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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