Organizing My Pattern Stash

3 Oct

I freaking love sewing patterns, y’all. Love them. I snap them up at an alarming rate – indies, big 4, vintage, whatever I can get my hands on. I love to collect them for the artwork, the instructions, even the odd pocket or facing piece that I might need later (ok, that’s a little hoardy, but whatever). The vintage ones will fall in my lap en mass – either someone gifting me a huge box of whatever belonged to their grandma and/or they found in their attic, or I’ll find them for the flea market for less than a dollar a pop (at this point, I’m kind of convinced that I can sniff them out).

So, yeah. I have a lot of patterns. Over 300, to be exact – ranging from printed to PDF, and, lord. There’s just a lot of them.

Sewing Room

Previously, I stored them in open boxes that I sat on a shelf – that way I could easily see them and sort through them (I’m the kind of person who needs to see something to remember that I have it). This was fine when I had 20, 30… even 100 patterns. Nowdays, not so much. Despite my patterns taking up most of an ENTIRE CABINET (the photo above is from about 2 years ago, so – while I had plenty of patterns then, I have about 3x as many now, and they take up way more shelf space), there wasn’t enough room. They were crammed into boxes, which made sorting through them difficult (if not destructive, especially with the delicate vintage ones), which meant I never sorted through them at all. Which, in turn, meant my ~open shelving concept~ was BULLSHIT, because why bother if you don’t actually use it?

It was time to find a new organization system.

No doubt most of y’all have read Sarai’s post on pattern organization over at the Coletterie. If not – you should! It’s where I got this entire post idea from, ha :). Anyway, I was inspired by the post and decided to get my pattern stash under control, once and for all. Drumroll, please…

Pattern Organization

Yeah! How do you like THEM apples?!

Pattern Organization

Here’s another sexy shot, because – sexy.

Anyway, here’s what I did –

I started out by sourcing the supplies – I bought plastic bags, cardboard backing boards, plastic dividers, and cardboard boxes with lids. All of these things are made for comic book storage, but lucky for us – sewing patterns are pretty much the same size. I know Sarai had luck with getting her supplies at Bags Unlimited; I can’t personally vouch for that site as I bought all my stuff here locally, at The Great Escape, which is conveniently located right by my house. (upon linking this, I just noticed that they have an eBay store! They’re also cheaper than Bags Unlimited, because they rule). I started out with buying enough stuff to house 100 sewing patterns… then went back again. And again. This is how I know a rough estimate of how many patterns I have, ha!

Pattern Organization

Anyway, the patterns are stored in a little plastic comic book bag, with the backing board added for stability. I really love this because you can cram and push and shove the patterns around as much as you want – and even the delicate ones won’t rip, because they are protected by the bag.

Pattern Organization

You can also shove pattern pieces in the bag itself, instead of back in the envelope, if rips are a concern.

All this talk of shoving makes me sound like I’m super violent with my patterns, hahaha. Promise I’m not *that* bad!

Pattern Organization

Once I got the patterns in their baggies, I could start organizing them in the boxes. I used the plastic divider boards to separate them by type, in a way that made the most sense to me.

Pattern Organization

Even if you cram them in the box super tight, it’s still relatively easy to find the pattern you’re looking for – especially with the tab dividers.

Pattern Organization

I also labeled the boxes so I would know the contents at a glance. I used scrapbooking paper and just taped the labels on – that way, if I need to switch things around, I can just peel it off the box and make a new label.

Some things to note:
– I agonized for WAY too long about what size bags to buy. I don’t know anything about comics, so I had no idea that they came in different sizes! I ended up buying the bags for regular size comics, as well as the regular size backing boards.
– The boxes, at least at my store, come in 2 sizes. I bought the smaller size – they were $5 a pop, lid included, and they are short enough to fit in my cabinet. I would estimate that each one holds around 50 patterns, give or take.
– I also played around with resealable vs non resealable bags. My personal verdict: get the resealable. You’ll end up taping the other ones shut. Just pay the extra dollar and get on with your life.

Ok, so that’s part one of the pattern organization! Next, I had to deal with patterns that didn’t fit in the boxes – PDFs, the big Vogue patterns, and my collection of Papercut Patterns.

Pattern Organization

For the Papercut Patterns, I decided to take them down from the wall (the sheer amount of them was taking over the wall and starting to look extremely sloppy!) and stack them on the one stupid shelf that I couldn’t adjust. The patterns don’t have their names printed on the sides, so I wrote it on the bottom of each one so I could sort through them in a glance.

Inside the basket is my tape gun thingy that I use to tape PDF patterns, as well as some cardstock pattern pieces (like shirt pockets) and extra bags.

Pattern Organization

The bottom shelf holds all my PDF patterns, big Vogue designer patterns, and a couple boxes of random fabric scraps.

Pattern Organization

The manhandling of those PDF patterns into submission is my FAVORITE part of this makeover! Before, I stored each one in a large manilla envelope (I scored boxes of them from my old job when we switched to digital filing for our job jackets). That was, to put it mildly, a clusterfuck. It was hard to sort through the patterns, they didn’t all fit on the shelf, they looked like a hot mess, they were always falling out of the shelf, AND THEN I ran out of envelopes (and ew, wow, those things are expensive!). While I was debating what to do about this, I came across Andrea’s Craftsy post on organizing PDF patterns. Solution #1 – that was my answer!

