Ideas on Pattern Organization Needed

Well, Jordan didn’t think folding fabric was fun. At all.  #whomp So, that’s on hold until I can talk Liz or Trena into coming and helping.

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So, he mixed champagne cocktails and I took a hard look at my pattern collection. As noted, my patterns reside in this IKEA cabinet. I do want to buy a metal filing cabinet this year and I will. But, I need to get an additional shelving unit for fabric storage first.

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What I did was pull all my cluttered patterns out (sorry, no before photo). And sort them by brand. By far, I have more Vogue Patterns between the regular envelopes and the designer patterns.Simplicity is second.

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I also have all my traced (mostly BWOF) patterns in a drawer. I’ve used two different envelope sizes over the last ten years. So, larger ones are vertical, smaller ones are horizontal.  Someday, I’ll go through and put pattern numbers in the appropriate corners of these traced envelopes.  Or, pay a niece to come over and do so.

New Look, Burda envelope and Kwik Sew are horizontal in the middle.

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Larger Vogue designer patterns, Jalie and Hot Patterns in one drawer going horizontal. With horizontal McCalls in the middle (you can see the numbers / names easier this way for these lines) and a few fragile vintage patterns vertical in front.  Oh, what are you storing your Jalie patterns in once you’ve opened them?

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Simplicity, Butterick, Vogue in another going vertical. Again, easier to see the numbers on them. I might get those in numerical order some day too…

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So, here’s my question. I’ve got all the patterns back in and neatly.  In some cases (ok, only in Vogue’s case) they are even numerical.

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I wasn’t surprised at the number of patterns I have (I actually think I don’t have *that* many). I was surprised that I didn’t know what patterns I have! I need a filing/ sorting system similar to my Burda program.

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There, I’ve photocopied the line drawings page, printed them out and have them in a binder. So easy to flip through and find a pattern.

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So, tell me, how do you organize your patterns? Spreadsheet? Databases? Photo flash cards? How do you find patterns you are looking for? Oh, and please share what you’re doing with your Jalie patterns once they come out of the cellophane.


  1. I use Evernote. Each pattern is a Note that includes the brand (Vogue), designer (if applicable), type of garment (dress). Then I add tags like summer/winter or tested (if I’ve made it up already. In the note, I have the front and back cover of the pattern (mostly sourced from the internet). That way, you have all your patterns with you on your smartphone including hoe much fabric is needed. I also add notes on alterations to consider when when I make it up the first time, as I come across them while reading other sewing blog.
    The app can also be used for fabric stash management…

    • G, what a wonderful system! Thanks for sharing 🙂 I have Evernote on my smart phone. This is a great idea for armchair sewing (thinking about sewing but not sewing), which I do a lot of with two toddlers.

  2. I store my paper patterns (untraced) in plastic bins. I put my traced patterns in hanging file folders. But then, so I know what I actually have available, I use Evernote. It’s free, and it gives me a list of patterns organized by type of garment. But it also lets me search for, say, knit tops, very easily. I can also put all my patterns in (printed, magazines, books), with illustrations, technical drawings, even links to blog posts – whatever I want, and it’s on all my gadgets, so it helps me not forget to buy a zipper, or lining, or whatever. I wrote a bog post here:

  3. I have patterns listed in a spreadsheet – number, description, maximum yardage required. While it saves me buying duplicate patterns, it does nothing to prevent buying near-duplicates. My descriptions are too vague, does anyone realize how many patterns fit “semi-fitted princess seam blouse with collar variations” description?

    While I have some Burda magazines, I’ve never gotten around to tracing them off. And regular patterns I trace off get put with the original pattern in the envelope.

    I plan on photographing envelope front/backs and putting those in a file. Whatever I go with will need to be a standalone setup for the nook, as I don’t have a smartphone (yet).

    For your favorite vintage (or any of them for that matter) patterns, what about framing them and using them as art/inspiration? That would keep them from getting damaged in the drawer, just remember to hang them out of direct sun.

