Sewing Room Organization – Part I

Brad expressed an interest in the pattern and fabric binders I mentioned in my last post so I thought I’d share them with you. Of course, this is not the only way to keep a large collection organized but I have found it is the best way for me. Initially, it took me one weekend to catalog the fabric and a day to do the patterns. Additionally, this system requires minimal effort to maintain and is very cost-effective. Here is my entire fabric, pattern and Burda WOF collection:


Yesterday morning – as I was trying to plan my next project – the growing mounds of patterns finally got to me. I’m usually pretty good about keeping things under control but I’ve been buying a lot of patterns lately and allowing them to pile up in Sewing Room #1,


Sewing Room #2 and


the dining room (I won’t show you my nightstand as Saturday is the one day I don’t make my bed!).


Since I had already planned to watch my honey’s game on ESPN at noon I decided that it was as good a time as any to file patterns. The sewing room gets cleaned up and I score major Girlfriend Points at the same time!

To get started, you’ll need 9×12 manila envelopes, sheet protectors and 4″ binders. I buy the least expensive envelopes and sheet protectors but it’s worth it to buy good-quality D-ring binders (at least for the pattern envelopes) because they, unlike their inexpensive counterparts, will last forever.

I remove the pattern and instructions from the envelope and place them in a manila envelope. On the upper left corner I write the first letter of the company (Burda is Bu and Kwik-Sew is KS) and the pattern number. The manila envelopes are then filed numerically. Patterns that have names instead of numbers are filed alphabetically in the first drawer. You can see that some envelopes have white labels on them – those have been reused. Believe it or not, I do occasionally purge my patterns!


The envelopes are then placed in sheet protectors and filed by pattern type (top, bottom, dress, etc.) in binders.


Since Hot Patterns are much thicker/bulkier, I make a photocopy of the front (or, more often than not, just print it out from the HP website) for my binder and then file the entire pattern in a separate file drawer.


I used to keep my vintage patterns separate but I have found that it’s easier to keep everything together. I do have some collectible vintage patterns (like my Lucy and Desi patterns) that I just enjoy owning – those I do keep separate in acid-free plastic envelopes.

Catalogueing my fabric is just as easy. I made up these forms on my computer and had a bunch of copies made at Office Depot. As I buy fabric I just snip a piece off and glue it onto the sheet and note the source, yardage, width and fiber content. Rarely, I’ll put something away without washing. If that’s the case, I note that as well to avoid any nasty surprises later. And, since I now have multiple fabric closets I also note where the fabric is stored. Fabrics are organized by type: blouseweights, midweights, suitings, denims, cottons, knits, etc. As fabrics are used, I remove the swatch and cross out the description.


As many of you know, my fabric closets are organized by color so it’s very easy for me to lay my hands on a particular piece. That’s it, my not very elaborate organizational system! What I really love about doing it this way is that I’m able to relax on the couch or in bed with my entire fabric and pattern collection. It’s nice to be able to see what I have without making a mess of my sewing room!


I finished tidying things up just in time for mail call and, you guessed it, more patterns! My new HPs arrived along with a few new dress patterns. The drawstring pant pattern is already laid out on my cutting table, ready for tracing. I also managed to cut out another Sweetheart Top and will finish that up today.


Did you all notice the title? Part I. I thought it might be fun to do a series because I know I’m not the only sewer who has a lot of stuff to keep track of.


Filed under Fabric, Hot Patterns, Patterns, Sewing Studio

32 responses to “Sewing Room Organization – Part I

  1. You are amazingly organized!! I cannot imagine reaching that point! Maybe one day . . .

  2. I used to use the binder system for patterns to and still have them but lately I’ve just filed them in sterlite containers around the room and rumble through them when I need something. *LOL* Not perfect, but works so far…

  3. Thank you so much for showing me. I was really curious. Sewing can become a very messy craft, with pattern and fabric everywhere. I love the binder idea!

    • Pamela LeMaster

      I too like here system…………I have been in a lot of cayos (dont know how to spell that) I moved into a very small house……….in comparison to the old one, after a seperation………….none of you can imagine my mess…….

  4. Sally

    What a convenient way you’ve set up to find things easily! At one time I had an old Butterick pattern cabinet from a fabric store. I arranged patterns by company and then item (dresses, skirts, etc.) but we moved and I had to give the cabinet away. Now all my patterns are on boxes waiting for me to get to storing them somehow. I think I’ll be visiting the stationery stores for binders shortly…
    And I can’t wait for your review of the HP drawstring pants. Looking forward to seeing it soon…Sally

  5. veronica

    I have done about the same thing with my fabric like you did. But I never thought about doing the patterns that way. Like you I have a ton of patterns and having them in binders like this would make it so much easier. Know what I will be doing the next few days.


  6. Great system Gigi! But I have to tell you I’ve alway wanted a pattern cabinet just like we see in Jo-Anns. They *are* available retail, believe it or not, but I’ve never had the nerve to find out how much they cost! I’d love to find a used one.

    • I used to have four of those cabinets! They are great but take up a lot of space. I got mine from an indy store that was getting rid of some of their pattern lines. I sure wish I still had them, sigh.

  7. elizabethelaine

    delurking to say this is a timely post! My hubby has been bugging me to organize my patterns which are currently all stuffed in two drawers and in some binders. I will definitely be adopting this system!

    For fabric, I do something similar to you but I have my fabric on 3/5 cards. That way I can pull all the fabric swatches out and spread them out on a table and hold them up next to each other to see what goes together and plan outfits. I also write up my garment notes and plans right on the card once I’ve figured it out and tape notions to it as well. I also do this with swatches of fabric I haven’t bought yet, so I can see if I want to get it based on if it goes with other fabric in my collection.