Pattern Organization

As with the printed patterns, I agonized for forever over what supplies to buy for storage. I know Andrea gives specific products, but they were a bit out of my budget. Plus, I have like 40 PDF patterns – so I needed to keep the budget way down. I ended up getting these clear plastic sheet protectors and these 3″ 3 ring binders, both from Amazon. As with the printed patterns, I organized them according to what made sense to me, and labeled the outside of the binders. Since my plastic sleeves are not resealable, I just paper clip them closed. Haven’t had a disaster yet (fingers crossed, tho).

For the Vogue patterns, I found that they fit perfectly in magazine-sized plastic sleeves (and they also make backing boards this size!), so that’s what I used. I didn’t even buy a whole box – my shop sells them for pennies individually, so I just took what I needed. They are stored in one of my old pattern storage boxes – which actually looks kind of nice when it’s not so full πŸ™‚

Pattern Organization

Finally, I keep a running “list” of the patterns I want to sew on top of my sewing cabinet – they’re just pulled from the boxes and stored in their cd case holder (omg I love repurposing things hahaha). This way I can still see things to be reminded of them, but not overloaded with seeing OMG EVERY PATTERN I OWN.
(also, this picture is old. I’m not sewing that McCall pattern. Actually, I scrapped it because the very smallest size was like 4″ too big for my sad little rack. And yet everyone keeps making beautiful versions of this pattern and I’m super jealous, so stop already).

Next, I’d like to digitally organize my patterns. The second half of Sarai’s post talks about creating a digital database using Tap Forms, an app that costs like $9. I’m embarrassed to admit that I bought the app (mostly because I was so sure that actually paying for it would ensure that I actually USE it) and then uploaded like 10 patterns (so much for that theory). It’s kind of a huge time-suck! Argh! But I can’t think of a better solution, so I really just need to suck it up and deal with it.

deal with it

I don’t want to say this entire process was difficult – but it was very very time-consuming. It was also a bit more expensive than I had originally budgeted for – I think, all in all, I spent around $100 for all the supplies. It was spread out over a few paychecks, so the cost didn’t hurt *that* much – but still, that’s a chunk of change for organizing a mess! Anyway, it was worth it. It’s so much easier to find what I’m looking for (without destroying it in the process), and the clean white boxes and red binders make my entire sewing room look SO much better than the original messy piles. Woohoo!

Anyway, that’s my organization story! What about you? How do you organize your patterns? Or are you one of those cool minimalist people who has, like, seven? (ps, please teach me your ways).

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104 Responses to “Organizing My Pattern Stash”

  1. nycbookwriter October 3, 2014 at 9:05 am #

    So I’m stealing the PDF file! Mine are in the envelopes, awkwardly in a comic box . . . The Tap Forms . . . I just started doing one or two a day. I’ve got 80+ in there, with another hundred or so to go . . . when I buy new patterns I make myself insert them right away. One or two doesn’t feel like such a time suck. πŸ˜‰

    Years ago you used to be able to buy pattern bags, then they went to the wind. I say years in a relative way, as like in the past decade. Now days, since I’m cheap, my Mom keeps her prescription bags. Her mail order drugs come in ziplock bags the perfect size for stashing unruly patterns.

    Though, I haven’t cataloged the patterns inside books. That can’t wait until I get the rest of the patterns done. πŸ˜‰

    • LLADYBIRD October 3, 2014 at 5:26 pm #

      Steal away! I stole it too:) Storing them this way was… sewing-life-changing, haha! Now I don’t dread getting out my PDF patterns πŸ™‚

      I will take your advice on doing one or two patterns a day in Tap Forms! Forreal, if I’d started that back when I downloaded the app, I’d be nearly halfway through my patterns by now. Ugh, lazy Lauren.

      • nycbookwriter October 4, 2014 at 11:00 am #

        You have an advantage . . . you have more space. Thus, the NYC apartment forces me to be on top of organization . . . well, kind of. There’s a basket on my shelf of “misc.” hahahaha

  2. Mindy October 3, 2014 at 9:06 am #

    Love this. I’m in dire need of an organization day (or twelve) to get my patterns in order. I was gifted about 100 OOP patterns when I first started sewing and I raid those .99 pattern sales like the sew-pocalypse is coming. Right now, I’m just storing my patterns in cloth fabric bins with labels, but I’m not a fan of it. Plus, the librarian in me really wants to create a digital catalog for inventory.

    • LLADYBIRD October 3, 2014 at 5:27 pm #

      Cataloging and organizing everything is SUCH a good feeling! It’s worth the time suck you take getting to that point… or do what I did, and pile everything on the floor and just work on it a little at a time over the course of a week πŸ™‚ ahaha

  3. Bonnie October 3, 2014 at 9:20 am #

    I knit but don’t sew, and knitting patterns are also a problem. I have a ton of them that I either printed from the Internets or copied from a book so I could write all over it. I also use the page protectors and 3-ring binders. That works pretty well–one binder for socks, one for sweaters, one for hats & hand coverings, etc. I think it’s easier to organize knitting patterns since they’re not as bulky as sewing ones. Your system looks like it’s working really well! (And thanks for writing this–I love posts on organization, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.)

    • LLADYBIRD October 3, 2014 at 5:28 pm #

      I did exactly that with my knitting patterns once I was done with the sewing patterns! I just piled the types in a page protector (I dont’ have a whole lot of patterns… just enough to fill one binder. Ok, that’s a lot!). Looks SO much better than the sad messy paper pile I had before!

