Staying Organized in the Sewing Room

My poor little binder; so much time to compile, so little used!

As I have mentioned in previous posts, moving house has presented an opportunity to evaluate and inventory my sewing stash(es). I keep lots of fabric, patterns, and other items on hand, like frequently used underlinings and interfacings.

I’ve tried several methods over the years to keep track of not only my stash but project ideas: paper lists, binders, swatches, boxes/ files, and of course software (I outline a few tips and ideas below.) It took a while, but I finally figured out the way I like to work, and what I most enjoy is “window shopping” or browsing; I find visual stimulation the most inspiring, and having photos of my stash helps me see what I have and then I can get excited about using it.

I don’t have photos of everything I stash, just the most prolific items – patterns and fabric. And having photos on my computer lets me see all of it together. It also allows me to group and sub-divide as finely as I want, without becoming too burdensome, as it might if they were physical representations.

All my pattern photos in one place

The photos are supported by an index, which I keep in Excel; then in each cell I can link to the photo, whether fabric or pattern. Excel also lets me put in as much or as little information as I want regarding each fabric or pattern. This is where I can also keep a list of projects ideas; again, linking to the photos of the fabric or pattern I want to use.

Yes, there are apps that will let you do this, but most are free (which means they’re not of course, they collect and sell your data), and even the paid apps are mostly subscription- and cloud- based, which means they get expensive and you never have complete control over your information. I am definitely old fashioned, and don’t like giving up control of my stuff to others.

Whatever method you try, keep in mind it all takes time – it’s data entry no matter how you slice it. It’s also collation, inventory and evaluation, which has to happen before the data entry. Whether your stash is large or small, new or many years in the making, be patient with yourself and if your first method doesn’t suit you, don’t be afraid to try another!

Share your favorite sewing room organizing tips in the comments; see you at the next post!

Things I have already tried – maybe they’ll work for you!

  • Software. There’s a lot of inventory software out there, some general use, some specific to sewing. My favorite was Home Inventory Pro by Radium Technologies. Alas, RT is no more. It was basically a pre-made Access file, which you could fill with whatever you wanted, you could even change the names of the fields. But as I said, it’s gone and I’ve tried many other programs since. Doing a search online will help you find more reviews for even more software, and Pattern Review is an excellent place to start.
  • Wild Ginger Stitch-n-Stash v7. It’s OK, basically another Access-type program. There are pre-filled fields, and you can link to photos and other files on your computer. Good things are it’s inexpensive, it’s stays on your computer, you can link all the files you want, and you can create and print lists.

Bad things: there’s a free trial, but it’s for an older version. If you decide to buy it, but don’t download the current version, you will run into problems (ask me how I know; I had the help desk mystified…) Also, when you’re sorting, you can’t sort by certain things, like fabric type, or pattern type. They said they we’re working on that, so maybe it’s changed since I used it in early 2020.

  • Trello/ Evernote/ Tap Forms/ other “workflow” apps. Well, they’re free, or they’re subscription, which I don’t like (how I miss the days of buying a single-user-license and having it on my computer…) and they don’t all cross from phone to computer (for free versions), or IOS to Android, so you may be stuck working from a tiny phone screen, or printing lists from your computer. But lots of members of my sewing club love these apps, and highly recommend them.
  • Sewing Patterns App for IOS. This wasn’t bad; I bought it and used it for a while (it’s inexpensive, $5.) It’s rather, minimal? not organized for the way I think? just not what I was looking for? But it wasn’t bad, the developer seems like nice people, and it may be what you need.
  • Worksheets/ Binders. When I first wanted to get organized, I designed a worksheet that let me put a swatch, pattern and fabric info, and a section for notes. And it was fine, except I never went back to look at my binders. Never. Ever. I couldn’t tell you why, I certainly spent enough time creating them. But my new system is basically a digitized version of this, and it works much better for me.
  • Swatch Books. If you keep a lot of fabric, it can be hard to remember what you’ve got, especially if it’s in enclosed or “hidden” storage. Keeping swatches on hand in a binder, or just on the outside of your storage can help you remember. I tried keeping swatches in my binder, but that didn’t work for me; now I keep photos as digital swatches on my computer.
  • Organized Fabric Storage – a version of swatching. Or maybe not…. Basically, I tried to keep my fabrics folded and stored in such a way as that I could open a door or drawer and see all of it, kinda how you look at a book shelf and see all the spines facing you. This is OK, but it can be overwhelming visually, and it can be a bit difficult to make all of the fabrics visible. Some get lost, pushed to the back; some are very small compared to others, so you don’t notice them. It didn’t work for me because, every time I opened a cabinet, instead of being inspired or looking for what I wanted, I would feel overwhelmed with too many choices, and a bit let down that I wasn’t using up all of this fabric. Which of course is not why I have it… but that’s a discussion for another time!
  • And of course, good ol’ paper lists. Well, they’re OK, I’m definitely a list person. But I find I write a list out, and then forget about it, misplace it somewhere, then later on I’ll make another list, after which I find the previous list, then I start all over again losing the next list… keeping them on the computer allows me to keep a running list in one place.

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