Love to Sew,

Episode 17: How Big is Your Pattern Stash?

November 27, 2017
love to sew podcast
We dive deep into patterns this week with tips for organizing, storing, and collecting sewing patterns. We cover hot-button topics like indie vs. big 4, paper vs. PDF, and tracing vs. cutting! This is a great episode for beginner sewists navigating the world of patterns!

On @lovetosew.podcast, Helen shares a tip from my hand sewing class but it sounds like she got it backwards.🙃 →Did you know thread has a direction?→ When #handsewing, you’ll have the best results if you thread the end that comes off the spool into the needle. The fibers are wound this direction and working with the twist will often give you less knots and tangles. ⭐️An easy way to remember is that you thread this same end when using your sewing machine.⭐️ Pretty cool huh? . 💥Listen to the fabulous full episode “Inside Camp Workroom Social” on!💥 . #campworkroomsocial #sewing #sewingpodcast #handsewingclass #handsewing #couturesewing #sewingcamp #sewingretreat #sewingskills #handsewn #handstitching #slowfashion #ncsews #slowsewing #sewingtip #coutureforbeginners #customsewing #learntosew #sewinglessons #memade #sewingclass #isew #sewingforme #sewingnerd #sewcurious #sewcialists @helens__closet

A post shared by ✂️ Brooks Ann Camper ✂️ (@brooksanncamper) on

Holiday Sewing DressesFeatured above: Helen’s Kenedy Dress, Beth’s Catarina Dress, Caroline’s Saiph Tunic


We have made 40% of the patterns we own

We have 30% paper patterns and 70% PDF patterns

We have about 87% Indie patterns and 13% Big 4

  • Caroline’s pattern stash:

  • Helen’s pattern stash:


Follow Helen! Blog: Helen’s Closet, Instagram: @helens__closet
Follow Caroline! Shop: Blackbird Fabrics, Instagram: @blackbirdfabrics
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  1. Sam says:

    Hello Vancouver! (I grew up on the Sunshine Coast, and now live in Washington State, so when I miss the motherland I enjoy hearing the Canadian in you two!)

    Quick comment on taping and ironing your PDF patterns. I often tape both sides of my pdf’s because the flapping and hinging of the seams when trying to fold the pieces drives me nuts. So I’ll tape the back side just quickly to make my life easier.

    I got a roll of rice paper tape, similar to masking tape, a few years ago, (it’s bright yellow, so that’s fun) and have been using that to tape my PDF’s together. I find I can get away with ironing this tape on low heat! I haven’t had any melting issues at all. I can also draw on top of the tape (say to blend in between sizes) and it’s more transparent than regular masking tape, so you can still see all the lines and details of the pattern below.

    I’m tempted to try washi tape next since Google tells me that is paper based. That sounds iron-able to me! Maybe you have some thoughts on that?

    Also, my rice paper tape is about 1.5″ wide, and I always cut it into narrow strips, since that’s what I prefer. There’s a lot of fussing to cut all the strips off the roll instead of just having it on a tape dispenser. When my roll finishes up, I’m going hunt for a 1/4″ wide roll so I can put it on some tape dispenser to speed up the taping time.

    So that’s my tip! Try a more paper based tape instead of clear plastic tape to make ironing and blending your pdf pattern pieces easier. Obvs, do an iron test with whatever tape you use before going willy nilly.

    Love the podcast! Love hearing fellow Canadians! Love hearing about the Lower Mainland!

    1. Helen Wilkinson & Caroline Somos says:

      Paper tape is such a great idea! Thanks, Sam! Patterns would always look so pretty if they had washi tape on them, for sure.

      Always nice to hear from locals, even if you have moved a little south!

  2. Melissa says:

    Hi guys, your chatty style had to grow on my but now you guys are my fun companions while I am cutting out a pattern. The best tip ever that I got for PDF assembling is to use a PRITT STICK . You can kind of move your paper around a bit before it’s stuck. I tried it and assembled TWO pdf patterns in one week. Yay me!! I got this tip from Kate from The Foldline . She talked about this in one of their vidoes.

    1. Helen Wilkinson & Caroline Somos says:

      Thanks Melissa! This is such a great tip! We will certainly share this in a future episode!

