How I Organize PDF Patterns

I feel like a post on how I organize PDF patterns is a bit like a blog tour of my bedroom.  For some reason, it’s very personal, and everyone always wants to see in case there’s a good idea they haven’t thought of yet!  I’ve had a few systems in the past, but I’ve been using my current one for a few months now, and I totally love it.  So without further ado: how I organize my PDF patterns!

How I Organize PDF Patterns

Digital Versions

If I buy an indie pattern, I’m buying the PDF version.  Instant gratification, y’all!  That means I have… oooooh, about a million patterns on my computer.  I keep all of the digital copies in a folder in my documents called “patterns.”  Each pattern designer has a subfolder in that folder, and then each pattern has a folder in its designer.

I used to organize them by type of garment, but I felt like it was unwieldy for me.  I have a pretty good mental inventory of the patterns I own, usually.  I didn’t feel like having a “blouses” folder was leading me to rediscover patterns I had forgotten about.  It got to a point where the garment folders had too many patterns to easily glance through, so I switched to the designer method.

Physical Versions: Old Method

At first, my PDF patterns just kind of lived in a pile on the floor.  After I bought four or five patterns, though, it became clear that that was not going to work!

Initially, I used binders to store my patterns.  Each pattern got a plastic sleeve, and I used tabs to know which one was where.  I tried to keep the binders organized by garment.  Yes, I know this contradicts my computer system!  But if I organized by pattern designer, then that would involve a lot of shifting whenever I bought a new pattern.  I’m the kind of person who needs the tabs to go in the right order, so I’d have to be moving the tabs around every time I added a pattern.

I’m team “cut that shit out” 95% of the time.  When I traced a pattern, I would keep the printed copy in a sleeve behind the traced version.  Then it was easy to reference if I had a question, or to retrace in a new size.

Because I am team “cut that shit out,” though, this system got to be unmanageable after a while.  The folded paper patterns are bulky!  Even though I had 3″ binders, I was only getting a few patterns to each one.  Rather than buy a million binders, I decided to try something new.

 Physical Versions: New Method

I’ve used this method to organize PDF patterns for a few months, and I am totally feeling it.  It keeps things neat, and has built-in note taking abilities!

Now, each pattern gets stored in a giant manila envelope.  In the top left corner, I write down the pattern and the view, if applicable, the size, and if it’s the cut-out pattern, the traced pattern, or the actual trimmed pages.  Just like with the plastic sleeves, I keep the traced version and the trimmed pattern together, as well as multiple sizes.

Then I have the whoooole rest of the envelope to keep notes on!  In the past, I’ve struggled to remember exact modifications I’ve made, or when I made a certain version.  Now I write down the date I make something, the fabric I used, and any modifications.  That way, I can easily refer back to my notes when I go to write the post or make a new version.

I’m going to get a giant basket to keep all of my envelopes in.  Currently they may or may not be living on one of the shelves of my tv stand.  I’m not sure if I’ll organize them by garment or pattern designer or at all — I’ll update this post if I ever decide!

There’s a million ways to organize PDF patterns, and none of them are right or wrong.  But when you find a good way for you, why not share it in case someone else loves it too?!  This is definitely the easiest way I’ve found to organize PDF patterns.  The ability to write down notes on the envelope is key for me!  How do you organize your own PDF patterns?

14 comments

  1. I organize mine in a very similar way! I like that the manila envelopes are pretty big so that I don’t have to do too much fussing to get all the pieces to fit in it nicely.

    I need to adopt your method of writing more thorough notes on the envelope. Right now I’m counting on my remembering which version of each pattern I made. I don’t think that’s going to last me long!

    1. Writing down the modifications has been a LIFESAVER! No more hoping I could remember the changes long enough to write a blog post, and then returning to that post every time I made that piece again!

  2. Reading this post was just as fun as reading a bedroom tour post! I’ve been slowly building a PDF pattern collection and haven’t figured out how to organize them yet. I’ll have to give this a try!

    1. Hahaha good, because I don’t think my bedroom will ever be neat enough for a tour! 😉 I feel like organizing them is so hard, but once you find a method that works for you, it’s like “why didn’t I do this ages ago?!”

  3. I keep my pdfs on the pc and when I print them I mark them printed and store the paper copies in loose leaf folders in plastic sleeves and include a note of yarn and hook or any amendment etc either on the pattern if there’s room or in a note slipped in the sleeve. I vaguely categorise them into hats,mitts, arumgumi, etc and this works for me I also take a photo of each completed project to jog my memory. Much much easier with a tablet.

    1. Keeping notes with the pattern has been key for me!

  4. What size manila envelopes do you use?

    1. Hi Brenda! They are 9” x 12”.

  5. What do you do with patterns which have been assembled and stuck together?

    1. They’re folded and placed in the envelopes!

  6. But what do you do with the PDFs which have been stuck together to be traced?

  7. How do you store PDF patterns which have been assembled (i.e. stuck together) for tracing?

  8. I love the idea of a manila envelope because it can have a living history of changes! have a system of Ziplocs & plastic sleeves, stored in a telescoping folder, plus an Excel spreadsheet. It seems I use my spreadsheet the way you use the notes written on the envelopes!

    Oh and I also have an overflowing drawer. Ahem. The telescoping folder is the big-time for my PDF patterns – all my TNTs and upcoming projects live there. I like the Ziplocks because I can also store cut fabric next to the pattern, in case marks rub off.

    1. Ooh, I do love an excel sheet! I’m glad I’ve already implemented my system because otherwise I think I’d definitely have another giant spreadsheet on my hands… 😂

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