Digital Patterns

Every once in a while I have to be reminded that machines aren’t always precision perfect. I get used to getting what I expect with a click of a button and forget that on the other side is just a machine built with nuts and bolts. And what better than a printer to remind me of that!

I bought my first digital pattern. Received it via email immediately and downloaded onto my computer. Followed the instructions on printing only the 1st page, measuring the test square and making sure it was as indicated. No problem! So I proceeded to print the remaining 28 pages thinking “yay I have my pattern! So easy!”

As I assembled the pattern I realized that some of the images were ever so slightly different in size. Only a millimeter or less, which I could work around for 1 or 2 pages. But when I got about halfway assembling the pattern those millimeters added up to a mess I didn’t really want to deal with. Surely, I thought, there was something wrong with the pattern but I had to try everything to make sure before I started thinking about giving up on digital patterns.
So I opened up the pdf pattern again in Adobe Reader. This time viewing each page side by side to make sure the images lined up. And they all did. So why wasn’t it printing that way?

It turns out a home printer doesn’t print all pages exactly the same. It doesn’t pick up the page in the letter tray the same, it doesn’t pass the page through at the exact same speed or position, and it doesn’t print 2 pages exactly the same. The difference is so small that we just don’t notice it until we have to line up the images perfectly.
I admit I was disappointed because now I thought I would have to carefully redraw in between the lines to make up for those errors but I got a way around it by reprinting the offending pages until they all matched better.

So my suggestions if you’re buying a digital pattern:
– If you can print using a commercial printer, skip the one at home. Commercial/industrial printers do a much better job as they are meant for handling a bigger load of prints.
– if you are printing at home, print one page at a time and check whether the image aligns before printing the next page.

Would I buy digital again? Probably, if there is a good deal, or if I see myself using the patterns multiple times. I like that I can make lots of modifications to it without being worried of the outcome as I can always print it again.

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