pattern organizing

Since there really hasn’t been a ton of sewing going on around these parts lately, I thought I’d share a few things I’ve finally gotten around to doing to keep my sewing patterns in order. 

Sure, it can be really simple at first when you start sewing from patterns, keeping them organized isn’t too big of a problem.  But if you’re like me, sewing just kind of sneaks up on you and before you know it you’ve got a full-fledged hobby on your hands.  And with that hobby comes lots of things that need to be kept – including patterns. 
I used to try and stuff my patterns back into the envelopes they came in.  They’re like maps, somehow once you’ve unfolded them, you just can’t seem to quite get them folded back up the way they were.  I also acquired quite a few tracings for each pattern.  I have a gigantic roll of paper that I used to trace almost all my patterns onto before I cut them out, that way the original pattern stays intact. 
So I decided to keep each pattern in a standard size mailing envelope (I believe it’s called a catalog envlope, fits standard letter size paper laying flat).  That way the tracings, directions, original pattern envelope, and original pattern pieces would all stay neatly tucked into the envelope. 
Each pattern is labeled (not so fancy – maybe someday they will be) with the basic pattern information: pattern name, type, sizes, etc. 

For now they all fit quite nicely in my little storage box.  You’re really going to laugh when you read this next part, but at one point in time (not all that long ago) all my sewing things fit inside this little box – with the lid on!   Crazy, huh?

I also have my digital patterns stored into separate folders on my computer.  On my desktop I have one Sewing folder and in that folder I have four sub-folders: Purchased Patterns, Free Tutorials, Inspiration Pics, and Book Patterns.  I think it’s nice to keep them divided, that way I know which patterns I should really try and make something from (the Purchased Patterns folder).  Also, I do scan in a lot of patterns from sewing books I check out from our library.  I scan the pattern pieces and directions of the projects I’m most interested in and keep them ready and waiting.

Hope that’s not information overload here, just thought I’d share a way that has been working for me.  How do you keep your patterns organized?  I’d love to hear any tips, and I’m sure other readers would enjoy reading them! 
And just when we thought it was going to stay all nice and springy here, we got a major dumping of snow yesterday, over 6 inches!  Rae, did you send this my way?!  At any rate, it was the first time I’ve ever built snowmen in April, nuts.

34 thoughts on “pattern organizing

  1. Michelle says:

    I’m with you, fitting those patterns back into the original envelope is pretty difficult. I like your envelope idea. I keep mine in the gallon size ziplock bags. Then I can see the pattern I’m looking for as I flip thru.

  2. Grandma G says:

    SIX INCHES?! Guess I’d better not complain so much about our inch or so on the ground… AGAIN! At least it’s usually gone by noon.

    My sympathies to you. πŸ˜‰

  3. Clare says:

    Great idea Anna, I need to have a similar sort out. It drives me mad trying to get the patter back into the small envelope I suppose you could also cut the original envelope in half and stick the two halves onto the front of the big envelope, that way you’d have all the info to your fingertips.

    I made up your 241 tote at the weekend, fabuolous, briefly blogged on my website πŸ™‚

  4. I stole my pattern organization from my mother, who has hundreds of patterns: she bought a file cabinet and some manilla file folders, and then put the pattern pieces in the folders and filed them by brand and pattern number. Then she took a binder and slid the pattern envelopes into sheet protectors, and organized the binder by type of pattern (ie dresses, crafts, costumes, etc).

    It’s basically the same setup as when you go to the fabric store: look through a binder, pick a pattern, pull it out of a file cabinet.

    And here I was complaining about all the rain. I guess I can be thankful that it is not snowing!

    1. Nina says:

      Wow. That’s cool ! You have your own little shop going on. I love it πŸ’•

  5. seriously good idea! Mine are all in this HUGE unorganized pile hidden away in a drawer. I cringe every time I have to sort through it to look for something…I am so jealous of organized people!

  6. My system is similar to yours – Folders for Paid and Free patterns (sewing and embroidery) on the computer in a folder called “Studio.”

    I copy my paper patterns, too, and keep the originals stored in a pattern box I bought at Fabricland. It has dividers but I haven’t labeled them yet – I don’t have that many patterns and I am waiting for categories to emerge πŸ™‚

    I also keep fabric swatches in that same pattern box, in Ziplock bags so they don’t get dusty. (Anal much???!!!)

  7. Vanessa says:

    I’ve got a huge binder filled with clear plastic pages that I keep lots of my computer printed patterns in but there’s no method to that madness. I keep promising myself to sit down and organize my patterns into folders on my computer by type (even bought an external hard drive to back them up!) but that hasn’t happened yet!

  8. Krista says:

    Scanning in the ones from library books — so smart! I have just been trying to soak in all the info while I have the books out for three weeks. Haha… Thanks for that tip. Right now, I’m just a beginner and only have a few patterns. They’re shoved into a drawer in a big mess.

  9. Kerry says:

    I love your organisation! Clothes patterns in particular are unruly things! I keep them in A4 plastic clip boxes which are about 1.5 inches tall. Bag patterns and smaller projects in A4 plastic pockets and filed. I laughed about everything fitting in the one box, only 18 months ago, I was the same!

  10. banclothing says:

    I use ziplock bags. I put the pattern envelope facing the front and fold all the pieces and put them in. It takes up some space but I like to see the picture especially for patterns I don’t often use. I store them standing up in a paper box (the boxes that hold 20 stacks or whatever). They fit perfectly and I can put the lid on top. That way I can stack another box of patterns on top.

