Pattern Storage Ideas and Tips

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Pattern Storage

Pattern Storage

Pattern Storage, these are two little words that should roll off my tongue with ease.  I mean, let’s face it, as a stitcher with a pile of patterns hidden in her stash, I should have this down pat.  But to be fair, personal pattern storage has always been a challenge for me.

Once I unfold those commercial tissue paper patterns, I can never (no matter how hard I tried) get them back into that small envelope.  That’s right, I would fold them, refold them and try to stuff them into the original envelope and it would almost always end within a ripped mess.

Over the years I have used several different methods and since these days patterns are made in different forms, I thought it would be fun to explore a few options.

Pattern Storage Round Up on

Clockwise from the top left-hand corner:

Personally, I store my patterns in clear plastic envelopes.  They have a snap closure and fit perfectly in my drawers.  The bonus for me is that I do not have to worry about folding everything super neat and small.  Instead, I can loosely fold them to fit, label the outside, and know that they are safe and sound.  Sometimes, I even put a picture of the finished garment on the outside and a swatch for a quick reference.  The envelopes are super inexpensive, come in an array of colors, and can be found at any office supply store or on-line.

Easy Pattern Storage via

Whenever possible, I keep all versions of a style together.  For instance, I made this knit skirt in several lengths and a variety of waistbands.  By keeping them together in one envelope, I can change up my design on the fly while shopping.  This eliminates the guesswork.

Since I know that you have a secret pile of patterns in your stash, I would love to hear how you handle your pattern storage!



  1. I also had trouble getting patterns back in the envelope. Then i started folding them and then ironing on each fold till i got it small enough to fit the envelope! It was a duh momnet for me :). I have a 4 drawer filing cabinet i put mine in. But have run out of room in that too. I just discovered my husband has a pattern cabinet (in his garage, need to go in there more i guess) like the ones in the store and he was going to throw it out (gasp!) So now i’m trying to talk him into dragging it in the house so i can get it cleaned up (repaint in the spring). 🙂

    • Funny Gina, I never thought about ironing them. I guess that’s a duh moment for me. Love that you are reclaiming an old pattern drawer. It sounds like you have a big stash!
      Thanks so much for sharing!

    • WHat a dream! Sitting in the garage just waiting for you to notice. AWESOME!

  2. I do put the p-atterns in a plastic bag with closure with the name onit i.e. blouse sirt or pant
    in a plastic box

  3. I’ve always just refolded my way so they fit back in the envelope and the envelopes are kept in a paper box recycled from the office.

    I just have to say that I haven’t seen that girl’s dress pattern in your first pic since my mom made those dresses for my sister and I when we were kids. I think our whole wardrobe consisted of those dresses and smocks in every color/fabric my mom loved. We knew better than to object, if you know what I mean, lol.

  4. Erin Marie says

    A friend irons her pattern pieces, and I thought it was silly. Then, secretly, I tried it myself. I do it all the time now.

    The “Big 4” patterns, I tear the pattern envelope in half and paste each side to a sheet of cardstock and stick in a sheet protector. The pattern envelope/cards are organized by type (kids, womens, etc.) in a binder. The pattern itself, including instructions, are put in a sandwich ziploc bag, and sorted by number in a plastic bin.

    I have only recently gotten patterns other than the Big 4, so I haven’t decided how that’s going to work out. I hope I can incorporate them into my current system because I love it.

  5. I have over 800 patterns and growing! I just can’t pass by a thrift shop or garage sale without rummaging for more vintage patterns….

    I have the patterns stored in Ikea drawers – the Aneboda range is exactly the right size to stand the patterns upright. I have also scanned each cover and saved in files according to type so I can find a pattern without physically going through the patterns. Works perfect for me and they sit under my cutting table so it doesn’t take up too much space

    • Sorry forgot to add a link to a photo of the drawers I use:

    • Wow Kristy, that is some collection and I love that you shared the photo link! The patterns look like they fit perfectly!

    • I am so happy to know I am not the only person who has that many patterns. My patterns range in size from new born to as large of men or women come and in every brand. 1940s to today. Amazing how many people come to me for a pattern to use and sometimes I teach sewing and we don’t have to go anywhere to look for a pattern and for me to explain different reasons to use or not to use a particular pattern.
      Once my zipper collection (I install zippers in about everything that will accept a zipper except golf bags and suitcases) reached 2000, my daughter wanted to have an intervention!!!! I do alterations and use many.
      Love this pattern storage idea. I have cardboards hanging up and then all my folded ones.

    • Roseann says

      Thanks for you idea! I am like you and have hundreds and hundreds of patterns. I tried the lateral file drawers but I would have filled my sewing room with files! I am going to check out IKEA!!