  4. sputniksong October 3, 2014 at 9:20 am #

    As far as I’ve been able to tell, the only way to approach minimalism with patterns is to copy the elements you like on tracing paper, and then get rid of the pattern. I have a small binder of already-fitted tracing-paper pattern pieces, most of which are either sloper-type pieces or which have awesome design elements that I know I will want to make up again in the future. It’s about seven to ten patterns total. I also have a half dozen patterns I’ve bought but haven’t yet tried…but that’s it.

    • LLADYBIRD October 3, 2014 at 5:29 pm #

      See, but I keep a lot of patterns for the instructions. So the tracing wouldn’t work. Anyway, I like having piles of stuff… so minimalism clearly isn’t for me, haha!

      • sputniksong October 3, 2014 at 8:51 pm #

        Haha well I’m jealous! I’d love to hoard, but I compulsively get rid of things. Unfortunate backlash habit from living as the only non-materialistic person in a large family of packrats.

  5. ThreadTime October 3, 2014 at 9:37 am #

    Totally enjoyed your post. I also searched for a pattern organizing app recently and went with Sewing Kit HD. What swayed me is their ability to read bar scans on the patterns. It isn’t perfect and I was double checking uploads to be sure they were coming in correctly. But for your current patterns, it pulls pattern info (including size and photos) for you. Allows you to organize other info (fabrics, notions, etc) as well. I was able to load 95 patterns so far out of my stash. I will have to manually load the rest and will probably only load those I really care about. Also one thing that swayed me is I think McCalls Pattern Company has something to do with the application, which I assume is why so much data is available to scan. Good luck with your organization!
    Ramona

    • LLADYBIRD October 3, 2014 at 5:30 pm #

      This is a good tip! Unfortunately, I don’t think that app would work as well for someone like me, who has TONS of vintage patterns, but this comment could absolutely be useful to someone else πŸ™‚

  6. rycrafty October 3, 2014 at 9:41 am #

    I am using Pinterest for my organization! I posted about it on my blog a couple weeks ago: http://rycrafty.com/2014/09/24/knitting-ravelry-sewing/

    I don’t have many patterns right now, so they’re all just on one ‘Sewing Patterns’ Pinterest board, but you could have as many boards as you needed to catalogue stuff. I like being able to scroll through the pictures of everything.

    • LLADYBIRD October 3, 2014 at 5:31 pm #

      I tried using Pinterest (I think all my boards are up), but it was just too much of a pain dealing with the uploads! Plus, I like having something available offline, so I can access it any time. That being said, still good advice! What doesn’t work for me may still work perfectly fine for someone else πŸ™‚

  7. hashigal October 3, 2014 at 9:45 am #

    Thank you Β‘epically! for sharing this. I just spent a whole bunch of hours flipping through my pattern stash the other day, and wondering how to sort that semi-organised mess out when I should have been studying. (The Fashionary arrived…was contemplating what to make for a southern summer capsule wardrobe instead. Priorities, no?)
    Not sure which bits of this I’m going to appropriate just yet, but there WILL be appropriation.

    • LLADYBIRD October 3, 2014 at 5:32 pm #

      Get it, girl! Getting a good organizational system just feels soooo good once it’s done!

  8. zilredloh October 3, 2014 at 9:51 am #

    This looks great Lauren! What’s funny is I have exactly the same setup. Great minds think alike no??? πŸ˜€

    Same comic book bags & board – same naming convention – same binders & plastic sheeting thingies for printed patterns – also on bookshelves. The only ONLY difference is I have them just on a bookshelf and not in boxes on a bookshelf. How funny is this?! πŸ™‚

    I’m sure it took a lot of time to do this setup – but it’s so worth it to have patterns organized & protected.

    • LLADYBIRD October 3, 2014 at 5:32 pm #

      HAHA! We are totally twinsies! I love it!!

  9. boldlygold October 3, 2014 at 10:01 am #

    Love the way you’ve tackled this! I’m in the process of doing the same, although your stash is much larger than mine! About storing digital files, I use Google docs to organise everything. I have a separate folder for patterns and then organise each one into a separate (colour coded, of course) folder with all of the files. Once I buy the pattern I immediately save it to docs. I have the app on my phone so I can check things when I’m at the farbic shop too which is really handy πŸ™‚

    • LLADYBIRD October 3, 2014 at 5:34 pm #

      Oh, that’s a great idea! I love Google Docs!

  10. Kelly October 3, 2014 at 10:08 am #

    Speaking of time sucks… I’ve been working on this totally enjoyable project of cataloging all my patterns by transferring line drawings to a croquis. I’m tracing a croquis in pencil, then transferring the line drawing to the croquis, then inking, then erasing for a clean finished, uniform drawing. I have dividers grouping like styles, but I’m going to organize patterns by company and number. I’m getting to the point where I have so many patterns I don’t remember them all and I keep buying nearly identical ones. The binder is starting to look really great, though! I love flipping through the pages already! I predict another 2-3 months and I’ll have them all done, so long as I don’t buy more in the meantime!

    • LLADYBIRD October 3, 2014 at 5:35 pm #

      Oh, my god. That sounds EPIC. Huge time suck PITA, but holy shit that binder is going to be amazing when it’s finished!

  11. Margo October 3, 2014 at 10:13 am #

    Wow! Nicely done!! I have to get myself one of those tape gun thingys’. I pin my patterns to my Pinterest board (http://www.pinterest.com/closingthegap/pattern-stash/) …the ones I can’t find online because they are old, I just take a pic of and load it myself. I can browse through what I have easier that way. My actual pattern are stored in drawers of my cutting table organized by company and then in numerical order so I can find them easily. You can see my set up here..

    http://creatinginthegap.blogspot.ca/2014/09/sewing-studio.html

    You set up is awesome and your collection is impressive! I thought my pattern stash was big!

