Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Using Evernote to Catalog Your Sewing Pattern Collection

Today, my dear readers, I'm going to talk a bit about keeping track of a large pattern collection. If you've been collecting as long as I have, you know that you can loose track of whether or not you have a specific pattern in your collection. More than once over the years, I've bought a pattern on Ebay or Etsy, only to realize later that I already have the same one in some box or other I've forgotten about.

Recently, at the suggestion of a friend of mine, I downloaded an app called Evernote to my iPad and tried cataloging 15 patterns to see how I liked it. This was on a Friday afternoon, and I liked it so much, that I then spent the rest of the entire weekend photographing and logging a vast section of my collection. It has taken me a while (months, really, the hoard is that big), but slowly and surely I have added my entire collection of sewing patterns and I am so glad that I did (more on that later).

(I'm just going to point out quickly that this isn't a sponsored blog post - I haven't been compensated for writing this, I just really love this app!)

The app is pretty user friendly and can sync across your mobile and desktop devices quite seamlessly once downloaded. To give you an idea of how handy that is, a few days ago, I was killing time in a doctor's office waiting room and scrolling through patterns on Ebay using my phone to pass the time. I found a great dress pattern and thought, I should buy that, but it does look a bit familiar... So I switched to my Evernote app briefly and typed in the pattern name and number, and sure enough, there it was in my collection! I saved $20!

The pattern in question... though having two of this gem wouldn't be the worst thing ever...
Before I go into the many benefits of having your collection catalogued, let me show you how easy it is.

Once you've downloaded the app to your chosen device (phone, tablet, or computer) you create a notebook. Think of the notebook as a file, and in that file, you can add multiple items. I have my whole pattern collection in one notebook, and other notebooks are dedicated to my pattern catalog collection, my Fashion Service magazine collection, my sewing book collection, etc.

Just some of my notebooks, most of them not fully catalogued yet.
 Simply click on the notebook you'd like to add to and get started. You can select "create new note..."

Then as a title, use the pattern company and number - in this case Vogue 7989...

 Drag and drop a photo of your pattern below the title...

And once you have that, you can type notes along with it, like where you bought it (you can include links, too!), for how much, the condition, if the pattern is missing pieces, etc.

And you can even add tags if you like, which will act as search keywords. If you have 300 patterns and you want to quickly find a 1950's short sleeve dress, this can be handy!

This is done on my desktop computer, but the process is almost identical for mobile devices as well.

And now, let's look at the benefits of cataloging your collection.
  • If, God forbid, your home should fall victim to disaster, you have an online, backed up catalog of your collection for your home/ renter's insurance so that you can be accurately compensated for your losses. I plan on cataloging my antique/ rare book collection next - that's gonna take me a while...
  • If you loan patterns to friends occasionally, it's easy to add a note to your collection about who has what pattern so you can keep track. 
  • The searchable database is great for hard-core collectors to research their patterns and learn even more about their favorite pieces.
Case in point: last month I was working on a reproduction pattern and I wanted to make sure that I had the dates correct for it. I did a search for the pattern name/ number in question, and not only did I find a scan of a 1927 McCall's Magazine page featuring the pattern in full color (from my magazine collection notebook), Evernote also pulled up an image of one of my Fashion Service magazines from 1927 that featured how to make the design mentioned with scalloped trim. How did Evernote know that the pattern was mentioned in my magazine? IT SEARCHES PHOTOS FOR TEXT.
That's right. I searched for McCall 4932 and since I had previously photographed the list of patterns featured in the back of my magazine and added it to the note, I found this:

Which when I pulled the magazine in question out, showed me this:

The bottom design 6A, that's the pattern i was searching for!
Pretty handy, eh?
If you're a pattern nerd like I am (as my clever friend Miss Y calls herself) then Evernote will be your best friend for pattern research - if you take the time to build up your collection and photograph your patterns, catalogs, and what-have-you.

All of that lovely research meant that I could not only offer a pretty pattern, but very accurate historical references and sewing tools to go along with it!

Pattern #3065 can be found here.

And that's all I have to gush about for now. How about you? Do you have a tried and true method for keeping track of your stash? Have you used Evernote to catalog your button hoard or rare French magazine collection (yeah, I'm getting to it).

Happy sewing,


  1. I've been using Evernote to track my fabric stash. It never occurred to me to use it to track my patterns. I'm probably going to add notation to tell me which box each one is in so I can actually find them when I want to.

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  3. Thank you so much for this post! I had not heard of Evernote before but this sounds like an incredible resource! I'm going to have a look at it because I think, as you have said, it will be super handy for my sewing pattern collection in addition to my other antique/vintage collections. Maybe I can get my husband to use it for his military collection too. Thanks again!

  4. I mainly use it for recipes which is great as you can access the ingredients etc from the supermarket, but I've also started uploading my patterns and fabric in another notebook. I sometimes add links to others' blog posts if they've made the pattern - love to see finished versions. Yay technology!

  5. I've been using Evernote for both my patterns and fabric stash for quite some time now. It's so great to use for planning when not at home. I also have a separate notebook I titled "Sewing Planning" and I can link the note for the pattern with the note to the fabric in a new note along with any sketches/inspiration photos or other details I want to use for the project I'm planning.

  6. You say at the top of your post " I have my whole pattern collection in one notebook" - but then you example shows a notebook for Vintage patterns. If i put all of my patterns in one notebook, and titled them as you suggested, how do you deal with the occasional situation where you have two patterns from one company with the same number?

    1. Good question! I do have a few multiples. They are still just named the same. You can have two notes with the same title. Or you can label them "McCall 1234 A" and "McCall 1234 B", for example...

  7. I took this advice and have to say how wonderful it is to actually have my patterns all recorded and organized in Evernote. I find it really helpful when I'm purchasing fabric as I can now look up how much I will need for a given project! Thanks for this handy tip!

  8. Thank you for this wonderful tip! I've got all of my patterns catologued on Evernote now and I find it so helpful. I can now easily plan a project and it offers the extra bonus of allowing me to purchase the proper yardage of fabric because I have whenever possible, included an image of the back of my pattern envelope as well as the front. I use this all the time now! Thank you again for a great tip.