January 24, 2012


I love to collect patterns - for clothing mostly, some crafts, but really clothing.

When I was in college, studying Clothing & Textiles, I had an instructor ask us what things we liked and did not like and would maybe change about the pattern-making industry. We had a lengthy discussion about this. One of the main things was how compact and great it was that all the pattern pieces were folded perfectly and the instructions all fit into that pattern folder from the store. (One exception was the Vogue Pattern Company - their envelopes were always bigger - part of the price too). And how when we finish a project, we try to stuff and flatten those pattern pieces to get it all painfully back into that now-too-small envelope.

Usually ripping the side right out. Then we have to tape it or rubber band it and it's a big ugly mess.

And, how do you store them?

I have a beautiful solution. But this comes with a story (of course). After I graduated from university, I moved to Colorado and wanted to work doing something in my field of interest and expertise. I had already had baby #1 and needed to be able to work from home. I found a neat lady named Anita Larson in the Denver area who made custom clothing and did alterations just like I hoped to do eventually.
So - Anita* hired me to come out to her place once a week and take a bin of alterations to fix and bring back the following week. It was great. I learned a lot from doing this. One of the things I learned was how she organized her patterns and I was knocked out by how efficient and wonderful it was!

I teach this method to my sewing students on the first pattern we sew together.

SO here you go...a step-by-step process to make your patterns organized, and store them before AND after you use them!

Gather all the components of the pattern used: envelope, pattern pieces and instructions.

You will need a manila file folder (or whatever type of folder you would like to use for your filing system), a pair of paper scissors, clear tape, and a stapler.

Cut the pattern envelope across the bottom and up the left side.

Attach the cut pattern envelope to the file folder (cut off more of the edges if necessary to make it fit - but do not cut off pertinent information. If you have to cut off important stuff, just tape this info to the back of the folder). Tape at top and bottom center to the folder. Then staple the sides in at least three places, catching the envelope and both folder layers all together.

All stapled? Good.

Now take all your pieces and fold them up to approximately the size of your folder.

Add the instructions (which only have to be folded to HALF the size intended) and they will fit!

Stuff them all in their new home! They will love you for it!

Label your pattern so you can find it easily.

You may have different ways you want to categorize and file them. Anita had a sticker system - me too - it's easy - I just use circle dot stickers and star stickers. I assign a category to each sticker. (i.e. dresses, skirts, pants, tops, jackets, children, costumes, etc.) Then I categorize further by writing notes on the tab (Client names, dates, design details - type of sleeve etc, pattern groupings, etc)

I keep the "legend" taped to the side of my filing cabinet, where I store all my patterns.

(I do not have a picture of this because it was so bleached out by the sun from the window next to my filing cabinet that the colors don't even look right. I'll redo it one day and re-post...so just use your imagination :)

**UPDATE**: I found a laminated legend in a binder, so you can see if your imagination matches the real thing...

Here is an example of another pattern in my storage.

Yes, this is a massive four-drawer file cabinet where all I store is patterns. And I have two of them. Yup, it might be a sickness. But sooooo organized...

Here's a peek in one of the drawers.

And now my newly organized and much more managable pattern goes into storage for another day. Happiness.

Are your patterns organized?

*Anita Larson is an incredibly talented lady and has since pursued other talents. She is a memory collage artist - you can see her work at ArtHonoringLife.com and a website designer at TheWebMuse.com.

Thanks for everything, Anita.

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  1. What a great way to store patterns, I only have about 20 patterns at the moment so no need for a file cabinet at the moment, but I am sure that will change soon! TFS

    1. Thanks - 20 is a very managable number of patterns to get started on this habit!

  2. Julie, This brings back such fond memories of working with you. You are wonderfully talented and so happy you have continued doing what you love to do! I don't have near as many patterns now, but the ones I do have are organized just like this. Makes them so easy to find. These are wonderful instructions with great pictures. I learned alot from you too! ~ Anita

    1. Thanks, Anita! Good to hear from you again! You are an inspiration to me!

  3. OMG This is so clever. I am in the process of re-doing my woman cave/craft area. This idea will be so handy.. Also, I'm your newest follower!


