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How do I enlarge and reduce digital patterns?

How to Enlarge or Reduce a Digital Pattern

I get a lot of questions about enlarging and reducing the size of embroidery patterns. Here’s one from Holly. . .

I purchased your cat embroidery pattern and I totally dig it. Those kitties are great. It turns out my girl, who is 6 and very fond of felines, is pretty handy with a needle and thread. I wonder if there’s an easy way to biggen the picture? She’d have more success, I think, with a little bit larger deal. I’ve tried opening it in a photo editor thingy, but to no avail, since it’s a pdf…. is that on purpose? Or maybe I’m not doing it right?

Good question! One of the things I love about embroidery patterns is that they’re really versatile. See the dog in the photo? That was a teeny-tiny pattern (2 inches square from this collection) that I enlarged and stitched on a T-shirt for my daughter. I could also have turned it into an applique pattern, or used it for woodburning, painting, collage, etc. Buy one pattern, use it a kajillion times – that’s my motto. 🙂

And one of the things I love about digital patterns is that’s it’s really easy to enlarge and reduce your pattern without going to the copy shop (for me that’s over an hour away).

Important note! These instructions only work for patterns without seam allowance! So you can use them for embroidery and applique patterns, but not stuffed animal patterns. Pop over to this post for special instructions on enlarging and reducing patterns with seam allowance

Of course, if tech-speak makes your eyes glaze over please just print out your pattern and enlarge or reduce as necessary on a copy machine. But if you want to do it on your computer, here’s some help.

First – a warning. These are going to be pretty general instructions because I assume you all have different software. But the general steps should work no matter what program you use. If you need specifics for your software – with helpful screenshots or even a video – google something like “opening a PDF in Photoshop” or whatever your photo editing program is. I use Gimp, which is free and awesome. It’s not always super intuitive, but there are lots of terrific tutorials on YouTube teaching you how to use it.


1. DON’T open the image as a PDF. Instead save the PDF to your computer.

2. Open whatever photo editing software you use.

3. Now inside your photo editing program, open the PDF file of your pattern.

Opening a PDF in a photo editing program will usually involve some kind of importing command. Most programs will pop up with some sort of window saying, “Whoa! Hold on there Missy! You can’t just open a PDF all willy-nilly in this program! You have to import it.” It will probably prompt you to choose which page of the PDF you want to import and at what resolution. If you can, choose just the page with the pattern you want, and set the resolution pretty high (like 300 dpi). That will import the page as a picture, which will allow you to play with it. Neat!

4. Now you should see that full pattern page as a single image. It’s going to include the full page, with lots of white space, my title, the Shiny Happy World link in the footer, and the entire pattern. Crop away any parts of the page you don’t want. For Holly, she may want to crop away all but one of the cats. If you’re enlarging one of the birds from the bird sampler to stitch on a T-shirt, you may want to isolate just one bird. Crop away anything you don’t want.

5. Time to resize. Use the scale image command to adjust the image to the size you want.

6. Save your new image.

7. Print!

Like I said, these are general instructions and you may need to play around with your computer a bit to find the exact commands you need, but this should give you enough guidance to get there. If anyone else has helpful suggestions, please add them in the comments!

Don’t forget! If you enlarge or reduce the image you’re stitching, you’re also going to need more or fewer strands of floss than what the pattern calls for. Hop over to this post for more info about how many strands to use in any project.

Here are all my posts about working with patterns.

Pattern Sources

How to Resize a Pattern

Return to the Learn to Embroider main Table of Contents.

Move on to the posts about knots. Yes – a whole section about knots. 🙂


  1. Rachel Keegan SAYS...

    I’ve learnt something today (and it’s nothing to do with sewing). I didn’t know that you can open PDF files in Photoshop (have just tried it and it’s very easy). Thanks Wendi

  2. Wendi, Thank you! I use GIMP, too, but I didn’t know I could do this with a pdf file.

  3. You crack me up. This is faaaabulouus! Thank you :).

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  5. Karen SAYS...

    Woooo! Awesome!! Thank you so much!!!

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  7. Suzi from Arizona SAYS...

    If I’m only doing one image… I open the file with Adobe Acrobat reader. Enlarge it to the size I want on my screen. Then I tape a piece of freezer paper to the monitor. I can usually see the Image through the paper and then I trace. … If I knew I was going to need a lot of copies, then I would go through all the importing stuff you wrote about in the the article above, but for one or two images…. tracing is much faster for me…. I guess I’m old school.

  8. Mary SAYS...

    If you have Microsoft – I use the “snipping tool” found in Windows accessories and select what I want and then paste it into a Word document where I can then crop or resize it using the handles – or tell it what size you want it to be – and print. That works well.