Tilly posted last month about storing vintage patterns, and as I had been mulling over a post on this topic lately, I thought it was high time to delve a bit into this myself! I have gotten a number of questions over the years regarding how I store both my new and vintage patterns, so hopefully this post will be useful to a few readers.
Let me preface this by saying that no one method is entirely perfect or right. Just because I tend to take a more “Preservationist” viewpoint (as Tilly aptly called it), doesn’t mean that everyone must, or I somehow am looking down my nose at those that don’t follow that method (I detest Vintage Sewing Snobbery!). So if you find an aspect helpful in this post, then I couldn’t be more pleased! But if it just doesn’t work for you in any way, then I’d love to hear about your personal method of storage.
Let’s start chatting a bit about my beloved vintage pattern collection, shall we? It grew quite a bit recently thanks to my grandmother’s patterns joining the stash. Which means that once again I’m running out of storage space. But this is what method I used up until the New Year… All my patterns are stored in sturdy, cardboard banker’s boxes. For several years I used plastic boxes I picked up at Target, but the collection outgrew those quickly, and Target was no longer selling a similar size. So back to banker’s boxes it was! These are great though, because I can line up the smaller (Simplicity, Butterick) patterns side-by-side, and double stack them as demonstrated above.
The patterns themselves are currently divided up by category. Dresses, suits and outerwear, sportswear (bathing suits, shorts, etc.), children’s patterns, etc. When my collection was smaller, I had things divided up as early vintage (1920s-1940s) and later vintage (1950s-1970s), and then subdivided by style. But this became a bit of a storage nightmare, as I don’t have that much room for that many boxes.
Within the boxes there are patterns loose without plastic slips, a few in large sandwich bags, and some in archival envelopes (which I bought from Ebay so long ago I don’t have any specific link to share!). Generally the ones in the archival envelopes are older, more fragile patterns. At the moment not everything is bagged, and honestly, I’m not too worried about it. Unless I start noticing something is disintegrating or there are bugs eating away at the paper (silverfish are my enemies), it’s not too much of a bother. The only real advantage to having everything bagged is that I can take the pieces and instructions out of the envelope, which means I’m not in danger of ripping the envelope when I try to repackage the pieces!
I do trace many of my vintage patterns, most often because they’re either too fragile to handle (especially in the case of my 30s patterns), or I need to make fitting changes and having a tracing to work with means I don’t wreck the original lines of the pattern. But again, this often depends on the pattern. For some later vintage patterns that I know will fit or are really simple lines, I don’t bother! But once I have a tracing, I do keep it in a separate box with all my other self-drafted and fitted tracings. Storing them with my vintage patterns got too cumbersome, although I do keep a slip of paper in many of the patterns noting I do have a tracing. (Otherwise I’ll retrace it!).
But what about modern patterns? It’s a fairly similar approach–sans archival envelopes. Patterns are generally kept in boxes, but organized by pattern company. This is because many of the patterns I own that are modern are indie companies, and I like to be able to access those easily. Cut patterns are often placed in a large sandwich bag, along with any tracings I did to alter the pattern. It’s a fairly easy method, but keeps things organized enough for me to easily find what I’m looking for.
What else do I do? I’ve used a pattern organizing software in the past (full disclosure: the software was provided to me to test drive) and also scanned pattern envelopes to add to my own image files. The latter tends to work best for vintage patterns, and allows me to virtually go through my collection without having to pull all my boxes out! But it is time consuming, which is why I am still working on cataloging everything.
So that is how I store all my patterns, for the curious! I know it may sound very organized to some, but I am such a scatterbrain otherwise, it would result in Pattern Chaos (which would make me unhappy!). When I got married and moved I had no order to my pattern storage, and remember finding vintage patterns I had forgotten I had! Now that doesn’t happen very often, which means I can utilize the patterns better than I did before. Which means better sewing productivity for me! Hooray!