How to Organize Sewing Patterns


The silence over here has been killing me! It’s been a crazy couple of weeks around our house. Chris got the renovation bug not too long ago and we’ve been working our tails off on completing the last unfinished bedroom in our house (pics soon!) and updating all closets. The new closets are heavenly!


While in spring cleaning/nesting mode, I’ve taken the opportunity to re-organize my sewing patterns. They’re out of control. I’ve drafted about as many patterns as I’ve bought, so coming up with a good system for easy storage was necessary.

In the past, I’ve bought envelopes the same size as as standard pattern envelopes and tried to stuff drafted patterns into those. It’s not terribly effective for me, since most of my pattern envelopes end up sitting on my desk for weeks simply because I’m too annoyed with the thought of putting them away.


A few fellow sewers mentioned to me how they organize patterns in clear sleeves in three-ring binders. Genius. Wanting them to look polished in my new closets, I went for leather binders*. They’re gorgeous. So far I’ve only separated out tops and bottoms. I’m filling these binders fast, so I’ll likely need to branch out to more categories. Here’s how I’ve done it (and you can too):


  • binders, either 8 1/2 x 11 or 12 x 12
  • clear sheet protectors
  • large labels
  • fun marker or pen

Step 1:

I never cut into store bought patterns. They always remain intact, I simply trace the appropriate size on tracing paper¬†and make adjustments there. I bought a giant roll of 36″ wide x 50 yard tracing paper at a local art supply store for somewhere around $20. If you sew, it’s a worthwhile investment. Store bought patterns stay in their envelopes and those envelopes get stored in a box. Pattern tracings, PDF patterns and self-drafted patterns get stored in binders for easy-access.

Step 2:

Pack the sheet protectors with your pattern (one pattern per protector).

Step 3:

Label the protector. I labeled it with the pattern maker (i.e. Megan Nielsen, Hey June, Self-drafted), pattern name or description and traced size or estimated draft size at the bottom.

Step 4:

Sort. Alphabetical order, style, preferred fabric type, etc. Figure out a system to easily find your patterns and your done!


I had a lot of fun busting out my brush markers and washi tapes to fancy-up the labels for each pattern. The lettering is far from perfect, but it was great practice.


Let’s end on a keeping-it-real note. This is how awesome my studio looks at the moment. I’ve got a lot of organizing ahead of me, but with binders, cute boxes and new shelving I feel unstoppable!! WEEEEE!!

How do you organize your sewing patterns? Do share in the comments below!

*Binders and sheet protectors provided by Lifestyle Crafts.
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    1. Noreen says:

      Super tips! Thank you :)

    2. Kristin H says:

      That’s how I store mine. Unless they are store bought, then they go in the pattern drawers of my sewing center. But to be real, I have a shipping box full of pattern pieces that I was too lazy to neatly put away when I was cleaning up for my parents. That’s going to be fun to sort through later……

    3. Maike says:

      I’m in the happy position of owning huge paper drawers which are perfect for pdf patterns, store bought patterns are in simple boxes.
      But I like the idea of putting the traced patterns in binders!

    4. Lady ID says:

      Oh my gosh!! This is great. Usually I put mine in 10-11″ envelopes with a description/sketch on the front. Lately I have been too lazy to do that for things like tank tops so this idea works!!

      Funny this is I just unpacked some folders and clear sleeves yesterday.

    5. Marie says:

      For money saving purposes I usually draft and transfer patterns on old newspapers. It’s SO difficult to distinguish between the different patterns. Especially with 10 different baby tops in different sizes each.
      Right now the patterns are just scattered everywhere collecting dust.
      I WILL definitely organize them in a binder!
      This looks so cute and much easier to sort through

    6. Brigid says:

      Ooohh! This is a GREAT idea for storing patterns! Currently I store mine in White Manila envelopes with a picture of the pattern on the front, and all those are stored in a vintage suitcase at the moment. I am going to have to try this method though!

    7. Heidi Lassila says:

      My sewing patterns are all stuffed in a tiny little cardboard box, far from ideal. I was thinking about putting them into a filing cabinet but I think I like the binder idea even better.

    8. Sarah Helene says:

      BEING ORGANIZED is the way to go! THANKS for this tutorial on How to Organize My Sewing Patterns. Sarah Helene in Minneapolis

    9. Susan says:

      Ha. I saw this post and I was like holy crap. Duh. I currently have all my sewing patterns in big binders like these but I’ve always been like hmm, how could I make these easier to look through? I never even though about separating by top, bottom, etc. Seems so obvious! Thanks so much for posting about it!

    10. laura says:

      I have been sewing for about 45 years so my pattern ‘collection’ includes some very old styles. And then my mother in law gave me some of hers! All the old patterns are in clear storage boxes (plastic) according to baby,child, teen and adults and then home dec. Newer patterns that I use for grandchildren are filed upright in shoe boxes in drawers. Quilt patterns are in sleeves in binders. I am not perfect in putting things away but every now and then I go through like a whirlwind! And it does look better and I FEEL better working in my sewing room.

    11. Tami says:

      I went online and got images of all my patterns and printed them up. For the few patterns I could not find an image for I took a picture. I printed them up and made my own catalog book separated into categories and put it into a 3 ring notebook. The patterns are stored numerically in a plastic container by manufacturer. Now when I want to sew something I pull out my person catalog and pick a pattern and go pull it from the container

    12. Sylvia says:

      My favorite way, I like the idea of using a nice binder. I’m going to have to update my cheap binder. :)

    13. Connie says:

      i have created an app to catalog and file all your patterns on your mobile device. It’s called PATTERNBOX and will be coming out soon!

    14. […] tips on how to organize and store sewing patterns from Melissa Esplin are so […]

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