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Conversational Threads

storing patterns

buckets | Posted in Patterns on

I would like to know if anyone has found an inexpensive, space saving, and organized way of storing patterns.  Currently, my patterns are stored in a chest of drawers, which takes up too much room and makes viewing patterns difficult.  I’ve also tried boxes and large clear plastics buckets to no satisfaction.  I’d appreciate any ideas.  Thanks, Irons


  1. 07ranch | | #1

    Are you sure you need so many patterns?, I find the only ones I really need are the ones I regurlary use, that said, the system I use is to take a photo copy of the front and back of the pattern envelope (1 page), and keep that in a file folder I can then readily thumb thru my pattern "library" when looking for a pattern, they can be kept in a binder also, depending on your preference. The patterns themselves are traced onto butcher paper in all the sizes I regularly use (if necessary) all pieces are clipped together and laid flat in a drawer, each piece of each pattern is noted with either color marks or pattern number as necessary, along with the instruction page. The original pattern and envelope are kept together and stored in a plastic tote box as they are only kept for reference. I occasionaly make notes to myself on the photo copied page or directly on the pattern pieces depending on the information I want to remember. I don't bother to trace out the pattern until I make it once to dertrmine if It warrants the "worth remaking"  test, If not I don't bother to keep it and pass it along. I have found that between discount stores, thrift shops and garage sales  cheap patterns are generally plentiful and keeping too many on hand, adds clutter and frustration. Besides, favorites get tweaked and refined "customizing" it for my needs allowing me the freedom to make lots of looks from a few patterns.

    1. TheSloperLad | | #3

      Good system!  This is very similar to the way I read cookbooks and the comments are most worthwhile.

      I now use computer patterns exclusively for the ease of storing, quick recall and notes to myself.  This is more efficient, but sometimes (not always) regret getting rid of the whole stash. 

      1. buckets | | #8

        TSL, can you recommend a good computer pattern drafting program?  I have just read the Threads review of several such programs and am intrigued.  I have sewn for years, but am only now starting to sew for myself.  I think I would feel more confident using the computer's help to determine proper fit.  What success have you had? 

        1. TheSloperLad | | #9


          First, please note two points of clarification:

          I’m new to this group and still getting the hang of it, so I’m not even sure if I’m getting or answering all messages (limited time available)

          I am a resident professor at the CADterns CSOL (Cyber School of On-line Learning) and admit to some bias, but try to comment in neutral (without bias) regarding slopers and patternmaking

          All of the pattern drafting programs have different strengths. As the Threads article pointed out, any of the computer patterns have a better starting point than traditional tissue patterns. You must prioritise what you need most, what next, and sew on.

          For consistent good fit, you want an excellent sloper. In the combination of quick, easy and accurate slopers, you can’t beat CADterns. Even these slopers may need a bit of tweaking, so you should test, tweak then transfer the tweak zones back to your sloper pattern. At this point, your sloper can be laid over or under other patterns to adjust fit before sewing them.

          For mixing and matching, you should select a program with a generous variety of interchangeable pattern pieces. Do NOT combine pieces from different programs to get just the right style. Try your hand at flat patternmaking to reshape one pattern instead.

          For greatest fit-testing and tweaking, having a sewing buddy is more important than which program you use. A sewing buddy can give you even more significant feedback than a full-length mirror. She can help you to make the grain lines perpendicular (the point of tweaking) without having to reach or bend or otherwise disrupt the grain further.

          I am sorry, sometimes I get a little long-winded. I do hope this has been of some help.



          1. buckets | | #10

            TSL, thanks for your advice!  I will check out the product your recommended soon.


