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Tips & Techniques > Organizing Your Pattern Stash

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Posted by: KarmenG
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About KarmenG starstar
MA United States
Member since: 1/3/03
Reviews: 62 (tips: 8)
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Posted on: 11/26/04 10:14 AM
Last Updated: 8/12/07 2:17 PM
Review Rating: by 1 people   Helpful by 28 people   Very Helpful by 109 people   
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In the spirit of the first 2005 Pattern Stash Contest I thought I'd explain my way of organizing my own pattern stash. I can't take credit for the concept - I read it in a magazine and other sewists also have written about this in various publications.

I instituted this system after having back surgery - and I was unable to lift the boxes to search through my patterns. At the time I had them organized by garment type in labeled boxes. But it seemed like I could never find what I wanted - or forgot what I had - out of sight, out of mind.

Now my new system is organized and easy to use - and is more condusive for creativity and planning. I can browse my collection while sitting in a comfy chair in the family room, while sipping a cup of tea - or sprawled out in front of me in the sewing room. Either way - it really WORKS!!

Here are the steps:
* You're going to split your pattern tissues and instruction sheet from the pattern envelope.

* Place all pattern envelopes into plastic sleeves, made for 3 hole notebooks. (purchased at an office supply store)

* Place the pattern tissues and instruction sheet into ONE QUART zip lock clear plastic bags (or buy the pattern bags from Nancy's Notions but that got too expensive for me - I have a large pattern stash!)

* Insert the instruction sheet in the front, on top of the pattern tissue; this displays the pattern number which you'll reference when filing; some pattern numbers weren't prominent so I hand wrote them in the upper right corner (like Neu Mode, Kwik Sew)

* Store all zip lock bags numerically in boxes (I bought mine at the Container Store but they are now discontinued. I saw some similar at the office supply stores - you can go online to their websites and study the box sizes. It's important to get a size that works for your closet or storage area. I have boxes that allow me to file the patterns in two rows in each box. I got the longest box that would fit in my closet. I have a total of 4 boxes. )

* When filing the patterns in the boxes, you will encounter duplicate patterns numbers but I just ignored that.

* Some patterns have no number, but names (like Sewing Workshop) so I filed them alphabetically at the beginning

* Store all the plastic sleeves containing the pattern envelopes in notebooks BY garment. My notebooks are labeled as follors: Blouses; Pants/Skirts; Dresses; Jackets only; Suits & Combinations; Childrens/Men/Home Dec

* In the Blouses and in the Dresses notebooks I sort the pattern envelopes by sleeve length - sleeveless first (including vests); then short sleeves; then long sleeves. If the pattern has multiple options I file it by the garment style that attracted me most when I purchased it.

It's so cool to pull out the notebook - look through my collection in an easy manner - reference yardage requirements while looking through my stash and determining what I want to sew. (I've even been known to bring the notebooks in my car when shopping for fabric!!)

Once you decide on a pattern, it's easy to go to the proper box and pull it out - always in a spot where I can find it. I hope this helps some of you looking for some organization tips - if you have questions please email me.

BTW this system took a while to set up so pace yourself - I used to sort the patterns and put them in plastic bags while watching TV - a few every night and you'll be done soon.
Happy Sewing!

