments. We travel and display at Quilt Market (at significant expense to us) in order to perpetuate these relationships. That’s how important the distribution channels are to our success! Can I really expect to increase my website sales enough to make up for this massive loss? Not only that… what in the world could I do to offset my potential loss in my “reach”?


So for me, I’m afraid there’s no way around it…

Selling my patterns by pdf would feel like a step backwards… a GIANT step backwards. So for now, and for the foreseeable future, we will not be selling our handbag patterns by pdf download. I know this comes as a disappointment particularly to our international customers so for you in particular, we offer the following ideas for you to consider:

  • We promise to charge only the bare minimum for shipping and handling. I think you’ll find our shipping charges to be among the lowest in our field and we purposely keep them low to encourage international sales. If during the course of checking out on our website you think that the shipping charges are unfairly high (and sometimes they are, even though it would take at least 1000 words to explain why), then please email us and we’ll check on it for you. If at any time we can make the shipping more reasonable in your favor, we’ll do it! We’re really not interested in “feasting” off shipping charges.
  • Consider joining our mailing list or becoming a fan of our FaceBook page because this is where you’ll have the most opportunity to take advantage of periodic discounts and savings coupons. I’m a strong proponent of rewarding our most loyal fans & customers and many times, these discounts cancel out the international shipping charges you incur.  🙂
  • Be proactive and suggest our patterns, zippers and notions to a local retailer in or near your hometown. We give significant shipping discounts to ALL retailers (international or not) for ordering in volume and if they know that you and perhaps others are interested in our product lines, they may be more inclined to add them to their stock and then you’ll save on shipping costs and waiting time!


So… there you have it!

I know this is a really long post, but I also think its probably one of the more important posts I’ve written in some time, so I hope you enjoyed reading it and now I’d like to hear from YOU!

            Did you learn something new today?
Or are there other questions you still might have?

We actually LOVE comments and questions too, so if you’d like to share yours, please feel free to do so the section provided below! And if you enjoyed this post, please feel free to share it via FaceBook or Twitter!


34 Comments So Far, You're Next!

  1. wisconsin dragonfly

    I do not print PFD patterns because the accuracy of the pattern can vary so much. I also think it is more environmentally sound to not have to print so many pages. And lets not forget it is just plain lovely to have the color picture of the item! I am always impatient to get my patterns but even for the small “advantage” of immediately printing the pattern, I will still just enjoy the anticipation of watching the mail for the pattern! (There is never any long wait for the pattern to arrive anyway.)

    • I’ve always found this to be true at least for our free patterns that is. Thanks for your comments and especially your kind words. 🙂

  2. I’ve tried pdf patterns and am not satisfied as to the accuracy of the pattern. With a more intricate pattern, such as yours, I’d be afraid I’d ‘get it wrong’ in the process of printing and taping together of the pieces. I’m very happy to see you will continue to send out paper patterns. Thanks for doing that!

    • You are so right Keyna and I really appreciate you saying so. I just know if we did this that I would be INUNDATED with constant phone calls about problems with the pattern pieces… either that or unhappy customers when the pattern pieces don’t “play” well together. Thanks for your thoughtful comment and have a great day! 🙂

  3. I am a quilt pattern designer, and I sell mine in PDF format. The only reason I haven’t ventured away from this format is because I don’t have the capital to print them to sell hard copies! I guess you could say its a hoby for me, but I am working on making it a real business. I just don’t really know where to start as far as inexpensive printing and packaging supplies. I understand all of your concerns! I love your finished products, and I don’t mind waiting to get them 🙂

    • I hear ya! It’s so tough getting started, but I have some excellent resources if you ever are in need. Send me an email and help anyway I can? 🙂

  4. You brought some valid and good points about paper patterns vs. PDF patterns. I have used both and prefer the paper pattern. It is obvious that you have spent a lot of time mulling it over and have come up with some good arguments for paper patterns. You must not put your head in the sand so to speak as technigology gets better. Please keep revisiting it as time goes on and decide what works best for your business.

    • I agree Sharon- and we’ll be sure to do that. For right now we feel this is the best course for us, but who knows what the future holds, right? 🙂

  5. I prefer paper patterns. Don’t mind waiting at all. You are right about them being more professional. I also love the color pictures of the completed purse.I only have one of your patterns so far but intend to purchase more. I love the quattro so many creative possabilities with that pattern.

  6. I like the point you make re the stores would not be so inclined to carry your patterns if they were offered as pdf’s. I like shopping in my LQS’s, I like being able to help them stay in business! So many of the LQS’s have had to close because they cannot compete with lower costs of merchandise offered online from non brick/mortar webstores. Thanks for letting us know your very valid points on why you do not offer pdf patterns. >^..^< Ani in Wilmington

    • Thanks Ani- I really feel like most people are unaware of the rippling effect that pdf download can have on many businesses, so I thought it was time to present that case. Thanks for taking the time to comment, I appreciate that! 🙂

  7. I only like PDF patterns if they are super simple patterns (a couple of pieces of fabric to cut) I like your patterns the way they are 🙂

  8. Hi Kat,

    Paper patterns are my choice hands down!! I love your patterns, now I need the nerve to try one!! Love your emails. The picks of the nursery are just preciious!! When that little girl grows up she will be so happy her Gram did all that for “HER”. BEAUTIFUL!!

  9. You make many excellent points. I know I would never have “found” you if I hadn’t first bought one of your patterns from a catalogue…….