          2. buckets | | #11

            TSL - Although I am now a long way from my original topic (storing patterns), I still have a pattern related question I'm sure you're the person to ask.  I did look at the CADterns web site and read the comments from Threads regarding this product.  I like the idea of creating a sloper to use to customize my existing paper patterns, but shied away from spending so much on a program that just creates a sloper.  I have also looked at a Threads publication entitled Fit and Fabric that contains an article about creating a sloper from size measurements on paper patterns and tweaking the pieces to personalize the fit.  This article was published before pattern software hit the market, but I immediately thought of programs such as Click & Sew which customize patterns from one's measurements.   I am wondering if I could use these personalized patterns to create my own slopers.  They cost about $20 a set and even if I bought several, this would cost less than the CADterns software.  I can  also create new patterns as well.  Do you think this system would work?  The folks at WildGinger thought it would, but I would appreciated a second opinion.  Thanks, Irons

          3. TheSloperLad | | #12

            Irons – I understand your dilemma, believe me. I have about 10 sets of gadgets, book and tissue patterns. I also attended institute of technology pattern drafting courses. All of this was for trying to get a sloper that was perfect for me. Now when I look back from the perspective of experience, I realise that any of the patterns or well designed patternmaking gadgets could have worked just great.

            How could they all have worked fine if they were all so different? If I’d been able to pinch fit or tweak them to perfection – (perfection as defined by me that is) they could have been great. Great that is on my figure of the day or of the year or the activities I choose. Over a span of time, our figures change, quite naturally. It can be very subtle and at a different rate for different people. Even if our measurements remain the same, the flesh on our bones is gradually repositioned. (For example, as a teenager I hated my "big" derriere, now I’d love to trade my big tummy for a little more buttock.)

            The fact of the matter is that just maybe these slopers did in fact fit the way that I wanted or needed at the particular time and it was me that kept changing everything from posture to preferences. Now I know that it’s foolhardy to think that a sloper fitted diligently will last for as long as my interest in sewing would.

            Everything changes as we mature, including what we want and need for a basic sloper. I agree with Wild Ginger that their basic patterns could be used as slopers. This may well be the best way for you to approach your own slopers. From all that I’ve heard about Wild Ginger over the years, I’d certainly find their patterns to be a good starting point. CADTERNS is most useful for people who want slopers for all of their family, friends, clients, playhouse costumes and even their own weight fluctuations. With the CADTERNS slopers you would want to be able to pinch fit (tweak) the details (better with a friend).

            Have I confused you entirely? I hope not.

            TSL    "Sew Smart - Fit First"

          4. buckets | | #13

            TSL -  Thank you for making a complicated decision easier!  I will begin with some inexpensive Click & Sew patterns to use as slopers for making adjustments to existing paper patterns. I'm definitely a believer in the "path of least resistance" living!  I'll let you what success I have.  Thanks again, Irons   

    2. buckets | | #5

      Thank you for your advice 07ranch.  I actually do not own an unreasonable amount of patterns; it's just difficult to store them safely and conveniently in my unfinished basement.  But I will follow your advice, and look through them again to see if they warrant saving.  I do have a binder just like the one you mention, which I keep near my sewing area (a corner of my living/dining room).  Having the pattern picture and information handy is a big help and I often take it with me when I shop for fabric. 

    3. user-222038 | | #31

      I'm the first to toss out anything that seems unnecessary.  But my mom (a pack rat) saved the patterns she used to make clothing for my sister and me.  She gave me some of those cute 1960s and 1970s patterns so I can make the same outfits for my daughter.  These are a sentimental treasure for me.

      1. buckets | | #41

        Kathy M222- What a treat to have such patterns!  I recently purchased some sixties styled dress patterns by Children's Corner for  $11 each!  I will follow your mother's example and save those patterns that may have lasting value, Irons.

  2. betsy | | #2

    I use the inexpensive boxes sold as "photo storage" boxes, often on sale at Joann Fabrics or Michaels crafts. Shoe boxes work as well, with wider boxes good for large Vogue or Folkwear patterns. I separate types of patterns by box, skirts, blouses, etc., label each box, and store them on a fairly high closet shelf that isn't prime real estate. USE A STOOL to pull down the box that you want to look through; dumping a box of patterns over my head more than once convinced me! From a costumer's viewpoint, I'd say don't throw out anything you can possibly save. You never know when you'll need the drop-waisted jumper from the 80's for another era from the past. For patterns with many large pieces, or ones that I've traced off in many sizes, I slip pieces in a zip-lock bag approximately the same size as the pattern envelope, with the front of the envelope facing out from the baggie. It's simple, cheap, and it works. Good luck!

