Your pattern stash needs help.
We’ve all fallen for another 99 cent pattern sale and bought an unholy amount of patterns. I get it. Some things are too good to pass up. And doggone I love a shiny pattern envelope.
But buy the “it” patterns of the moment too many times and you’ll find boxes of patterns lurking in dark corners in your sewing space.
The last thing I want you to do is feel overwhelmed when it’s sewing time. So with that in mind, let’s get a handle on organizing your patterns. Let’s defuse your clutter bombs with these sewing pattern storage ideas.
Filing cabinets for your sewing pattern storage
Filing cabinets are a good solution for holding all your patterns. That being said, you still need to be diligent to keep them from becoming the place where forgotten patterns go.
I know some people like to store their patterns the way they are at fabric stores–by the number.
If you have a lot of Big 4 patterns, this might make sense for you.
Another solution is to add file dividers by pattern type.
That way you can quickly go to your “dresses” tab or “jackets” when you’re looking for a pattern.
And you don’t have to have a traditional filing cabinet. Plastic filing cubes work really well too, and they’re a little easier to get in and out of.
Manila envelopes for pattern storage
I love me some manila envelopes for storing my patterns.
They’re cheap, you can write notes all over them, and you can fit everything inside the envelope. If you’ve wanted to raise the white flag while trying to refold a paper pattern, manila envelopes are your new bestie.
I like to write the pattern company, size if I’m using multiple sizes, and pattern name/number on each envelope. Then I top it off with a quick sketch of the pattern.
Your sketches don’t have to be fine art. A quick basic idea of what the features and design lines will go a long way in helping you remember what’s in the pattern.
You can always make a copy of the pattern art and glue it to the envelope cover too.
Sewing pattern storage bags
Another sewing pattern storage idea is to use large plastic bags. This is a good option for the sewing patterns that you’re using right now.
Take a 1 or 2 gallon ziploc bag and fill it with your sewing pattern, and everything you need to make that project. Thread, notions, the cut pieces, interfacing–whatever you need, pop it in the bag.
This was a good solution for this laptop bag pattern which has exactly 18,475 pieces. The zip bag from sheets saved my room from being blanketed with bag pieces!
I’d say be cautious with this one. If you have too many of these bags hanging around, they might suffer the fate of the sewing U.F.O.
Use them wisely though and sewing pattern storage bags can be a good way to corral all of your stuff you need for a project!
How to store your PDF sewing patterns
PDF patterns can be space hogs if you’re not careful. If you print them out yourselves, the paper is much thicker than typical pattern tissue. Because of that, no matter what you do, they’re going to take up more space than an envelope pattern.
Then again, you probably don’t have hundreds of PDF patterns on hand. Whatever the case, here’s a couple of ideas for storing your PDF sewing patterns.
Plastic folders for print-at-home PDF patterns
Plastic folders + PDF patterns =pretty PDF pattern storage.
Print out the pattern cover and pop it in the front of the folder for reference. From there you can fold all the individual pieces into one pile and fit it into the envelope.
Store the files on a bookshelf, open crate or basket.
If you find clear file folders with binder holes, you can store a stack of PDF patterns in one large binder. In a pinch clear binder sleeves work too, though they’re not as secure.
How to store your copy shop PDF patterns
Ever since I discovered PDF Plotting, I’ve been assembling fewer and fewer PDF patterns. But even though the copy shop patterns are convenient and becoming more affordable to print, storing them can be a little annoying.
The lazy way to store copy shop patterns is in the shipping tube they came in. I’m not kidding here. PDF Plotting sends the printed patterns in these jazzy triangular prism boxes. If you store them vertically, they take up almost no space.
But at some point, if you want to actually use those patterns, you’ll have to crack open the box. Roll each pattern and tie it up with a ribbon or a fabric scrap.
You can store the rolled patterns on a shelf, basket, or vertically inside a wine rack just like I talk about in how to store fabric.
How to store magazine patterns and large format patterns
Most of my own pattern stash is in sewing pattern magazine form plus a collection of Jalie patterns.
Jalie patterns are too wide to fit in a standard filing cabinet, and the plastic file folders also won’t hold them. Instead, I keep them in boxes on the floor.
Any storage crate you have will do as long as it’s wide enough. Pattern magazines do well in boxes too. Sort them by month and year and you can quickly go looking for a pattern whenever you want it.
Storing the patterns you’re working on right now
I’m a big believer in having an active queue. Setting aside just a few patterns that you want to work on in the next month can be one small way to keep your projects organized.
Any small box is perfect for just this task! You can put them in order you want to make them or pick and choose as they strike your fancy.
The idea is that if you can isolate just a couple from your larger stash, you’ll be less overwhelmed when you go to pick your next project.
How to keep track of your pattern stash digitally
Now that you have your patterns all nicely put away, how will you keep track of what you have?
Make a good old reliable spreadsheet.
I think having a spreadsheet to track your pattern stash is particularly helpful with PDF patterns. I have misplaced several PDF patterns–either forgetting to print them out or lost the email. It’s embarrassing but true.
But with a spreadsheet you can put a little X in the box if you have it printed/assembled yet.
A spreadsheet can also help you get a big picture look at what kinds of patterns you have and use the most.
Make columns for pattern company, pattern #/name, pattern description, sizes, format, status (printed, assembled, cut-out etc) and any other information you think you might need.
But better yet, just grab a copy of my own spreadsheet that I made just for you to keep track of your pattern stash. It’s in the Resource Library, and you can snag your own copy when you sign up for the newsletter.
So there’s some ideas for your sewing pattern storage. How do you keep your pattern stash from getting out of control?
More things to help you level up on your sewing organization:
- How to store fabric
- Conquer your sewing UFOs in 5 steps
- Sewing Efficiently: Your Ultimate Guide
- How to start sewing with a plan (hint: it’s never too late)
Elizabeth Farr is the writer behind the Elizabeth Made This blog where she shares helpful sewing tips, step by step sewing tutorials and videos to help you explore your creativity through sewing. She has written sewing Eguides and patterns, been a featured teacher at Rebecca Page’s Sewing Summit and Jennifer Maker’s Holiday Maker Fest and her work has appeared in Seamwork and Altered Couture magazines. She also created a line of refashioned garments for SEWN Denver. When her sewing machine isn’t humming, she’s playing and teaching violin, and hanging around a good strategic board game with her husband and 4 kids.