    • My point exactly and thanks for saying that Nancy! I really do depend on the extra “reach” that retail stores and catalogs provide me with. As much as we like to think everyone uses the internet all the time, they really don’t, and even with the internet, its hard to be “seen” sometimes! 🙂

  10. Thanks for the insight. I had wondered about this but I too prefer the pattern. The paper quality is better than the big name pattern suppliers and it lasts longer. My printer paper is somewhere in between. I have copied your patterns when I know I’ll want more than one (Christmas time!) and they are much easier to trace than to print and tape…and tape….and tape…

  11. I am a beginner sewer and my experience is that PDF patterns are more user friendly for beginners like me. I especially like the PDF patterns that have lots pictures for every step of the process. I am a visual person and sometimes the right picture just makes sense what is confusing in the pattern. I have pieced together printed patterns and have found them to be very accurate. I don’t mind printing 21 pages of instruction with pictures, if at the end, my time and money is rewarded with a polished product. The feeling of accomplishment is beyond words. I also like knowing I won’t misplace the pattern as it will always be in Cloud or iBooks. And if something spills on it or if it develops a hole with much handling, I can always print a fresh copy. It is also easier to take with me to read and reread the instructions. I normally do not buy printed patterns because of my beginner status, but your Quattro bag was exactly what I was looking for. Thank you! Do I wish I had the option to buy it in PDF format? Yes please!

    With that being said, I respect your wise business decisions. God Bless and thank you for your Creativity!

    • Thanks for commenting Sue- and yes I do think beginner patterns are MUCH easier to do in a pdf format. ie: smaller pattern pieces and fewer for sure!

  12. I personally do not like PDF patterns. They aren’t very accurate. As you pointed out very hard to store.
    Keep things as they are, some of us look forward to receiving mail (not Email)…

  13. It was nice of you to do this, but not necessary. I don’t believe you have to defend a business decision to anyone but the stakeholders of the company. The folks who criticize are the same ones who want everything else handed to them – preferably for free. I have purchased your patterns locally and will continue to do so without once thinking “if only I could download this”!

    • Nice of you to say so Linda, but I really wanted a chance to address this question in this format, because there really are some great reasons FOR offering patterns in download, but I feel that many folks are totally unaware of some of the very compelling reasons to NOT do so. I think its for each individual designer (and customer) to decide. Thanks for commenting and especially for your kind words!

  14. Kat — You are so right about PDF patterns. They are truly a mess. I tried printing out a blouse pattern from Burda and it was a disaster. I can’t tell you how many pgs there were — it just went on and on. I ended up using the back side of the printed pgs to print recipes on. Never did the blouse.

  15. I agree. I don’t like the idea of PDF patterns. All of the above mentioned information is good justification for not producing and using PDF patterns.

  16. That was quite interesting & I totally agree with you about supporting our stores

  17. Thanks for the information. Some of your reasons for not selling PDF versions, I was not aware of. I have seen your patterns in catalogs and retail fabric stores and wondered how that worked. Getting ready to start my own home business and absorbing all the info I can from successful business owners. Thanks for the time and energy you put into all of your posts! P.S. I love your patterns! The quality shows.

  18. I’ll chime in with the rest, I think you made an excellent points in your comparison. I much prefer to get something in the post. Double the fun, as I have time to plot and shop for the fabric!

  19. I’ve run a business and totally understand all of your well thought out reasoning. IMO, you’ve made the right decision. We want those stores to stay in business and we want you to stay in business.

    Personally, I am not a taper. It takes too much paper, time, etc. Give me a hard copy I can fit into an attractive envelope anytime. Life is too short to spend it taping. I’d rather be sewing.

    You made the right decision for you and your business, IMO.

  20. I much prefer the paper patterns. I like looking at them, figuring out how I am going to make them and quite honestly, I hate printing things on my printer – don’t know if they are accurate, using huge amounts of ink (that’s a racket right there – ink costs). I like the convenience of have the whole pattern ready to go without having to fiddle around with parts and pieces that have to be taped together.
    Instructions are different, but even then it’s a pain. Where did I put it on the computer, what is it named, how do I store the printed item if I want to make it again (I certainly don’t want to print it again) and on and on.

    • P.S. This discussion also applies to books and newspapers. I much prefer the real thing in my hands than the virtual books – unless I am traveling and don’t want to carry a ton of books or I’m in the theater and it’s too dark to read a real book while we wait for the movie (we get there early enough to get the seats we want).

    • I guess I did leave the part about the ink costs out, and yes that can be prohibitive as well! Thanks for reminding me and for the kind words! 🙂

  21. Well I know now I can’t buy your patterns alas.
    I understand your business viewpoint and the loss of purchases from international customers may be negligible.
    I did look at saving money buy paying for a bundle of them but first I checked out shipping.

    $60 US dollars to ship to Australia. OUCH! No thanks!.
    Good luck with sales closer to home Kat.
    I understand the frustration of pdf files printing, joining pages then having to cut pattern before pinning onto material. However I looked at it as yet another challenge to enjoy.

    • It must have been a huge bundle of patterns that you checked into Suzanne. I just now checked the shipping for 3 patterns to Australia and its estimated to be just under $11, which sad to say is pretty much what it costs me to ship 3 patterns to Australia. I understand if that’s out of your budget range, but please know that its difficult to get the shipping calculators accurate on the high end. We’re always happy to adjust shipping if we can, especially if it’s out of line, just shoot us an email and we’ll do what we can in this regard. It’s always our intention to just cover the actual shipping costs, not to “make money” on shipping. 🙂