Over Christmas I decided to take the bull by the horns and re-organise my pattern stash…
Recording Patterns Digitally
I had previously entered all my patterns into Awesome Note* on my iphone – each pattern had it’s own note which included a screenshot of the front and back of the pattern together with tags for fabric type, garment type and designer. This served me fine for a couple of years but there was two major issues:
- Awesome note is only available as an app, so no online access – I don’t much enjoy browsing on my phone anymore (thanks to the ageing process my eyes are on the decline!)
- The search results display tiny images (squinting is not good for frown lines)
- Awesome note repeatedly crashed when using it’s search function, annoying when you have a LOT of patterns to navigate
*I want to point out that Awesome note is, well, awesome for taking notes and sorting lists – it just doesn’t cut it (for me) for pattern organisation
So, I decided to ditch the old way and went on the hunt for a replacement, the requirements being:
- Available to access on my pc and phone
- Able to add tags to make stash searchable
- Large image display
- Free if possible!
After a lot of hunting and testing I settled on Google Keep* and so far so good! I liked the look of it, how easy it was to search and navigate and best of all it met all my requirements, including the ‘free’ one.
[*Trust me, I have no affiliation to Google!!]
I would say that the only issue is that you are limited to 50 labels – but actually this turned out to be a bit of a bonus – it made me think about how I actually want to access my collection rather than labelling for it’s own sake (more later…)
Digital Organisation – First Things First
Before you start I think the most important thing to do is to think about how you will use your pattern organiser. These were my top three requirements:
- Be able to access a particular pattern quickly when shopping for fabric or notions
- Be able to browse by garment type
- Once I had found a pattern I wanted to be able locate it (physically, digitally etc)
Others might be:
- Locate patterns by designer
- Match patterns to fabric in your stash
- Be able to search patterns by recommended fabric type
- Flag current or pending projects
The next step is to be honest – how dedicated will you be to maintaining it? I love this kind of stuff so I could go all out but if that’s not your bag then keep it simple – maybe taking photos of your patterns is all you need to keep track of everything?
How I Categorised in Google Keep
Labelling is key to using Google Keep so, after listing down a million and one categories, I had to narrow down to just 50 (sounds a lot but it isn’t!)
- Pattern designer: As there are well over 50 pattern designers in the world this list needed serious culling. I decided that only designers for who I had several patterns got a label, and the others would be labelled ‘other’ – I added the designers name to the pattern note itself as a record in these cases. I rarely search by designer so this wasn’t a problem for me.
- Garment type: I grouped some garment types together to reduce the labels e.g. dungarees/jumpsuit, jacket/coat but others got their own label as I most regularly search by this type.
- Fabric type: This was the hardest as a) there are so many fabric types b) I don’t know what half of the fabric types actually are! In the end I decided on a super basic set of labels based on the fabrics I understand and this ranged from their content to their look and feel e.g. cotton/linen, viscose, wool, demin, sheer, jersey, woven, synthetic. It’s not a well-balanced or representative list but these labels are meaningful to me – as I get more experienced I’ll probably revisit this category.
An additional way of categorising in Google Keep is by colour. I decided to use this to record the location of the pattern and it’s a great way to see quickly where a pattern is stored – you can also search by colour.
Top tip: there is a fantastic add-on for the Chrome web browser that displays a colour key at the top of your web page (as shown in the image above) – this means you don’t have to remember what all your colours mean! Even better, clicking on any of these colours will automatically display everything in that colour category.
How I Create Notes in Google Keep
Because I like things to look pretty (!) I decided that, where possible, I would lift the pattern image from the web rather than uploading my own snap of the pattern cover.
Another decision I took was to type in the fabric and notion requirements. Although it was hugely labour intensive I am so pleased I took the time. No more squinting at photos of the back of patterns trying to find your size and then trying to convert yards to metres on the fly!
Top tip: If you are metric and planning on undertaking this mammoth task print off this yards to metres conversion provided by Marcia Hohn for her fellow quilters.
Additional Things I Added in Google Keep
I did add in a few extra ‘nice to haves’ which have improved my pattern organisation even more:
- Pinning: Each note can be pinned which means that it will display at the top of each page, even in search mode. I have pinned those items I am currently making or plan to make in the near future.
- Fabric stash: I have even added in my fabric stash! (Fortunately my stash is pretty small compared with my pattern stash). This has it’s own label ‘fabric’ and also uses the fabric type labels I use for my patterns. I list in the note how wide and how long the fabric is too – and also where I got it from which can be useful to remember when writing this blog! I also colour coded those fabrics for which I had a project in mind so I could see which fabrics I hadn’t yet earmarked for use.
But then, being deep down in the rabbit hole, I went even further… Those fabrics which had been assigned to a pattern also had the image uploaded to the pattern note (my one Google Keep wish would be that they enabled note-linking which would speed up this process!)
And then I has to STOP because I was getting carried away!
Pattern organisation takes a LONG time! But, for me, it was totally worth it and I am really pleased with how it’s working out (although if I’m honest I’m not sure I’ll keep up with the fabric organisation side of things – that was a bit of overkill for me)
My next post will be about how I store the actual patterns themselves but I need to get back to some actual sewing now…
Oh, and a final top tip which you may not want to know about(!): Google Keep will provide a count of how many patterns you have – Open Google Keep; Enter Ctrl + A on your keyboard – the number of notes will be displayed on the top left corner of your screen.