    1. buckets | | #6

      Betsy, the "photo box" sotrage idea is great!  I don't have a great number of patterns, so this will be a convenient and inexpensive way to solve my problem.  Oh, and being just under 5'2", I always use a stool!

  3. Crafty_Manx | | #4

    Hey Irons,

    Having been a costumer for two drama societies in college, I've learned the hard way that you never throw away a pattern you think you'll never use.  The "popular" ones that I use all the time (pajamas, my favorite shirt, etc) are kept in a plastic storage box convienient with my sewing area.  The others are kept on the top shelf of the closet in boxes organized by company and pattern number.


    1. buckets | | #7

      Crafty Manx, I am a great believer in keeping only what I use regularly; I love reducing clutter!  However, I have done as you and kept all my patterns, which really don't total that great a number.  I like your idea of keeping often used ones near my sewing area and storing away the others.  Thanks!

    2. nurdot | | #14

      Thanks, "you all", for the suggestions on storing patterns. Mine I have in the bottom drawer of my sewing cabinet. I try arranging them by sizes (3 granddaughters, 5 mos, 2 & 8 yrs). They lay well on their side, but some companies put the pattern number on the side, some on the top. Also, I have sorted and tossed patterns in the past because of storage space. You've given me some good ideas to solve that problem. Plus, I'd love to have that drawer for other stuff!! I agree....don't throw any of them away if you can find an unused top closet shelf. You may not be a costumer, but almost everything comes back in style, and grandchildren need Halloween costumes.

      I'll be retiring later this year, so plan to spend LOTS of time sewing. I've printed off your suggestions and will put them away for future reference. Now I just have to find that unused top closet shelf!


      1. Crafty_Manx | | #15

        As long as you're not a stickler about keeping your pattern envelopes in "mint" condition, get out your black marker and re-write the pattern number so it appears on both the side and top of the envelope.  That way you can store everything in the same direction, no matter which direction you choose (or which angle you are craning your head at to look at your collection when you finally find that top shelf!).

        I love the idea of sorting patterns by size.  I used to have mine sorted by item (skirt, pants, etc.) but I didn't keep up with it and now the whole collection is a mess.  I've been putting it off and putting it off, but I guess I should organize it.


        1. 07ranch | | #16

          Thats why I photocopy the front and back of the pattern envelope and keep the pages in a folder, it only takes a minute to grab the folder, sometimes I take it if I know I'll have a wait,  one could organize the pages by size, style, etc. if desired, perhaps match the pages to the way the actual patterns are kept, if applicable.

          writing another pattern number on the envelope is a good idea, sure would help if the boxes only alowed for envelopes to fit one way.

          1. kai230 | | #17

            Some good ideas here, thanks.

            As for slopers, in case anyone else besides me didn't know what they are:

            "Basic apparel pattern without style lines or seam allowances. Used at the beginning or repeatedly throughout the evolution of a style. Slopers may be developed from dressforms, live models, specific measurements, or other manufacturer specifications. Slopers can be used to develop patterns and create new designs. Also called standard pattern, foundationpattern, block pattern, and master pattern"

            Not that I understand that, mind you--so, what are style lines? Like a gored skirt? Or an empire waist? And, if this is, say, a sloper for a t-shirt, do the seams hang open due to no seam allowance? I'm surely missing some basic concept here, despite the definition. It sounds like you pros use this technique to advantage, and I'd like to know more. I have a dress form (one of those expando-web-like contraptions from days of old, but haven't really ever used it w/any success over the years except as a clothes hanger ;-) TIA

          2. buckets | | #29

            kai-A "sloper" does seem a bit of a Holy Grail, but really it is just a basic pattern; as if (to quote from a Threads article) you "took your skin off and laid it flat."  A sloper is not used as a garment pattern but as a tool for customizing fit from an existing pattern or as a basis for creating your own.

