Sunday, February 15, 2015

A Not-So-Tiny Project

Some of my personal pattern stash.
   For some reason, the other day I decided I needed to reorganize my stash of sewing patterns. This might have come about because I was cleaning up the sewing room after the last session, or because I discovered a few weeks ago that I've bought the same pattern twice. No matter--they will be organized.
   I will admit this freely: I have a large pattern stash. I like patterns. Yes, I know how to create my own pattern from a drape, but it's a lot easier, working by myself, to use a pattern and alter it. I frequently check the major pattern companies' websites, and when the local fabric store has a good sale (usually a couple times a month), I run down there with a list and buy the patterns I've been stalking. I also have never willingly thrown a pattern away. As a result, I have several hundred patterns, from simple skirt and top patterns I bought when in high school, to very decent historical/vintage patterns issued by Simplicity, McCalls, Butterick, Vogue, Truly Victorian, Past Patterns, and so on.
   The first step: how am I going to organize them? My patterns have been organized by pattern company for the past 20 years, and I'm finding that isn't working, as it's not how my mind works. I've sewn nothing but historical costumes for so long that I tend to think in terms of approximate date: big shoulders in the '40s, trapeze back jackets and pencil skirts in the '50s. The patterns would be more useful if organized by decade.
   The second step is creating some sort of list. I set up an Excel spreadsheet for nothing more than the most basic information: pattern company; pattern number; a brief description (including publication date); size; and any comments, such as a specific line of patterns. I created a separate "page" for each pattern company, and started putting in the information.
   Pulling out each box of patterns and going through them has been a walk down memory lane. I have the pattern my mother used to make her dress for my wedding in 1978. In another box was the pattern for a friend's wedding dress that I made in 1980. Remember the sensation caused by Yves Saint Laurent's "Russian" collection in 1976? I have a Vogue pattern for the vests featured in that collection. Skirts, blouses, dresses, knickers--pick a fashion trend from the 1970s through 1990s, and I probably have a pattern for it. And the fabric stores! Once upon a time, fabric stores stamped the pattern envelope with the name of the store and "Not Returnable." My pattern collection is a "Who's Who" of Southern California stores, and I can date when I purchased the patterns from the names stamped on them: TG&Y and Home Silk Shops from the 1970s; Michael Levine's, Cloth World, and Princess Fabrics in the 1980s; New York Fabrics, JoAnn's, and Hancock Fabrics (where I still shop) in the 1990s.
   The third step is to file them in boxes. This is easier said than done. For years, Hancock Fabrics sold nice corrugated cardboard boxes for storing patterns. They're just the right size for the shelves in the laundry room, and I have a dozen. Unfortunately, Hancock's stopped selling them about a year ago, and the only alternative are Dritz pattern storage boxes, which are four times as expensive. IKEA to the rescue! It turns out that regular (6x8½ inch) pattern envelopes fit perfectly in the larger Kassett boxes made for storing DVDs, and they're nearly the same price as the corrugated pattern boxes.
Organized, inventoried, and safely put away.
   If I was a really disciplined sempstress (I'm not), I'd take the time to catalog all my patterns in my pattern library on My Sewing Circle. There is just one really big problem: their pattern database is completely reliant on contributions from their members. This means that it's not terribly large (less than 5,000 patterns total), and there's not as much organization as there should be. I've added about 60 patterns to my library; of those, about 30 have been new contributions, which means I have to input all the details, track down a good photo of the pattern envelope artwork, and then add it to the database before adding it to my pattern library. It takes about 5 minutes for each pattern, so adding 100+ patterns takes hours and hours. Since my patterns are better organized, I'll simply add patterns as I create projects around them.