They Say an Elephant Never Forgets (Uber Pattern Organisation: Or what to do if you’re a sewing nerd with too many patterns!)

Hello, my name is Melissa…(takes deep breath)…and I have a sewing pattern addiction…but I’m not after help for that, I’m quite happy with my ever expanding collection, thank you.

My real problem is that I’m also an organisation nerd and for the last year I have been frustrated with trying to find a way to catalogue my patterns. My big problem, apart from the sheer volume, is that they exist in paper envelopes within a filing cabinet, magazines within lever arch binders and digital pdfs/tutorials on my computers hard drive.

I started by saving images of the envelope front and back in folders on my hard drive and having the folders display in thumbnail form with an image of my choice. This worked ok for a while but there is no good way to organise them in multiple categories and it’s impossible to search for “vogue summer dress that I bought last week” or “that handbag tutorial I saw on Sew Mama Sew 7 months ago and I saved somewhere deep within the depths of my hard drive”.

I did a bit of research online for software solutions, I knew what I wanted the program to do but it was kind of hard to search for. I wanted to be able to open a program, go to a category, like “bags” and see all my bag patterns, or type a few key words like “dress”, “summer”, “Simplicity” and have images of the patterns that matched pop up for me to see, then maybe I could even click on the one I wanted and it would tell me where that pattern existed in my little sewing world, filing cabinet or the destination folder on my computer. Sigh, is that such a big ask?

What I needed was some sort of database program, but I wanted an easy solution, and preferably cheap/free. I don’t own the top level super expensive Office that contains Access and while the Linux OpenOffice was ok (and free), it wasn’t perfect. I’m no tech dummy, I like to think I’m pretty good with computers but buggered if I was going to learn the Linux coding to get it to do exactly what I wanted. The next best sounding program I came across was Bento, ohh it was pretty looking, but I’m not a Mac convert (and probably never will be) and the Windows equivalent, FileMaker Pro, was a far too expensive at $453.64 + gst, more than 6 times the cost of Bento ($71.82 + gst).

It all got a bit too hard so to be honest it wasn’t high on my list of fixes and so I struggled on (I know, I’m a survivor, how did I ever cope?). That’s when, out of the blue, Vanessa came to my aid. She said, “Hey, check out this program called Evernote!” So I did, and it was perfect…well, close enough, if I had an iPhone, Windows or Android mobile I’d be even happier because that would make it portable. Imagine standing in the fabric shop holding the PERFECT bolt of fabric for that dress pattern you bought last year. Now, how many meters of fabric did it need? And didn’t it need a zipper and a couple of buttons too? Interfacing? Well that’s ok, whip out your mobile phone, launch Evernote and find it. Done.

The Evernote website has some great video tutorials and heaps of information to get you started. It can do so much more than I can possbily ramble on about here so go and check it out.

Random non-sewing thought: It would even be great for your recipe collection, and you could just scan them in because Evernote can search within images for text.

There are some restrictions for a free account, you have a limited amount of data you can upload each month (but this can be increased for a small fee) but to be honest, by the time I reach my monthly limit I’m sick of cataloguing and need a break anyway. It’s taken me about 3 months on-and-off to get everything entered and organised just how I like it but I’m pretty happy with my new pattern database and when I get my next mobile (Android please!) I’ll be able to go to the fabric store with all my patterns in my pocket.

EDIT 03/03/10:  I now use Evernote to keep track of my fabric stash, see how I take my nerdyness to the next level here.

EDIT: 15/01/11: Check out my brief Android app review here.

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10 thoughts on “They Say an Elephant Never Forgets (Uber Pattern Organisation: Or what to do if you’re a sewing nerd with too many patterns!)

  1. I have tried sooo many different “organizational” apps, programs etc to organize my obsessions too! I never looked at evernote, can’t wait to try it. I put my patters on an excel spread sheet, no pics to help which turned out to be useless. Thanks for sharing.

    • Awesome! I think Evernote is going to be perfect for you, there are some great tutorials on their website if you need some help. I had a problem with accessing my account on my work PC but the team ran me through everything I needed to do to fix it and it is all good now so even the support is great. Have fun 🙂

  2. Thanks for mentioning this – I just signed up! I use Excel for my patterns right now, but I totally hate it – and I’m terrible with Access, so I never bother with that. This looks like what I was looking for (and it works on my phone!)

    • I tried the excel path too, it only worked for so long and since I am a visual person I NEED pictures 🙂 Access hated me, so I chose to hate it, touché! I’m glad you read my post and I know you’ll find it as useful as I did, it’s so easy to learn as well!

  3. This sounds like a great idea! I even have the android phone 🙂 Not too sure my hubby will appreciate it though, I usually pester him to help me when it comes to technical stuff lol

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