            I have been sewing for years, but am just beginning to sew for myself and am certainly not knowledgeable about fitting.  I have been inspired by the above quoted article from a collection in a book entitled Fit and Fabric from Threads.  Creating a sloper, or basic pattern, will help me understand my measurements in relation to adjusting patterns so they fit.  I want to make sure that when I cut and sew my beautiful fabric the garments fit!  Sewing for myself is a far more precise undertaking than sewing for my kids for sure.  Good luck, Irons

          3. kai230 | | #30

            Oh, thank you! Now I understand! This sounds like a wonderful tool.

          4. TheSloperLad | | #32

            There seems to be much confusion and mystery around the issue of slopers. I was there myself for many years.  After deciding to take that bull by the horns, I wound up going to the extreme - a patternmaking program that makes ONLY slopers more quickly and easily than any other of which I am aware (try the downloadable demo if you'd like to have a peek - http://www.cadterns.com/lvdown.htm - even the editors from Threads were impressed how fast and how easy it is - see May 2003 issue comparing 8 patternmaking programs.)

            Consider:  Just as every daisy is a flower but not every flower is a daisy, so too every sloper is a pattern, but not every patern is a sloper.  The two main differences are 1) slopers have fitting darts and no real style 2) slopers have no seam allowances.

            Why would anyone spend a life dedicated to personal slopers?  I am a real advocate of recreational and entrepreneurial fashion designers and want to help them to become their own patternmakers.  This is our Fit-FIRST strategy - first get a sloper that really fits then style it with dart art, fullness or your own Signature flair and everything that you style will already fit.

            Anyone at this discussion board who tests the demo disk and gives me some feedback is welcome to a sample pattern.  Just tell me what you thought of our demo and send me measurements for your Height, Bust, Waist and Hip.  You must be able to print a DXF file to test a sloper.  (There is a sample DXF at out site as well.)

            If you don't already have a CAD program (such as AutoSketch or PMB), you could test it with a 30-day free CAD program available from http://www.patternmaker.com or http://www.intellicad.com.

            I'm sorry if this sounds like a "plug" but I really am excited about helping to solve these kinds of mysteries.

            Cheers!     TSL  (TheSloperLady)    [email protected]   

          5. sanderson | | #33

            TSL...you make a very generous and challenging offer.  I'd suggest you ask one of our keepers here to move this to set it up as a new thread.  I can very well imagine looking for this some time later down the road and not remembering that it is in a pattern storage thread.  Thanks again.

          6. TheSloperLad | | #38

            That's a great idea, but being new to this discussion board, I'm not sure how to do that.  My apology for getting so far away from the subject of storing patterns.  If you've been around for awhile, perhaps you have suggestions on how to do it and what to call it?

            (I have in past done "guest e-ppearances" on other discussion boards in an "Ask TheSloperLady" format.)

            Cheers!     TSL

          7. kai230 | | #34

            Maybe the server is down but I got an err msg on the cadterns link.

          8. TheSloperLad | | #35

            I'm sorry to hear that.  Thank you for letting me know.  I'm not aware of any problems at the moment.  Perhaps it was a time of telephone overload.  It's truly amazing how many phone connections come from every household for so many uses. 

            If you would like to try again, the full address is http://www.cadterns.com/.  If you are still unable to activate the link, I'll have to check with the Webmaster and get back to you. 

            Cheers!     TSL

          9. kai230 | | #36

            Is this it?

            CADTERNS Limited Version

            A fully functioning Limited Version of CADTERNS complete with a demo version of AutoSketch for Windows.

            It's the lvtern that it doesn't recognize--you have to click on Limited Version from the main page to get to the page where downloads are offered.

          10. TheSloperLad | | #37

            That looks like the downloadable demo alright.  I'm not sure where lvtern got in there.  The Demo download address is http://www.cadterns.com/lvdown.htm.  Did I leave an incorrect address here?  It was simply a cut&paste so it should have been OK.  If you still have the address that you used, I'd be happy to see it and trying to unravel the mystery.