  11. I love how you have your patterns organized. I put my patterns in gallon size ziplock bags. Then I group these bags by author into their own manila folders and file them in a big clear file folder box.
    I also have my folders organized in folders on my computer. If I have several from one authore like “Noodlehead”, they are group by author. Otherwise they are group by type. ex. dresses, baby stuff, etc.

  12. Steph says:

    Heh. I’d need about 15 of those boxes at this point. It’s a little out of control.

  13. The Liddles says:

    My mom taught me to iron the patterns with the number out on each piece. Sometimes they fit in the envelope better than when we bought them! Then they get tossed in a bin or drawer, but at least they’re contained in the envelope πŸ™‚

  14. Radmall says:

    I can’t get them back into their envelopes either I put the pattern piers and instructions With the original envelope facing out into a gallon ziplock bag. It’s not as nice looking as yours but I like being ableto see the pattern pic without having to open the bag. Then the zplocks get stores in a box with a lid (mine doesn’t fit anymore either.

    Can you please sharewith us how you trace your patterns? I’m thinking thatwouldbe muchbetter thanwjwre I try to holdback the bigger sizes.

  15. Regina says:

    I’m going to buy some large envelopes! My patterns become a mess and I tend to lose them. If I’m not in a hurry to make the item then I trace the pieces onto freezer paper so I can just iron them onto my fabric for easy tracing/cutting. They take up a lot of room though.

  16. A great idea. You inspire me to buy envelope easy to label them. I keep my pattern in the transparent plastic cover then place them in storage box.

  17. Emily says:

    My purchased patterns are in ziploc bags in a little box. The ones I’ve printed from the internet are in a magazine holder and are very untidy. I keep the ones I know I’ll use again but recycle the others. I also used to print a bunch I wanted to try but stopped. Love the way you organized them on your computer. Sorry about all of that snow! It keeps dusting here but nothing like six inches!!

  18. Kris says:

    I got a letter size accordion folder for mine. when i get more than one size or type of the same thing I use multiple envelopes in the same pocket.

  19. Amy says:

    I keep all my patterns in a huge box in the attic. You probably don’t want to go to my system though you might when you accumulate more patterns πŸ˜‰

  20. carol says:

    There is a new software package that I have been eyeing, called Pattern File ( that allows you to track you patterns. I store mine in a file cabinet, but all my patterns were in envelopes like your’s, but now i buy the clear plastic envelope, file folder storage things at Office Max. Organized b Kids, Mens, womens and Assessories.

  21. Bree says:

    I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it never occurred to me to scan patterns & directions from library books. I’ve had a couple that I’ve tried to copy quick before I return the book, but scanning never occurred to me.

    I keep all my patterns in those plastic page protectors in a three-ring binder. It’s nice because I can see the pattern & pieces without having to pull everything out if I can’t remember what it is from the name. It’s worked well so far, but I’m starting to outgrow my 3-inch binder!

  22. virginiamae says:

    I have a similar system, but I use ziploc baggies and add my unfinished projects to the pattern if I just don’t finish before my kids grow out of it – yikes! I know, it’s terrible! I have this problem of making the 1st thing and then going immediately back and cutting out something else to make and never finishing the second.

  23. hart44 says:

    I have a plastic pocket file I keep my patterns πŸ™‚ I also have loads of files on my PC but I like to be able to flick through them so the folder has my well loved and used ones in it πŸ™‚

  24. Very similar to my system except I put my envelopes in magazine holders.

  25. Anonymous says:

    I use gallon-size zip-lock bags. Each pattern, with its various sizes and pieces all go in the bag. Since the bag is clear I put the picture of the pattern facing out so I can see it as I look through them. I keep all of my bags in a plastic bin, further categorized by type, i.e. quilt, clothes, purse, etc.

  26. Marina says:

    Hi Anna. Great organisation system! I know this is a big question, but I’d be intrigued to know whether you’ve had success with scanning your library book patterns and getting them to print out at the right size.

    I’ve been trying everything to scan my hand drawn patterns and get them to output at 100% but the scanner/computer insists on resizing, or scaling in some way everytime….. There was a great tutorial on Sew Mama Sew recently, which I tried but couldn’t get it to work for me.

    Anyway, just some thoughts….

  27. Sine K-J says:

    May I add, I keep a quick printed picture with my patterns. Then it is easy to remember whitch is whitch πŸ™‚ Happy easter from Denmark.

  28. Indigo Blue says:

    I use brown A5 mailing envelopes. They are much stronger that the paper used to make the pattern envelopes.
    Happy Easter.

  29. patternpatti says:

    I use manilla file folders for each pattern. I was taping the original envelope to the front, but quickly figured out that I’d need to reference the back, so I quit doing that. Then I group them together by genre and store in hanging folders in file crates. It has worked for me so far.

  30. Liz J says:

    I’ve solved the “What the heck do I own?” problem to organizing my patterns. Well, more like my roommate solved it. My roommate created PatternFile, a searchable database for sewing patterns where you can actually search and see the pictures of the envelope and yardage on your computer. What I’m trying to solve now as I add more boxes to my collection every time there is a pattern sale at Joann’s is the actual storage problem. I’m trying to decide if I should stick with boxes or switch to a file cabinet. If cabinet, should I do just hanging folders or envelops like people have mentioned above?

  31. I love the analogy of patterns to maps once unfolded – I can see that, ha! -Sara

  32. jayayceeblog says:

    The last year we lived in Colorado (before moving to Arizona), it snowed on JUNE 6TH! Granted, it did not stick, but I could not get the moving boxes packed fast enough. We’re in the high 90s right now so I definitely sympathize with your yen for spring and warm weather.

  33. Nina says:

    Love reading about your pattern organising. I’d love to hear more about how you organise your sewing stuff πŸ’•

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