    • LLADYBIRD October 3, 2014 at 5:36 pm #

      Your sewing space is beautiful! Really jealous of that cutting table!

  12. LinB October 3, 2014 at 10:19 am #

    Sewing patterns? Gallon-sized Ziploc bags: instruction sheets inside pattern envelope, pattern pieces (folded with piece number and name clearly visible) behind the envelope. I scavenged copier-paper cartons from my office, labeled them with broad categories, file the patterns inside them. I had 45 boxes full until I acquired some ancient steel filing cabinets to cram with patterns, one broad category in each drawer. I still have 30 cardboard boxes full of patterns … I put an open bar of hotel soap in each box, to discourage insects. The boxes are stacked atop a credenza in my sewing room. Have never been brave enough to do a pattern count; don’t want official corroboration that I am a hoarder. I have used most of the patterns, at some time in the past or other. “Favorite Favorites” box had over 50 patterns in it. Sigh.

    Sewing books take up most of a wire-grid cube storage system in my sewing room. I bought two sets at Sam’s Club, a decade ago. I set them up as a screen down the middle of the room, accessible from both sides.

    Needlework patten books take up two middle-sized bookshelves; photocopied patterns are sorted in manila folders in an upright desktop sorter, or in a stationery box, on one of the bottom shelves.

    • LLADYBIRD October 3, 2014 at 5:37 pm #

      I really really really want to raid your pattern stash. I bet you have some TREASURES in there!

      • LinB October 6, 2014 at 10:04 am #

        Ja, ja. I am constantly amazed at how many of them I have sewn, and some that I’ve sewn many times. My dear Ma gave me a box of old photos of me for my 56th birthday. Over and over again, I’d exclaim, “Oh, I remember sewing that!” Of course, about a third of my current stash is gifts from friends’ dead mothers’ stashes, which the friends could not bear to throw away.

  13. Margo October 3, 2014 at 10:21 am #

    Great work! I’ve been storing my PDF patterns in big plastic bags, but they are just crammed onto a shelf and keep falling over, argh! I think I’ll switch to the binder route. I think I’m also ready to upgrade my other sewing pattern storage. Yours looks so great!

    • LLADYBIRD October 3, 2014 at 5:39 pm #

      Yay for new storage solutions! Once you get it under control, the feeling is just amazing. ha!

  14. Kristin October 3, 2014 at 10:21 am #

    I use Evernote to digitally organize my patterns. It’s free and I love adding tags so I can browse through easily

    • LLADYBIRD October 3, 2014 at 5:40 pm #

      I’ve been using Evernote for other organizational stuff, but didn’t think about using it for patterns. That’s such a good idea!

  15. Ms McCall October 3, 2014 at 10:40 am #

    If you ever want to resuscitate the manila envelopes, I use them for my PDF patterns, I just use a hole punch to give them the 3 holes to put them in a binder. That way you get the reseal-ability of an envelope, but the flip action of a binder. Of course you can’t see inside, so I write in pencil whats in there. I’ve found it’s a good place to keep notes, so one might read: “M6656 – Cut size 12 – too big at shoulders, if making again cut 2″ off length”, or something.

    I have to wonder if there’s a need to digitally organize that many patterns, part of the genius of your new system is that it makes it lovely to browse the boxes as they are.

    • LLADYBIRD October 3, 2014 at 5:44 pm #

      That’s actually a really amazing idea for reusing the envelopes! I ended up recycling mine (most of them were destroyed in fits of rage when the patterns would all fall out of the cabinet, hahaha), but they wouldn’t have been the right size anyway. They were the REALLY big ones – like 15″ long. Bigger than a 3 ring binder. Still, that’s a really good idea to keep in mind in the future if I get sick of buying these plastic sleeves.

      I think I just want to digitally organize so I can access the patterns when I’m out shopping (which is why i need a non-internet app to hoard them all). I try to bring a detailed list of what to look out for, but occasionally we find that perfect fabric that’s not on the list πŸ™‚

  16. Julie October 3, 2014 at 10:43 am #

    Pattern Review’s digital “pattern stash” function works perfectly for my needs, Thumbnails of the pattern envelope photos are sorted based on your choice of criteria (recently added, numerically, by brand, by type, etc.) and link to all the pattern info you could need. My actual patterns are stored numerically so you can go right to the one you want without flipping through them all (nearly 500 in my case). Pdf’s and odd sized patterns are stored in large zip locks bags in hard sided magazine storage files from World Market and are kept on shelves. Pattern Review’s “pattern wish list” function is great to have with you when you’re shopping – just pull the site up on your phone, The small annual membership fee for the site is worth it for these organization tools alone.

    • LLADYBIRD October 3, 2014 at 5:46 pm #

      That sounds really really useful! Man, I love Pattern Review. Haven’t been on there in ages, though – I miss it!

  17. Nancy October 3, 2014 at 10:54 am #

    Great ideas. I love buying patterns (4 yesterday at a 5 for $7 sale) but hate the mess. I have tried two different systems for taming the monster I have created but neither was great so I lost momentum. I am going to try the comic book option but I won’t be happy until I also have a digital solution.

    Thanks for giving me the kick I needed to get going again.

    • LLADYBIRD October 3, 2014 at 5:47 pm #

      If you can time it better than I can, try organizing the physical patterns at the same time you are uploading them digitally. Might save you an extra step πŸ™‚ I, unfortunately, did not do this – so now I get to go through my patterns a second time. Ha, oh well!