            If anyone else had difficulty with this, no one else has mentioned.  I'd be happy to know.

            Cheers!     TSL

          11. kai230 | | #39

            Sorry, it was the lvdown that gives me this msg

            Not Found

            The requested URL /lvdown.htm was not found on this server.

            Apache/1.3.26 Server at http://www.cadterns.com Port 80



            I'll try downloading tonight, thanks!

          12. buckets | | #40

             Just to let you know- In order to download the limited version of Cadterns for trial, you must have WinZip, or other unzipping program, installed.  I have not purchased such a program yet and am wondering if I need to should I decide to purchase Cadterns.  (Is this what you mean by a DFX file?  Remember, there are some newbies out here!)  Also, does Cadterns explain how to use the slopers for fitting patterns?

            Thanks, Irons   

          13. TheSloperLad | | #42

            RE: WINZIP:

            Thank you for sharing your concern, but I don’t think it should matter. I’ve never CONSCIOUSLY installed WinZip. It originated and still has, I believe, a shareware version. Why not check to see if you already have one? To search your hard disk:

            Hold down the Windows button while you press the F (find) key

            In dialogue box that appears, under "Search for files and folders named" type WinZip

            At "Look in"" choose Local Hard Drives (C:, D:)

            Click the Search Now button.

            Does anything appear? (It may be that I’ve been using a computer for too long to remember doing anything to install it, but it’s not likely.)

            I believe that all you need to do is to double click on the downloaded file to extract the program files. (Be sure to move the zip file to where you want it before extracting the LV files.)



          14. buckets | | #43

            TSL- I have Windows XP so the search proceeded somewhat differently, but I believe I was able to locate an unzipping file in the C drive.  My confusion lies in not knowing enough about computers, but also with always seeing advertising for WinZip when viewing embroidery design downloads from the internet.  I always assumed I needed to purchase WinZip, not realizing my computer may have such capabilities already.  I'll try the demo soon, and thanks for potentially saving me about $40!  

        2. nurdot | | #18

          Well, DUH, never thought of writing the number where I can read it!! Sure does help to talk to each other, doesn't it. Yes, I like having my infant, toddler, growing child, etc in order. It can be a little annoying/time consuming putting them away, but well worth when looking for one. Think I'll also add the sizes to that renumbering suggestion to make that part easier to find, too.

          Thanks, Dotty

  4. sanderson | | #19

    I have my patterns in 4"bus tubs on a shelf in my studio.  Bus tubs are those plastic rectangular tubs bussers use in restaurants to tote dirty dishes away from the dining room or bus stations. One tub is women's clothing patterns and the other is for men's and children's.  The bus tub works for me because the patterns can stand up in two rows so I can rifle through them to pick something out.  I buy patterns at our local thrift store for a nickel each just to remember a particular style or sleeve or whatever.  When a pattern is a real keeper or if I've traced off a variation I keep it all in a quart size zip lock bag.  I'll even include a snip of fabric to remember what I'd made. 

    1. kai230 | | #20

      I'll even include a snip of fabric to remember what I'd made. 

      Oh, that sounds like Tip material to me!

    2. buckets | | #21

      Sounds like a great idea!   I'm guessing that I can buy these "bus tubs" from a local restaurant supply store (?).  Thanks for the tip, Irons

  5. Evie | | #22









    Dear Irons,  I have been collecting many patterns over the years.  At first,

    I would buy dish-soaking plastic tubs and store them in those.  I still have

    all those patterns but after some time passing they become raggedy.  So, I

    now use file folders in many colors and store each pattern in one of them,

    writing on the outside pattern make, sizes, adult or child, the name of each

    item that is in the pattern.  Example: Jacket, skirt, pants, shell or blouse.