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mamasherrie said... (5/20/14 12:21 PM) Reply
My former Boss gave me the best idea! I buy the Plastic sleeves for the 3 Ring Notebooks as well, then I buy Used 3 Ring Binders at Thrift shops. Most of my Patterns now are Craft Patterns & are printed on Copy Paper. I label my Notebook Binders...Halloween, Christmas, Valentines Day etc. sometimes even breaking the Books Down more like Bats & Cats or angel os Santa's. Then I just slip the patterns into the sleeves & pull the Binder of present interest. When I cut a pattern, after use; I place the Pattern Cover in front of the sleeve, then the pattern & the Instruction sheet on the back. If I have photos of my finished item, I copy them off on my computer & place them in the Sleeve also.
AllNewtoMe said... (12/3/13 10:31 PM) Reply
Thank you so much for this idea. I have done this using hanging file folders and it works wonderfully. I even bought expanding three-hole pockets to keep my Burdas in. I was a little worried about splitting the pattern and envelope but haven't had any problems, and it's really nice to "shop" my own little "pattern books."
weekendstitch said... (6/24/13 11:54 AM) Reply
I love the idea of the notebook! I don't have too many patterns but this sounds very practical, I like the idea of taking the notebook to the store.
Mrs. Brown said... (2/28/13 2:35 PM) Reply
I'm a late bloomer and only just started sewing. Up until now, my pattern storage method involved the empty wooden boxes clementines/tangeloes come in. Cute, but a pain to sort through and I never really know what fabrics I need/want. I've started making copies of the fronts and backs of pattern envelopes and plan to put them in a binder -- easy browsing and portable for shopping. I see much more sewing in my future!!
debrawinfrey said... (5/25/12 8:53 PM) Reply
I don't think I have quite as many as you must have but one large box and one binder later I should have a very happy system - thank you so much!
DeChan said... (9/14/11 12:47 PM) Reply
I really like the idea of this way of organizing my patterns. Thank you!!
Susieq777 said... (8/31/11 5:33 PM) Reply
I am using this idea and it has helped me so much. Thanks for sharing.
sew4real said... (8/27/11 10:14 AM) Reply
I have a large stash of patterns also, which are currently filed in boxes by pattern type, ie. suites, formal, bridal, children's, etc. I like your method of storage and will definitely give your system a try.
Libbee said... (6/8/11 4:51 PM) Reply
This is the BEST solution I have ever read about. I want to start it now! Thank you very much for sharing.
cherevee said... (5/26/10 7:04 PM) Reply
I read about a similar system where you locate your pattern online, print out a copy of the front & back of the envelope & file that by category in a notebook. You keep your patterns in their envelope & file them all numerically. I like the idea of the notebook but don't especially like the idea of separating envelopes & contents.
jso4fun said... (5/8/10 8:24 PM) Reply
What a great suggestion! And the comments are really helpful, too. Thank you, everyone! I have been xeroxing my patterns to put in a notebook, and then leaving the patterns stored in boxes, but the tips here are going to help me fine-tune the system even more. I, too, love having my very own pattern catalog to browse through when I am considering a new sewing project. Now I just need to find a tip on organizing my fabric stash so it is equally accessible!
Susieq777 said... (5/7/10 10:42 PM) Reply
What a great idea! I'm going to start working on this tomorrow:)
JodieT said... (1/19/10 5:20 PM) Reply
Great idea, thanks. I will need notebook for bags, maternity, gifts, too.
Gagesmommy said... (1/15/10 8:51 PM) Reply
OMG! What a great system! I love being organized and this is the perfect system!
KarenJeanette said... (12/25/09 1:12 PM) Reply
I use a similar method. Except I scan a picture of the pattern, tape it to the front of a 9 x 12 manila envelope. I then write the pattern number with a say V for Vogue in the top right corner. The envelopes are then stored in numerical order. The 9 x 12's are big enough to add traced patterns. I have my notebook with clear covers organized by type that I put the original pattern envelope in. Makes it so much easier to find what I want. The idea of a current projects notebook never occured to me and I will be setting up one of those soon! What a great idea. I think I will start a computer file with all the pattern numbers I have to add to the current projects notebook. That way I will have it with me and avoid buying duplicate patterns. great idea KarmenG
KarmenG said... (9/6/09 11:52 AM) Reply
Mollyshark - that is a great idea too. For me, I try to do less computer time and more time touching and feeling my stash. So this works for me....but a scanned pattern library certainly has it merits too. Thanks for the idea.
mollyshark said... (9/5/09 11:46 AM) Reply
