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Tips & Techniques > Digitally organizing a Pattern collection with iPhoto and iPod

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Posted by: Fictionfan
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Member since: 5/19/06
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Posted on: 1/8/10 9:01 PM
Review Rating: Helpful by 1 people   Very Helpful by 20 people   
I have over 1200 patterns. I'm not good at de-cluttering, so I call it My Collection. DH's whole family Collect something or many things, so I Collect Patterns. (Justifies all the ones I haven't sewn yet.) I need to know what I have and what I don't have when I am shopping. I had a list of pattern numbers in my Palm PDA, but that became a problem when a new pattern had the same number as one of my old ones, or if the company had more than one number for the same pattern, common practice for the ones they sell on the display racks as well as via the catalogs, or when a vintage pattern is reissued with a different number. I needed a visual record of the pattern envelopes with me, or readily searchable on my computer if I buy over the internet.

I took digital photos of every pattern envelope front. Loaded them into iPhoto. Entered a bazillion keywords under preferences that I can check off every time I load a new pattern. Examples of keywords, not in this order: pattern, company, easy, designer, dress, princess seams, summer, wrap, raglan, pants, jeans, children, full bust adjustment provided, etc. For the photo title, I enter the pattern name with the year or era as the second part of the title. If I have two patterns with the same number, such as for Vogue 2390, both Anne Klein, I can tell which one is V2390 1989, a blouse pattern, and which is V2390 2005, a suit/separates pattern. Once the images are in iPhoto, I can make smart albums based on any search criteria I want, provided I've entered the information somewhere in the photo file.

Once the photos were in iPhoto, I loaded all the images into my iPod, a classic click wheel model with many gigabites of memory. Whenever I update the photo file, I sync the iPod. If I have changed my smart albums (maybe I deleted the one for vests or added one for PJs), that is changed in the iPod photo library, too. Now I have my pattern envelope fronts with me all the time as long as I have my iPod. I try to photograph the pattern front so the size shows. With growing children, I need to know if that pattern I recall is the correct size or if I do need to buy another size when it's on sale.

After spending (a few) hours getting all the old patterns photographed and loaded, titled and keywords checked off, I went back to enter descriptions on most of them. Now it's very quick to put new patterns in when I buy them. If there is a copy of the pattern description on the web somewhere, I can copy and paste it into the description box very quickly, including the suggested fabrics, notions, and yardage requirements. I also put in notes on the ones I've made and I made smart albums for completed projects, works in progress, patterns I have sewn, line drawings, etc. I can also download directly into iPhoto a pdf of the webpage for the pattern when I buy one. I still add in a photo of the pattern envelope because the pages don't show as well on my tiny iPod screen as they do on my computer.

I can search iPhoto by text (numbers /or letters) for patterns with that bit in the description. Let's say I enter 2 in the search box at the bottom of the screen in iPhoto. All of my photos, from the album or library I've chosen, with a 2 anywhere in the title or description will be shown. If I highlight the smart album for Patterns, I will see the images for the 2's from that album only. Maybe I only want Kwik Sew patterns with a 2; highlight that smart album. If I make it 23, and all of those 2's that don't have 23 will drop out. So, if I want to know whether I have a pattern #2390, I enter 2390 into the search box and all my 2390 patterns, including the vintage Simplicity and a McCall's pattern that I forgot about, will show in the window. If I don't have any pattern 2390, nothing will come up. Or I could search by word: sk will bring up skirt, ski, skimpy, skort.

In addition to the iPod photo library of my patterns, I still keep a numeric list in my PDA. I can't search the iPod when I'm shopping, but I can search for the pattern number in my Palm device.

I am glad I did all this before I read the tip about making a binder of the envelopes and filing the patterns by number, because I might have done that instead. I would never take binders of pattern envelopes with me when I shop, and for certain I wouldn't have them if I happen across a fabric store when I'm travelling. I nearly always have my PDA and iPod with me in these situations, so my system works well for me. Also, a physical binder of the envelopes is not searchable, and I want to know all the patterns I have with a type of garment (tops), not just those I've put in that (tops) section. Or maybe I want to look at just one designer's patterns without having to look in several sections because I've put the blouses separate from the suits and wardrobes.

My actual patterns are loosely grouped in filing cabinets and one shelf of the fabric wardrobe by type: Dresses, skirts, tops, pants, wardrobe/coordinates, men&boys, girls, babies, lingerie or activewear, bags/belts/gloves, costumes, everything else. The groupings are subject to change as my needs or lifestyle change. I will probably file them by company and pattern number eventually, but I haven't found it necessary yet to do that work. I can always find the pattern I want once I know which one I want to use. Choosing the pattern is a lot easier now when I can simply scan my iPhoto database instead of pulling out all the patterns from one of the groupings.

ETA: NOTE: I use Mac OS exclusively. I have no idea if this would work with any other operating system since I've never used anything else. Originally, I wanted the photos on my iPod for when I shop, not thinking of it as a way of organizing My Collection. It has worked better than I could have anticipated for browsing and searching my patterns, finished or unfinished projects, and wishlists.

Post Script: I was curious as to how much space my iPhoto library takes up in memory on the iPod. The library is family and work photos as well as my patterns, but the hugest part is pattern photos. It is just 1.25 GB right now, so if I do downgrade to a nano or go to iPhone, it should still work to have my entire photo library with me on the go.

