It's about exploring and sharing my creative adventures (mostly sewing these days) ~
~those activities that sometimes obsess, usually inspire, occasionally frustrate
~and always provide a delightful maze to wander through.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Patterns! Organized! Woot!

Confession:  I am, by nature, a slob.   Whatever is in my hand just gets dropped where I stand whenever I get distracted (and I get distracted a lot)  On the other hand, I will cross a room to straighten a picture that's 1/4" off, and I can't really breath deeply when I'm in a pile of messes.  So I'm always looking for ways to coexist with myself, allowing my creative slobbishness & my neat freak self to each be acknowledged.   When it comes to storage, I have to have a system.   An EASY system.  My patterns had no system, and it had reached the point of crazy-making when I was looking for something.

A mere year & 6 months ago I had....count 'em.... 3 patterns.   (has it only been that long????)  Organization?  Shmorganization!   Who needs it?

Fast forward through several estate sales, lots of $1.99 JoAnn's sales, discovering & drooling over all the indies out there, and numerous friends who say "You sew?  Oh look what I have for you! (yet another box of patterns....) & I've now amassed .... ummm..... a lot of patterns.  Lots.   More than half of them need to be re-homed, but a couple hundred....or so.... are in the TNT, or must do, or might do category, and they've been getting Out. Of. Control.

So what enters my life but yet another box of patterns from a well-meaning friend.   They looked like this (this is small sample of what was in the box):

Lots of big-shouldered 80's looks, but a lot of patterns with unusual lines, or creative possibilities - the woman who had them clearly had good taste - (translation:  they appealed to me ;^).)   But what a strange way of storing them, I thought....

The pattern covers were all cut in half - front & back, & then taped onto a 3-hole punch piece of paper, with the front cover on one side of the paper, & the back cover on the back side.  Instructions & pattern pieces were in 6x9 manila envelopes, & then the pattern cover was taped or stapled to the manila envelope.  The pattern number was written on a corner of the envelope.

Since all of the pattern covers were on 3-hole punch paper, I finally figured that she must have kept them in 3-ring binders at some point, so that you could easily see both the front & back of the pattern envelope, & then you could find the rest of the pattern via the pattern number printed on the manila envelope.   Now THIS made sense!

So....over the course of the next couple of evenings, I proceeded to catalog all of my keepers this way - well, sort of.  I didn't tape anything, and I certainly didn't cut anything up!   I had a stash of 6x9 envelopes & some clear vinyl 3-hole sheets in my office stash, so I used all of these up (& then went out & bought another box of the clear vinyl sheets, since this, imho, is far & above a better way of storing the pattern envelopes over stapling or taping them)

This is what I ended up with:

Three 3-ring binders, holding all of pattern envelopes.  I categorized them under headers like Jackets, Coats, Knit Tops, Woven Tops, Pants, Dresses, Skirts, Miscellaneous....etc.....  (note:  you can see the effect of taping on the left patterns....not so good for preservation!)  The aspect of this that is SO fabulous for me is that I can open the binder, flip through the category, find what I want in seconds, & go get the manila envelope in a few more seconds.   Nothing gets pawed through & torn, & I know exactly what I have.   For me, this is a win-win-win all the way!

 And the manila envelopes in drawers!   All the same size!  Categorized by number, super easy to find!  Patterns with names only, & no number, are simply alphabetized.

Drawers hidden, all neat & tidy & stuff, in one of my little attic sewing room's cubbyholes:

The oversized pattern pieces simply went into 9x12 envelopes.   The covers all fit in the binders, except for Jalie patterns, which are, apparently, too special to fit into other 'normal' sizes (or too Canadian, perhaps?)  ;^D

I probably spent a total of about 3 hours doing all of this (multi-tasking with the TV), & I'm betting I saved 6 hours of search time in the coming year alone!

Not that I'm going to be changing this system any time soon, but what are your pattern organization tips?  Or are yours still like mine were last week....semi-categorized in drawers or boxes, but still hard to find?

(disclaimer:  no precious vintage patterns were harmed  in the writing of this post.  The first picture here was not an actual depiction of how I store patterns.  Well....only partially.   And most of those are waiting to be re-homed.   See anything you like? hehehe.....)


Andrea said...

Very nice system, Jill. So far, I use cardboard file boxes that are specifically made for that purpose. I've thought about using the manila envelopes also, for the patterns I've cut and altered, or self drafted, but so far my system works ok.