  18. Shannon Smith October 3, 2014 at 11:08 am #

    So organized! I have to buy those special boxes. I sort my patterns only by brand and number. Then I put them all in an app that lets me search for what I want on the fly. I use Evernote, which is free, and allows you to export your data if you ever don’t want to use the app anymore. But I did a whole review on my blog: http://finishedgarment.ca/organizing-all-those-sewing-patterns/ Using Evernote lets me find, for example, a shirtdress with long sleeves, or any pattern that uses challis, or all the vintage beach coverups. And it also lets me organize my fabric stash at the same time.

    • LLADYBIRD October 3, 2014 at 5:49 pm #

      That is a really great review, wish I’d seen it when I was deciding what app to get πŸ™‚ Too bad i already gave Tap Forms my $9, haha!

  19. Katie Lynn October 3, 2014 at 11:09 am #

    I’m absolutely in awe of your gorgeous storage solution. I only have a handful of patterns (but that’s because sewing isn’t my primary craft), so they get stored along with my fabric stash in a small flat rubbermade tote in a cabinet. My knitting patterns and books? Those are another thing altogether. I have a large shelf on one of my bookshelves that holds all my pattern and reference books, and next to those are all my printed pdf patterns in binders. I do the same thing with my pdfs that you do, they’re stored in plastic sleeves and I have the folder tabs to keep them separated by type (sweater, hat, baby, etc). I buy the greenroom recycled binders from target, which have super fun retro geometric designs on them.

    • LLADYBIRD October 3, 2014 at 5:50 pm #

      Ha, well, if it makes you feel any better – this solution was years in the making. Took me a while to get to this point πŸ™‚ Yours sound really nice too! I love those binders, I kinda wish now that I’d gotten pretty ones haha

  20. Aubrey October 3, 2014 at 11:15 am #

    SQUEE I love organization! If you ever need to borrow my label-maker… πŸ™‚ You’re a girl after my own heart.

    • LLADYBIRD October 3, 2014 at 5:51 pm #

      YOU HAVE A LABEL MAKER? OMG BRING THAT SHIT HERE RIGHT NOW, LET’S LABEL EVERYTHING.

      I am so excited.

  21. Becky October 3, 2014 at 11:15 am #

    I have mine in 3 bank boxes, which are large enough to hold any size envelope I’ve come across, sorted by type with a separate category for “mini-wardrobes” (i.e. any type of pattern that has both pants, tops, skirts, etc.) I also keep a board on Pinterest so I have a visual on what I have without dragging the boxes down all the time.

  22. mahlicadesigns October 3, 2014 at 11:24 am #

    I put my pdfs and self drafted patterns in manilla envelopes. Im shortly going to move all my pattern and manilla envelopes into the filing cabinet. I also use pinterest to digitally organize since I do most of my planning and dreaming online.

  23. Jill October 3, 2014 at 11:33 am #

    I typically only buy patterns from the big four and vintage ones. I also have hundreds of patterns.. I made friends with a Girl Scout and scored the empty cases that Girl Scout cookies come in. They’re the perfect width. Some are really long for categories that I have a lot of, and others are short for categories I have less of. My shelves are deep which works great. I cover them with pretty paper, put a label on and I’m done.

    The other thing is…and I know this is painful. But you have to be willing to let things go. I had a lot of patterns no longer in my size and for as much as I tell myself that someday I will grade them up to my current size, I just haven’t made the time. Sometimes thinning out a stash can be very freeing.

    • LLADYBIRD October 3, 2014 at 11:40 am #

      Oh, I already purged like 100+ patterns out of my stash hahaha. I’m actually pretty good at purging – even the rare vintage ones (that are not my size) or the expensive indie ones (that are not my style anymore). The hard part is figuring out what to do with them. I know I could sell them on Etsy, but ugh, that sounds like an awful lot of work.

    • Kurt November 14, 2014 at 4:21 pm #

      Hi, Please let me know if you’d ever like to sell any of your patterns. I’m looking for just the original outside jackets – not the patterns inside. Thanks, Kurt

  24. Alice October 3, 2014 at 11:58 am #

    Gorgeous! I don’t have nearly that many patterns but lots of mine are traced into brown paper or wax paper or are self drafted and have minimal pattern pieces, so my box is full of large unlabeled pieces of tracing paper. I like the binder idea.

  25. Ann October 3, 2014 at 12:10 pm #

    I use the Sewing Kit app and like it. Mainly I use it to check and see if I’ve already bought a pattern or not. I don’t actually want to spend too much time organizing. I have my patterns in boxes with labelled dividers for each category, and Sewing Kit if I need it, and that’s enough for me…

    • Anonymous April 6, 2017 at 7:18 am #

      I have downloaded the sewing kit ap, and I can’t even add one pattern without it crashing. Am getting really frustrated, a waste of money for me 😩

  26. Alicia @ Pandora Sews October 3, 2014 at 12:45 pm #

    Well, now I am feeling really bad about how I am treating my plethora of patterns. I have so many vintage patterns that just don’t work for me I have been giving a few away every week on my blog. Inspired by how well you have organized your stash, I reckon I should start treating the ones I am keeping a little better. Great patterns deserve a good home!!

    • LLADYBIRD October 3, 2014 at 5:54 pm #

      Don’t feel bad! I generally treat my vintage patterns like shit, too πŸ™‚ We are just terrible people, I guess πŸ™‚ haha!

