Is there a better solution than Excel?
June 30, 2016 4:52 PM   Subscribe

I have over a hundred vintage sewing patterns (and about half again as many modern ones) and a fabric stash sufficient to make at least 2/3 of the patterns. I am looking for some sort of cataloging option. I'm using Excel, but it does not handle pictures well (right now, each pattern has a link to its page--assuming it has one--at, but fabric swatches are not really archived online) and I'd like a system that's both visual and descriptive.

I am aware of but I don't like it. Pinterest was unsatisfactory for several reasons, including how impossible it is to search for things in your account. Also, I don't really want an account and a log-in for this purpose. I want something discrete, like a spreadsheet, but I suppose an app that I can install in a Windows environment would be fine. I'm even happy to pay for decent software that does this.

What I keep track of with the patterns: (1) Pattern Company, number, copyright date. (2) Yardages, notions, fabric suggestions. (3) If I've traced, cut, or altered the pattern. (4) The description of the garment per the sleeve. (5) Fit notes or other notes. I have a jpg for every pattern as well.

What I keep track of with the fabrics: (1) yardage and width. (2) Care instructions, whether it's been pre-washed and fiber content. (3) Description (e.g., "Kaufman classic seersucker midnight stripe") and source. (4) Which pattern I intend to use it for or eventually which one I do use it for. I have a .jpg for every fabric.

I also catalog notions (buttons, bias tape, zippers, stabilizers, elastic, hem tape, cording, trim &c): width/length/yardage, color, number & size for fasteners. I don't keep track of needles or thread.

I'm not worried about making relationships between entries. But that might be cool. Maybe nothing's going to work better than Excel and I'll just have to click through to the browser every time I want to see the pattern sleeve.

Again, I'm in a Windows environment. I am absolutely not going to be doing this on my phone and I really would prefer something I can install and just have, rather than another account with another service I have to keep track of.
posted by crush-onastick to Grab Bag (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
What about Evernote? You could browse or search by tags (ie, "#yardage=3")
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 5:03 PM on June 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Perhaps overkill or too complicated for your taste but check out tiddlywiki- it's a whole little wiki that lives in one file and you can put images and markup and interlink etc. it would be some work but you could make a "page" for each pattern with the notions/fabric/yardage needed and then be able to search/skim/share easily.

Oh and it can be built and run from most any web browser on most any platform/OS.
posted by SaltySalticid at 5:28 PM on June 30, 2016

You might be able to dig-up an older (thus, hopefully affordable) copy of Filemaker Pro for Windows. In a previous job, we used Filemaker for much of what you describe, including photos of items on-page with their database entry.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:29 PM on June 30, 2016

2nding FileMaker Pro, very intuitive.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 5:55 PM on June 30, 2016

If you have Excel, do you have Access? I'd guess a database would be pretty handy for this.
posted by hilaryjade at 7:38 PM on June 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

posted by plexi at 7:52 PM on June 30, 2016

I'm in a Windows environment

You can build your own forms, and essentially create your own Fabric App with Microsoft Access Forms. Just import your Excel spreadsheet into Access.

It seems complicated but it's not too bad. There's a bunch of tutorials online, like Lynda and YouTube.
posted by plexi at 8:02 PM on June 30, 2016

I have used Scrivener to do something similar for knitting patterns. It is so flexible that you could set this up in a multitude of ways. It has keywords and custom metadata as well as plenty of ways to take free form notes. It would allow you to view and sort the records in an outline or shuffle them around as images on a cork board. You could easily store associated links, make links between records, group in collections, etc.

You can download it as a free trial.
posted by bluebird at 12:53 AM on July 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Here's a blog post from Colette about organizing patterns -- the author recommends using a lightweight database app like Tap Forms or Memento Database. I bet you could use Evernote for this, too. Here's another post from Colette about organizing a fabric stash. It includes a free download for fabric tags on which you can make notes and staple a swatch for easy reference.
posted by ourobouros at 5:50 AM on July 1, 2016

You can paste screen shots into Excel. Use the Windows>>Accessories>>SnippingTool to take a cropped screenshot of your sleeve detail, Copy it, then put your cursor on a cell in Excel and press Paste. It doesn't work if you are in editing mode in the cell - it won't paste into a line of text. But use your mouse or arrow keys to select a cell and then paste it.

The top left corner will stay with that cell during sorting. I am testing this now and my screenshot is way too big to fit inside one cell and it covers nearby cell contents. You can make your cells bigger to keep the screenshot full size, or use your mouse to select the screenshot and then use those little circles on the corners to resize it very small, like a thumbnail. When you want to actually view it, select the pasted object with the mouse and use the circles to stretch it while looking and put it back to tiny when done.

Keep a link to your .jpg file in another column as a link to the full size picture.
posted by CathyG at 7:52 AM on July 1, 2016

Hm. Well, Memento seemed perfect, but they want $x/month for the rest of my life in order for me to be able to import and export my own data, which won't fly. Too bad,

Guess I'll give Schrivener and FileMaker trial runs.

I don't have MS Access but I have the OpenOffice equivalent. Guess I need to set aside a weekend to look at the internet and find tutorials on creating my own forms or--if I'm lucky--discover that someone has already made the form and shared it!

posted by crush-onastick at 10:20 AM on July 2, 2016

Check out
posted by 4midori at 5:46 PM on July 2, 2016

This series about using trello for managing sewing projects and fabric stash might be of interest too (full disclosure: the author is a friend of mine, but I'm using her method too, and it works well, although I have a lot less fabrics and projects)
posted by motdiem2 at 2:04 AM on July 3, 2016

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