Editing My Pattern Stash

Readers,

I think I’ve come up with a pretty good way to edit my pattern stash.

Is this too many coat patterns?

Is this too many coat patterns?

Although I’m writing this on the road from Ohio, where Jack’s and my househunting adventure is taking exciting new turns, my mind has not strayed far from life’s really important questions:

  • Do I have too many patterns?
  • What’s the right number, anyway?
  • Will I ever know how (or care) to make my own t-shirts?

    This belted topper pattern from 1950 is a keeper.

    This belted topper pattern from 1950 is a keeper. 5 stars.

I know these questions have been plaguing you, too, readers. That’s why I have been spending all my waking hours this week–the ones not on the phone with our real estate agent–pondering a process for evaluating pattern stashes.

What I made from the topper pattern exceeded my expectations. I love when that happens.

What I made from the topper pattern exceeded my expectations. I love when that happens.

I’ll spare you the details of those first 30 hours of pondering and first two drafts of this post, and cut to the chase: I now have a working model for sorting patterns.

Another great in my pattern pantheon.

Another great in my pattern pantheon. 5 stars.

When I get back to the sewing domain in Minneapolis in a few days, this is what I’ll do:

1. Bring together all my patterns. I have about 200.

One of my favorite sewing projects ever.

One of my favorite sewing projects ever.

2. Sort them into categories such as:

  • Coats
  • Jackets and suits
  • Blouses, shirts, tops
  • Vests
  • Skirts
  • Pants
  • Accessories
  • At-home wear (robes, pajamas, exercise clothes, aprons)
  • Menswear
  • Home decor

    From 1936, another favorite pattern.

    From 1936, another favorite pattern. 5 stars.

Patterns will be judged and compared within their category.

3. Make space for five piles.

4. Patterns will be rated from one to five stars.

Look familiar?

Look familiar?

5. Each star rating has objective and subjective statements related to it.  Assign each pattern to the pile with the statements that make the best match:

5 stars

  • I have made this.
  • I love it.
  • I would make it again.
  • Even if I don’t make it again, it’s worth keeping this pattern.
  • This flatters my figure type.
  • This works well with my other wardrobe items.
  • If this is a new direction for my wardrobe, it’s worth building outfits around this.
  • This works well with the life I’m living or am looking ahead to living.

    I can see this in my mind's eye with fabric and buttons from my stashes. 4 stars.

    I can see this in my mind’s eye with fabric and buttons from my stashes. 4 stars.

4 stars

  • I have not made this.
  • This flatters my figure type. (For me, a triangle figure type, that would include emphasizing the upper body with a defined waist and shoulders.)
  • I love this pattern.
  • This would work well with my other wardrobe items.
  • I can vividly imagine fabrics or buttons I’d use. (Even better: I have the fabrics and buttons.)
  • I can vividly imagine where or when I’d wear this.
  • I can vividly imagine what I would wear with this.
  • I can imagine loving wearing this.
  • If I had to learn new skills or get help to make this, I would.

    Some of my vintage buttons are waiting for their star turn on this coat. 4 stars.

    Some of my vintage buttons are waiting for their star turn on this coat. 4 stars.

3 stars

  • I have not made this.
  • I like this pattern, but I can’t say I love it.
  • This has elements that flatter my figure type.
  • This also has elements that do nothing to flatter my figure type–they’re either neutral or detract.
  • Something appeals to me about the style.
  • I might be able to make this work.
  • I have never vividly imagined the fabrics or buttons I’d use.
  • I have never vividly imagined where or when I’d wear this.
  • I have never vividly imagined what I would wear with this.
  • If I had to make multiple muslins or learn new skills to make this, I would choose a different pattern.
  • If I were in the mood to experiment, or had the right help, and the time, I would make this.

    From 1947. I like this.  Would it be too boxy on me? Shall I try it? 3 stars.

    From 1947. I like this. Would it be too boxy on me? Shall I try it? 3 stars.

