Organized Patterns

Hi everyone! Today I'm going to share with you how I organize my sewing patterns. I think you'll love this method as much as I do. The best part is my daughters and I can easily look through all of them without damaging the envelopes or losing pieces as they look at the envelopes. It also makes it really easy to compare similar patterns to decide which design element we like the best.

For years, I kept my patterns in a big plastic bin, and would sift through them when planning a project. I tried sorting them by type, but they always seemed to get jumbled up. Plus, the envelopes were getting all worn from this storage method, and any used patterns were bulging from trying to get the used pieces back in. All in all, a hot mess.

So I came up with a new method of storing patterns that has worked out really well. Here is what you will do to get the same system.

First get your supplies:

Go to Staples or Office Max and buy some 9 x 12 side open booklet envelopes. I can only find the white in the 9x12 size at Staples, but the color really doesn't matter. I really prefer the side open envelopes because they are easier to store in the boxes without losing pattern pieces.

While there, buy some of these Banker Boxes. You can pick up these boxes at Target or Walmart too.

You'll also want plastic sheet protectors. These do not need to be fancy- the cheaper the better. (shown here with a piece of white paper in each one)

Now that you have all of your supplies, let's get started.

First, using a Sharpie, write the number of the pattern on the top right of each envelope.

If you find that you have two patterns with the same number, but different companies, just write the first letter in front of the pattern number. For example if you have pattern number 2456 in Simplicity it would read S 2456. And the McCalls pattern would read M 2456. You'll find that this rarely happens though.

Now, take the pattern pieces out of the pattern envelope and put them in the large white envelope.

This is what the inside of an envelope with used pattern pieces looks like:

Isn't that nice to have so much room in there instead of trying to stuff them back in those small envelopes?

As a side note, I wanted to share a few tips about caring for used patterns. First, I always fold my pattern pieces so the pattern number is facing out.

The other thing I try to always remember to do, is write on the front of the envelope the sizes I cut out, and the date. Occasionally, I'll write the person I made the outfit for.

Now, you'll take that pattern envelope and put it in a plastic page protector. I always put a piece of paper in each protector so I can put a pattern on each page back to back.

I also use that paper to write any notes about each pattern. For example, I sometimes buy multiples of a pattern when they are on a 99 cent sale. It is worth the extra dollar not to have to trace a pattern. When I have multiples of a pattern, I write on the paper in the top left corner "Also in size 3,4,5,6 uncut".

Then I put that entire extra pattern into the envelope with the other pieces like this:

The patterns are then sorted in banker boxes by number. They will go in like this:

The boxes are set up similar to the way patterns are sorted in the store.

The envelopes are stored in binders and sorted by type. Here are my binders with all of my patterns:

So- the next question is what to do with those odd sized patterns or patterns in books, or even self-drafted patterns? Here is what I do:

I love Jalie patterns, but the envelopes they come in are so darn big. Certainly too big to fit in the binders and even too big for the patters to fit in the banker boxes. So what I did was photo copy the front of the pattern envelopes and put those pictures in my binder.

Then I stacked (in numerical order) the Jalie patterns on a shelf in my sewing room.

Patterns in books. I do the same thing. Photocopy and then on the paper write which book and page the pattern can be found.

And those self drafted patterns?

I sometimes but several in one envelope, put the date in the corner and put them in the back of my last box. (6000-9999)

If you want to go one step further, you can enter your patterns into an online database at PatternReview.com. Once you have signed up for a free account, you can click on "Pattern Catalog" in the left burgundy column. What I love about this, is you can quickly check to see if you already have a pattern before you purchase one. The best part about this system however is that it automatically connects you to all pattern reviews of each of your patterns, so you can read what works or doesn't work with each one before beginning. Fair warning though: once you start using this site, you'll see pattern lines you didn't know existed (ie: Jalie) and find patterns you fall in love with.

Good luck with sorting your patterns and let me know if you have any other ideas to make it even more efficient!

Coming up, um... sometime... how I organize my fabric. Now that I've told you it's coming, I have to bite the bullet and just write it, right?


  1. Awesome post! Thanks for the links and pics of the supplies. That is really helpful. Now I just need to bite the bullet and get the stuff! lol

  2. Thank you so much! This post looks like it was a lot of work to put together.

  3. What a great organizational system. Want to come organize my scrapbook kits? :)

  4. wow. That is awesome. When my pattern drawer got full, I just quit sewing. LOL. Great job making a hard job look easy. Thanks.

  5. Ooooooooh. I love it. I always wondered how to take care of them and store them properly. I like the binder idea. I'm so doing that!

  6. Great idea for organizing! I really need to do this with all my patterns!

  7. sounds like a now have a specific new years resolution!!! Love this to pieces.
    question: for some of my patterns, I have a fitting muslin to go with it, can I use fatter envelopes or just put the fitter in a different one? Ahhh, I can figure that part out!
    Really, great!!

  8. Love it!
    I have an old two draw file cabinet, I will use instead of the banker boxes.

  9. I really like the large white envelopes. Pattern envelopes end up tearing no matter how careful I am when putting patterns back in the envelope. I had my roommate program a software to help me visualize and search my pattern collection. My friends use it too so we can see each others patterns. She then decided to release it on the market. She's even making a phone app this summer. I'm also planning on upgrading to vintage wood file cabinets instead of boxes.

  10. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! My husband actually found your site while trying to clean up some of my sewing supplies! I went out yesterday and purchased my supplies and I must say, that I have already done some of my patterns and couldn't be happier!!

  11. Wow, thank you - I also love Jalie patterns and have them stacked, but I didn't have a great system for all my normal patters either. I stoped buying patterns because I could not figure out how to store them, but now I will just do what you do! Thank you!