The more you sew your own clothes, the more sewing patterns you will end up with, but what is the best solution for all those PDF sewing patterns that you’ve printed out over the years?
What about all the patterns that you’ve purchased in physical form too? With the envelope and accompanying instruction booklet?
And then when you get into pattern drafting, you can potentially have hundreds of patterns developed on swedish tracing paper and rolled up to gather dust in a corner of the room.
Worry not! Today we’re going to dive into sewing pattern storage ideas so that your sewing room – or design studio! – will be a lot more organized and a lot less chaotic!
How Do You Store Sewing Patterns?
How you store sewing patterns and their pieces depends on their size and the frequency with which you need to access them.
The seven methods that I use are:
- Concertina foler
- Hanging pattern pieces
- Indviudal pattern envelope
- Magazine folder
- Ring binders
- Storage boxes
- Filing cabinet
1. Concertina Folder
I have a lot of smaller sewing pattern pieces that I use again and again across different sewing patterns, and for these I use a dedicated extending file box thingy.
It has a concertina card interior with separate areas and I’ve labelled these for easy access.
2. Hanging Pattern Pieces
When I had my design studio in London, I made use of the ceiling space to hang pattern pieces from on hooks.
I had seen this set up when at Peter Pilotto – they hung their brand blocks and styles made from card along one high end of the studio. A hook was needed to reach up and pull the pattern down, but it meant there was more space for workers, cutting tables, machines and fabric stocks.
I have some of my blocks cut in manila card and paper hanging from hooks in my tiny sewing room here in the Netherlands. They sit behind my computer against the wall, and hang from the Ikea bar installed there.
You will need to have a system for your patterns if hanging pattern pieces, but that’s easy enough to create, either on a piece of paper taped to the wall, or a spreadsheet if you end up storing many patterns in this way.
3. Individual Pattern Envelopes
I also use brown paper envelopes – also known as a manila envelope – as individual pattern envelopes. This is normally when I am working on a drafting pattern, as it keeps everything together in one place.
Again, this is something I learned during my time at Peter Pilotto. I also note on the envelope whether the pattern is a master one – which then gets stored away for legacy purposes – or whether it is a development or working pattern.
I’ve also been known to print a small thumbnail of the finished garment – as a muslin/toile or in final fabric – and tape it to the envelop so that I can see at a glance what pattern is inside.
The patterns that are in individual envelopes and ready to digitise get placed into a queue on my cupboard shelf.
4. Magazine Folder
Patterns that I use frequently – or that are missing / found again pattern pieces which have not yet been reunited with their main pieces – get placed inside a magazine folder.
I have heavy semi-opaque plastic ones from Muji which I purchased years ago. They’re solid, can hold quite a few, and have served me well over the years that I’ve owned them.
I also have decorated magazine folders which are made of card instead of plastic and are coated with some decorative material.
5. Ring Binders
The most extensive pattern storage I have is the everyday ring binder. I have (at last count) eighteen ring binders in different widths which are full of:
- Self drafted sewing patterns
- Printed indie sewing patterns
- Sewing tutorials that I have created and printed out as handbooks
I organize my ring binders by garment type, year and collection, depending on whether they’re my own self-drafted patterns or purchased ones.
And each pattern has its own dedicated plastic sleeve to keep them clean and tidy.
Self Drafted Patterns
These binders go back to my time at fashion school. They’re organized by the year and the collection name so that i can easily find what I am looking for.
Indie Sewing Patterns
I do print every digital pattern purchased from Indie Sewing Designers. In part because it helps me know what I have at a glance, but also because if I suddenly decide I want to make a garment, I can very quickly pull the pattern, and get sewing.
This selection of folders are organized by garment type:
- Bras / panties / knickers / swimwear
- Coats / jackets
- Pants / trousers / shorts
- Shirts / tops
- Bags / purses
6. Sewing Pattern Storage Boxes
Boxes are an obvious storage solution for patterns, whether you more fond of a printed pattern or a paper pattern.
With most paper patterns coming in similar sized packaging, you can easily store your pattern stash in suitbaly sized boxes.
You can go the route of having very minimal boxes in terms of color or decoration, or you could opt for more decorative boxes to add some color and style to your sewing room.
I have gone both routes, decorating my own DIY storage boxes and buying in the more minimal options.
DIY Storage Boxes
My DIY spattern storage boxes are made from cardboard boxes that have been delivered to me, and then I cover them with paper.
