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January 11, 2018

How to Store PDF Sewing Patterns


The mark of any modern sewist is the proliferation of PDF printed sewing patterns. And while I love to support indie pattern designers, I don’t like the way the piles of printed papter seem to multiply in my workroom. In this post, I describe how I store PDF sewing patterns, so they don’t take over my sewing space (and make me crabby).

The Problem

PDF Sewing Patterns

In the past five years, the ability to create and purchase (and collect) PDF sewing patterns has exploded. One of the best things about this modern sewing revolution is the ability for home sewists to purchase and immediately receive their desired patterns online. We’re talking immediate gratification! However, there is one slight problem with this modern approach to sewing- the large stack of paper that can take over your sewing space once the PDF patterns are printed off. I seem to spend a lot of time moving these paper piles around, and over the recent holiday break, I gave some thought to my sewing workflow and how I could do things better.

Printed Paper

As a general rule, if the PDF pattern I purchase is anything bigger than lingerie, it gets printed off at the copy shop. There are some great posts already out there on this subject and one of my favorites is this one from Meg at Sew Liberated. This post provided a wonderful resource for copy shop printing online and validated the notion that my time is important; so taping together PDF patterns printed at home was wasting my time. For me, I choose to print at my local copy shop which is within walking distance to my home. They have a large plotter, and the folks there are more than willing to help. Not to mention that they are creatively curious and we have great talks about sewing whenever I stop in. So shopping small (and locally) and the great conversations are why I chose to stop in after work and get my patterns printed.

How to Store PDF Patterns Sewing is Required

Why they multiply

After returning from my local copy shop; however, the large rolls of paper seem to take on a life of their own. Of course, I have great intentions of sewing up a pattern immediately…..but that almost never happens. What is much more likely to happen is that the papers find a new home on any flat surface they can find in my sewing room. Repeat the first three sentences above, and you’ve got the dreaded pile…….you know the one. The stack of white that contains differently sized papers that curl and contort themselves in all directions, making an orderly mess impossible. This pile that refuses to lay flat and behave is the very same pile that I have to move and move again so that I can get to my fabric, cutting area, or even my sewing machine. This pile needs to go!

The Solution

Failed First Attempt

You already know that this printed pattern paper wants to curl and roll up on itself. So it seemed logical that this would be my solution. First, I tried to sort the patterns by designer and then rolled each stack and placed it into a cardboard mailing tube. My initial thinking was that since I knew what patterns belonged to each designer, it would be logical to store them together. This first attempt worked to get the paper off my table, but when I went to retrieve a pattern it was clear this wasn’t going to be a permanent solution for me- I was still hunting for patterns!
How To Store PDF Patterns First Attempt


My first attempt solidified the need to roll the patterns, just not all together. Separately rolling the paper fixed that problem and next I needed to find a way to identify them permanently. I tried rolling each one up and writing the pattern information on the outside- this did work, but only if I was able to re-roll it in the same way. So my final solution involved self-adhesive tape/glueless tape and my trusty label maker. I purchased the tape at my local fabric store a while ago with the intent of wrapping it around serger thread to keep them from canoodling in my drawer. This tape worked well on the pattern paper, and as a bonus, it is reusable and holds its shape well. For the identification part, it seemed likely that a label maker would print a label that would stick to the tape. After trying this out, I am happy to report that it worked! My paper patterns are now organized, protected, and labeled and I have reclaimed by sewing room.

How to Store PDF Patterns Sewing is Required

Final Thoughts

I love my new system- it organized my paper problem, and was easy to implement. I am no longer crabby about my sewing space and am overjoyed that I don’t have to hunt through a huge stack of paper anymore. So what about you? Have you come up with a system that works for your printed PDF patterns? I would love to hear about it!

How to Store PDF Patterns by Sewing is Required


  1. Iris says:

    Thank you! What is the container? Ii need a Barrel ike that!

    • Thanks so much for reading Iris! If you search for “fiber drum” you will see lots online. I got mine at a going out of business sale for $10/each. I had great plans to recover or paint them, but I actually like the industrial look. Good luck!

  2. […] its own once you bring it into your crafting space. And unlike the PDF paper I organized in my last post, this stuff can really get tangled up! The picture below is an example of the piles of embroidery […]

  3. Moonika says:

    Hi! I started familiar system lately. I use empty toilet paper rolls to keep the patterns together and print pattern name with my label maker and stick it onto the roll.
    But what happens when you use the patterns? Do you roll them together again or how do you store cut up patterns?

    • Hi there!

      Thanks for reading and the comment 🙂 For almost all of my patterns (except lingerie) I make a quick trace of the pattern and never cut them up. I’ve found that this works best and after I invest in the printing I don’t want to cut them. If I am storing any cut up patterns, I use office manilla envelopes- one for each pattern- and I label the outside. This is the method I use for all my lingerie pieces since they so small. For bigger garments, I find that just folding the pattern pieces into the manilla envelope works just fine. And if it is a pattern I make all the time, I might trace off the pattern onto thicker tagboard and store the pieces hanging up by a hook.

      I hope that helps…..thanks for the question and I am now inspired to write a few more blog posts on the process!


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