  27. Evie October 3, 2014 at 12:46 pm #

    Awesome! I’ve got all of the instructions/pattern pieces for mine organized in labeled envelopes (that I’ll get around to alphabetizing at some point), with all the pattern envelopes organized in an “index” by decade. Seeing your collection I don’t feel so bad about my 200+ stash πŸ™‚

  28. Aline October 3, 2014 at 12:50 pm #

    So lovely to meet fellow pattern freaks 😎. Even though my sewing room always is one complete mess, my patterns are usually very well organised. I have many many magazines, they are all per year in boxes from January to December (brands separated: knipmode, burdastyle, ottobre, knippie, la maison victor, simplicity magazine and some odd ones, children separate from grown ups). The big four per designer and then number, I even have a private blog with the pattern stash of US patterns. pdf patterns on my laptop, some printed, but those are in one box, very unorganised. I have a number-head, thats why I sort by number instead of garment. Your system looks quite attractive though…

  29. meghamel October 3, 2014 at 1:10 pm #

    FREE GOOGLE DRIVE spreadsheets are good for organizing patterns. I keep a list of all my patterns, including columns for knit/woven, garment type, paper/digital, etc., for easy sorting and searching when I want to make a knit dress next. You can add links to display images, such as the main pic from the front of the envelope.

    I also add links to the company’s original pattern info page, to PatternReview’s page, to a Google Image search for that pattern, etc. Sometimes I include links to blog posts which have particularly good insights on how to tackle that pattern, or good versions which I want to emulate.

    AND THEN, whenever I use that pattern, I keep notes on each make: changes to the pattern, notes for next time, so I can see at a glance — all on the same row — everything I want to know about that design.

  30. Melissa October 3, 2014 at 1:14 pm #

    You’re an inspiration to us all! My patterns are either spread all over the living room couch (which I have never sat on because it holds all the yarn and fabric – obvious use for it, no?) or they live in the table by the bed. Hey, it’s an NYC apartment, I do what I can. Lol!

    • LLADYBIRD October 3, 2014 at 5:58 pm #

      HAHA! My patterns would be all over the place like that, too, if I didn’t have to share a house with my man πŸ˜› Unfortunately, he doesn’t think they are very pretty artwork πŸ™‚ haha!

  31. Christine October 3, 2014 at 1:30 pm #

    I only have about 10 currently, so there is no need for major organization, but at the rate I’ve picked them up (especially on ebay for vintage ones!) I may need to bookmark this post! When do you make a decision to get rid of or pass on a pattern ,if ever? Or have tou just help on to all of them?

    • LLADYBIRD October 3, 2014 at 6:03 pm #

      I purge them pretty frequently – if I didn’t, I would probably own closer to a thousand patterns! I sell the more expensive/rare ones (which is basically never, since I can’t be arsed to list things on Etsy hahaha), and let my local friends dig through and take what they want. I will also bring patterns to swaps if there’s one being organized! The really awful ones (that are missing pieces, etc) I donate to friends who do paper crafts. Oh, and then whatever is left over just goes straight to the thrift store. I’ve considered doing a giveaway on the blog, but the thought of boxing all those patterns up and dealing with shipping just makes me want to crawl under the bed and hide forever haha πŸ™‚

      • Kurt November 14, 2014 at 4:22 pm #

        Hi, Please let me know if you’d ever like to sell any of your patterns. I’m looking for just the original outside jackets – not the patterns inside. Thanks, Kurt

  32. Molly Lindell October 3, 2014 at 2:04 pm #

    Very detailed, helpful and informative. Thanks.

  33. Deborah October 3, 2014 at 6:48 pm #

    Thanks for the ideas and the sources for the comic book sleeves.

  34. pennysewvintage October 3, 2014 at 7:29 pm #

    I’m disgraceful! As a librarian you’d think my patterns would be organized, but I have 3 big bull dog boxes crammed with two rows each of vintage patterns, 2 smaller boxes with contemporary patterns, a binder with the plastic sleeves and printed/drafted patterns tossed in… I absolutely will now take over my brother’s old comic book boxes and protectors and get to work organizing. You’ve inspired me! Now I just need to actually do it.

  35. Jet Set Sewing October 3, 2014 at 8:26 pm #

    I have a lot of rare vintage patterns, and have found that the comic book boxes and “baggies” work really well, particularly with 40s/50s unprinted patterns. If a piece gets lost from those, you have no idea where they go, so you have to keep them organized.

  36. weefrills October 3, 2014 at 9:10 pm #

    Ooh, sew those adorable PJs, will you? I count pattern collecting as a hobby unto itself. Your organization looks great! I have two giant binders of knitting patterns, three magazine holders for my knitting mags, and have grouped the knitting books together on the bookshelf. Ravelry is also handy for pattern storage if you purchase or download a free pattern–it is stored in your library. I love patterns!

  37. sewtherapeutic October 3, 2014 at 9:25 pm #

    Oh Thank You…..Organization is a major issue for me and the sewing room situation is ….well it’s the kind of thing that one needs to lie about and hide – Thanks for the inspiration and what to do with the Papercuts, they big Vogues and the damn pdf’s.

  38. onejolie October 3, 2014 at 9:30 pm #

    I steal from my mom’s pattern stash and then return the unused, which keeps down on the number of patterns. I have a Single Box of patterns in bookshelf. My mom always kept her patterns in manilla envelopes, so that’s what I do, too. She actually has her patterns in Bento (app/program) and then by number and company in a filing cabinet. Its full πŸ™‚ I live in fear of overflowing my sewing room. Currently its my fabric stash that’s the problem!