  4. I have some square baskets as well as an old filing cabinet. The filing cabinet is all vintage patterns sorted by category as best as I can — dresses in one drawer, etc. The baskets house the newer patterns, blouses in one, etc. The european magazine traceoff guys are in brown envelopes or depending on if I use them a lot I hang them on clip hangers so they don’t get all folds in them, like your slacks patterns or ones that you use all the time. I think this is similar to what tailors do. All the best with your re-org efforts. If we lived closer by (I’m in Toronto!) I’d come and help you. God bless, Miss Celie.

  5. When I first started organizing my (gigantic) pattern stash, I put the envelopes into document sleeves (like your Burda organization) and then the patterns into manila folders (labeled with pattern company & number). The envelopes were sorted by pattern type (dress, skirt, etc) and then company and number. The patterns in the folders were filed by company and number. The plus: easy to flip through the envelopes, easy to find a filed pattern and easy to note any fitting changes, issues, etc on the folder. The minus: completely offline so if I’m out I have none of it. I still use this method, but just for filing patterns. I rarely flip through the envelopes any more. I like putting the patterns in the manila folders because it makes folding patterns more manageable and works for any size or type of pattern. All my patterns are visible in the same way, making it easier to find a particular one.
    As my collection grew, and websites got better, I’ve started saving the photo and line drawings for all new pattern purchases (the intention is to scan those older ones that are unavailable but I’m lazy). Unfortunately, I’ve yet to find a great way to organize/file those. Right now, it’s simply by pattern company folders in Google Drive. I’ve tried EverNote, but with the several hundred patterns I own, it’s just too cumbersome to create the individual notes. I love the idea of it: tags for searching, a note area to jot down adjustments, construction issues and the like, online and that it’s available at any of my devices. But it takes me a few minutes to enter each pattern so I can’t manage to finish. Picasa almost worked for me (easy to organize and tag) but I haven’t found a good viewer for my iDevices, so it failed. I can’t justify PatternFile’s cost (I understand why it’s the price it is, but the recurring fee puts it out of my budget) so I’ve never tried that. No other app seems to have cross-platform capability (ideally, I’d like to enter the stuff on my computer and access and edit it on an iDevice).
    Good luck!!

  6. I am *so* loving your new sewing room!

    To keep track of patterns, each pattern I own gets its own note in Evernote that has images finished garment, technical drawings, fabric and notions requirements. Any finished makes that I see and like I also add to the note.

    For pattern magazines like Burda I only create a note for those garments that I am interested in making. The physical patterns and magazines themselves are stored in boxes.

    I also have a note in Evernote for each piece of fabric in my stash. Having these things so easily available and searchable makes shopping a lot easier.

  7. I either take the pattern envelope or else a photocopy of it and put that in my binder. I like sections, like tops, pants, dresses, etc. So for those patterns that have more than one, I copy it and put them in each section so I don’t miss something when I’m browsing for my next project. I use manilla envelopes for all my patterns except for Jalie and Farbenmix, which are the same size as the Jalies. I have the envelopes sorted by company and then number…numbers are written in the top left for easy flipping. I get lazy with incoming patterns, but eventually they make their way into the system when I get annoyed enough.

    My Jalies are just in a box. I have maybe 15, so it works well right now. I know what box they’re in and there aren’t too many that it’s overwhelming to flip through or anything. I take a copy of the front and put it in my binder like above so I can see what I have. Those binders get big! I have three…two for women’s patterns and one for child, men and craft.

    I don’t have a smartphone, and if I did, I probably would still keep the system I have. I’m pretty tactile and I still use a regular planner vs. google calendar and the like, I still prefer a written journal vs. typed and that sort of thing.

  8. I try to open the Jalie patterns carefully at the top, and I keep everything in that plastic bag. When I trace them, I just fold up the traced pattern and stick it in the bag also. They fit horizontally in some open top boxes I got at the Container Store. Originally I tried transferring them to plastic freezer bags or manila envelopes but really nothing except the bag they came in was quite the right size. It’s not bad this way, it works well enough!

  9. Great idea with the binder. I have a horrible method for actual storage: plastic bins based on garment type.

    I do keep an online record using Pinterest. I have two boards: MTL – Patterns I Own and MTL – Patterns I Want. It really is helpful when I am at JAs during a sale trying to remember what I already own.

