Scaling up a Pattern to Life-Size (using your home printer!)

Scaling up a Pattern to Life-Size (using your home printer!)

The video version of this post is here.

I have enlarged small-scale patterns from books many different ways, the method often depending on both the specific pattern and what resources I have available to me at the time. I’ve hand drawn a pattern on large sheets of paper, I’ve used projectors to scale things up so I can trace them, and today I’ll show you how to print a pattern on a standard printer.

Patterns of Fashion 5, published by The School of Historical Dress.

There are lots of awesome pattern books out there that contain small-scaled drawings of pattern pieces, and this is especially common in books about historical clothing, since the pattern is often taken from a specific extant historical garment.  Because they are from a particular clothing item, they are not like modern sewing patterns, where you have a little packet containing size 6 through to size 14: they usually only have that one particular person’s size, and unless you happen to be the exact same measurements as that random woman from 400 years ago, the garment is almost certainly not going to fit you. 

But, all that said, having the pattern enlarged to life size, (even if it’s not quite YOUR size) is still very handy and is a great starting point to making a mockup and working towards a pattern that does fit you well. 

If you don’t have easy access to a printer, then you should definitely check out Bernadette Banner’s video on manually drawing out the enlarged pattern on a big piece of paper.

But, if you do have a printer, and a camera and a computer with Windows 10 Paint, then let’s continue!

Start off by laying the page with the pattern you want flat, you don’t want any bubbles or curve since that will distort the image.  Similarly, you need to take the picture from as flat of an angle as possible.  A scanner would be even better for this but I don’t have one, so a cellphone picture will have to do!  Don’t take the picture from side angle like this, that will also distort the image.  You want the camera nice and flat like the book!

If looking through the view finder on your camera, you want the grid marks around the edge of the image to match up with the straight edges of the screen.  When I tilt the camera down at an angle, the vertical lines have started tilting, and the pattern looks a bit different, which is no good!  So line up the grid edges as best as you can! 

Get your new picture onto your computer in whatever your preferred method might be.  Now that you have it saved in a folder somewhere, I would recommend opening it in a photo editing program.  I am using PicMonkey.com because it is free, but if you have photoshop or something similar, feel free to use whatever you are comfortable with. 

The main goal is just to neaten up the picture a bit.  First I’ll crop it down to remove some of the dead space outside of the actual pattern. 

Next, I will go ahead and reduce the saturation down because I do not have a color printer, and seeing the image on my screen as a black and white picture will give me a better sense of how the pattern will look once printed. 

The background is looking little grey, so I’ll adjust the brightness to make the white background as light as possible.  Be careful about going too light though, you don’t want to completely erase the grid in the background.  We’ll need that to count out how many inches wide and tall our images is, and use that to print it correctly.  Looks like this one is about 32.5 inches wide and 21 inches tall. 

Save your new masterpiece! 

Now we have the initial image straight from the camera, and the new altered version.  If you want, you can skip the photo editing steps and use the image straight from the camera, but this way you use a bit less paper and printer ink.  Anyways, take whichever image you like and open it in Microsoft Paint. 

Under ‘File’ and then ‘Properties’, there’s a little window that shows you how big your image currently is in inches.  We already know from the background grid that the image needs to be 32.5 by 21 inches, and we are pretty close here, but not quite perfect. 

Because I am very lazy and terrible at math, let’s toss those numbers into a percentage calculator to see how much smaller the image needs to be….8.6 percent! 

Back in the Paint program, if you select ‘Resize’, you’ll get the option to make your image bigger or smaller, unfortunately it will not let me reduce by 91.4 percent, so I’ll just round up to 92 percent.  I know that the pattern will be too small for me as it is, so erring on the larger side won’t hurt. 

Now if we recheck the image in “Properties”, it is now sized at 31.75 by 21.71, which I am going to go ahead and declare ‘close enough’! 

To print this, I am going to go to ‘Print’ under ‘File’.  I don’t see an option to specify scaling here, so I’ll see if it’s available under preferences….

Under the ‘Advanced’ tab, I see that scaling is currently off, which would actually work fine, but the thing you really want to avoid is any option that says ‘Fit to Paper’, or ‘Shrink to Printable Area’ or ‘Scale to Fit’ or anything like that.  We just went through the trouble of making the pattern the right size, don’t let your printer try to shrink it down to fit on a single piece of paper! 

God damn it. 

Ok, let’s see if ‘Page Setup’ has more scaling options for us…..

Yep, another damned scaling option.  I don’t want it to fit on 1 by 1 pages, I want the image to be at 100% of its proper size!  Ok, let’s try again… 

Yeah, that’s what I wanted to see!  Excellent!  Double check your printed grid against a ruler and as I already knew, mine is just a smidge bigger than true, but that will only work in my favor in this case.  

Sort out the various pages and tape them together, folding back or cutting off the excess paper at the edges and verifying that the edges are fitting together perfectly by measuring the grid marks where each page meets another.  Add some tape to the back as well for extra security and stabilization. 

You are now free to cut out your newly resized pattern!  You could add your seam-allowance now, before cutting the edges out, if that’s your preference. Whether you add it now or later doesn’t matter, just make sure you don’t forget about it. 

I hope that was useful to you!  I do apologize if the way I showed doesn’t work for you, I really don’t have a way to guarantee that it will work with every potential combination of printers, cameras, different versions of software, and let’s not even touch operating systems!  Also, I bet you a shiny button that there’s a more efficient, clean, and precise way to enlarge a pattern, but I really wanted to try to stick with free software that a large chunk of people have access to…  I hope some of you out there appreciate that! 

I hope you have a lovely evening, and have fun printing all the patterns! 

I try to post my projects in an easy to read, dress diary type format. When I first started learning to sew historical outfits, I found dress diaries to be the most helpful learning tools. I want to contribute my projects in the hopes that they will prove just as useful for others.

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2 comments on “Scaling up a Pattern to Life-Size (using your home printer!)
  1. Elizabeth Markell says:

    Love the videos! Going to make the Laurel Gown someday soon! I also belong to the SCA and run a renaissance festival in Indiana!

  2. Kayla M says:

    I love this! I’ve gone cross-eyed before trying to figure out how to scale a pattern from a book. This is such a life-saver, thank you :))

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