  39. V Reed October 3, 2014 at 9:44 pm #

    I love organized patterns and mine are organized…to a point. The point is a one very large bin in our storage container. I don’t have a dedicated sewing space if you don’t count the semi-permanent use of the dining room table much to my husband’s dismay. So the bin is the only practical solution for me at the moment. Within the bin, the patterns are sorted by type (dress, skirt, blouse, suit, children, costume). Periodically, when I’m ready for a new sewing binge, I go out and sort through the bin for likely projects. I really, really need to move to a digital filing system so I can sort through what I have without actually having to paw through the entire bin of patterns.

  40. occasionallyobsessivecrafter October 4, 2014 at 12:31 am #

    Great post. A little while ago I was dismayed by the lack of a great pattern organization app so I’ve decided to develop one. It sounds like people are making Evernote work, but it would be great to have a low-cost app that you don’t have to enter ALL the info into. I’ll let you know when it’s ready to go…

    • LLADYBIRD October 5, 2014 at 11:33 am #

      Omg yess!! Please let me know when you’ve got it up and ready; I’d love to check it out πŸ™‚ A dedicated pattern organization app would be amazing!

  41. Anonymous October 4, 2014 at 2:58 am #

    Ha! It would seem that I’m the naughty child of the group. Mine are still in their original envelopes and sorted by type into cardboard magazine files from IKEA. The vintage ones are in boxes so that they can lie down (those ladies deserve time off their feet). I’ve got a bit of a mega memory so I can remember them all (for the most part), but cataloging them electronically could be worth…. Oh who am I trying to kid. That is not going to happen. It was like when I tried to give up skiing to learn to snowboard. I’m not diligent enough to give up the good in the short-term for something good in the future. Kudos to all of those that have! Rachel πŸ˜€

    • Rachel October 4, 2014 at 3:00 am #

      Sorry – didn’t mean to comment anonymously! πŸ™‚

  42. yosami October 4, 2014 at 3:25 am #

    Very sexy storage! Nicely done. I have a similar system but use old shoe boxes to keep my patterns in instead – not as sexy as yours but free! I also use envelopes to store the patterns I’ve made in. They’re not so expensive – about 2.5 euros for 10 – but that’s it for my pattern storage expenditure.

  43. IndoorKitty October 4, 2014 at 12:07 pm #

    Damn it Lauren! Quit making me want things. Now I need that tape dispenser. And the bra book and pattern from your previous post. And *all* the fabric that Mood sells.

    Quick question about the resealable sleeves: do they stick to everything when you are working with the pattern. That sticky flap situation is what is holding me back from doing the comic book organization.

    As for apps, what I really need to do is make a thread number database. I’m always making two trips to JoAnn’s because I think I have a color I don’t or I need to return the sixth spool of a color I already have.

    • LLADYBIRD October 5, 2014 at 11:35 am #

      I had the same concerns with the resealable sleeves, but I’ve yet to have one stick to the pattern pieces when I’m pulling them out. It’s actually the envelope itself that has the sticky goo – not the flap – which cuts down on the accidental sticking. Leave it to a comic book person to figure out the best solution for that kind of thing πŸ™‚

      And thread color database would be SUCH a good idea! I need one of those too, lord.

  44. emcclure2010 October 4, 2014 at 8:28 pm #

    Oh this SO needs to happen…My craft/sewing room is SUCH A MESS. And my poor patterns are either in a drawer or in a binder (the PDF ones). But now that 2 people I trust (aka you and Sarai, lol) have made this system work I’m gonna have to try. I don’t actually have that many patterns so it should be not super expensive. And this is major reason #2 I am going to finally break down and get a smartphone (the #1 being GPS)! This would be so helpful when at the fabric store so I don’t have to lug the whole pattern. Or a bitty piece of paper.

    • Kurt November 14, 2014 at 4:18 pm #

      Hi, Please let me know if you’d ever like to sell any of your patterns. I’m looking for just the original outside jackets – not the patterns inside. Thanks, Kurt

  45. Alison October 4, 2014 at 11:29 pm #

    I love this post. I too have hundreds of patterns and I’m slowly organising them. my computer savvy DP has written me a pattern database that I have nearly finished loading them all into (well the paper ones) and then I can search by item/size/etc from the comfort of my computer, and see pics of what I have, before I go searching in the box for the right pattern. I LOVE it! I need to do something with all my mags and pdfs though.

    • Kurt November 14, 2014 at 4:17 pm #

      Hi, Please let me know if you’d ever like to sell any of your patterns. I’m looking for just the original outside jackets – not the patterns inside. Thanks, Kurt

  46. Birgit October 5, 2014 at 8:47 am #

    As I currently haven’t bought any separate patterns yet, I only have those that I traced from my burda magazine, so the result is similar to PDF patterns. And I store them exactly like you do, in clear plastic sheet protectors in a large binder πŸ™‚ I found that to be working best for me. Great article though, I bookmarked it for when the occasion ever comes around that I suffer from the same problem you did πŸ˜‰

  47. Natalie October 5, 2014 at 9:40 am #

    I LOVE this level of organisation! I don’t have many patterns to organise yet…but when I do, they will look like this!

