A4 tiled or A0 copyshop? Working with PDF patterns, and a review of Netprinter

OK, first of all, in manner of a modern-day Miss Marple I have solved the mystery of the missing upper collar piece from my Deneuve coat. This weekend I discovered it nestling between two books on a sewing room shelf lower down than where I keep my in-progress makes. And when I say “lower down”, that is a super-sleuth knowing euphemism for “toddler height”…

The mystery of the lost collar piece is solved. And gives me an excuse to show you one last photo of THAT COAT (and my flower umbrella, which henceforth I want on all my photoshoots).

Right, onto the order of the day: PDF patterns! As many of you will know, we create our patterns in two formats: the A4 tiled format that you assemble yourself, and single-page files (typically A0) that can be printed in large format at a copy shop. So today I’m going to talk about the benefits of each, and about my experience of ordering A0 printouts from Netprinter, a printing company based in Plymouth, UK.

When we started up as a PDF pattern company, there were a few “must-haves” that I discussed with Rich. Firstly, as little paper wastage as possible. Secondly, a user-friendly design. Thirdly, the option of A0/ copyshop format, for those customers who might prefer traditional “paper” patterns. Rich exceeded what I had asked for: he puts his long-abandoned Tetris skills to good use playing around with the pattern pieces to make sure they fit together as neatly as possible on the page, and uses a distinct colour and outline for each size. Then he adds in the little triangles on each inner edge to help line up the pattern pages, and puts a pale grey number in the centre of each sheet. A sample sticking layout looks like this:

Dune tank top tiled PDF layout

And here are my top recommendations for sticking together A4 tiled PDFs:

  1. Stick your pattern pages together on a table, so that you’re not crouching over on the floor.
  2. Use a guillotine/ paper cutter to trim edges. You can purchase them from most office supplies or stationery stores, and they are way quicker than scissors. I use a small one from good old WHSmith, and I typically cut 4 pages at a time.
  3. Cut only 2 edges of each piece. I always cut the right hand long side and the bottom short side. This makes the pages all the same size, and easy to line up.
  4. Use a tape dispenser! You wouldn’t believe how long I used to spend cutting small pieces of tape with my special tape scissors (not that the scissors themselves are anything special, I just mean they were blunted from cutting tape so they became designated tape scissors!) My tape dispenser has revolutionised my PDF-sticking. I know some people use glue sticks: I’ve never tried this (I can’t help but think of all the craftwork my daughter brings home from school and how the glued-on bits invariably come unstuck!), but feel free to argue the case in the comments below!!

But what about the people who don’t like sticking together a tiled PDF? Well, this is where the online copyshops come in! My impression from some Instagram comments is that in other countries there are more bricks-and-mortar copyshops than we are used to here in the UK – my sole local copyshop charges something exorbitant for an A0 sheet.  Enter Netprinter, who are becoming more and more known in the sewing community. Before recommending them I wanted to try out their service, and the things I was particularly interested in were the following:

  1. Cost per A0 sheet
  2. Cost of P&P
  3. Whether files larger than A0 could be printed (since we have 2 maxi length patterns whose pattern pieces are larger than a standard A0 sheet)
  4. Quality of service.

I had a chat with the manager, Simon, over on Instagram, and he gave me an email address to write and discuss my order (the email contact details are also available on their website). I sent over all the details: most of our files are standard A0, though the Dune maxi dress is A0 portrait width but longer, and the Edie cardigan is A0 landscape but longer. I’ll come back to these two in a moment.

Simple upload page to place your order

I was offered a choice of standard 80gsm paper at 75p per A0 sheet, or the 60gsm weight that Netprinter have sourced especially for the sewing community, at £1.50 per sheet. I thought it would be good to have a comparison, so I ordered each file in both weights of paper.