  8. SewingLibrarian

    I use the same system you do, Gigi, except I use Claire Schaeffer’s fabric form that she allows to be copied from her Fabrics book. I like your form better, tho, as it allows for more fabrics on one page. I may change to your system if you don’t mind my copying it.

  9. leilani

    I’m intrigued about your system of sorting fabric by color. I know Shirley Adams uses the same system. I too have a humungous inventory of fabric, much of it vintage and kimono silks and I’m currently storing by fabric type.

    I think I’d like to try the color system. My big problem is, how do you deal with multicolor prints, stripes, etc. Do you have a separate spot for those impossible to categorize fabrics?

  10. Amazing system… absolutely amazing. Maybe if I had something like this, I wouldn’t have spent 3 hours yesterday looking for all the patterns that I may have in my “new size” (I’ve gained some weight and I hate wearing clothes that are too tight… so I need stuff to wear until I can shed the new poundage).

  11. subversivesewer

    I have the same system for my patterns! I don’t have that much fabric, so I don’t have a system for that. You gave me a great idea for the manilla envelopes- I hadn’t thought to put a label over the old number to reuse the envelope!

  12. I love posts about organization! My sewing room is the only room I’m able to keep organized. The rest of my life?!?!? No way! 🙂

  13. I use the exact same filing system for patterns and fabrics. Makes organizing and browsing SO MUCH EASIER!

  14. My patterns are organized in a very similar fashion and it works really well for me. Looking forward to part 2. Love your new blouse as well, that is beautiful!

  15. I use the binder and manilla system to organize my patterns also. I love it. I haven’t organized my fabric yet. Thanks for sharing your fabric form. I might start organzing my new fabric with your form. I’ve been on a sewing slump lately and maybe touch fabric again with get me back at the machines 🙂

    CarlaF-in Atlanta

  16. I have a very similar system for my patterns, except that for years I also put a copy of the pattern envelope on the outside of the pattern itself and I use file jackets rather than envelopes. Then one day, not all that long ago actually, it dawned on me that I never look at the pattern pictures in the pattern file, and they are filed strictly numerically. I always start with the binder and then look up the pattern number I need. Much faster.

    I still use 3×5 cards for the fabric though. Sometimes I think about sheets, but always go back to my cards.

  17. ChristineB

    Fabulous timing! My DH put up shelving in our bedroom this past weekend (which is also where my sewing table resides), so I’m in the process of getting everything off the sewing table and up onto the shelves. I’m definitely going to get some binders for the patterns – I had been using ziploc bags for patterns that have been cut/used, but I find they slip around and fall out of the baskets I keep them in. Manila envelopes would work *much* better – I never thought to separate the envelope from the pattern tissue/guides like you have.


  18. katharinec

    Question for part two: what is the advantage of filing the patterns in both a binder and in a file drawer? Before I moved when I still had a file cabinet, I just filed the patterns upright, by pattern type, two across with a divider, in a normal 8.5 x 11 file drawer. When the pattern stash was small I had a binder to carry around to fabric stores, but have outgrown this system. Obviously from the comments a seperate pattern, pattern cover system is popular so could you mind covering this for curious folks like me?

    • Katharine, for me the benefit is that I can sit on the sofa and go through my patterns rather than rifling through cabinets. I guess I just find it easier considering how many patterns I have! Another benefit is that the manila envelopes are also large enough to hold any tracings I might have made and alternate pieces I may have drafted such as sleeves, neckline changes, etc.

  19. Jennifer

    What a great system!! I have been trying to find one myself I am going to have to use a few of your ideas THANK YOU!!

  20. Athena

    Thank You for the pattern organization tips. I’ve tried several different methods and still can’t find what I need when I need it. Good grief I could take a binder with me to the fabric store! Right now it’s so sad, I have gallon size baggies with the pattern, instructions, and the altered muslin cut pieces shoved in them and rubber banded together. A manila envelope could hold it all. I don’t think I’m the only one to have said this though. lol

  21. Wow. I have got to get on the stick. I love, love, love what you’ve done to sort out your fabric.

  22. Wow…

    ..all I can say is that I am so ashamed {{grin}}

  23. Helen K

    You are very organized, Gigi. Perhaps that is why you get so much done. I’ll put it on my ‘to do’ list. I can see the advantages of doing it that way.
    I was lucky enough to get some of those pattern file cabinets. My husband is using one. He wanted to take the McCall’s logo off it, but I said no, in case I wanted to use it later. They were available at our local Fabricland when they revamped their system. I paid $50.00 Canadian. They are wonderful.

  24. Susan C

    Hi, Gigi – you told me about your pattern filing system on Patternreview (I think) several years ago and I’ve been using it ever since. The nice thing is to be able to take your binder, sit in a comfy chair and just look through the patterns while sipping a diet soda. I like this system A LOT!! I haven’t tried this system with my fabric, mostly because I’m afraid. I mean I might actually get an idea of what fabric I have but I also will know how MUCH fabric I have. I don’t think I want to know 🙂

  25. MelissaL88

    Just coming out of lurkdom to say I use a similar method to organize my patterns. I love the envelopes to store my tracings 🙂 However, I haven’t figured out a good way to organize my BWOF patterns. How do you organize those magazines? Do you leave your magazines intact? I just can’t seem to come up with a way to include the pieces I may “someday” want to use. LOL!

  26. Gigi-this is kind of off the subject but…I have been reading the various sewing blogs—especially having to do with organizing/ setting up a sewing studio. After many years away from sewing, I really desire to get back into it!
    I came across this post—and noticed your vintage McCalls pattern 3019. I made that blouse with the ruffles way back in 1972 when I was 21!
    Thanks for all the great tips…I will be visiting often!