  48. gingermakes October 5, 2014 at 10:15 am #

    Wow, so organized! That’s awesome! Since my pattern storage is in the living room, I have everything tucked into two drawers of a tall filing cabinet and they’re completely out of sight. One drawer is regular paper patterns and the other is PDF patterns in manila envelopes. I recently organized those by garment type- it was just getting a bit out of control digging through a whole drawer of identical envelopes looking for something specific! I just organized my PDF downloads by garment type, too… previously they were grouped by whether or not I’d sewn them yet, but that was just too chaotic!

    • Kurt November 14, 2014 at 4:16 pm #

      Hi, Please let me know if you’d ever like to sell any of your patterns. I’m looking for just the original outside jackets – not the patterns inside. Thanks, Kurt

  49. jumliana October 6, 2014 at 7:50 pm #

    this was just genius!
    I have much less than a hundred, and I have been trying strategies to keep them always organised and myself aware of them.
    Some of your tips I might try!

    applause to you, gal! job well done!

    • Kurt November 14, 2014 at 4:15 pm #

      Hi, Please let me know if you’d ever like to sell any of your patterns. I’m looking for just the original outside jackets – not the patterns inside. Thanks, Kurt

  50. clemensnp October 7, 2014 at 3:14 pm #

    Massive pattern/organisation envy alert!! Catherine x

  51. alliedpassagetranslations October 10, 2014 at 1:03 pm #

    While I love my old vintage patterns, I’ve realized that I am probably never actually going to get around to using them, especially since they’re in such small sizes (and I am decidely not that small). Thus, I’ve started listing quite a few of them on Etsy, but I still do have a considerable amount of newer ones that I’d like to get under control. I don’t have too many PDF patterns, but I did start using Sarai’s (and your) binder trick, and I love it!

    I use Evernote to keep track of the patterns I have, though I’m not as good about keeping it up-to-date as I should be. I kept buying the same patterns at those JoAnn sales, so it was necessary, but it did take some time to put together. I do really like that I can use the app on my phone while I’m out shopping, but upload all of the info on my laptop at home (which I find much easier than uploading on the phone).

    Nice organization! I love it!

    • Kurt November 14, 2014 at 4:15 pm #

      Hi, Please let me know if you’d ever like to sell any of your patterns. I’m looking for just the original outside jackets – not the patterns inside. Thanks, Kurt

      • alliedpassagetranslations April 14, 2015 at 3:47 pm #

        Hi Kurt – sorry, I’m just now seeing this! If you’re still interested, I do have quite a few patterns I’m looking to get rid of. Please contact me at lish86 [at] imsa [dot] edu and let me know what you’re looking for. Thanks!

  52. Awfulknitter October 12, 2014 at 2:40 pm #

    I love that you have a section for rompers…

  53. missjoiedevivre October 23, 2014 at 10:18 pm #

    I love organisation, to the point that I am constantly teased that I spent as much time sewing as I spent organising I would make twice as much! (And, they have a point!) My patterns live in shoeboxes, which are a perfect fit but offer nothing in the way of protection, so I’ve just done some research on comic supplies here in NZ and I think I’ll try this out. Maybe without boards to start with, or only in the vintage ones, cos that’s where the cost is.

    My tracking system was incredibly manual and therefore became out of date quickly, I intend to try either Evernote or Picasa/Google Pics, using the tagging function to give it all the details I want. I love how Picasa looks on my desktop, and I can back-up thumbnails to Google Pics for remote access and to share with friends (communal stash!) but am still working on cataloging fabric at this point! My current plan is to pay some youngling that belongs to a friend minimum wage to do the photoing/uploading for me, just to get it done.

  54. Amy October 26, 2014 at 11:07 am #

    Really great ideas, Lauren! I love reading fabric and pattern organizational posts because I never quite come up with my own. All my pdfs are in manila envelopes and it’s so messy.

  55. Kurt November 14, 2014 at 4:14 pm #

    Hi, Please let me know if you’d ever like to sell any of your patterns. I’m looking for just the original outside jackets – not the patterns inside. Thanks, Kurt

  56. Anonymous April 26, 2015 at 2:32 pm #

    I have a cabinet for my ton of patterns. Maybe I’m cheap or lazy or both, but I sort them and use giant rubber bands to hols them together. Works great and takes up less space. Love this site!!!! Thanks!

  57. Mariesther La Plante October 11, 2015 at 11:35 pm #

    Wow, right up my alley. Love, love all you did. Funny I’ve had a comic book collection in the past and wondered if same storage would work for patterns. So cool. I’ve inherited literally hundreds of patterns from a little ‘ol lady that recently passed. From Vogue to Easy.. I doubt there exists a brand I do not have in this collection. I’m about to embark in obtaining the remainder of her collection which is larger. Yeah, “wow” is faintly putting it. All appear unused, new, clean and most I have at moment are from1950’s to 80’s. Looking for storage to concerve pattern integrity is Goal #1. Thank you, thank you for sharing your experience. It has saved me an enormous amount of time of doing research and letting me know about Great Escape.
    Sincere thanks , Mariesther

  58. Anonymous June 7, 2017 at 11:43 pm #

    This is amazing! Goals!

  59. Jennifer June 11, 2017 at 7:59 pm #

    I’m super late to this sewing stuff. Once I found PDF patterns I pretty much plunged down the rabbit hole. I like the idea of having them all in one spot but what do you do with the patterns that are all taped together and uncut or the big engineering sized (36″x48″) sheets? I like not having to waste paper and reprint with each size. Am I doomed to finding extra long gift wrapping boxes?

    • LLADYBIRD June 11, 2017 at 8:13 pm #

      All my PDF patterns fit fine in the sheet protectors inside the binders – whether they are cut or uncut, taped or printed via large format.

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