You could also cover boxes with fabric for an even more unique – and probably longer lasting! – look.
Buying Storage Boxes
You can also buy storage boxes if making your own sounds like a lot of work. I have a selection from Ikea which work well. They’re minimal, opaque – which means light won’t get through and fade anything inside – and they stack well too.
7. Filing Cabinet
This was my favourite method for organizing and storing sewing patterns when I had my design studio in London.
I would keep my master patterns stored in the bottom drawers, and the top drawer was for patterns for the current collection.
It’s a really good way to keep everything organised, but filing cabinets are not cheap or small.
How To Organize Sewing Patterns
Organizing my sewing patterns as described in the above section works well for my brain, but you may prefer a different system such as their suitabiity for:
- Fabric type (knit vs woven)
- Fibre content (cotton, linen, silk etc)
- Skill level (beginner, advanced etc)
- Season (spring, summer, fall, winter)
We are all unique, so make sure to think about how you search for your sewing patterns, and then develop your organisation system from there.
Keeping Track Of Your Pattern Stash
I’ve touched on some of the ways that patterns can be tracked, but lets look in a little more detail now, so that once your patterns are organized, you know where to find them!
All of the above are great whether you want to track each PDF sewing pattern you have purchased or want to go as digital as possble and recycle any paper patterns that you’ve previously printed.
Some of the best apps for tracking your patterns are actually general project management type apps. Lets have a look at some of my favourites below!
One of the best database apps available – and free to boot! – Airtable has helped me organise much of my life. It’s quite a complex tool, so not for the faint-hearted, but when you get to grips with it, it is amazing.
I don’t use Airtable for my fabric or pattern tracking because I use it daily for my business – to track the content on my website and both the financial and website traffic data – and I really don’t want to be in it for fabrics and patterns as well.
That said I do use it to track the garden seeds and plants that I have, when I need to sow more, prune them etc. One of the best features is ‘grouping’ which allows me to create new views and filter by specific group. Great for organizing patterns based on season or garments type.
It really is an amazing tool, and I think I almost convinced myself to add my pattern stash to it! 😉
I use Trello for almost everything else. It’s a kanban board system, so I have it for my to do lists, and projects, broken down by month.
You can add images to it – which is great for adding a photo of a pattern, fabric swatch or finished garment – and I also add checklists specific to a project such as the notions needed.
If you store your patterns in an online space such as Dropbox of Google Drive, then you can also add a link to that file in the descprition area, so you’ll never lose track of where a sewing pattern is.
Sew Help Me
The best dedicated sewing app that I found on iOS, Sew Help Me have a paid version and a lite version. You can input new patterns as you buy or develop them, and then note the fabric requirements too.
While the app itself looks quite dated in design, there appears to be quite a few options for information to be added, and you can also input your fabric stash as well.
I’ve purchased the paid app and will play around with it, so stay tuned for a review of it and whether it’s worthwhile buying!
While I love apps for keeping me organized in my business, when it comes to sewing for myself, I use a sewing planner that I created.
It can be used as a digital planner in a notation app like Goodnotes or it can be printed and written on as needed. The bonus with printing is that I acn then add the sewing plan sheet to the envelop or plastic wallet that the printed pattern is in.
For those who don’t trust the cloud, then the trusted spreadsheet is another option for tracking your sewing pattern stash.
There’s excel for Windows users and Numbers for Apple users. I prefer to use Google Sheets, but as that is a cloud based version, we’ll ignore it for now!
A simple spreadsheet can easily help you keep track of your pattern stash. You can create a new tab for each garment type, season or skill level – refer back to the earlier section where I gave examples if you’re stuck.
The great thing about using a digital tool is that you can then search for a specific pattern, which cuts down the time often wasted on finding the one you’re looking for.
Eve Tokens (aka The Creative Curator) is a fashion designer, creative pattern cutter and sewing pattern designer.
Eve graduated with a 2:1 in Fashion Design from the University of The Creative Arts in the UK, has a BTEC diploma in Creative Pattern Cutting, a Foundation Degree in Art & Design from Wimbledon College of Art and gained extensive experience in the fashion industry by interning and freelancing for London based fashion brands – Hardy Amies, Roland Mouret, Peter Pilotto and others.
As well as running her own small sustainable fashion brand, Eve has more than 25 years experience sewing and making clothes for herself and family members.