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Making PDF sewing patterns using Sketch App

by Amelia Greenhall - 03/12/2019

This is part 1 of a tutorial about making PDF sewing patterns in Sketch. How do you digitize a sewing pattern? This post is for you, if you’re an indie designer or a home sewist who wants to sell or share your patterns, and you have access to a Mac computer. This is a NEW way to make digital sewing patterns, using the program Sketch, instead of Adobe Illustrator or Inkscape.

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Why use Sketch to make digital sewing patterns? Sketch has a lot of advantages compared to those two programs:

(Feel free to skip this section if you don’t care, and just want to learn to digitize your patterns!)

1. Cost. It’s affordable. Sketch costs LOT less than Illustrator. A one time fee of $99 gets you a year of updates, and then you can use it for as long as you like after that. (But you won’t get new improvement versions unless you renew for $69.) Also, you get a 30 day free trial.

If you’re thinking in terms of monthly costs, this means it’s $7.62/month if you use it for 1 year, and less if you use it longer. Compare that to Adobe Illustrator, which is $31.49/month ($378 a year)… or $20.99/mo if you commit to a year ($252/year). Somewhere between 150% to 280% more than Sketch.

With Illustrator, if you stop paying, you can no longer open your files. With Sketch, once your year is up, you can keep using the last version of Sketch you downloaded “forever”. (We’re all gonna die some day though so I feel like calling it forever is a bit much.)

2. Stability. This is just kind the argument for “why you shouldn’t use Inkscape” … Inkscape is tempting because it is a free vector based program, but it will just crash over and over. Also it’s more confusing than even Illustrator, which is saying something. Sketch is stable software and gets updated regularly with both bug fixes and UI/feature improvements.

3. You’ll be fast as lightning. Mostly because of SYMBOLS! And saved colors, styles. And keyboard shortcuts. It’s just way less confusing than Illustrator. Sketch is just a really fast app to work in. Symbols: Let’s say you decide you want the text on your pattern piece label to change font faces and sizes… but you have 10 pattern pieces, and changing the size of the font means you’ll have to resize all of the boxes around those labels too. 10 pieces, with each one needing two clicks to change the font and size, and then two more clicks to resize it. Oh and then you need to recenter the line of text for each. That’s a good five minutes of your time, and what if you forget one? Using symbols, you just change it in one place - 20 seconds - and everywhere else updates. Or you want the style of the grain line marker to change - again, make your updates once and it is fixed on all your pieces. (Illustrator has added some symbols capability, so if you’re already an illustrator pattern maker, you might check them out!)

However, there are a few disadvantages too:

  • IT DOESN’T WORK IN INCHES/CENTIMETERS!! (So you have to do extra work.) Sketch is made for digital designers (starting a few years ago, there has been a mass exodus by people who work on product/design/ux/ui in tech startups from Illustrator to Sketch). However, this is mostly not print design work, so it lacks support for working in real world units… though people do it. So you have to use math to convert to inches or centimeters - their vector system uses 72 pixels per inch. (I would like to make a Sketch plugin to solve this - maybe I can use some code from this older one that doesn’t work.)
  • Fewer tutorials out there for pattern making using Sketch… I think this might even be the first one. But I think it’s easier, faster, and cheaper than illustrator… follow along and explore the wilds with me!

The Tutorials

Unlinked titles have tutorials coming soon

  • Get the software set up
  • Export your pattern as a big PDF
  • Export your pattern as a print-at-home PDF
  • Drafting a simple pattern
  • Making your own pattern label symbol
  • Using symbols for grain lines, cut marks, and other pattern markings
  • Printing your big PDFs online

— Amelia Greenhall