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SandiMacD said... (6/21/10 10:08 PM) Reply
I just LOVE this idea! I have my old classic iPod gathering dust since I added an iTouch 2 years ago. I have been looking for an APP but not yet satisfied with what's out there so the TAGS concept is one I will try with fabrics and pattern photos. I detest iPhoto, use Photoshop and Picassa but of course my Macs will tag any file. I can hardly wait to get started- thanks for a great tip!
EleanorSews said... (2/5/10 12:52 PM) Reply
great idea!
quathy said... (1/14/10 6:25 PM) Reply
... and this only took you a few HOURS? Brilliant, and amazing!
Laurie Lou said... (1/12/10 2:00 PM) Reply
Whew!!! What a task! I'm needing a nap after reading this one! :) You must be very efficient and now Organized. I'm sure I won't be able to undertake this but IF I do I'll refer back to this. I thought my 300 pattern collection was Huge!
KempCorr said... (1/12/10 8:01 AM) Reply
Great idea !
Fictionfan said... (1/10/10 11:30 AM) Reply
kws, I think this method was not any more work than any other way of trying to organize >1000 patterns, and my primary purpose was to have a portable record of what I already own. If I kept only a small number of patterns or if I did not collect vintage patterns, none of this would be necessary. I happened to have an iPod that could hold pictures, so it made sense to figure out how to get the photos on it. I learned how to use a digital camera (borrowed, at first) and iPhoto because of my patterns! Fortunately both are very simple to use.
kws said... (1/10/10 9:43 AM) Reply
Sounds like a lot of work, since I am no very fast with the computer.
seweibhlin said... (1/10/10 9:12 AM) Reply
This is an inspired idea, what a great way to organize what patterns you have. thanks for sharing this tip.
seweibhlin said... (1/10/10 9:11 AM) Reply
This is an inspired idea, what a great way to organize what patterns you have. thanks for sharing this tip.
sewme47 said... (1/10/10 8:45 AM) Reply
Wow, are you organized!
candyo said... (1/9/10 10:43 PM) Reply
debloves2sew said... (1/9/10 8:21 PM) Reply
Love this idea. I don't have an ipod but I do have Photoshop on my PC to organize my other photos I'm going to expeirment. Thanks.
ryansmumAria said... (1/9/10 7:53 PM) Reply
This is absolutely brilliant. Thank you for generously taking the time to share this with us! People like you make the world a much better place! D
Fictionfan said... (1/9/10 2:43 PM) Reply
sew2006: The nice thing about this photo database is that I can take photos of all the line drawings, too, or download them into iPhoto. On the iPod, the details of the envelope back are too small to read, but if I just want the drawings, those photos work pretty well. It helps to write the name/number of the pattern next to the drawings so I can tell which pattern it goes with! One issue with iPhoto is that the photos are in the database by the date it was entered or made. If I take the line photo at a different time than the pattern photo, I can make a book to put them together however I want. I haven't got that down yet, but I know it is feasible.
Fictionfan said... (1/9/10 2:37 PM) Reply
jardins3, tweedcurtain, paloverde: I edited the tip to include the space my library needs on the iPod: just 1.25 GB. I thought it would be more for so large a photo set!
Fictionfan said... (1/9/10 2:33 PM) Reply
Rhoda K, I love my Macs, but I do realize that most of the people in the world with computers have a virus-vulnerable Microsoft system and the real geeks use Linux. I would be curious to know if this strategy would work with any other MP3 player or PDA that holds color photos, or if one of the other OS photo database systems would work. If anyone tries it, I hope s/he'll let us know how it works!
paloverde said... (1/9/10 2:08 PM) Reply
Genius!--and let me tell you why. I'm a pattern collector (vintage and new) and I've been struggling with organizing a searchable database. The database itself is not (that) difficult)--it's getting the pattern photos associated properly. But you're approaching it in the opposite direction! You've started with the photos and then added in searchable text stuff to it. That just had *not* occurred to me. Fabulous! I'm exclusively Mac, too. From what you've described, I'm certain I can make this work for me also. Thank you, thank you, thank you. The *best* tip *ever*!
Karine said... (1/9/10 9:53 AM) Reply
Brilliant! Thanks for this tip. I did the binder route, and am not happy with it.
Karine said... (1/9/10 9:53 AM) Reply
Brilliant! Thanks for this tip. I did the binder route, and am not happy with it.
snapdragonfly said... (1/9/10 9:50 AM) Reply
Rhoda K said... (1/9/10 8:55 AM) Reply
WOW! I don't have MAC or an iPod but your system seems to be very well organized.
sew2006 said... (1/8/10 10:48 PM) Reply
thank you for your detailed information on how to organize patterns. i went through pattern stash organizing last year and noticed the same pattern with new number or just a new picture on the front. I wish all the patterns included the picture of the patterns that are inside the envelope on the front like burda. A couple of times I've gone on a quick search because I remember I have a nice top pattern, find the envelope only to discover that the garment I liked wasn't part of what's inside.
tweedcurtain said... (1/8/10 10:47 PM) Reply
Wow - you're my hero. I am still getting to know my Mac but would love to take my much smaller collection and do the same. Thanks.
jardins3 said... (1/8/10 10:10 PM) Reply
Excellent. I am a new owner of both an Ipod Touch and a Mac and was searching how to do this! Thanks a lot!
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