The 60gsm paper is the one automatically offered under the new “Sewing pattern printing” section of the website; the 80gsm paper is available via the “Plan printing” section. I can see why the 60gsm paper has been sourced for sewists, as it is more lightweight and so it is easier to pin to fabric if you’re cutting straight into your pattern sheet rather than tracing off your size. However, my personal preference was for the 80gsm paper, as I like to have the full sheet to keep intact, and I find the standard letter paper weight to be more durable in this respect. But  I think it’s great to have the option, so big thumbs up there.

I didn’t try the colour printing service as I’m happy with black and white. However, you can have your A0 file printed in colour on 60gsm weight paper for £4 per sheet. The quality of the black and white printing was great (don’t be fooled by my pics – the lines don’t show up very well in all of them, but that was down to the lighting and taking photos of large sheets of paper from afar!), and I was really impressed by how accurately and meticulously all my printouts had been folded – they will be simple to store, and to re-fold after use.

My completed order, neatly folded and packed in an A4-sized box#

My order was dealt with on the day I placed it (even though I placed the order in the afternoon) and I received it the following day via DPD (signed-for delivery with a one-hour timeslot). Netprinter’s delivery charges are £3.00 for up to 14 patterns (if you want guaranteed next day delivery there is a higher charge of £8.50 for up to 15 patterns, and the charges for shipping to Europe are set at £15, though this is for up to 100 patterns so if you had a mega order or were putting in an order with a group of sewing friends, it would work out very reasonably).

If you are having files larger than A0 printed, be sure to check that they are A0 PORTRAIT width, whatever the length. This is the case for the Dune maxi file, and it means it can just be printed on a longer roll of paper. I was charged £2.50 on 60gsm paper and £1.60 on 80gsm paper for these printouts. For Edie, the single file is A0 landscape, which is not a size of printout that’s offered by Netprinter, so we used our alternative Edie copy shop files (where the pattern is split into two A0 sheets). This was very simple and just means that you stick two A0 sheets together to create your master sheet.

I may not have gone for colour printing, but I compensate with explosions of colour on the finished garment!

So would I recommend Netprinter? Yes, definitely. They offer a professional service, and they clearly work hard to ensure that they deal with orders quickly. In particular, if you are just dealing with standard sized files that you can upload to the system, it’s about as speedy as you can get. And so in this age of instant gratification, Netprinter makes a valuable contribution to the sewing community by delivering printouts of PDF patterns to your door the very next day – possibly before you’d have had time to cut and stick together your A4 tiled PDF. Given the flat-rate postage fee, though, it’s worth waiting until you have several patterns to print off in one go – that would certainly be how to make the most of your order. I highly recommend Netprinter to all our A0-loving customers and sewing friends in the UK, and recommend that those further afield seek out a similar service, as if you want one single large pattern sheet then the A0 option is definitely worth considering!

What about you, sewing friends? Any thoughts on PDF vs paper patterns, or on A4 tiled vs A0 pattern sheets? Or perhaps you have sticking tips for A4 tiled patterns that you’d like to share?

Till next time, happy sewing/ sticking/ cutting!

15 thoughts on “A4 tiled or A0 copyshop? Working with PDF patterns, and a review of Netprinter

  1. Nateida

    Great blog post . Yes, over here in the US we do have a lot of brick and mortar options. I actually order online a place in the US (pdfplotting.com) because I found they were still less expensive than a couple of local places. Plus, now Pattern Review offers copy shop printing if you buy the pattern through them (if it’s a pdf only pattern).

    1. valentineandstitch Post author

      Thanks Nateida! That’s really interesting to know about online options still being cheaper for you despite having more bricks and mortar options where you are. It’s also really good to know about Pattern Review offering that option – it’s a really good compromise I think!

