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Welcome to week 2 in our series on organizing and renewing our sewing. This post is part of a series on organizing your fabric and sewing space and appears on the Stashbusting Sew a Long fb page.  Links appear at the end of this post to numerous articles on storing paper and pdf patterns.

Last week we focused on getting our stash in order and knowing what we have. Did you make time to go through and count up or at the very least sort and organize your fabric in a way that is meaningful to you? Until I really started to delve in to my stash I had limited understanding of what fabrics I actually had. In fact, I found many gems of beautiful fabrics that were completely forgotten about.


A gorgeous Pendleton plaid languishing in the stash!

I also was able to donate fabrics that I absolutely know I will never use which felt really really good! Having fabrics coded by use or type and that information filed both of the tote and in an excel spreadsheet I am now able to quickly identify and find fabrics for projects. This makes me super excited to get started on my 2016 sewing!

That is the good news. The bad news is this past week I cataloged my 800th yard of fabric! Unfortunately, I am not done and just yesterday was poking around and found several more tubs that have not been sorted. Yikes. Honestly, I had NO idea I had that much fabric. But, I now have an understanding of my stash and can form a plan on what to do with it, which includes a lot of sewing!!

Now on to those patterns, books and magazines.

The very first thing I did is cull, cull, cull. It is probably one of  the hardest things for a sewist to do, at least it is for me, but I have been storing and moving around boxes of sewing books for over 30 years. I know I will never use some of them. This is mainly due to the internet and the vast amount of sewing information available but some are simply not my interest anymore (i.e. cross stitch), some contain dated information or techniques and some are just not that good and worth keeping.


They received a very good home!

First I determined exactly what made sense for me to keep, then I took a look at how much storage space was truly available for them. Next I determined to keep only those that would fit in that space. In my initial cull I did not include any pattern magazines such as Ottobre or those that I use regularly such as Threads. That is phase two, which will entail me documenting exactly what magazines I have and going through the same culling process. I know I have duplicates of many magazines again due to not knowing what I have.

I quickly came up with a good stack of books to give away and freed up a ton of space in my storage cabinet which I promptly filled with books and magazines loose in my sewing room.

Now to all those sewing patterns. Compared to fabric I am pretty light on paper patterns. I mentioned before about our floods, well, actually some good came out of them. One thing flooded was the bottom two drawers of a 4 drawer filing cabinet where of course all the contents were lost. So, that is now my paper pattern home. Since they are very visible by just opening the drawer, I did not spend a ton of time filing them by category. I actually like to just browse my patterns.  I tried to keep the coats and jacket patterns together, pants, men’s patterns and such but I used very broad categories and just popped them into hanging files. Having used several different types of pattern storage, I can say this one works best for me. I really love it. So easy and accessible and does not take up much space.


I filed two large file drawers with paper patterns.

But what to do about all those pdf patterns?

First, (and I learned this the hard way) I try not to print them unless I am ready to use them at that moment. So, I try to print, assemble and cut out my fabric all at once. However, this is not always practical especially when short on time and then what to do with the pattern/cut fabric pieces between sewing times?

My solution. A simple paper shopping bag.


My simple shopping bag currently holding these jeans in progress. All in one place, easy to find.

I can throw all my pieces in to the bag and they will not get lost, slept on by the cat or crumpled by something else being placed on top of them and they are not taking up space! It sounds so silly but it really works well for me. But here is the catch, I only allow myself to put one project in the bag and I can only have one bag! The last thing I need or want is multiple bags crowding up my sewing space. I discipline myself to keep it to that project until I am done. Now done can mean not actually done in sewing because we all know things don’t always go as planned, in which case the project is moved to a proper storage place; so a tote of incomplete projects or waiting on supplies or poor fit, etc…

It was only after buying the same pdf pattern three times did I come to the realization I needed to better organize my pdf patterns.

When I first starting sewing I tried putting my printed pdfs in a binder. This does not work for me. Remember our motto is: what works for you is the best system! However, I would love to hear if anyone has made the binder system work for them with pdf patterns and tips they have used!

Pdfs not printed or used yet are organized by designer or type in file folders on my computer. One hint here: make it a habit to download your pdf patterns immediately if you can. I did not realize some pdfs expire and while organizing found I had lost the right to download some really nice patterns. Bummer, probably over $75 worth of patterns lost. Again, lack of organization costing money.

Another hint: backup your files regularly. My husband is a computer man so he very diligently backs up our systems. If you do not do this I would recommend copying them onto some other type of storage device just in case.

For the pdfs printed and that I intend to use again I clip on a small hanger and hang in my sewing room. Periodically, I will go through them and dispose of ones I feel I will not be using soon or that have become damaged.

Next post will be sewing spaces! Can’t wait to see yours!

Here are a bunch of links to pattern storage systems. I would love to hear your ideas either in the comments or over at the Stashbusting page!









P.S. Are you interested in monthly sew a longs with a fabulous group of sewers? Sew a Longs and Sewing Contest fb page has monthly sew a longs hosted by members and pattern designers (and some really famous sewing peeps) and is a fun community of friendly sewist! We would love to have you join us!