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Pattern Organization, or, why I am banned from Ebay

Hello, my name is Dixie and I am an addict – a buying-vintage-pattern-lots-on-ebay addict and I need to stop. Two boxes totaling about 130 patterns showed up on my door step at the same time. I was quite pleased as you can see above.

The good thing about all these patterns? I really can’t buy any more lots because inevitably half of the patterns will just be repeats of what I already have. I seriously think I have nearly the entire misses catalogue of Simplicity patterns from the 1970s.

The bad thing is where do I put them all? And how to I organize them so I know what I have??

Since I do everything on the computer anyway I decided to make a digital catalogue of all my vintage patterns and keep the physical patterns in boxes. My modern pattern collection is small enough that I can usually remember what I have and they sit on an easy access shelf.

Like my modern patterns I organized my vintages first by company (alphabetical), then by date, then by number within each year. If I just went by number I’d have a problem as Simplicity for example begins the 1970s in the 8 and 9000s and also ends the decade in those high numbers but 1971 and 1979 had very different styles!

I’m not a preservationist but if a pattern is looking pretty worse for the wear I will put it in a ziplock baggy. They all go in boxes so at least the envelopes won’t fade from sunlight.

(click on pics for a bigger version)

For the digital archiving I took photos of every envelope cover (in groups of nine, so no, I didn’t take 130 individual pictures!) and over a couple weeks in my spare time I cropped each individual envelope pic, sized them smaller (400 pixels wide) and saved them at a reasonable file size (preferably under 55kb). I did this in Photoshop but you could use any ol’ photo editor.

I put all these pics in a folder and tagged each photo. I have Windows Vista (aka the Devil’s OS) so this is what my set up looks like. I tagged them by company, decade (and when I have more time I’ll probably add specific year), garment type and special collections of patterns (like Mario’s Corner from the 70s). You could also tag by size, designate if it is for misses or juniors or kids, whether or not you have more than one copy (I have a couple doubles), knits or wovens, or any designation you want!

I can even add star ratings for patterns that I really want to make sooner than others.

You can then organize the pics by one or more tags. So if I’m looking specifically for a pants pattern I can check that tag and only those that meet the requirements show up in my folder. Very convenient!

Because I usually start a project by picking a pattern first then fabric this system works for me. But I know of another woman who keeps all her pattern envelopes in categories in a big binder and all of the pieces and instructions are filed by number in ziplock bags in boxes. Sort of like a visual dewey decimal system. She can take the binder with her to the store if she’s looking for inspiration.

If you like having your pattern collection catalogue on hand all the time Sophia Sews has a great list of sewing apps for smartphones. A number of them are pattern (and/or fabric stash) organizers. A woman from my sewing group suggested which costs about $45 a year. They don’t have an app yet but you can always log on from any computer or on your phone.

 ***How do you organize your patterns? I’d love any tips! Also, are you an Ebay addict as well??? I know there are more out there!!

Comments (26) for post “Pattern Organization, or, why I am banned from Ebay”

  • Daaaaaaaaaamn! I thought I had a problem! πŸ˜€ Seriously, I do the same thing, but with vintage children’s patterns. Cannot. Get. Enough! I use the program PatternFile, but the problem with that is that they really only have modern patterns in their database. I’ve read that they are in the process of adding vintage patterns, but I don’t think children’s patterns are particularly high on their must-add list. There is an option to add the images and information manually, though, and that’s fun on rainy nights. πŸ™‚ Your system looks super organized! Love it!

    • Thanks! I didn’t know about the user interface when it comes to PatternFile but I thought the concept was cool. I admit, if I had kids, I’d totally dress them up in clothes made from vintage patterns. Adorable!

  • Wow. You were not kidding about the whole pattern addict thing. I have maybe 50 patterns, about 20 of which I bought on Ebay all at once. I have yet to organize them in any real way, which is clearly a bad thing, because I just keep buying them….this seems like a good method, though!