This idea is ok if you have no technology expertise at all, but there is a much easier way. Set up a folder on your computer called PATTERNS. Under that, make subfolders similar to that in a pattern book: tops and blouses, pants and skirts, dresses...however many you need..they are free! Get a cheap, flatbed scanner. Scan the front and back of the pattern. Save it in the correct folder with pattern number and maybe a short description. I put the letter of the pattern company after it. So you may have 7217S summer dress. Then file all the patterns in numerical order. You can easily browse everything on your computer and even see the yardage needed without pulling the pattern. When you need the pattern, they are in numerical order...just pull it. It could not be easier. It takes little time to scan even a huge pattern collection and does not take up the incredible amount of space that binders take up. When you buy a new pattern, scan it first thing. You can even just save the picture from the online pattern book if you want to do it that way!
TsialosGirl said... (8/17/09 2:27 PM) Reply
So far, my patterns have all been crammed into milk crates, which is not at all conducive bor browsing! This sounds like a great system. On my way to brew a pot of tea and start organizing!
cindysewsaz said... (6/18/09 2:24 PM) Reply
I love this tip! I just reorganized my patterns using this method and (gulp) discovered I have over 200 patterns! I got the idea from the book "Setting up your sewing space" by Myrna Giesbrecht. The one thing I have done differently is I purchased 9 x 11 manila folders from Staples and then wrote the pattern number in the top right corner. I like these larger envelopes because they fit my altered or traced patterns as well as of course the cut tissue. I purchased about 6 Bankers Boxes at Target for $10 to hold my patterns, sorted in numerical order. The numbers are written on the outside of the box similar to the cabinets at the store. If there are two identical numbers I simply put a "S" or a "B" or whatever in front of the number. For patterns that come with large envelopes like Jalie or Stretch & Sew, I just photocopy the front of the pattern, slip the copy into the correct category in my 3 ring binder, and then file the entire pattern in numerical order. It did take several days to get this done, but now I LOVE it. My daughters and I can just pull out the binders, browse, look at fabric and notion requirements, all without having to worry about the envelopes getting torn or pattern pieces falling out.
Christel said... (5/15/09 4:37 PM) Reply
This idea sounds great, even for one with lesser skill & far fewer patterns! At least it's a way to find a pattern when I finally decide to go ahead with a project. Thanks too, for all the comments with if I can only find those patterns...
Pamaro said... (2/17/09 10:03 PM) Reply
Great method. I plan to implement this system this weekend.
AnnMarieJ said... (2/11/09 8:46 PM) Reply
This is so smart - I never thought of setting up notebooks like that!
hevvy said... (1/21/09 7:37 AM) Reply
What a fantastic idea. I will get to that one this Australia Day long weekend
Linda47 said... (1/20/09 2:51 PM) Reply
Its a great idea, good filing system.
taylorsi1955 said... (1/8/09 4:33 PM) Reply
Excellent idea and well explained. I'm going to do this for my stash this weekend.
jan cann said... (11/27/08 11:08 PM) Reply
l belie3ve this could be just wehat I need to do. thank you
teachingmyself said... (10/31/08 5:39 AM) Reply
Have done something similar, but have made two sided photocopies of the pattern envelopes and put those in sleeves in a binder. Different variation, same idea. Works tho - AND the employees don't get nervous because what you have with you can't be mistaken for upaid merchandise.
sewsmiles said... (9/5/08 3:36 PM) Reply
Hi all! I have been doing same as some of you. I started this quite some time ago. I photo copy front and back of my pattern envelope, on the front and back of a sheet of the better quality printer paper. I then slip the photo copy into a clear matte finish page protector and put into notebooks which are labeled. I label them as follows: dresses & pajama's & lingerie; pants & skirts; tops & jackets; sets; children's; crafts & men's; Patterns that no longer fit me are put into a larger binder behind labeled dividers & labeled 'not my size'. The patterns themselves are filed in their original envelope in cardboard pattern storage boxes. At least this is how I have everything at the moment. I have never done a stash folder but I am currently reorganizing my sewing things and think that a stash folder is a great idea! In the past I've kept swatches of fabrics to planned projects in a Ziploc baggie in my purse. Then when I go to the next sale, I can buy the threads, buttons, linings or whatever I need that's on sale! Happy sewing!
sewtime said... (9/4/08 6:12 PM) Reply
Wow, I will start on this system right away. I have a pretty large stash of patterns and I am always rearranging them! Thanks
sewtime said... (7/20/08 8:47 PM) Reply
Thank you I am going to attempt this!
