While putting together instructions for my next pattern – Lisbeth pants, I ran into a dilemma. When looking at my instruction booklet on the computer or a tablet, it looked great! When I printed it, though, all those fine lines and light-weight font that looked so elegant on-screen were frustratingly thin and almost invisible. I changed the weight of lines and bumped up the font, and when the instructions finally looked good in print, the PDF version on my tablet looked clunky…
My printer could have been an issue. A high-quality laser printer could possibly make the printed instructions look like they were intended to, but I have a reasonably good printer I did not spend a lot of money on that does the job well. I imagine having a high-quality printer is not a priority for most of you either.
While working with pattern designers, I noticed that some do not expect their clients to print the pattern instructions. I figured I could follow the lead and assume that most of you look at the instructions on the electronic device, but it was still bugging me. A week ago or so, I decided to ask this question on my Instagram, and I got so many answers!
Thank you all who answered for your input. I read every single comment multiple times, thinking it over and trying to read between the lines to see if there is anything more I can take away from the information. I appreciate all the detailed answers! I figured you might be interested in seeing what I noticed in the answers, so I decided to write a blog post about it.
The split between those who print instructions and those who don’t was relatively close – 60% of you view the instructions on an electronic device, and 40% print them. I did not expect this breakdown, and I anticipated that only a small portion of you would print the instructions. I am not sure how small I thought it might be, but definitely much smaller than the resulting 40%.
Those of you who view the instructions on an electronic device use their phones, tablets, laptops and computers, especially if the computers are close to the sewing space. Anja @anjasews mentioned an interesting point that is very relatable during the pandemic – her daughter uses her smartphone for homeschooling, so it is not always possible to have the device to view the instructions. I imagine memorizing them could be challenging for most of us!
Speaking of the electronic devices, some of you who print instructions mentioned that the reasons included staying away from those electronic devices, be it taking a break from them or ADHD struggles. I personally relate to the ADHD struggles and try to stay away from my phone when I am concentrating on something. Otherwise, I will inevitably find myself on Bored Panda reading something funny.
Some mentioned that they don’t like the screen continually going to sleep. I relate to this as well, especially if you have a password-protected device. Having to enter the password or continuously scan my finger would throw me out of my sewing flow and trigger my ADHD, and I’ll be back on Bored Panda…
Note-taking was a big theme for those who print the instructions. Quite a few of you take the notes down as you sew, and Heather @shearwater.sewing mentioned that she “translates” the instructions into what makes sense to her. I found it very interesting. As a pattern designer and a freelancer who writes instructions and illustrates them, I notice there is more than one way to say things, and I wonder which way would make sense to most. What makes complete sense to one person may not make any to the other, so “translating” instructions in this way is a great idea, especially for novice sewers.
This also got me thinking about the actual translation of instructions. If I was using a pattern by a designer whose language I don’t speak, I may print the instructions and write the actual translation to the essential steps. Interesting!
Continuing on the theme of note-taking, those of you who usually would look at the instructions on an electronic device would print them when pattern testing. I imagine this is to take any notes and correct errors. A couple of you also mentioned that it is easier to comprehend text on paper and not on screen. It is simply easier to miss a change in seam allowances or an important step when the instructions are not in front of you on paper.
A couple of people brought up that the notes can be taken directly on PDF in electronic format. I admit I’ve done it many times for other projects, but it never occurred to me to do it when sewing! You can add annotations in Adobe Acrobat Reader, and also there are several apps that will allow you to do it as well on your tablet or phone.
Selective printing is also a thing! Quite a few of you only print specific pages – instructions only, or size charts only, or specific steps in the instructions. I think this is a great workaround way when you do want to save some paper! Some of you only print patterns when they are more complicated or include new techniques. I’d say the 60/40 split is not cut and dry and includes a grey area of people who only print instructions sometimes.
Another thing I call creative printing is also popular. Besides printing in double-sided format, if your printer allows it, some print the instructions in booklet format with 2, sometimes even 4, pages on one. That would easily cut the number of printed pages in half and more!
Quick instructions were also brought up a couple of times. I love quick instructions! They are written instructions, usually without illustrations, that only include essential information. They work great for confident sewers or when you’ve made a pattern many times and need just a few little reminders here and there.
Finally, Teresa @desewtropia, mentioned that printed instructions you no longer need could be reused to print instructions or pattern pieces for the next pattern you are sewing. This works especially well when your printer does not have a double-sided printing function. I reuse the clean side of the paper as well. I store the used paper with one clean side next to my printer, and have used it to print pattern pieces, instructions and use it as scrap paper when working. I also give it to Zoe for drawing. This makes me feel better about my use of paper.
So, what do I take from all of this for Anna-Zoe Patterns? This little survey has brought up some useful information and opportunities for further questions, but here are some things I plan to implement in my patterns :
Well, I am back to finding a middle ground where the booklet looks good both when printed and on an electronic device. I increased the line weight on the illustrations and used a thicker font. Sure, it won’t have the thin line look I find extra elegant, but I will get over it.
I will also leave white space around instruction steps, which can be so useful when taking down notes right in the booklet.
I plan to indicate all seam allowances on the pattern pieces. Right now, Anna-Zoe patterns only state the main seam allowances and refer sewers to the instructions for any changes – “Seam allowances are ½” (1.3cm) unless otherwise is indicated”. I will include all seam allowances on each pattern piece.
For example, sometimes a neckline will have a slightly narrower seam allowance, and sometimes hem may be indicated with a notch or not indicated at all. I will make sure the pattern pieces indicate all of these seam and hem allowances so that this information is easily accessible for those of you who do not refer to the instructions.
Charts and Line Drawings
Anna-Zoe patterns include a size chart on one of the pattern pieces for ease of reference, but now I will also include finished garment measurements and fabric requirements charts. The line drawing of the finished garment is usually in the left corner of the first page and is eventually discarded once the pattern is cut out. I will also include it on one of the pattern pieces so that it is easy to remember what the finished garment looks like if you plan on not using the instructions.
I have included these as a separate file in my first pattern, and I wasn’t sure if they were needed. Your answers have confirmed that they are needed! In my next pattern, I will include them as part of the instruction file, and they will be on the very last page(s).
Thank you all so much for your answers! It was really helpful. I enjoyed going through them, reading them, and of course, interacting. I think I will have more questions for you all in the future!