Nov 24, 2012
Readers, I own roughly three hundred patterns, maybe a few more, most of them vintage.
I don't know exactly how this happened. I purchased many of them myself -- mainly on Etsy, eBay, and at the flea market -- but others were gifted to me by desperately decluttering MPB readers. I appreciate these donations, I really do, but larger numbers of patterns has meant better organization is a must. Today I'd like to share my system with you.
While there are many different ways to organize one's pattern stash, whatever system you choose has to work for you and you only. Organizing three hundred patterns is a lot easier than organizing three thousand, of course, so perhaps my methods are most effective for sewers with small-to-medium size pattern stashes.
Here are some of my storage secrets. Some of them will no doubt elicit a duh from more than a few of you who have been sewing (and organizing patterns) a whole lot longer than I.
In no particular order....
1) Ziploc bags. Every pattern I have opened and used ends up in its own plastic ziploc (also known as slider) bag. I love these bags because they keep my patterns clean, they're clear, so I can see what's inside them, and they're large enough to make folding pattern pieces into them easy. I never try to fold the pattern pieces back into their original envelope. Sometimes if it's a pattern with pieces I'm unlikely ever to use, I'll leave those pattern pieces in the paper envelope, but it all will be stored in a ziploc bag. I purchase these bags at the supermarket, usually in boxes of thirty or so. They are gallon size and measure approximately 10 1/2 x 11.
The other thing I like about these bags is that, with most of the air squeezed out of them, they store relatively flat.
2) Online photo archive. I created an online archive last winter when I realized I no longer remembered which patterns I owned and feared purchasing the same ones twice. I took a single photo of every pattern I own, and posted these on two separate Picasa files (men's patterns and women's patterns), along with a photo of (most of) the finished projects I made with them. Whenever I purchase a pattern, I photograph it and upload it to the file. They are maintained in approximate chronological order.
You can see the women's patterns I own here.
You can see the men's patterns I own here.
3) Collapsible Storage Boxes. I am a big fan of Reisenthel fabric storage boxes. These collapsible fabric boxes come in a variety of colors and have sturdy metal frames. I use the Medium size, which neatly stores two rows of standard-size sewing patterns. While you can stack these fabric boxes, they're not really strong enough to stack as high as hard plastic boxes. Reisenthel boxes have zipper tops, velcro to keep the top secure, and a plastic window for labeling. They're plastic coated on the inside and very easy to keep clean.
I bought mine at The Container Store but you can find them on Amazon here. There are certainly cheaper storage boxes out there, but since I keep mine out in the living room, I appreciate their (relative) good looks. I use these boxes primarily for patterns I haven't opened and/or used yet (hence they're not in separate plastic storage bags).
4) Open shelves. My living room credenza has wide doors with open shelves. I use one side of men's patterns and the other for women's patterns. This is where I store patterns I've used, or expect to use soon. They're not the best organized but, with a little digging, I can find what I'm looking for pretty easily.
Someday I may need to get a metal filing cabinet. Maybe because I worked in offices for so many years, I hate filing cabinets and always find them unwieldy. We have one in the entryway that's mainly for important documents. I try to keep my distance.
Since I rarely am working on more than one pattern at a time, I try to have only that pattern out. Occasionally a pattern I've recently received will be lying around, but never open or -- heaven forbid -- with pattern pieces scattered about.
Friends, those are my secrets -- now in the public domain. How about yours?
I'm especially curious to hear how some of you who juggle multiple projects at one time (and there have been some scary confessions of late) manage to stay organized. And of course, if you have a particularly juicy "I learned the hard way" or "Don't make the same mistake I made" tale, well, everybody loves those.
Organized and not-so-organized sewers, jump in!