Susieq777 said... (7/7/08 10:42 AM) Reply
Great idea CarmenG! I use a notebook for my pattern stash also but I take the pattern out of the pattern envelope and make a copy of the front (I use color for this side). I then turn the envelope over (and the color copy I just made) and make a black and white copy of the back of the envelope. This gives me a copy of the front and back, on one page. I then slip this into a plastic protective sleeve and put it in a 3 ring notebook. I catagorize them the same way you do. This gives me more room in the notebook since it is just one page. Just like you stated, I take my notebook with me when I go to a fabric store. This allows me to be able to take advantage of any specials the store might have. All I have to do is flip to the pattern I am thinking about for that fabric and I have all of the info I need if I decide to purchase that fabric. This has worked great for me. I also keep the notebook in the trunk of my car (just in case I have an uncontrolable urge to wander into a fabric store.) This seems to happen a lot!! Thanks for your great idea.
ShastaKatt said... (4/18/08 12:14 PM) Reply
I believe this method is what I put on the internet many years ago. Several people told me it had been picked up by magazines, but I never followed up on those messages. I did want to tell you, though, I have never stored the actual patterns in boxes, but store them in the plastic drawer units that are very inexpensive. I use 30-inch doors covered with heavy contact paper for a cutting table and work table sitting on file cabinets; these drawer units fit perfectly under my doors. I also use these drawer units to store interfacing and notions. I file the patterns first by pattern company, then numerically. For independent companies I also file alphabetically within the plastic drawer unit.
bzirk said... (3/13/08 2:58 AM) Reply
I cant wait to do this!! what a great idea
marycds said... (2/26/08 12:35 PM) Reply
THis is such a great system. Thank you. I spent most of a weekend doing this with my pattern stash and it was the best investment of time ever. i have my own personal pattern catalogue that I can sit and peruse while sipping coffee. I've even used some of the patterns that just sat around for years.
OzAnnie said... (12/30/07 7:40 PM) Reply
This system sounds great - can't wait to get started on orgainising my collection!
davin said... (10/29/07 0:10 AM) Reply
It's a blessing to save a drowning person. And I'm drowning in my pattern stash! So thanks. I just read about bolt holders for one's fabric stash....what a concept.
blueturtle said... (10/15/07 10:53 AM) Reply
That is an awesome idea. I tried storing my patterns in large see-through drawers, but I accumulated so many that I ran out of space and resorted to just dropping them in plastic bins. I will be starting this organization project very soon!
alethia said... (7/17/07 1:05 PM) Reply
I used a similar system to store my patterns as KarmenG. The only difference is that i used large yellow envelopes to store the patterns and instructions. Each pattern company was stored in a separate plastic tote. The patterns were stored in plastic sleeves and these sleeves were stored in a binder. It very easy to find the pattern you want for a project
QuiltsShoots&Leaves said... (2/3/07 1:17 PM) Reply
I started this last night and got about 30 patterns done. I bought quart bags with a purple zipper thingy which makes the opening smaller, alas. I had to fold all the patterns and instructions to get them past the opening (ugh) and then unfold them once they got inside the bag. It wasn't bad once I got the hang of it, kind of like making a ship in a bottle only much easier! And I already love how uniform the patterns look and how organized I feel!
Sweetsong said... (12/25/06 12:57 PM) Reply
This was the BEST thing that happened to my pattern stash. I now have nine notebooks full of pattern pictures to peruse. Discovered, however, that I have over 200 patterns that I have barely touched. Thanks for the tip!
Patti in IL said... (10/19/06 1:35 PM) Reply
I use this way too - it also works very well with Burda WOFs - I split up the little line drawings by garment type.
madinahrose said... (7/26/06 7:34 PM) Reply
I love this system. No matter how many times I have tried to organize my patterns, it has always been a mess and I usually ended up buying more patterns that I didn't need. Now, I can easily peruse what I have and have no difficulty going right to the pattern. Thanks, loads!!!
GingerSews said... (7/13/06 4:23 PM) Reply
I read the description of how to organize patterns and it sounds wonderful. I plan on organizing my supplies this weekend and getting started. I might even try it for organizing other hobbies. Thanks.
yummymummy38 said... (6/10/06 10:19 AM) Reply
Thanks for the tip, very clear. I already have patterns in the ziplock bags, and was filling them in Arch files, but this sounds better and more space effective. I've cleaned up my sewing room and am ready to start cataloging!
