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Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Organizing of my 18” Doll Patterns

It sure does feel good to get a big job done, it is so nice to sit back look at what has been accomplished and take a moment to enjoy the fact that it is done. I am finally at that stage on the job of organizing my massive collection of 18” doll patterns.

If you follow my mini blog and videos then you might know about the big organizing job I did with my polymer clay a while back. You see I have been doing polymer clay for about 20 years and over time the way I stored my clay went from being very functional to being a disaster. It wasn't because of any one problem it was just that what works when you have a handful of packages of clay doesn't really work when you have hundreds of blocks of clay (yeah, you read that correctly I have hundreds of blocks of clay) If you want to learn more about that project the blog where I detail the organizing process I used is here, and the video for it is here.

Well, I have been enjoying my clay so much more now that I can actually find what I have. Heck now I even know what colors I have. It is great and it has put the pleasure back in my clay work.

You have to understand that by nature I am not an organized person. Quite the opposite in fact, I have to really push myself to stay organized but I know that when I am things run so much better.

Now onto those patterns. This came about because I once again realized that what had worked for organizing my patterns when I just had a few was no longer working. I have picked up many patterns online and whenever Joann's has patterns on sale I pick up whatever of the doll patterns that they have in stock that I don't already own. So the collection is growing, quickly. Also I want to point out here before you see how many patterns I really have that I have been buying doll patterns for about 20 years and only a few of these have been bought at full price, most of them were purchased for around $1 each.

In defense of the massive number of patterns I own I do sew and sell some doll clothes and hope to step that up a bit more over the next couple of years so I look at them like I look at my clay they are a business asset (or will be when I get off my butt and get busy listing stuff for sale again)

So back to that mess that was my patterns. I had previously sorted them by manufacturer but that was getting out of hand and it really didn't help me to find what I wanted. Also the containers I was keeping them in had been outgrown long ago so the patterns were rather haphazardly stuffed into plastic containers. I knew I had to get a handle on this.

I decided to really look at the system I had in place for my clay and see how I could adapt it to the patterns. The base of the clay organization is a 3 ring notebook so I decided that would be the launching point of the pattern organization system also. I also needed a place to put all the patterns but we will get to that in a moment.

I thought about what information I wanted in the notebook. I decided that for the patterns I had purchased in the fabric stores I wanted to have a copy of the front and back of each pattern envelope. I also wanted to have any information from the instruction sheet that pertained to things that I need to buy (or have on hand) to make the pattern. If you haven't noticed it lately a lot of the patterns have moved the notions needed for the pattern to the instruction sheet.

I proceeded to use my scanner to scan all this information and put it into files on my computer. I then printed a page for each of these patterns with the front of the pattern envelope on the front of the page and all the other information on the back. These were then put into a very large 3 ring binder divided by manufacturer with the pages organized by number.


Front cover of my pattern notbook

one of the pages showing front of the pattern

reverse side of page shown above


Next I looked at all the patterns I have gotten online. Most have not been printed out so they are neatly sitting on my hard drive but that also means I forget about them when I am ready to sew. For all of these I printed out pages with the cover page for the pattern on the front and whatever page gave the materials needed on the back. Those also moved to my notebook.

Next I realized I had better include my collection of pattern books mostly written by Joan Hinds but I have a couple of others too. I decided for those to just scan the cover of the book and a photo of each outfit in the book. I put all the pictures onto what my photo editor program called an “index sheet” with one book worth to a page. This doesn't give me any kind of materials list but it will make finding specific patterns a lot faster in the future. At a glance I can see which book an outfit is in.


the index sheet for one of my pattern books


Now that I had a really thick binder full of pages showing me what I have I needed to figure out a storage solution for all those patterns. (there are well over a hundred of them)

One problem I have always had with keeping the patterns neat is that I usually put the patterns into a gallon size zip-lock bag after I have used it. I simply don't have the patience to get all the pieces back into the little envelope again. Also a lot of times I end up with extra pieces because I many times scan my pattern pieces and make needed alterations on the scanned copy rather than on the original. I also normally put the downloaded patterns into the gallon bags when I print them too. So I really needed to have some system to organize that size.

I thought about the problem for a couple of days. I even tried a couple of different types of storage containers with out success. Then one night I thought of the solution in the middle of the night. I had a large number of hanging file folders that I didn't need for what I had purchased them for. I got to thinking that those patterns, even in the gallon bags would fit just fine in a hanging file.

I just needed something to put those hanging file folders into. On my next trip to town I looked at both file cabinets and the large file boxes. I decided to go with the large boxes (the kind that can hold both regular and legal size files) simply because I just don't currently have a place to put the file cabinet. I ended up needing to get two of the file boxes to accommodate my pattern collection but I do have some room to grow. If they get too crowded in the future I can simply get another of the file boxes.

I currently have the 1000's through the 5000's in one box and the rest (including printed patterns from online and books) in the other box.


both boxes open showing the hanging files, each one of those has a pattern or book in it.

the two boxes stacked up


I picked up a couple of new patterns the other day and they were really easy to incorporate into the new filing system. More importantly it is really quick to see if I have a pattern and more importantly to find the pattern when I need it.

In the future if I get room to put it I might move the patterns into a regular file cabinet but I do like the portability of the boxes.

I know that most of you that read this post probably won't have nearly as many patterns but I think this system would work no matter how many patterns you have and it will expand with your collection.


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