  4. This is a brilliant idea! I keep a filing cabinet in my sewing room but my patterns are all stuffed in their original envelopes and some are a mess. Your system is a perfect solution.

  5. This is great, thanks for sharing such a wonderful idea. :)

  6. You're brilliant! Thank you for this. It seems so simple now that I see it, like they meant for patterns to be cut open and stapled to a file folder... Ha! You've just made my day!

  7. Brilliant!!! Thank you for this!!! As soon as I saw this post I began the daunting task...I already feel more organized and have even found some "missing" patterns! I've also decided to use a database accessible to me at home, online, on my iPad and iPhone. As soon as I get the 350+ paper patterns done, I am going to move on to the digitally stored ones, including the url's and instruction sheets for unprinted or hanging patterns. "Every pattern gets a folder"... I will never ever wonder again what I have, where or how it's stored. I sooo wish I'd found this a few years ago. I am personally astonished at how many patterns I have bought, downloaded and drafted. This system has solved all my organization issues...I've even decided I'm going to use the database for my stash, notions, accessories, technique tip sheets, books, magazine & pattern magazines, needle and thread inventory as well.

    A suggestion for those with large amounts of patterns to organize: due to the large number patterns I had to file, I opted to print file folder labels in Word (did I mention I can't read my own handwriting?) To make categorization quicker, I created clip art to use with Word that matches my sticker system. I can just drag & drop the "stickers" relevant to a pattern while I'm typing the labels, skipping a whole step...what a time saver!!

    I hope to be almost fully organized in just a few more days. Thank you again so much for sharing this system.

  8. Brilliant! Fantastic idea! I've been looking for a clean, clear, detailed and uniform way to store my growing collection. This suits all those needs. My patterns are currently misusing my file drawers. I intend to fix that! Thank you for sharing. :)

  9. Best idea ever~ Thanks!

  10. Sure beats my current system: envelopes in plastic page protectors organized in binders and patterns in ziplocked storage bages organized in plastic bins. Mega thank you!

  11. I love your system for the patterns. I use wrapping paper to make all the sizes of a pattern, then a folder or brown envelope to store them in. I take pictures or scan of all my patterns, so I can look quickly on what to make. Years ago I printed out all the pictures and placed them in a binder (pictures was of front and back). I have a file cabinet that I will be doing your system, thanks.

  12. So glad someone pinned this idea -- I have an old pattern cabinet, but have collected many sized patterns that don't fit between the dividers. This could be my answer, and I can repurpose the cabinet for other things. Thank you for sharing!

  13. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this idea! Thank you so much for generously sharing and giving such fab details and pics! I am finally tackling the job of organization in my craft room {long story short major changed in life and people living in my house [Dad moved in} so I had to move from my spare room to the laundry room.} Since I am short on space, but rich in drawers, the patterns will now have a perfect home! Thanks again!

  14. Yes, I Love this! It's economical and easy to do!

  15. I LOVE LOVE LOOOOOVE it!!! i feel organised already ... might need a new filing cabinet all for myself!!!

  16. I've been working on organizing my sewing room. To date, my patterns have been kept in ziplock bags in a drawer. They slip and slide around and it's difficult to find the pattern I'm looking for. I ran across your blog and I LOVE IT! It's easy, it's cheap and it satisfies the need to cut and paste for real. ;-)

    I think I have developed a small improvement to the system that I'd like to share. I make an insert for the file folder using an extra file folder. I cut the extra folder in half and place one half inside the whole folder I'm using to store my pattern. As I staple the edges, the insert is held in place which makes a folder with 2 pockets. I use one pocket for the pattern instructions and uncut pattern pieces, and I use the 2nd pocket to hold those pieces I've already used.

    Thanks for the great idea!

  17. Great idea! It is much better than my system of using ziplock bags.

  18. Mine are very similar. I use 9 x 12 envelopes instead of folders. I have a label with the number on the envelope. I make a "copy" of the actual pattern envelope and file it in a 3 ring binder that has been categorized. When I find the pattern I want, I simply go to the file drawer and pull that pattern that has been filed by the pattern number.

  19. Wow, what a great idea! I don't have many patterns but I know when I was usingthem they ended up everywhere. Congrats on the best idea I know of.


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