Sew Organized: Sewing Pattern Storage

Organizing is always a challenge for sewists, and sewing pattern storage is at the top of the “pile.” Here are some great storage solutions to straighten up your studio!

By Natasha Henry

As sewists, we’ve all been excited about pattern releases and the feeling of supporting the newest pattern company to emerge. Before we know it, we’ve splurged on hundreds of 99-cent patterns and hundreds of sheets of un-taped PDFs with not enough time to create them all. But regardless of where and when we got the patterns or how many we’ve acquired, we have to find a way to them all that makes sense for us organize individually. I have accumulated over 800 patterns over my seven years in this beloved hobby, and I have finally found a system that works for me.

My Sewing Pattern Storage Cabinet Revamp

A few years ago, I was scrolling through Instagram stories and a fellow sewist posted that there were some pattern cabinets being sold on Craigslist in my metropolitan area. I immediately hopped on the opportunity and contacted the seller. It turns out that he had gotten them from a fabric store that had been liquidated, so they were the real deal, with company stickers and all.

I was excited to start filling up the cabinet with the many patterns I had in bags and boxes, but I knew that I needed to spruce up the cabinet before I could place it in my sewing space. When it came to the approach I wanted to take for the makeover, my first instinct was spray paint. However, the cabinet had a lot of rust spots and scratches and I didn’t feel like spray paint would really make it look brand new. Plus, the cabinet was so heavy that it would be a hassle to try to move it outside to a well-ventilated area. My next thought was to cover it with contact paper. That way, I could give it a facelift with a plethora of design options, and I wouldn’t have to move the cabinet. I white contact paper and an oak wood patterned/colored purchased roll to match the rest of the furniture in my sewing room.

The key to contact paper is to work slowly. After removing the drawers, measure around both the cabinet and the drawers to gauge how much contact paper would be needed for each section (keeping in mind to add an extra inch all around). Remove a small section of the backing first and smooth it down with something that has a stiff straight edge (credit card, ruler, etc.). If there are air bubbles, take your time to smooth them out toward the edges. Once you’re happy with your work, pull the backing off a little more and start to smooth the next section. When the surface is covered, clip the corners and lay them one over the other to give the corners a clean look.

Ta da!

Physical Sewing Pattern Storage Organization

I like to organize all of my printed patterns by company and then by number in my pattern cabinet. My first drawer is home to McCall’s patterns. It is the pattern company that I have the most of and that I have historically used the most, so it gets prime real estate. My second drawer is filled with Simplicity patterns and a small row of BurdaStyle patterns. The third drawer is exclusively for Vogue patterns. I love that I was able to leave a divider out so that I could let the larger-sized designer pattern envelopes lie on their sides. The bottom drawer has my Butterick and New Look patterns, all of my printed indie patterns, as well as some PDF patterns that haven’t been taped yet.

Before indie pattern companies started doing printed patterns, the upgrade from printing the PDF patterns at home was getting them printed at a copy shop. I keep all of the patterns I got printed at a copy shop (and the PDF patterns that I have already taped) rolled up and placed in a wire rolling cart. The cart I use is actually a laundry basket, but I just removed the fabric insert that was to hold the clothes.

Digital Pattern Organization

I knew keeping inventory of all the patterns I have—both so I know what I have available to create and so I know what not to buy again accidentally—was most necessary. I really wanted something that would be easy to manage, would not take up a lot of space and that I would be able to use when I wasn’t in my sewing room. I found the Sortly app met all of those qualifications.

Working with Sortly

Organize sewing patterns with the Sortly app

Sortly is an inventory management app that is made for businesses to track and manage their inventory. It’s perfect for patterns because it allows you to decide how you want to categorize your items, what tags you want to assign them for search purposes, and lets you add pictures as well.

There are multiple ways that you can add a pattern to the Sortly app:

  • Take a picture of the pattern and then add all of its identifying information and tags.
  • Use the barcode scanning capability that the app offers. If using the barcode scanning, about 85% of the time the pattern shows up and has a photo attached and the correct pattern title/number.
  • Add manually patterns. I like to make sure I put the pattern company, pattern number, and size of the pattern as the title. Those three details are enough initial information for me, whether I am in my sewing room looking for something to make or if I’m in a store searching for new patterns.

One of the benefits of having everything stored in an app on my phone is that I don’t buy duplicates. If I’m shopping, I can do a quick check to make sure that I’m not buying duplicates of a pattern, or if I am, I am getting a different size.

Using Tags

The most beneficial part of the app for me is the ability to add tags. For each pattern, I add as many identifying tags as possible, and then I can search by a specific tag (or multiple), and what I have available will populate. I love that because wherever I get hit with inspiration, I can just open my app and see if I have a pattern available for what I’ve just seen or for what’s in my mind.

App Alternatives

There are lots of inventory management apps out there, both paid and free. Here are some alternative apps that track inventory and lists in some way:

Trello: The Sew Daily team loves this product because it’s so visual. Check out Meg’s tutorial on setting up and managing your patterns on Trello.

Evernote: More than a “note-taking” app. Organize items and attachments and allows for search capability, with both free and paid options.

Stockpile by Canvus: A free tool that offers basic inventory tracking, unlimited items, and plans to offer barcode scanning in the future.

There are so many sewing pattern storage techniques and tips available when it comes to pattern organization. Hopefully what I’ve shared will open your mind to something new and allow you to feel more in control of your stash, whether modest or extravagant!


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