Peter, at Male Pattern Boldness, wrote an interesting post about his lack of love for the downloadable pattern. I confess that I hadn't given it a lot of thought. I have downloaded patterns, both free and purchased and I've generally liked them very much, but this probably has to do with the petite sizes toddler and baby patterns come in. (I think the maximum number of pieces of paper I've taped together for any given piece has been three -- obviously this would be different for an adult garment.) The toddler pant pattern and tutorial at Made was one of the first patterns I used where I felt really free to adjust and modify to my heart's content and I know that had a lot to do with feeling like it was free (printer ink, paper, and time notwithstanding) and that Dana ran a series of her own modifications. I still use that pattern a lot. As I got more and more into sewing, however, I did begin to run into a pattern storage issue. Downloadable patterns were part of the challenge, but so were paper patterns, my own modifications and additions to patterns, tutorials that weren't so much patterns as a set of instructions, and self-drafted things I wanted to keep (and not draft all over again).
In addition to a large variety of types of patterns I need to store all in one place, I also had a volume issue to deal with. I'll pick up almost anything at all if its priced under a buck at a thrift store or garage sale. People also give me patterns, like this one from my aunt that I've made a few times. In addition to the pre-cut pieces in the envelope, I've added a lion's head applique, and a flower applique. I've also noted any modifications I made when I made up the pattern on the instruction pages (full lining rather than facings, the various fabric I used and what I thought of that, etc.). Even on a pattern so simple and so small, I seem to have a lot to stuff back into the pattern envelope. I loathe pattern envelopes -- like the stuff sacks that tents come in, they look neat and tidy and correctly sized in the store and then never again. In an interesting convergence of these issues, I've sewn stuff sacks for particularly stubborn outdoor shelters to minimize misery in the field.
Now I store all of my patterns in large mailing envelopes, labelled with the pattern number on the outside. Inside is the pattern envelope, the instructions, the pattern pieces, and any additions. The McCall's 8409, for example (note the 25 cent price tag), will probably get a newly drafted collar the next time around.
The pattern envelope is then scanned and placed on my digital "patterns" folder (under "men's" in this instance). When I'm looking for something, I browse these files, visually. Then I pull the pattern I want out of the file box where they're stored.
Anything that becomes a physical pattern (because I've printed the pieces), I treat the same way. I file a visual picture in a digital file labelled with the alpha-numeric name I've filed it under. For downloaded instructions - I file a photo of the project in the pattern files and the instructions in a separate folder. Sometimes these instructions are just a word document of my own notes, plus a link back to the original website tutorial. I try not to print anything I don't have to print. For the excellent flashback tee, for example, I printed only the pattern pieces. On the body of the shirt, I've written, "see digital PDF instructions" to remind myself where I'm keeping them. There's a picture of the shirt in the "kid's patterns" file, and the instructions themselves in the "instructions" file. In the case of that particular pattern, I also have a word file of links to some blogs where people modified the pattern.
This sounds so complicated! (And I'm well aware that this exposes me as a freak.) But, though the initial set-up took a whole afternoon, adding new patterns is relatively simple. I was especially happy with this system when I wanted to make something for my daughter and we could flip through the visual files together.