    Thanks for sharing your ideas.

  10. I don’t have great advice for you but am loving the other commenters’ suggestions. I probably should use evernote. I organize by garment type vs. brand. I do it this way because when planning to make something I do it by item (“I want to make a blouse…”) and want to see all the options. The exception is knits – those are all together regardless of type.

    What confounds me is how to store patterns once they are traced. I had them in manila envelopes but the pattern covers always came off (I taped them on the front). Now traced or cut patterns are in large ziplocs which is sloppy.

  11. I recently cleared out my pattern stash but previously I had them organized by type, not brand. Dress patterns were grouped, pants were grouped, mens was another group. Children’s patterns were another group with sub groups by type.

    Traced out patterns are grouped in there as well (stored in envelopes) because if I’m looking for something, it’s by garment.

  12. Thanks all for the Evernote info — I’ll definitely have to look into it. For my storage of patterns, I place the envelopes in pages protectors and then in books divided into the pattern type category — i.e. dress, skirt, blah, blah, blah. This way I can quickly flip through my patterns to find what want.

    I then put the actual patterns in manilla envelopes, write the numbers on the envelopes and then store them numberically in a large cabinet I bought at Home Depot. I’ve seen a number of bloggers who do the same thing. So far, it works for me.

    • I have mine in numerical order regardless of mfg. That was step 1 of organizing. Step to is the pics and line drawings filed and x filed under type where necessary, ie if patterns has skirt and pants the pic gets filed under skirts as well as pants. Then I flip thru pics when I think i might want to make something and pick from their, or if I’m considering buying a pattern I look in my boxes to make sure I don’t already have. Come to think of it, I should just create a numerical list and note mfg.

  13. I take pattern pieces out of envelope, leave the instructions in the pattern envelope, then put the whole thing into a clear, plastic zip-top bag. I sort by pattern type — blouses, pants/skirts, dresses, etc. — and store them in the cardboard cartons in which copier paper is delivered to my office. I stack the boxes vertically atop a credenza in my sewing room (a.k.a. “spare bedroom”). I have over 40 boxes stuffed full of patterns. It is a sickness.

  14. My system is similar to Sarah’s. Instructions and pattern pieces go in a quart-sized Ziploc filed by pattern #. The pattern envelope goes in a sheet protector in a 3-ring binder. Easy to flip thru the binder to see what I have, and then easy to find the pattern since they are all filed numerically.

  15. I have no suggestions for organisation – which you would understand if you ever saw my workspace – but I am enjoying reading about your new work room and absorbing ideas. Who knows – I may even get organised myself!

  16. I have no advice but I am TOTALLY copying your Burda magazine drawing idea. I am so tired of going through all my magazines to find a design I vaguely recall.

  17. I have more Burda than envelope patterns, but I do have my patterns organized by type as well. I inherited a bank of file cabinets with a formica top that is 4 wide and 3 high. It resides behind my cutting table and the top is where I keep my Burda magazines, rulers and cutting notions. When I make something from Burda I remove the pattern sheets and those are sorted by year by now, 3 drawers.
    I tired Evernote a few years ago and I couldn’t read the app. The type was too small and I couldn’t enlarge it. Is it better now? or different for an I phone which I now have?

  18. I seriously need to reorganize mine (or just buy another filing cabinet!), so I feel your pain. Looks like you’ve been pretty busy though!

    I just slit carefully across the top of my Jalie’s, so that when I’m done I can put them back in the plastic. Then I store them in magazine holders like these: I’ve also stored the couple that I accidently lost/ripped the plastic in there too, and it works fine, though your binder idea might work well for the independent sheets if you can come up with a good way to label the actual pattern sheets.

  19. I do something similar to G; except I use “onenote” as my repository rather than evernote.

    I love it, I get the front and back of the pattern envelopes from the Pattern suppliers websited (for my out of print patterns, I scanned them in). Each Pattern maker has a seperate notebook in onenote. All of my pattern info is stored on a skydrive, and I can access them from my Iphone and IPAD (using outline+ app), Windows computer and the web. I also share my skydrive with a couple of sewing buddies, so we don’t have to enter the same data.