    • You know, this whole lots-buying thing began because of ONE PESKY PATTERN that I’d been on the hunt for for over a year and it was in one of the lots and the lot was so cheap I just HAD to bid on it! That pattern isn’t even in my size, I’ll have to grade it up but for the price of the lot (about 70 patterns total) it was worth it. Just like any other addict – I can’t have just one!

  • This is awesome. I’m doubly jealous: what an amazing haul AND such a great way to organize ’em!

    I always seem to be forgetting just what patterns I’ve got stored in drawers…give your organizing method a try. πŸ™‚

  • Amazing collection! My sewing pattern collection is slowly growing. I’m so interested in making some clothes!
    PDF patterns I keep stored in folders on my computer as well as Google Documents. I also print them and keep them in a plastic tub with folders labeled “clothing patterns” also applying to bag patterns and craft patterns. I need to change the plastic tub I have to possibly..a milk crate, it’s getting heavy!

    • Thank you! I also keep my PDF in a folder on the computer and the ones I’ve printed out get put in manilla envelopes, labeled and stacked on the shelf with my other modern patterns.

  • I like the idea that no matter how bad I am, there is always someone out there that is worse! Thank you for being the bigger pattern hoarder so that I can show you to my husband as an Exhibit A whenever he says I have too many patterns. You’re a life saver!

  • Yeah, ebay is a problem for me too. I think my last Visa bill had about 15 Paypal purchases all from Ebay. Good luck with your pattern stash. I think I like the binder/visual dewey decimal system better. I like being able to see fabric and a pattern in the same place. And bringing the pattern binder to the fabric district in my town sounds like a lot of fun. (Right now, I do things by memory – which is why I have a huge fabric stash. And I still have to figure out how to organize my PDF patterns. (I just picked up some fabulous knit material today to make the Ballet Dress!

  • Whoa. Girl. Thats a lot of patterns! I can’t really think of anything to say! I’m stunned! I didn’t even know you could DO this! Also, seriously impressed with your organization skills. It puts me and everyone I know to shame!

  • Oh my, that is a lot of patterns! I’ve also fallen prey to buying pattern lots but none so large as yours. More recently I’ve been trying to be super selective about the patterns I buy, and only getting ones which have some kind of interesting details. Can’t beat the excitement of a lot tho! I have individual ziploc bags for mine but have yet to find the perfect size box to fit them in.

    • I’m going to have to be much more selective now, too. There are a handful of specific patterns that I’ve been on the look out for so if I find those for a good price I’ll probably buy them but buying more big lots isn’t very practical for me anymore.

  • Crikey! You do have a lot of patterns. Great that your collection is comprehensive, yes! I’m super impressed by your organisational skills.

  • Oh wow! I actually own less than 20 patterns, currently all archived at πŸ˜€ I’d love to own a few vintage patterns, though…

  • For years I have used binders with page-protectors to insert the envelope into. Then the pattern guts get filed by number in a drawer. That was before the iphone so someday I may change it. But so far, it’s the bomb. I sit down with a cup of coffee (kids watching movie/in bed) and read my pattern books to get inspired. Here is my link about it on my blog to see photos etc.

    • Oh I didn’t mention that I have hundreds of patterns (and a very understanding hubbie). I used to work at a fabric store, where we would get free patterns every month and discontinued patterns. But that never stopped me from getting one here or there. I’ve got a 5-drawer unit plus a big-drawer for my larger patterns (hotpatterns/trudy jansen). Loving the e-ideas I’m seeing posted here. Perhaps I’ll go thru my patterns to whittle them down soon (-;

  • I just found your blog and was reading back a bit. I really enjoy reading it.

    I’m late to the party, but I wanted to say that I have recently been working on a digital catalog of all my patterns. I’ve basically done what you have. I also scan the backs of patterns so that I know how much fabric to buy. I have copied my photo files to my Kindle Fire. That way, I can take it with me to the fabric store.

    • Oooh, that’s a good idea, scanning the backs as well. I don’t have a kindle but that made me think I could easily put my whole folder on my iPhone!

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