Editing My Pattern Stash: How It Turned Out

Readers,

Some of the patterns from the 3-star pile.

Some of the patterns from the 3-star pile.

If you’re short on time (I know I am), I’ll get right to the point: editing my pattern stash turned out surprisingly well.

Move 'em on out: difficult side closure, too boxy, I'd never wear it. Brings the eye down, I have better choices, rounded shoulders, boxy and brings the eye down.

Move ’em on out: difficult side closure, too boxy, I’d never wear it. Too much ease, I have better choices, rounded shoulders, boxy and brings the eye down.

As with editing my fabric and button stashes last year, editing my patterns was informative, fun, and productive. Even painless. What more could I ask?

Duplicates other patterns. ditto, too much design ease, not my style.

Duplicates other patterns. ditto, too much design ease, not my style.

The trick in editing my stashes, I’ve found, is designing a process that’s intuitive and easy (are those the same thing?) and that helps me do something better than  before.

Great uses for my vintage buttons, but I would probably not wear either.

Great uses for my vintage buttons, but I would probably not wear either.

The process has to be intuitive, so I understand it; easy, so I actually do it; and helps me accomplish something that matters, so that it’s worth the trouble–worth the trouble of executing the process, but also designing it, which has been the real bugbear.

Bolero overload. Sweetheart necklines: no!

Bolero overload. Sweetheart necklines: no!

But on to the results.

Using the rating system I devised, I assigned one to five stars to each of 200 patterns.

Sloping shoulders, no waist definition.

Sloping shoulders, no waist definition.

Basically,

  • 5 stars: I’ve made these and they were successful. Keep.

    Duplicate, better choices, not my style.

    Duplicate, better choices, not my style.

  • 4 stars: I haven’t made these, but they’re flattering and I love them. I can definitely imagine making them. They would work in my wardrobe. Keep.

    I have better choices, looks like a home ec project, ditto

    I have better choices, looks like a home ec project, ditto

  • 3 stars: I haven’t made these. I’m ambivalent about something here: some features are flattering and some aren’t; the style might work or it might not. These would probably never be tops on the sewing to-do list.  Are these worth keeping? Look at these again and decide.

    Elegant, but lots of other patterns are better wardrobe matches.

    Elegant, but lots of other patterns are better wardrobe matches.

  • 2 stars: I haven’t made these. Something is a dealbreaker: the style no longer suits me, or I now know that’s not a flattering silhouette, or this duplicates other patterns. Out they go.

    Sloping shoulders, dropped shoulders, bolero overload

    Sloping shoulders, dropped shoulders, bolero overload

  • 1 star: I have made these. Face it: they’re duds. Maybe they’re fixable, but I will never make it top priority to fix them. I’d rather choose a different pattern. Bye-bye.

    I wouldn't wear it much, zipper closure, not sure I'd wear it.

    I wouldn’t wear it much, zipper closure, not sure I’d wear it.

The 3-star pile was the most interesting and instructive. Seeing all the 3-starred ones together, I could see similarities in design features that just didn’t work for a triangle figure like mine:

  • Insufficient shoulder definition: dropped shoulders, kimono sleeves, raglan sleeves
  • Little or no waist definition
  • Features that drew the eye down or just didn’t draw the eye up
  • Too much design ease

    Scoop neckline--no; I'd never get around to sewing this; boxy

    Scoop neckline–no; I’d never get around to sewing this; boxy

I saw styles I wouldn’t wear now; I wasn’t that person anymore, if ever I had been.

Sloping shoulders; wrapround dress insecurity; what--MORE boleros?

Sloping shoulders; wrapround dress insecurity; what–MORE boleros?

Some patterns looked costumey to me now.

I have another shawl collar dress that's better; wouldn't wear it; boxy, sloping shoulders and boxy; sloping shoulders

I have another shawl collar dress that’s better; wouldn’t wear it; boxy, sloping shoulders and boxy; sloping shoulders

Whenever I found myself saying “There are better choices,” I paid attention.

Given how many 4-star patterns I have sitting on the bench begging to be put into the game, when would I ever sew the 3-stars? Like that famous New Yorker cartoon, how about never?

After the edit I arranged my pattern catalogue differently. That was not part of the original plan.

After the edit I arranged my pattern catalogue differently. That was not part of the original plan.

Because I understood why I was keeping what I was keeping and weeding what I was weeding, I had no second thoughts and no regrets.

I hadn’t set out to weed out a certain number. It came to about 60, or about 30 percent, just using this star rating process.

When I looked at the keepers, their winning qualities stood out all the more for not being lumped together with the ones that were only pretty good. For me, that’s the ultimate value of an edit: to clarify what interests and inspires me the most, and identify the resources–the fabrics, buttons, and patterns–that are the best matches.

Arranged by garment category now, not by year, the way I arrange my wardrobe.

Arranged by garment category now, not by year, the way I arrange my wardrobe.

There was another unexpected result from this edit: I changed how I arrange my pattern catalogue.

Years ago, to sidestep the problem of choosing one category for a multi-garment pattern, I arranged patterns by year.  But I realized recently that arranging my patterns by year emphasizes the historical period of the garments, which doesn’t help me plan a wardrobe.

Sometimes I attach swatches to the page.

Sometimes I attach swatches to the page.

When I want a coat, I should be flipping to the coat section of my catalogue and examining all my coat choices regardless of the era.

In a couple of instances, it turned out, did I want to put a pattern into a couple of garment categories: both “Jackets” and “Tops,” for example.  In those cases I can just make an duplicate page.

Tracing the outlines of the garment helps me see it better.

Tracing the outlines of the garment helps me see it better.

What I had feared–that my catalogue would be the size of an unabridged Webster’s dictionary–has not materialized.

Abridged, then?

Perhaps.

Weighing in at a slender 5 lbs 4 oz

Weighing in at a slender 5 lbs 4 oz

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