  3. Melissa says:

    Ooh!! Pattern magazines: Knipmode (dutch) and La Maison Victor (Dutch, French and now also English)

    1. Helen Wilkinson & Caroline Somos says:

      Great suggestions! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Melizza says:

    I am fascinated that y’all own more PDFs than paper patterns. I alter patterns as I trace so I HATE to tape together a pattern to then alter and trace it. I much prefer paper because I get to skip that cutting and taping step. I also feel like PDFs cost more by the end: time, cutting, taping, swearing when the pieces don’t match, paper, ink…I’ve started using a PDF printing business to cut out the time and taping.

    PDFs go in a manila folder or are rolled up, and paper patterns go in an Ikea dresser, assigned by garment type. One day I’d love to organize it digitally.

    Love your podcast!

    1. Helen Wilkinson & Caroline Somos says:

      Thanks for sharing, Melizza! Isnt it interesting how many different ways there are to handle patterns and preferences on all sides? We love hearing other perspectives! Totally get the time saving aspect of printed patterns – but does that outweigh the ability to reprint whenever? Tough call!

  5. Claire says:

    I’ve been using memento database for organzing my pattern and fabric stash. It’s a great option for android users. My favorite thing is that I can cross reference between the two libraries and earmark a specific fabric for a specific pattern, or filter what fabrics I have that would work with a pattern in my stash. It’s helped me be more strategic in purchasing patterns and fabrics.

    I strongly prefer pdfs, and recently found a non-big box local commercial printer that typically costs $3-6 per pattern. I think that cost is resonable depending on how much time it saves me, so I’ll still tape something like a basic tshirt pattern by hand. They do a lot of architectural printing, so if anyone is looking for one in their area, you might try searching for “architectural printing” or “digital reprographics” + your location.

    1. Helen Wilkinson & Caroline Somos says:

      Thanks for sharing, Claire! Memento sounds like it has similar benefits to Trello, we love the ability to link patterns and fabric. Good tip about the architectural printing too! thanks!

  6. Dalia says:

    So, am I the only person who doesn’t cut anything off before taping PDFs? This is the first I heard of it, why would you? I just match the arrows and leave the back overlapping. The pieces still fold into those clear file holders I use for organisation. I love the idea I of using a Prittstick with that, though I don’t know if it would be good with folding. A time-saving tip is also to only tape where an actual cutline is and the corners in the pattern.

    I am torn between PDF and printed and traced (all magazines and books). I’d prefer all tissue paper all the time, but I don’t like missing out on nice designs, so I begrudgingly print and tape, though I print at Uni, and so PDFs aren’t quick and easy for me, because it takes forever to get round to it…
    Also, the Indie vs. “Big 4”, you missed how Big 4 and that includes Burda in my book, often offer more complex designs with a lot of nice details, that I barely see in Indie.

    1. Helen Wilkinson & Caroline Somos says:

      Hi Dalia! We trim off the right and bottom side so it does still overlap in the back, but not in the front. I have heard that you can get away with no trimming if you are able to see through your paper and line things up right, so you are not alone! One trick is to cut only the corners in that case. We love your tip about only taping on the corners and the pattern piece connections. Good point about the big 4 design details too, that is a big difference between the two options!

  7. Jean (jsews) says:

    First of all, I love your podcasts so much! You always share all sides of a topic both pro and con. I have learned about social media as well that it’s OK to comment on anyone’s post, you don’t have to be a blogger, and people really do want to hear how you feel about their makes. I feel like I “know” some of the people I follow regularly and would like to meet some in person.
    About pattern stashes, I am less concerned about my pattern stash as I view it as a creative muse, waiting for the opportunity. My fabric on the other hand sometimes feels like an overwhelming to do list of garments waiting to be made. I would like to keep a small stash for when that spontaneous sewing project arises, but I don’t need as much as I have.
    I am on team cut and I love both Indie and Big 4 as I began sewing before the Indie movement came to be, but I am heavily leaning get more towards Indie these days as there is so much on social media to entice, inspire, and guide you. Keep laughing and sharing these great podcasts.

    1. Helen Wilkinson & Caroline Somos says:

      Hi Jean!

      Thanks so much for sharing and for your kind words! We are glad you feel we cover the topics fairly, we try not to be too biased, but of course, we have our own opinions. It is great to hear that the show has encouraged you to interact with other sewists and we love that you view your pattern collection as a creative muse. That is awesome! Thanks again for listening and sharing <3

  8. Julie says:

    Hi from denmark.
    I just re-listened to this episode.
    I mostly by pattern magazines bit when I do get a pdf-pattern I like to use a gluestik for assembly, like… cut all, glue one side, assemble, glue, assemble and so on.