  6. I have over 200 patterns and had them stored every which way but loose. I ended up buyone one of those see through plastic drawer storage bins and have transfered them all to these. Each drawer holds about 50 to 75 patterns, depending on the thickness of the pattern package, and when the patterns can’t fit into the package, I get those minalla envelopes, past the picture of what is inside on the front of the envelope and put the pattern in there. I will be making pictures of each pattern and making a size feasable folder of each pattern in plastic binders so they can be changed if necessary, just so I can find what I am looking for easier, something like they have in the fabric stores, only in a much smaller form. Keeping the folder in the first drawer. I don’t know if this will work yet as this is just a thought in my mind. Anyone find any flaws in this, please let me know. Just looking for a faster way of finding a pattern besides going through each one, one by one. Take care

  7. I have THREE, ONLY THREE plastic shoe boxes that I keep my patterns in. When I cannot fit one more in, I must purge the patterns that I have no need for. It works to keep me from having millions!

  8. I use the file folder method you pictured. I’m not sure where I got the idea but I’ve been doing it since before I surfed the web, lol! Now my 21 year old daughter does it that way and her teachers in her professional sewing classes thought it was brilliant. 🙂

  9. I photocopied the front and back of each pattern onto both sides of white copy paper. Then I put them in a ring binder according to what the pattern is for…blouses, slacks, pajamas etc. The original patterns are filed in a clear plastic box in numerical order, regardless of the manufacturer. Now I can peruse my patterns like a pattern book and determine what supplies I need without pulling out the pattern until I actually need it. And I can find the pattern easily by it’s number.
    I also purge my patterns so I don’t have hundreds like some people because honestly, I’m never going to be a size 8 again!

    • I do the same thing. It makes it easier to buy fabric when I just take the 3-ring binder with me to the fabric store. If I find something on sale, I can match it to an outfit I want to make and buy just the right amount of fabric. Since they are filed by number (no matter the mfr), I can easily find the pattern.

  10. I found these 1/2 size hanging file storage boxes to be about the same size as the Dritz “Pattern Boxes” (although not as cute, they are plain white or kraft brown), but they are about 1/2 the price of the Dritz boxes. I got 6 in a package for about $12 at Office Max

  11. Miss Pat says

    I am a costumer for community theatre and also have found myself the recipient of patterns from friends who garage sale and Goodwill shop. I now have over 2000 patterns and store them in letter-size banker boxes from Staples. They are separated by time-period, mostly, but I usually have to search for the exact pattern that I just know I have! Over the years I have learned to fold carefully, pushing all the air out of the folds, and about 80% of the time, the patterns fit back in the envelope. Also, cutting away all of the extra tissue paper around the pieces helps. Tip for anyone who is beginning costuming, buy all sizes of a costume pattern when they are on sale for $.99. You will need it later if you don’t need it now. More than once I have ignored a pattern only to need it the next year. Yes, I can improvise, but when you are costuming a show with 50+ actors, not having to build a pattern before you cut it out saves a lot of time.

  12. Jamie Rhodes says

    I put mine in gallon size freezer (because they are thicker) double zipper baggies. I make sure the picture on the front of the envelope is visible on one side and I write just the number of the pattern is written in the box on the other. I have them in a large plastic tub, separated by costume, regular wear, and craft. I don’t organize by maker, just by number and male or female. For the costume patterns I have it further divided with the female patterns into one piece dresses and top/bottom combos.

    • My Grandmother was lucky enough to work at Peace Goods just before they went under & got her hands on a full sized pattern cabinet! When my Mom got ahold of it, she would store the original pattern envelopes, back to back, in sheet protectors nested in 2″ binders. Each pattern was labeled 001,002 etc. and the matching pattern set was filed in a plain pattern sized envelope in the cabinet. She had almost 300 patterns, it was easier for her clients to flip through these binders because they were similar to the table catalogs found in stores.

      I’m also a stitcher & currently store pattern sets in 10″ x 13″ envelopes & organize them by project name with the newer updated pattern sets in front. There is a huge 3 drawer pattern cabinet (40″T x 36″ x 18″D) that fit’s at least a year’s worth of drafting iterations!

  13. Mary Higbee says

    This is what I’m trying with over 300 patterns.
    From the dollar store, I buy pint, quart and gallon size freezer bags.
    Using a hole punch or large needle, I punch several holes in each bag, (this will help the bags deflate when stacked together).
    Write the size of each pattern pieces on individual bags, cut the pattern pieces out. Next, fold pattern pieces by size, put in individual marked pint or quart freezer bags. Put the bags, pattern envelope, and instruction sheets pages in the gallon bag.
    I have a list of these patterns in my computer and a print out, in numerical order, (by) pattern company, size,style, (dress, coat, bag, home decoration, woman’s, child,
    They are stored on a stack of bins with rollers on the bottom one.

  14. Sew Alabama says

    My husband cut down a trundle bed box on wheels that originally held a mattress so that it fits under my large cutting table. I keep all my patterned in it and can pull it out when I need to get or place a pattern. It holds a LOT of patterns standing up on end like in a fabric store.