  2. PsychicSewerKathleen

    I’m not the most PDF friendly person I admit. I’ve done both – at home and through a local copy shop here in Victoria BC Canada. I’ve had more LUCK with doing it myself although I prefer it to be printed by someone else on large sheets and cut it out. That said – it’s incredibly expensive here. Some have charged me as much as $18 to print an ordinary dress pattern with instructions. Most of the time it’s been $12. If the pattern co. offers it in printed I go for it BUT some printed patterns through indie designers have cost me over $40 so it would have been less to do it myself – but then again what is my time worth? A lot to me 🙂 Pattern designers who offer PDF only are up against a tide of resistance – unless the pattern is very unique and very desirable it would be the very last choice due to the cost and time I have to put into getting it to the point I can work with it.

    1. Valentine & Stitch

      Hi Kathleen! I agree that time is worth a lot 🙂 I’m surprised by the prices you’ve been charged, and wonder whether there’s a more economical printing company operating in Canada? If ever I hear of one I’ll be sure to note it down! I understand your hesitations about PDF. We are just starting out and don’t currently have the resources to offer paper patterns, so digital versions are a great way to start out but I know they’re not favoured by a lot of people. I am hoping that one day we’ll be in a position to offer paper patterns, but I suspect it’ll be quite a way off. No harm in having long-term goals though, right?!

  3. Kelly

    Thanks for such an informative post Helen! We have several printing shops here in the US but I have yet to try their services. It does sound like an interesting option and based on your experience with Netprinter it is something to consider in the future. Thanks for your tips as well! I’ve been considering using my guillotine and now that you’ve mentioned it I think I’ll give it a go. 🙂

    1. Valentine & Stitch

      Thanks Kelly! I’ve been meaning to try A0 printing for ages, and I like the ease of just having a master pattern sheet like you would when buying a printed pattern. That said, I don’t mind cutting and sticking the tiled PDF files and I do like the instant availability of them! But yes, try your guillotine – it has taken so much of the time-consuming part out of pattern assembly for me. Rich bought mine as a gift – might not sound romantic but it was a perfect choice!

      1. Kelly

        Sounds like an awesome gift! I love getting sewing gifts from the hubs! 🙂 You are so right about the guillotine! I used mine last night and it saved me so much time! 🙂 I agree with the instant availability of the tiled PDF files. Especially if I want to make the same pattern in a different size or do a pattern hack. I don’t feel as nervous about messing up because I can just reprint the specific page I need. One of these days I’ll give A0 printing a try just to see what it’s all about. I’ll let you know how it goes if I do!

        1. Valentine & Stitch

          Yay for the guillotine!! My guilty secret is that pre-guillotine instead of cutting with scissors, which triggers an old RSI for me, I used to just fold along the cut lines! It made the pattern pieces bulky so it wasn’t great when working with lightweight fabrics, and the pieces were not easy to fold and store! Can’t believe I never thought of a guillotine – I opened it and was like “er, what’s this for?” 😂 But now I have seen the light!! Glad yours saved you some time, and yes, let me know what you think when/if you go for the A0 option!

          1. Kelly

            Oh no! I’m sorry to hear that Helen, that must have been such a pain and time consuming! Luckily Rich knew what to do! 🙂 Smart man you have there!

          2. Valentine & Stitch

            I didn’t really think about it beyond “this is how I do it” – sometimes it takes someone else to notice the obvious doesn’t it!! The guillotine has revolutionised things (if I’m allowed to say such a thing given my French background 😂)

          3. Kelly

            Oh my goodness! That’s too funny – I will let it slide! 😉 (No pun intended lol) And yes! Sometimes an outside perspective is so helpful. 🙂

  4. Diane G

    This is great to know Helen. Thanks for all the detailed information. Having only ever made 3 PDF’s in my life it’s not a familiar process to me anyway, but I’m relieved to find out that I wouldn’t need to do loads of trimming and sticking for when I next make a PDF up. Big thumbs up from me.

    1. Valentine & Stitch

      Thanks Diane, I’m really glad you found it useful. I tend to see the trimming and sticking as being in place of tracing (which I usually do with my printed patterns), but I do also like having my nice sturdy A0 master copies now, so I’m going to champion both camps!!!

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