Organizing pattern data before shopping

How many times has this happened to you — You go to a fabric store, find some great fabric (on sale!), and say,“Ooo, pretty! I could use this fabric for that blouse pattern, the one with long sleeves and the ruffle down the front.”   So you guess on some yardage, take it home, find out you needed a different kind of interfacing than what you have, and you don’t have the right sized buttons.  So you add the fabric to your stash.   Two years go by and you run across that fabric, only now you have no idea why you bought it, you don’t know how much you have, and you’ve no idea if you can even launder it.   Here’s how to prevent that from ever happening again.

Put together a Fabric-Store Kit.

fabric-store kit including the items described below

Look how organized.   Now, let’s go through these things one-by-one so you’ll know what I use to keep myself organized at the fabric store.

  • Copies of the front of the pattern envelope, and the back of the pattern envelope.  Sometimes you can find these on the pattern manufacturer’s website, other patterns you may need to Xerox or scan in & print out.

copy of the front of a pattern envelope






Be sure to get both sides as you’re likely to identify the item by the picture on the front, but you need the list of yardages and notions form the back.   True, if you’ve been sewing long enough you may be able to guess about how many yards a blouse or a dress will need, but there are those weird designs that end up taking a whole lot more fabric than you think they need, and you don’t want to be a quarter-yard short of the perfect fabric.

copy of the back of a pattern envelope

Another reason to carry all those copies of pattern envelopes around is that if you’re like me and have a pretty extensive collection, you don’t want to buy another pattern that’s very close to one you already have.  If you take those copies with you, you can look at them at the pattern-book table to make sure you don’t accidentally buy near-duplicates.

  • Add to the kit some slips of paper, a good pen or pencil, and some safety pins. Why? How many times have you gotten cuttings of several different fabrics, then ruined one of them by washing & drying a dry-clean-only fabric? While you’re waiting in line at the cutting table, jot down the fabric content and care instructions for each of your new fabrics. When the nice lady hands you your cut cloth, pin your notes to the appropriate fabrics before you even leave the cutting table. When you get home, or even if it’s months down the line, you’ll know what you have and how to care for it when your cloth gets turned into clothes.

index cards cut smaller held together with safety pins

  • A tape measure.   I use a crappy small one just so it isn’t heavy and doesn’t take up much room in my kit.   A hardware tape measure works better for me than a soft, rolled tape measure because it’s easier to let the hardware-type slide back into its case than it is to roll up the tape again every time I use it.

a tape measure from the hardware store

  • Something to keep your kit in.   I like this plastic envelope-style folder as it’s see-through and thus easy to grab the right thing, and it’s much sturdier than a paper envelope.  But really, just use something you have around your home that you like, you don’t have to buy anything special.

see-through folder with all of the above items in it

Now go forth, be fruitful, and make things.  Without as much leftover material as you usually have.

EDIT –>  See those yellow index card tags above?   Go here for a free downloadable Fabric Stash Tag and have even less stuff to write out about your fabrics.


3 thoughts on “Organizing pattern data before shopping

  1. How very organised! I usually get 2 metres of fabric if I don’t have anything specific in mind for it 🙂 But that of course leaves me with a huge box of left overs!

  2. Pingback: Fabric Stash Tags « madwhimsy

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