Friday, February 7, 2014

The way I organize sewing patterns

I'm terribly lucky in that I have a dedicated sewing room with plenty of space to spread out. But somehow, despite my deepest Virgo organizing tendencies, I just couldn't get my patterns organized in a way that suited my creative bursts. I typically trace commercial patterns, so I have double the tissue pieces flying around. I like to reference pattern pieces I may have altered before, and I like to make the same patterns over and over, and, I'm sometimes lazy and impatient so any barriers to accessing the needed patterns means I waste time I could be sewing! But instead of learning to be more patient, I decided there had to be a better way. 

I've tried all the methods of pattern storage known to me, none of them really worked well enough for me to use regularly and efficiently. Folding them up and shoving them into any type of envelope of folder has obvious draw backs. Every time I wanted to reference a pattern I'd have to pull it out of the envelope or giant zip lock Baggie or legal file folder or wherever I last shoved them. The patterns would be folded and crumpled and it was terribly annoying to find just the piece I wanted to reference or just the pieces I wanted to use. I also tried rolling the pattern pieces up in gift wrap tubes, but I never had enough tubes and the patterns curled and then what do I do with the pattern envelope? I also tried hanging them but this isn't terribly portable and I'd still have little pieces floating around and it tooktime to  organize all the pieces to hang together. Plus I'd need to by more pattern hooks and maybe one of those rabbit punches and you see where this is going.

 I realized I needed a flat solution, something that would let me store a lot of patterns in one place, and a system that was relatively mobile, and would not damage the patterns. I also wanted to quickly access the patterns without having to do a lot of unfolding or riffling or unrolling or whatnot. 

At long last, I believe I have come up with a solution that fits my Virgo organizing demands!

The picture might not really due it the dramatic justice that this method deserves.

 I happen to have a huge roll of 60" wide plotter paper I got from the Sewing and Design School in Tacoma (thanks Ryliss!). You could probably use news paper or even tape together tissue paper. Anything that will get that 60" width should work. I cut 1 1/4 yard as this fits pretty much any length of pattern. If I have wide pattern pieces, as in the photo above, I align them in the middle of the paper. I then fold the paper once lengthwise: 

Then again width wise, and write the pattern info on the paper with a sharpie. I also opened the pattern envelope along it's glued edges and then glued those edges to the paper so it's still an envelope if I wanted to store really pesky pieces in there. 

I then realized I should have written everything on the folded edges not the open ones, so I wrote in the info again on the opposite side:
And here you see a stack of patterns I've made recently: I then stack them all together between two sheets of foam board and put them on a shelf

When I want to use a pattern I can pull out the stack sandwiched between the foam board and flip through to find what I want. The pieces stay flat, the little pieces are under control, and there is very little folding. I can also take the whole stack with me, portfolio style!

Hope you like this method of organizing patterns. Anyone have a method that works for them?


  1. Interesting way to organize your patterns. I am looking for a method that will suit my space. I like the flat storage, but I am upstairs in a small, formerly unused space that has knee walls on all sides. Not much vertical storage for me.

    I found you via Sew Well's blog. Are you in the Seattle area too?

    1. Katy - I use the drawer of a filing cabinet and manila envelopes for custom drafted or just separators and then patterns stuck between named separators (knit shirts, woven shirts, etc.). I am quite constricted on space and have only a tall filing cabinet. but you could use a wide one or even get some of those cool boxes you can cart files around in. Having the hanging separators makes a big difference for me. I can even squeeze 2 vogue sized patterns in side by side. :)

      I'm in the south end (pierce county) how about you? Seattle?

  2. Leah, this is really fascinating. I love the way you think about organizing and pull together a really clean, easy to use method. Brilliant! You've inspired me to share my file drawer method of storing patterns. But, if I had different space to work with, I would consider your method. So great!