    I can jot down notes, etc when I access my patterns from any my devices. What I like about using outline+ and onenote is I can search my patterns based on descriptive text that I include about each pattern, etc. I’ve been using this method for over a year now and love it.

    I got the idea to use onenote from Beverly @

  20. I’m not so technically inclined (though I’m now thinking I should do a searchable spreadsheet). What I do is this: I don’t give a hoot about brands; the only thing I care about is what the pattern is for (this is how my brain works — I can visually recall a pattern for a shirt, or a dress or a skirt or pants, but don’t ask me brand because I’ll never remember that). So, my patterns are all organized first by contemporary, what the thing is and then in the same box come the vintage, what the thing is (that is, ‘contemporary skirts’ than ‘vintage skirts’).

  21. I have them in bins, sorted by type–tops, pants, dresses, etc. I log each one into That way i use the website to find what i have that would work for me, then look in the appropriate bin. I like using patternreview, because once I see something i might want to make, i can look at the reviews and photos.

  22. Storage wise I am similar to you – I sort by brand and number, magazines are in magazine holders, and I have a separate bin for traced patterns.

    How I keep track of it all is on the computer – I have a picture of each pattern (usually a screen shot from somewhere on the internet, as the file type is smaller) and on the computer I sort the patterns by type – a folder for dresses, jackets, pants, etc. Within each type folder I have sub-folders that are more specific (ie, dresses are separated into fancy gowns, fancy short dresses, casual dresses, maxi dresses, etc.). I also have a “Favorites” for each type, so I can keep track of the patterns I really want to make. That way, when I want to make something I can go look at the patterns I have that are options and I can usually narrow it down to one or two patterns. Then I can pull them out to look at fabric requirements, etc. before I make a final decision.

  23. I organize mine by type of garment – blouses/tops together, dresses together, multi-garment outfits together, etc. Never made sense to me to file them numerically or even by company since the numbers don’t appear to have any meaning to help decode what type of garment it is for. I fortunately scored a pattern cabinet from a Joanns that was remodeling. Takes up quite a bit of room but it holds a lot of patterns. Good luck in your organization efforts!

  24. I have around 40 patterns, arranged according to age/gender group. Within those groupings are further divisions according to garment type. I used to use brown A5 envelopes to store the patterns once they were opened. I would cut the pattern envelope and glue it to the front & back of the A5 envelope. Now I use a ziplock bag around the pattern envelope. Neither the envelopes & ziplock bags are big enough to hold traced patterns. Traced patterns get their own envelope/bag with the details noted on the cover. It is stored behind the original pattern.

    The whole lot is in a small filing cabinet in my husband’s home office.

  25. I used to use Excel for patterns but I really wanted a photo. So I now use Bento. Such a pity they’ve got rid of it & replaced it with the hugely expensive Filemaker. 😦 However, while my Bento continues to work I shall still use it (Mac only plus iPhone).

    My Jalies go into a long zip lock bag once opened. We have a size here that fits perfectly.

    • I’m using an ancient pre-Bento version of Filemaker for the same reason. The new versions of Filemaker are so expensive. I guess they don’t want the consumer level market any more, too bad.

    • I can still find the box edition of Bento. And, liked it when I started using it for fabric organization. For $30, do you think buying it now is worth it since they will discontinue support going forward?

      • Well…I think $30 is pretty cheap for software. 🙂 The only problem with it I have now is that it won’t synch between my Macbook and iPhone ever since I upgraded to Mountain Lion and now Mavericks. 😦 So I really have to keep TWO databases. But…it’s not that much work cos only usually ones buy a few patterns at a time. 😉

  26. I have every pattern with photo on Dropbox which I have access in my phone, computer, and I Pad. IEvery time I purchase a pattern I go to the pattern website and save the pattern photo with nymber to my dropbox file. I file the patterns separated by number, category, and company. Another words I have dresses: Simplicity (dresses) and numerical order, McCalls (dresses) numerical order, etc. Than skirts: Simplicity, numerical order, etc, Burda (skirts) numerical order and so on. Not sure if that make sense but it works for me. To look at potential patterns to make I just go to my Dropbox file and see what I have.

