How to Use More of Your Pattern Stash

sewing patterns by AForestFrolic on Flickr
If you’re like me, you probably already have a huge collections of sewing patterns and you still, from time to time buy new ones – because you “need” them for a new dress. The truth is, there are many commercial sewing patterns that can be minorly altered to make the piece of garment you have in mind. (That’s another reason why I think you should draw sketches of the clothes you want to sew – it will help you recognize the shape and cut you need – quicker.)And if you’re planning to sew a new dress, a new jacket or a pair of summer shorts, it’s very probable that you already own a pattern that you can use to make the garment you have in mind. It’s just buried in the pile and you will never use it because you forgot it ever existed (how dramatic 🙂 – but I am trying to convince you to use your pattern stash so bear with me :>).

And the best way to see if you can use a sewing pattern you already own – is to be aware you do own in. Here’s how:

1. Stop buying new patterns for a while

Resist the temptation and stop buying new patterns for a month or two. Since we’re trying to organize your sewing pattern collection here, buying new ones will just distract you from the reason why you started this project in the first place: use more of your sewing pattern stash, remember? 🙂

2. Select the patterns that you will never use, give them away (or sell them)

First or all, we’re going to get rid of the weeds; in this case of all those patterns that you don’t like, will never fit well and in general those that make you flip the page quickly when looking at them: the uninteresting ones.

If you’re now going to sew for babies or toddlers, get rid of them. If they’re plus size (and you’re petite), you don’t know how to shrink patterns and you don’t like them, get rid of them. If they’re uncool or too trendy for your style, let them go. You can give them away (why not make a giveaway on your blog, or on a site like krrb?) or sell them (you could do that on ebay, but also on etsy).

3. Put together each pattern with their instructions

Now that you’re “weed-free”, you can really focus on the stuff you like. And your chances of actually sewing something from your own stash have considerably increased 🙂

For the next step, put every pattern together with its instructions. Create a separate pile for the patterns without instructions and viceversa. If you can’t use them without what you’re missing, you don’t know where they are – just get rid of them.

4. Organize your patterns by season or garment purpose

Now take your patterns and organize your patterns by either season o garment type. If you live in a place where it’s always spring/summer it doesn’t make a lot of sense to organize by season. If you live in a place where you do have 2 or more seasons, it will make a lot of sense, as you will know which kind of garments you will have in the pile and which kind of fabrics are more likely to be used when making them.

Alternatively, you could organize them by garment type, you could make a pile or formal wear, casual wear, sports wear, work/school wear etc.

5. Browse the season you’re in

Now that you’ve gone this far, make a cup of coffee and sit down with your pile of patterns from the season you’re in, get a notebook or a piece of paper, some paper flags and a pen and start browsing.

When you find something you like flag it and put it aside on a separate pile (the maybe pile) If you don’t like it or you don’t feel like giving it a try in the following weeks, put it in a second pile (the not now pile).

6. Make a list of the patterns you’d like to try

Now go back to those flags and make a list of those patterns you bookmarked. I prefer drawing the sketch of the garment and writing the type and amount of fabric I need plus any extra accessories I might need (buttons, fusing, elastic etc). I also write the name/date/some detail that will make it easy for me to find the pattern later. Alternatively, you could take a photo of the pattern design. Any visual reference will work, as long as you don’t just write “long blue skirt with buttons in front” or something like this. That’s because you will never imagine a new garment you can make from the same pattern. You’ll get stuck with the “long”, the “blue” and that’s not what we’re trying to do here.

7. Start sewing

Once you have that, you will more or less have a list of projects for the upcoming season. And you can start sewing!

Let me know if you think this is useful or it’s just bla bla everybody knows about. 🙂