I have been sewing for as long as I can remember. When I was in high school, I envisioned a quilt business and even ended up at the Wharton School as an undergrad because of it. One of the reasons I chose quilts was because I didn't need a pattern. I couldn't read those things, with their interfacing and selvages. It was a tiger costume that finally opened the door for me to the world of patterns. Somehow, the fact that it didn't have to be perfect let me muddle through generally obtuse instructions to something that was entirely wearable and actually looked rather like a tiger (costume).
From that moment on, I was hooked on sewing clothing. I began collecting patterns of all types: pajamas and shirts, pants and sweaters. And not only did I have the original pattern, but I usually had a tracing of the pattern on Do-Sew so that I could make the pattern again in a different size. It made for a large pile of unwieldy papers and fabrics.
For a long time, I rolled up my patterns, tied the roll with a string and then carefully labeled the roll with its contents. This worked fine for the pattern itself, but the instructions and envelope (with the picture), invariably fell out of the package and commingled with the neighboring patterns.
My next system was stuffing everything into a big basket, trying every once in a while to reunite lost pieces with their mates. As you might suppose, this was not my best plan.
Then I tried big fat binders with plastic sleeves. But the patterns were too fat to fit well, and I could only fit about four into each binder. Worse still, the tracing paper was slippery and would slide out of the plastic sleeves. Pretty much a disaster.
The database lover in me kept thinking of more and more intricate systems until the other day I got so frustrated with the pile (and the missing pieces) that I stumbled on what should have been the obvious solution: a filing cabinet.
In a short hour, I had put each and every one of my patterns, together with all of the tracings and the picture on the cover into its own file folder, and then put them--in numerical order and by manufacturer--in the bottom cabinet of my filing cabinet. The ordering was the key. Now when I find a piece of say, McCalls 8193, I can find its home in as short a time it takes for me to actually do it.
The last step was to photocopy each pattern cover and put them in a binder. These are organized by type: shirts, pants, costumes, etc., so that I can find the kind of thing I need. It's like having my own pattern catalogue. I love it. I'm hoping to add notes and information that I learned by doing each pattern (unfortunately, the obtuse instructions haven't gone away).
Now I can sew again.