    Then if I make a tracing of a certain size  I will fold those and insert them also

    in the file folder.  I then have these rectangular laundry baskets where they

    are then stored.  I have one for adult patterns, one for children's patterns and

    patterns concerning household items that I have bought patterns for or

    patterns that I have made up myself, like for an upholstered chair, duvet

    covers, shams, curtains, swags, table cloths and many other things that i

    like to make.  After inserting the pattern in the file folder I then put a long

    straight pin with the little flowers on the ends through the folder so nothing

    gets lost.  Tell me what you think of this method.  I find that it has  worked

    for me.  If this suggestion helps you , great!!!!    ...............Evie 163









    1. buckets | | #23

      Evie, I just happen to have an unused file cabinet in my basement that would work using your method.  I really don't have a great number of patterns so they should all fit.  I also like your idea of recording any useful information about the pattern on the outside of the folder for easy reference.  Thanks for your help (now all I have to do is start organizing!), Irons.

      1. Evie | | #24

        Dear Irons,  I'm happy you can use my suggestion.  If you want to, you can even make

        a sketch of a neckline or a special feature that the

        pattern may have on the cover of the file folder.

        Happy organizing.  Evie (Purchase, NY)



  6. oliveoyl | | #25

    This system works for me, as I have deep bookcases lined up along the walls in my room. I stand my patterns upright in shoe boxes, filed by company and number, (or by childrens/crafts/hats etc) It is so easy to just flip through them and being able to see the picture. I bought the large pattern boxes with the lids for my Kwik-Sew patterns, but other than looking nice on the shelf, they aren't as convenient to use. Large patterns like Green Pepper and Stretch & Sew, fit nicely into larger boot boxes.  It seems as soon as I get rid of a pattern, I want it again.

    1. buckets | | #27

      So many great ideas!  I almost wish I had more patterns...  I have limited storage space so book shelves won't work for me, but I have stored patterns in shoe boxes before with some success.  My problem is that I only have space in my unfinished basement where dust and moisture are a factor.  My patterns, therefore, must be stored in a container of some sort.  But, you know, the more I sew the more I appreciate independent pattern companies for fit and clarity that I might get rid of my small collection of current patterns and start all over again!  Irons

  7. EMILEE69 | | #26

    It sounds like we each have our own individual variation on how we store our patterns.  Here's what I do ...

    I keep my patterns in file jackets (the bottoms and sides are enclosed, so no pieces will fall out.  Each file is labeled with the pattern company name and number---i.e., McCall's 9999 or Cutting Designs 9999.  These are then filed alphabetically by name of the pattern company, in numerical order under each company name.

    Here's what makes this system work for me.  Before putting the patterns in the file folder I remove the outer envelope.  The envelope is then put in a sheet protector and placed in a binder, which is organized by categories such as dresses-sportswear-home dec, etc.  (I don't get too perfectionistic about the order--just put them in order that makes sense to me.)  I end up creating my own personal pattern book that I can browse through when looking for an idea or trying to find a specific pattern/style.  Then, all I have to do is note the company and pattern number and find it where it has been filed.  Essentially, it's just like going to the fabric store, looking up a pattern you want, and then finding it in the file drawer--very quick and easy.

    An added advantage of this system is that I can just grab my binder and take it with me to the store so that when I find the fabric I want I can have the information right there about yardage, notions, etc. that are needed.

    PS------I liked the idea of attaching a swatch of fabric used for various patterns to the filei folder.  I think I may adopt that idea myself.  Maybe I'll even include extra buttons, etc. with the pattern.

    Edited 4/15/2003 1:30:04 PM ET by EMILEE69

    1. buckets | | #28

      Emilee69-I have actually made copies of my patterns, front and back, and put them in a binder similar to what you have.  I too enjoy being able to take it to the store to decide on fabric, etc.  I also like the file cabinet idea and plan on using that method for storing my patterns.  Thanks, Irons 

  8. rekha | | #44

    This question was never answered satisfactorily, especially when you have traced a copy of the size you want to make a garment out of. The polyester film I trace the patterns on cannot be ironed so they must be stored as flat as possible. Any ideas how to store these and still be able to relate them to the original patterns

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