  27. Custom Filemaker database. That is really the only way that I can deal them all, including all the Burda magazine patterns, at this point. I just put a jpg in a new database record and click on a box that categorizes it into the type of garment. I created some subcategories too, so if I want to, I can search something specifically, A-line skirts or long sleeve shirts, e.g. Once the database is set up, it’s easy to deal with and then the paper patterns and tracings are just stored out of sight. Admittedly, I’m a little behind at scanning the covers of some older patterns, but I mostly use Burda these days and its easy to get the images from the various websites.

  28. Your Ikea cabinet seems perfect for filing pattern. Your system is amazing. Many years ago I took my patterns out of their envelopes, put them in plastic bags with the pattern number and sketch showing out, and then stored the envelopes in sheet protectors in binders. This was long before the general public had printers in their homes. Now, I sort them by garment type rather than by pattern company. It works for me but may not for everyone.

  29. I have over a thousand patterns, mostly vintage. I store them in fabric zippered boxes with metal frames that I got from the Container Store, and the boxes themselves are stacked on the Ikea Expedit that holds my fabric. As for sorting, I’ve got them grouped by decade, then by maker, then sorted numerically.

    Traced off patterns are stored in “envelopes” made of copier paper taped together. I write the pattern info and make a crude line drawing on the outside of the envelope, and store them all in a cardboard banker’s box (along with my Burda collection, which is not that big).

    I have photos of all my patterns on Flickr, and that’s how I “browse” my collection. Ideally I’d have both the fronts and backs of the envelopes, but for now I just have the fronts and usually that’s enough.

  30. I highly recommend storing the guts numerically – this includes my vintage stash. I started doing it over 10 years ago and it is still the most efficient way for me. My pattern covers and backs are scanned pictures on Picasa with tags for what garments are included. The tags are the best! I love that when I feel like making pants I can just type in “pants” and every pattern that has any style of pant shows up. I also went very basic with my tags meaning, I didn’t separate blouse/t-shirt/turtleneck, etc. If it fit into any of those categories it’s tagged “top”. I like the less is more option.

    I just got my very first iphone so the whole app thing is new to me but one of the first things I investigated was pattern filing. On first glance it looked like I’d have to re-enter everything and I wasn’t to keen on that idea because it’s a big job, also I really didn’t want to have to put in all the information they include – good for some people but not me. If I’d had that technology available when I converted the paper covers to pictures I probably would have gone that route.

    Good luck to you! It’s a huge, monster job to get it organized but soooooo worth it. Plus, that beautiful new sewing room deserves it. 🙂

  31. I have pictures of all my patterns in Picasa. The title of the picture is the name. I also list the size and whether or not the pattern is cut. I also list whether or not I have made it and any changes. I can access it with my phone if I am in a store.

    I sew for myself, my husband, 4 girls, and 2 boys. The patterns are so many different types and styles. When somebody wants me to make something, we just look through the pattern catalog I created.

  32. I use PatternFile, which is not free, to catalogue the patterns.
    Then I file by pattern number (regardless of company) within each category – tops, skirts, pants, suits, coordinates. I file it in a lateral file cabinet in the way that fabric stores file patterns using cards with write-on tabs to separate the categories.

  33. I buy Hercules brand (may not be available in the US) large storage bags, from the supermarket, that are the perfect size for Jalie patterns. I store traced patterns in smaller ziploc bags and keep them in the bag as well.

  34. Keep your eye open for a store re-locating or closing and get some of those pattern cabinets. You may trade, give-away or otherwise dispose of some of your stash, but one thing you won’t (or shouldn’t) dispose, or get rid of, is your pattern collection. I threw some away (when I was young and didn’t know any better) and wanted to make them again, and of course couldn’t. I have three cabinets in the garage and love them. They are all organized and when ever I need one, I know right where to find it.

    Also I print up a 6 x 9 envelope (most of these will go through a printer – I have a pdf template if you can edit templates in pdf form), and print out pattern envelopes with the name of the pattern and sometimes a sketch on the front, but mostly things like red cord jacket or Christmas blouse for sister – that’s enough to let me know what’s in the envelope. They have their own category as well as my designs which are usually in 9 x 12 envelopes. These are the ones I use for my regular patterns.