Jilly Be said...

Andrea - after dinner I'm going to take a good look at your organization post. I've been too disorganized to do more than glance at it before ;^D

dfr2010 said...

I have 2 storage tubs ... costume patterns and non-costume patterns. Give ya 3 guesses which is larger ... (and the first 2 don't count!)

Jilly Be said...

hmmmm.... depends on which bin corsets go in..... ;^D

Tanit-Isis said...

Good job! I need some more drawers for mine so I can organize them properly. In desperation I did pull out all the kids' patterns and put them in their own box.

I keep most of mine in big manila envelopes with the name and pattern number written on the outside, and a print-out of a picture, either of the pattern envelope or my finished object, glued on too. The original pattern and envelope and whatever tracings/altered pieces I've made all go inside.

Mary said...

Nice work JillyBe-I love an organized space. My patterns are separated by type-woven blouses, knit tops, dresses, pants/shorts etc. I have the envelopes in plastic sleeves in 3 ring binders, and add a 3x5 card with notes and swatch when I make something. The tissues go into a quart size baggie, numbered, and put into photo boxes. The photo boxes are categorized to match the binders. Photo boxes and binders go into a built in set of drawers under the eaves.

This system has worked for 3 years and space considerations force me to cull from time to time. I'd love to have the boxes, which are decorated, and the binders on display but no room.

You know what I would hope for myself? That someday I have TNT for a basic wardrobe, and can pick up new patterns for interest. At this point I am trying lots of styles, some of which work, and obviously, some do not.

Jilly Be said...

Oh lordy - thank heavens I don't have kids' patterns too!

My tracings (so far) all fit in the 6x9's along with the originals. It surprised me, but those small & sturdy manila envelopes really seem to have a good capacity for content!

I considered printing out a copy of the original picture & storing everything else, but the green/ecological part of myself didn't approve...& her voice gets kinda loud sometimes.... Although I don't know if I offset anything by using the vinyl sheets.....can't win!

Jilly Be said...

Mary that sounds fabulously efficient! I know that, for myself, drawers work far better than boxes, and I'm still new enough (with lots of untried patterns yet!) that I need the sort of easy access that drawers afford.

What I love though, is the 3x5 card idea!!! I'm absolutely implementing that, thank you!

Anonymous said...

Nice organizing JillyB. I have too many to do this at once but I have been wondering how to organize patterns that I have tried as muslins and/or traced off and don't want to put back in the pattern stash (which is ridiculous). Where did you get the plastic drawers or what type are they that fit those envelopes. I think this would be perfect for my use. Thanks so much. mssewcrazy

Jilly Be said...

mssewcrazy I believe I got those drawers at an Ace Hardware Store...but they might have come from JoAnn's. I was actually looking for something that would fit into that cubby; my original intent was not pattern storage, but the 6x9 envelopes fit very nicely in the drawers. :)

Jenna said...

My story is very similar...those 99 cent pattern sales really do me in. Every. Single. Time. And my organizational solution is the same, too, for the most part. :)

I'm starting to get a bit behind, though, I have a few patterns that are just floating around the house...yikes. And Joann's is having another pattern sale this week.

glorm said...

Any of those patterns you will be getting rid of in my size?

Jilly Be said...

GMTA Jenna :) I am REALLY liking this system so far! It's unbelievable how much easier it is to see what I have, match fabric to a pattern, & just get going. Loving it!

Gloria....I will definitely be bringing a lot of patterns to the next BABES gathering! The sizes are all over the map.

How do you feel about 80's shoulders? :^D

Anonymous said...

Thanks when I go on a road trip I am going to try to find something like this for the ones I have traced and/or tested and don't want to put back into the general unused pattern population. I had started scanning these for a notebook and have these in a plastic container in ziplok bags -at least these need a better home and I think this is it. I have way too many patterns from years of sewing and pattern sales and don't wan't to tackle all of them but this would work for me. Thanks for showing it -very orderly. mssewcrazy

What-I-Found said...

I sell patterns for a living and I store everything in supplies from Comic Book stores. They have acid free clear bags in several sizes that work perfectly for patterns. And they sell cardboard boxes that fit different sizes of patterns also. They want their precious collections saved and protected and that's what we want for our patterns too.
Plus comic stores are fun places to check out! ;-)

Jilly Be said...

What-I-Found that is a really great tip, thanks!