Two stars

  • I have not made this.
  • Even if this is right for my figure type, it’s not to my taste anymore.
  • This doesn’t match my life now or how I expect to live in the future.
  • I am not willing to experiment with this pattern. I would choose a different pattern instead.
  • I like it well enough, but have never vividly imagined anything about it, I realize.
  • This is a perfectly good pattern, but it duplicates others I have.
  • If I let this go, I wouldn’t really miss it.

    I bought this for the lapels, but I'd have to take so much design ease out, I might as well choose another pattern. 2 stars.

    I bought this for the lapels, but I’d have to take so much design ease out, I might as well choose another pattern. 2 stars.

One star

  • I have made this.
  • This is a dud. It doesn’t work for me in fit or style.
  • If I made it in a different fabric or color it would still be a dud.
  • It is not worth it to me to fix the problems with this pattern. I’d rather choose a different pattern.

    On the 5 foot 10 inch tall model, this anorak looked great.

    On the 5 foot 10 inch tall model, this anorak looked great.

The 5-star patterns are keepers.

The 2- and 1-star patterns can be let go.

On me, not so much. 1 star.

On me, not so much. 1 star.

Then I’ll look at the 3-star and 4-star piles again. What can I learn from those piles? What makes one pattern a winner in my mind and another an also-ran? How much am I swayed by the front-of-the-envelope illustration? Is the technical drawing on the back just as appealing, more appealing, or less? In my experience, some patterns have fallen short of the promise on the front of the envelope–but others have exceeded it.

I had such high hopes for this 1934 pattern.

I had such high hopes for this 1934 pattern.

I may notice more patterns that are similar enough to consider duplicates, and choose to edit a few more out.

I won’t limit the number of patterns I can own in each category. However, I do have limits of time, money, and attention. I’m likely to accomplish more by perfecting a smaller number of patterns that I love, especially ones that adapt more easily to different seasons or occasions.

Do you think cutting about 8 inches off the length changed the proportions?  Am I willing to try making this pattern a great one for me? 2 stars, or 3?

Do you think cutting about 8 inches off the length changed the proportions? Am I willing to try making this pattern a great one for me? 2 stars, or 3?

As I work through this process, I may notice different questions and statements occurring to me, as in the menswear, accessory and home decor categories. “Make, or buy?” for instance. How willing am I to perfect a hat pattern? In the past, not very.

In the future? Put that question in the 3-star pile. I’ll deal with it later.

Interesting belt choices, pockets, and the chance to use beautiful buttons put this pattern into the 4-star pile.

Interesting belt choices, pockets, and the chance to use beautiful buttons put this pattern into the 4-star pile.

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4 thoughts on “Editing My Pattern Stash

  1. Paula,
    Don’t obsess about having too many patterns. I probably have 5 times as many coat patterns. These run the gamit from a-line 60’s things to Vogue Paris Designer coats. I have learned a long time ago that I simply get pleasure from just having them to look at and consider. But….if I were moving and needed to purge, we’ll that would be another story! Overall, I am usually pretty minimalist in other areas, but have a rediculous amount of patterns. And being of short stature myself, the style that sometimes draws me in is not the best look! So, to answer your question…NO you can never have too many patterns!

    • One person’s “too many” is another person’s “just right.” What used to be my “just right” number began to feel like “too many.”

  2. This is a really great template for pattern stash editing! I’ve been building my collection for about a year now, and going forward this might help me not just organize what I have, but decide if I should *really* buy something. Thank you for sharing!

    PS: Good luck with your move! I’m a Columbus local and I hope you will find happiness here just as I have. (I found your blog via your Pattern Review profile/your Columbus sewing community thread. I’m “madssews” over there.)

    • I just edited down my pattern stash this week using those guidelines and…they worked! If I sound incredulous, I am. I’m so attached to my patterns, but assigning stars to them really helped me see which patterns were the stars. I will be letting about 60 patterns go to other sewers for whom they will be a better match.
      I am really looking forward to building a sewing community in Columbus. It should be a lot of fun.

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