  35. I am working on making a database of all my BWOF magazines in Bento. Mostly because I wanted to be able to sort them by type – jackets, dresses, etc. But, it’s taking me a long time and I like your idea of photocopying the line drawing pages and putting them in a binder. Maybe I’ll do that instead!

    • Just so you know, once I lost my paper file in a move. Also when I brought it to fabric stores and put in on a bolt a fabric whilst looking at another (right next to it), customers got curious and started flipping through it, thinking it was a store catalogue, LOL.

  36. I put my traced magazine patterns into manilla folders and stored those in a single (!) pull-out file drawer that lived under my sewing desk. They also fit in the inexpensive (uncovered) cubic containers that IKEA sells. Mine are bamboo and pleather. You can get all different types, not just boxboard. BTW if you’re impatient for a niece to come over, you could put a rotating stack of ten unmarked envelopes next to the TV and tackle them slowly instead of using TiVO.

  37. You don’t want Jordan playing with your fabric anyhow. His idea of organization will be different from yours. But hooray for starting the process of organizing your patterns! I hope you’ve had a nice (although bittersweet) visit with your father. I wish you peace and happiness (and quality sewing machine time) in 2014.

  38. Folding fabric is like folding laundry, except that it’s an endless laundry load full of sheets. LOL! Thank you for posting this question. I’ve been enjoying reading different solutions for pattern storage.

  39. For my jalie patterns…I carefully slice open the top, trace off whatever sizes I need. Then I carefully put the pattern back in the bag and keep those in an ikea box. I then print off the jalie website the pattern picture & the instructions and put those w my pattern trace offs in a page protector in a binder. This is where/how I store all of my pdf patterns that I’ve taped together and traced as well. I’m less sophisticated with the hard big 4 envelopes in that I just store them in ikea boxes sorted by garment type….BUT I keep a list by brand and number in my phone so that I can 1) confirm if I already own a pattern prior to purchase and 2) I just look up pattern details on the Internet if I need that info while shopping. (mostly I want to sew so I’m willing to use a system that requires less time to maintain for organization…my system is perfect for me!) good luck…you have gathered an amazing number of tips here!!!

  40. Damn, woman, that is one big pattern collection! I’m impressed, and slightly jealous, and very glad I don’t have to find places for them. Having said that, I’m happy to bring a bottle of wine (or 2) and help you fold and organize. It’d get me away from squabbling kids, among other things. 🙂

  41. I am still working with organizing mine, which is currently by brand, but I store them “bagged and boarded” in the magazine size. I place these in 30qt storage bins from target. I have 10 bins currently but still have several boxes that haven’t been sorted. I can write on the back of the boards, and then see that and the pattern envelope through the clear cellophane. I do have a couple duplicates, because I don’t have a sorting system, and the mountain of time necessary to input them all.

  42. Loving your sewing room…awesome! I finally organized my patterns, pulled out every single one, logged each pattern into a chart grouping them by garment. Tediously copied & pasted from the internet the images and ancillary info per page into a word document and printed & stored in a binder for ease of reference. Uploaded the word doc to my smartphone and tablet as well. Organized the actual patterns by garment, then within the group, alpha organized them by pattern company and then numerical. My patterns are housed in audio peers that I scavengered from another room. I love the ease of flipping through the binder and/or perusing the pattern list via my phone or tablet. Sadly, since then I have accumulated more patterns and have yet to organize those.

  43. Haha, I do the very same thing with my Burda magazines and my ring bound binder looks exactly like yours! Except that I don´t make photocopies of the pages, but scan them and print them, so that I have a digital version as well :).

  44. I’m a little late to the party, but I thought I would mention an app called SewingKit HD. The first incarnations were really buggy, but the latest update is stable so far. Most of the apps I found, you had to manually enter all the info – too time consuming for me considering I have a crapload of patterns. This app scans the barcode on the pattern cover and it pulls in most of the info. Doesn’t work for Burda Mag patterns, though, but I tried all the big names and it works great! It also has a field where you can enter the location of the pattern as well. And you can back up the database.

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