I shared in previous posts (here and here) the evolutionary process of my storage methods, up to and including the one I'm currently using (see here and here). With my desire to protect my collection from environmental elements satisfied, I focused on developing a method of cataloging the full collection so I'd be able to browse through them without having to take down each box and literally flip through every pattern. I used to do just that...an extremely tedious process which often isolated me from my family. So, I really wanted more of an e-cataloging process which would work for me.
I absolutely love a good pattern sale, so after purchasing new ones, I mark on the envelope the date they were purchased and proceed to scan the envelope front and back images to my computer. For about a year now, however, I've been purchasing vintage patterns from various outlets, primarily eBay. Once they're finally delivered, I take inventory of each pattern to determine its condition and completeness. Most of the ones I've purchased have been in pretty good shape, while the components of others - envelope, instruction sheets and pattern pieces - need special handling and/or repair.
I use my iron on a dry setting to press out folds and wrinkles on the pattern envelope and flatten it out for scanning. I then document on the envelope back when, and sometimes where, I purchased the pattern.
I thought documenting the purchase date on my envelopes was my personal idiosyncrasy, but I've since discovered that other sewing-enthusiasts do the same, so I'm in good company.
I've had doubts about pressing out the envelopes, especially for those which seem especially fragile, but I honestly feel taking this steps helps minimize further damage to those envelopes that are weakened by light and dust exposure.
Vogue 7830, before and after pressing
Sometimes, additional steps are needed for envelopes in "handle with extreme care" condition. This was the case with Simplicity 3425 which I recently purchased in an auction lot of patterns from eBay. This envelope looks better now than it did when it arrived, but it's still quite fragile, with pieces of its edges falling away with handling. First, I verified the envelope will easily fit inside a standard 6x9 mailing envelope.
I then printed the pattern envelope's front and back image on the front/back of the 6x9, and slide the original envelope inside.
The replacement envelope, instructions sheets and pattern pieces are then placed inside a zip lock bag, and filed away in my pattern file.
After pressing flat the pattern envelope, I then examine the condition of the pattern instructions sheets (all sheets included, tearing, etc.) and the pattern pieces (factory-folded vs. cut, all pieces included, sizes they're cut on for multi-sized patterns, any tearing or worn areas, etc.)
If need, I press the instructions sheets with a dry iron and apply tape to torn folds and edges to reinforce sheets and envelopes.
I don't like using transparent tape, however, to repair pattern pieces because they need to be pressed to remove wrinkles before laying out on fabric and the heat warps the taped area. Instead, I apply light-weight fusible interfacing to the wrong-side of the pattern piece to mend any rips, tears or worn areas.
Sometimes, a pattern piece can be so worn that reinforcing the entire piece with interfacing is necessary to restore strength and stability so it can be used.
Once the instruction sheets and pattern pieces have been inventoried and mended, I then scan the front and back of the pattern envelope...
...and use Word to format and save the images as a PDF document.
Once saved, I am able to quickly - and easily - browse through each category of my collection on my computer.
There are moments when I wish to peruse my collection away from my computer, so I've created a Box.com account and uploaded my collection so I can flip through them on any internet-connect device.
While it appears to be time-consuming (and sometimes it feels like it), this process really is the best for me because I know my collection is protected, handled only when necessary, and is so easy for me when I want to review them and contemplate what I'd like to create next.
What is the process you use to store and/or catalog your pattern collection? Please share - I love reading your comments.