  15. songofecho says

    I use my mom’s method. Put the pattern pieces in manilla envelopes. Write the company name and pattern number on the envelope and file them by company, (Simplicity, McCalls, Burda. .) Then sort them by number. Take the empty pattern envelopes and put them in clear page protectors. Sort them into binders, (Children, Women, Men. . .) Use divider tabs to sort them in the binders. Use the binder like a catalog when looking for a project and find the numbered envelopes in your file.

  16. I’ve newly started collecting patterns with young grand children to make for. With all this downloading of patterns from the internet I find the plastic file wallets suit me. I label up what the pattern is if necessary and the web address if I need to follow a tutorial.

  17. Vicki DeBolt says

    This isn’t my own “original” idea, but it has worked for me. It will sound more complicated than what it is. When I purchase a pattern I take it out of it’s envelope, put it into a plastic 3-ring binder document sleeve and put it into a 3-ring binder under “blouses”, “pants”, “jackets”, etc. Then I take the pattern itself and its directions and slip them into a plastic baggie, and with a black magic marker write the pattern’s number on the baggie. I file all my patterns by their number and disregard their manufacturer. When I want a pattern I look at my notebook, find the pattern I want, note its number, then go to my pattern drawer and pull that pattern out by its number. It is much easier to get a used pattern back into the baggie than back into its paper envelope! Also, the 3-ring binder acts like a pattern book in the store. If I have a pattern that does, say, slacks and a jacket, I will photocopy the envelope and place the photocopy in the slacks or jacket category. Also, when I store the pattern in the baggie I place the directions up front so that its number shows, too, along with the number that I write on the baggie. Usually, quart-size baggies work pretty well. They also have a white square on the front on which to write the number.

    • Vicki DeBolt says

      What I should have said in my first sentence is that I put the pattern’s envelope in the plastic document sleeve, and put the pattern and its directions in the baggie. Sorry.

  18. I love the idea of clear envelopes! What a great idea. I too have “a pile of patterns hidden in my stash :). You can see my solution here:

  19. I use a big clasp envelope, stick a clear shipping envelope with the pattern picture on it, label the front and back and then file it in the correct section, either clothing, accessories, what have you.

    So many of my patterns these days are printed pdfs that only take a few pages, so I have also started a binder with dividers breaking down the categories.

    I found that for traditional patterns and books with tons of pattern pieces, the big envelopes work best for my roommate and I. (it’s one thing to find a system that works for you, even tougher to find one system that works for a business partner!)

  20. Another way to store the patterns is in a gallon size zip lock baggie.

  21. Gretta Hurst says

    I have now collected 400 vintage patterns in hopes of selling them. I have them organized in boxes I picked up at Ikea and Burkes. I love the colors of my boxes but also the place for what brand is in my box.then the boxes are on wall shelf sand this saves valuable floor space in my sewing room.

  22. Becky Frantz says

    I want to get hanging vinyl bags with hangers, like they use at the pharmacy, then put up a rods on a small section of my wall or in a closet. Since I keep my originals intact and copy the pattern onto pattern paper I can store the original patter and envelope and my copy in the same envelope.

  23. Suzan Oxenreider says

    I used to make myself crazy trying to fold up all the pieces and stuffing them back in the envelope. Now I fold the pieces small enough to fit in a gallon storage zip bag that I get in the Dollar Tree – 15 bags for $1. I put the pattern envelope in the bag for reference. My cutting table has built in pattern storage. I turn the bags on their side and they fit perfectly. My cabinet stores about 100 patterns.

  24. Patricia Hersl says

    I store mine in plastic milk crates. They hold tons and all sizes of patterns. I have them organized by women, child, home, etc. Then in alphabetical order by company. Because of having to trace off due to multiple size patterns, I store the used ones in ziplock bags which fit in the crates. The crates will stack if necessary. I don’t have a huge area to work with.

  25. Grace L Schmidt says

    I setup up a Pattern Catalog. I took all my patterns out of their jackets and put them into qt. size ziplock bags with the pattern #’s showing in the front. I then placed all the ziplock bags in pattern file boxes in numerical order. I took all the jackets and placed each one into a clear sheet protector. This way both the front and back of the pattern envelope are visible. All the page protectors I placed in a 3ring binder with dividers for type: tops, bottoms, suits, etc. When I need inspiration I pull out my three ring binder and leaf through it.

  26. I use gallon size ziploc bags. If there are lots of pieces per outfit (I.e. doll clothes, tops, bottoms) I use a quart size and put in gallon. I prefer the freezer bags as they’re thicker and have a patch to write on. I’ve seen them hole punched in notebooks, but I use storage tubs for mine.

  27. I put the original pattern envelopes in 3 ring binders, sorted first by category and then by pattern number. I put the pattern and directions in a large manila envelope which I store numerically in a 5 drawer file cabinet was free. When I get an idea, I can sit down and browse the binders and when I decide which item I want to make, I pull the pattern from the file cabinet. I did do a purge last year.

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