yummymummy38 said... (6/8/06 8:37 AM) Reply
I have been putting the whole pattern in the ziplock bags, then plastic sleeves and then filing them in Arch file folders, but they are bulky... Perhaps this method will work better...
KarmenG said... (4/21/06 9:14 AM) Reply
KellyK - I'm so glad this will work for you. Good luck with your back surgery. Please send me a PM and let me know how you make out. Thanks for the website too - I'll check it out.
KelleyK said... (4/21/06 0:17 AM) Reply
Thank you, thank you, thank you! I just started sewing in January, after having back surgery in November! I already have almost 100 patterns. Your idea is awesome! Since I am a bit obsessive, I ordered some 7x10 ziploc poly bags (the same size as the Nancy's Notions ones) from 1000 bags cost me $40, including the shipping!
Obrooks770 said... (4/10/06 1:25 PM) Reply
This is an awesome idea, the best I've heard for pattern organization. I can't wait to do this with my large pattern collecion. Thanks for the tip. Happy Sewing!!
countrybug said... (4/5/06 1:29 PM) Reply
I really liked this system. I have been thinking on this subject for quite a few years and like this very much. Maybe I will actually get around to it. Thanks
Maggie Cat said... (2/26/06 9:44 AM) Reply
This sounds like a good system and I like the suggestions by Hobby Hopeful and Rose as well. Years ago I bought a legal size 4 drawer file cabinet for my patterns. Yes it was crammed full of patterns size newborn to 3X as well as crafts/accessories until about a year ago. I gave away to a young sewing mother the children's patterns but I still have quite a lot of patterns and have begun once again adding to the stash. I am in need of an organization overhaul and this wold be a good thing to work on. I do highly recommend the filing cabinet if you are a person with a large pattern stash and have a place for the filing cabinet.
Larisa said... (1/11/06 9:21 PM) Reply
never would have thought of this, thanks for posting it. Once I get my sewing room back, this is something that I will definitely give a whirl....too many patterns to cram into those little cardboard pattern boxes .
Supa said... (8/24/05 7:55 PM) Reply
I love this idea, am off to town tomorrow to stock up on boxes & bags. It may just stop me buying another dulpicate pattern!!!
fesnina said... (8/4/05 7:30 AM) Reply
I have adopted your system but I label my ziplock bags with a permanent marker and keep the pattern instructions in the binder with the envelopes. For patterns like Jalie with no separate instruction sheet you can print the instructions from Jalie's website. For the patterns I've actually sewn I keep a separate sheet in plastic with comments, fabric swatches and a picture of the completed garment. Thanks for sharing, Karmeng, your system is wonderful.
KarmenG said... (7/9/05 8:19 AM) Reply
Hobby Hopeful - Sounds like you got a great system going. I have a friend who scanned all her pattern envelopes (both side) and printed them on large index card stock. It's also a great way to do it. Regarding the Zip Loc bags - I wonder if you got the Sandwich size which would be too small. My bags are the One Quart Size which are a little bigger - just FYI in case someone else wants to try this.....
Hobby Hopeful said... (7/8/05 11:35 PM) Reply
I loved this idea, but it didn't quite work for me. The ziploc bags were 1/4" too short to seal. Then I bought 5x7 manila envelopes. They would have worked, but my technogeek husband caught me at this project and suggested we just print the pattern info from the pattern co. websites. This works brilliantly for KwikSew, since they actually have catalogue pages in .pdf format for each pattern - includes the pictures plus all the yardage & notion tables on one page. Other sites were a bit trickier. They all have printable pattern back pages, but the pattern fronts are usually not printable. You can, however, drag the web frame that contains the picture to a Word document and print from there. (A colour printer is a nice touch but not necessary.) I put all the printouts in a binder and the pdf or Word docs in a folder on the PC. I can reprint at any time from the folder, even if the pattern goes OOP, so I didn't bother with sheet protectors. Now I too have a binder for browsing and shopping, without separating the patterns from their envelopes. The patterns are stored in pattern boxes from Fabricland, numerically of course!
Clev said... (4/28/05 12:16 PM) Reply
Good System! Back in the 90's I bought a 5x7 three ring binder. I would hole punch the pattern envelope & had them organized by type. I had 1 for me & 1 for kids patterns. I could sit (& still do) & read my books & I carried them with me to the stores. I combined that with a small swatch book so I could see that I already had plenty of ribbing & wouldn't buy more. Your idea is better in 2 ways. It's time for an update anyway so I'm going to switch to a full size binder w/plastic sheets. I have always keep the tissue part in gallon baggies but they're just stuffed in there willy-nilly. Now I will place them in numerical order thanks to you.