    1. Helen Wilkinson & Caroline Somos says:

      Thanks, Julie! Glueing is a great tip!

  9. Floral Mae says:

    I’m surprised that the monetary cost of printing supplies didn’t come up for PDF patterns! This is the main reason that I prefer paper. Though I love the availability of (FREE!) patterns online and I love being able to reprint, I find that I am always running out of ink. I can get more patterns on sale than I can print with one in cartridge and spend the same. This doesn’t include the waste if you scale wrong, or the cost of paper and tape.

    This was the first show I listened to but I’ve been sewing most my life and I’m sure I’ll be back for more.

    1. Helen Wilkinson & Caroline Somos says:

      Hi Floral!

      This is a great point! It can be very expesive to print and tape, it certainly adds to the cost. I recently switched from an ink printer to a toner printer and it was a total game changer for me! I love how fast and efficient it is, I have printed so many patterns and it is still going strong, no ink replacement necessary! We hope to bring this up in a future episode 🙂

  10. Jenna says:

    I’ve been mulling over your discussion about hacking patterns you have to look like others. I understand your point as a designer, but I think that whether due to time or perceived skills, most people are unwilling to brave hacking patterns to try and reproduce what someone else did. Unless the hacker provides a step-by-step tutorial with pictures (for a pattern that most people won’t already have in their stashes), I saw mentioning the inspiration pattern as almost-as-good advertising as making up the inspiration pattern directly. While I’m proficient at frankenpatterning, and often do morph something I have instead of waiting for a pattern in the mail, if I see someone post a hack that I like… I’m going to go to the original. Because I’d have to buy a pattern anyway and who wants to take the time and money to buy something only to have to pull it to pieces when it’s the original you both liked anyway? If the poster just puts up “hey I made this McCall’s but switched out the sleeves and added pockets, and changed the skirt”, I’ll file it in my Evernote and hope someday to hack something similar – I won’t have a “you can go directly to X to get something similar” link, kwim? Would love your thoughts!

    1. Helen Wilkinson & Caroline Somos says:

      Hi Jenna,

      This is a great point, thanks for sharing! I (Helen) have certainly done some pattern hacking and then suggested another pattern for people who want to go straight to the finished look. For example, you can take these sleeves and this bodice and put them together 0R for a similar look, try this other pattern. When I think about it, this is really similar to the scenario we discussed on the show, but I suppose the intentions are more positive. Perhaps the main difference is the thought behind the action and the tone with which you are sharing the hack. It’s true that not everyone is comfortable or interested in hacking patterns and they are always going to buy the pattern closest to the desired look.

      Probably not the most definitive answer, but I really enjoyed your thoughts. Thanks again!

  11. DenverJude says:

    Tracing vs. Cutting:
    I trace, make my standard adjustments (length – 5’10” here – big booty, FBA), fit, make an additional adjustments, transfer that back to my original taped printout (in a different color pen and include date and my measurements at the time). I then store that printed and taped pattern rolled up. It gives me a record of all the adjustments I made from the original for that pattern company’s fit on my body at that point in time. If I make that pattern again in the future, I’ll know if I need to make any other adjustments based on my current measurements. It reduces the amount of fit fiddling I have to do with a pattern each time.

    1. Helen Wilkinson & Caroline Somos says:

      This makes a lot of sense! I love your meticulous approach. I wish I had the patience to do this myself! Thanks for your comment 🙂
      – Caroline

  12. TC Ferrito says:

    I have been sewing for a long time, so I have more patterns than I can count! I found a pattern cabinet on sale at a fabric store that was downsizing. I got it for $50. It is in my sewing room and it is full. Each drawer (5 of them) has a different type of pattern in it: knits, dresses, jackets, coordinates, bottoms. The cabinet holds big 4 patterns and those paper indies that are a similar size. Big indies and pdfs go in plastic bankers or file boxes in folders. I have 4 of those.
    FYI- I bought 1 pdf pattern that asked me to print it out and then delete the pdf file. Why would I do that? I may lose a pattern piece. And if I paid for it, why can’t I keep it?

    1. Helen Wilkinson & Caroline Somos says:

      Thanks for sharing! Sounds like you have a great system for storing your patterns. I’ve never heard of that request with PDF patterns! How strange.
      Happy holidays!

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