Goda said... (3/2/05 3:56 AM) Reply
Deepika, Thanks for introducing this site. I liked it and would like to learn more from this site.
VtMartha said... (2/8/05 7:22 PM) Reply
I use a variation on this idea too. I scan the pattern fronts and backs when I first purchase them. While I actually print out the scans for my notebook and leave the patterns intact, I also have a computer file which I can search. Especially helpful if I read about a pattern on PR and can't recall if I have it. I know PR has a pattern library feature but I found this easier.
Susan M said... (1/6/05 8:48 AM) Reply
I like this idea. I'm with Irina. I have put my used patterns in gallon Zip Locks. I haven't tried the note book but think I will get started on making one.
CarolynGM said... (1/1/05 3:50 PM) Reply
I really like this approach. I think I'll try it. I've been putting patterns that I've used in gallon size ziploc bags because some of them are traced, and a larger bag means less folding, so I'll probably stick with that size. Thanks for posting such an excellent idea.
Jennifer shaw said... (12/31/04 8:03 PM) Reply
Thank you for the excellent tips - especially the large zip lock bags!!! I can never fold the pattern pieces back to fit inside of a manilla envelope.
Rosie who use to be Rose said... (12/30/04 1:13 PM) Reply
Karmeng, Thank you so much for writing this out. I read your tip a few weeks ago. I was getting discouraged about sewing since I am no longer able to lift the pattern boxes and your tip was just the advice I needed. I just finished. I commendered a file cabinet from my dh ( he has more that he knows what to do with :) ), scrounged up notebooks, cleaned out the file cabinet (it had tons of those plastic sleeves in it), and bought quart bags at Wal-Mart. It's great! I can look at my patterns and get out what I want without having to wait on someone to come and help me with the pattern boxes anymore.
bmwshortcake said... (12/20/04 12:31 PM) Reply
thank you for this info, I never thought of this.
Sew it seams said... (11/29/04 8:40 AM) Reply
Thanks Karmeng. Your tip is very well written. I started organizing my patterns in the same manner this year and it has been a huge help. I use the manilla envelopes, but your idea of the quart sized baggies sounds good as well. The only thing I miss about using my organized manilla envelopes is being able to see the photo of the pattern. Using the plastic bags with the instruction sheet on top sounds good. I love your idea of a Current Project notebook.
D1Diva said... (11/27/04 11:39 AM) Reply
These are great ideas, although I don't have that large of a pattern stash. I go through mine every now and then and get rid of the patterns I know I will never use (the 99 cent ones only!). I do love the current project notebook. I often have ideas or see garments or details in magazines that I forget about by the time I start my project. This would be a fantastic way to organize thoughts, pictures, articles etc., etc.! I guess I'm off to buy a notebook now...
Liane M said... (11/27/04 3:47 AM) Reply
I use the same idea, but I have the tissue and instructions in a manilla envelope labeled with the pattern number and company I have sorted them numerically. I store the manilla envelopes in hanging files in my file cabinet. This system has worked the best. I don't have patterns all over the sewing room anymore. These are easy to get to and easy to put away. I like to sit and plan projects with my notebook. I also have most of my fabric statch organized in notebooks too.
lhstitcher said... (11/26/04 3:00 PM) Reply
Thank you Karmeng! I'm putting this into action this weekend. I've always kept mine in boxes too, but aside from being cumbersome, I still couldn't quickly find what I needed. I really like the notebook idea, I too had used it for "current project" only, mainly to keep me focused around all the other beckoning fabrics!
KarmenG said... (11/26/04 11:33 AM) Reply
Kempcor - What a fantastic idea - Current Project Notebook. You should write that up as a tip so it's not lost in the shuffle here. I had never thought of that - and it would be a great idea to organize our thoughts for the contests too. And the hanging file folders is a good idea too. Thanks!
kempcor said... (11/26/04 11:31 AM) Reply
Good idea -- I've done the same since I began sewing again a couple year ago, but I use hanging file folders rather than bags because I already had them and I only have one 3" binder of patterns, so I had sufficient file space. I also have a thin "current project" notebook that I transfer the sleeve with the pattern envelope to when I go shopping. The current project notebook also contains my most recent set of measurements, my "colors" chart, and any fabric swatches I want the new fabric to work with. Since I hate shopping, this has made the ordeal much easier and I've purchased fewer things that I later found out didn't work .
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