For someone who doesn't typically follow patterns and instead just makes it up as she goes, I have a large collection of patterns, both pdf and printed. One of the reasons I don't use them is that I can never remember what I have and what I've made, and any thoughts I had about them when I made them! I've been struggling to get things under control for a while now, and I think I have a fairly good system in place (although it's maybe a bit too complex at the moment).
Step 1: Wrangle all physical patterns into one place and put them in order
I looked at a few different solutions, and one of the difficulties with this step is that pdf patterns tend to just be larger and more unwieldy than regular printed patterns that come in neat little envelopes. Once I use a printed pattern though, I'm not very good at stuffing them back in the little envelopes neatly. I don't remember where I got the idea, but I ran across these things called job ticket folders, which are basically heavy duty plastic sleeves. They are typically used for construction jobs, and other types of projects where there are important pieces of paper that need to be around for a while. I ordered 60 of them on Amazon, as I wanted everything to be in the same system, even if they are probably overkill for the printed patterns. I have a canvas bin they fit in perfectly, with just a little room to grow. If the collection does grow, I have another bin they can overflow into. I organized them by pattern type (i.e. dresses, pants, shirts, etc), but I didn't worry too much about them being in a specific order, because I have a solution for not having to dig through them too much coming up. I am thinking about doing some kind of common label across the top of the sleeves, but that might be overkill, since it's fairly easy to tell what each pattern is just by looking. I think that might just be busy work.
Step 2: Wrangle all digital patterns in one place and put them in order
I tend to use pdf patterns a lot, which while they do have their drawbacks (i.e. who wants to tape together 32 pieces of paper?), I like the flexibility of reprinting them if I make changes, and I'm not going to lie, the instant gratification of downloading. This means a lot of digital files though, so I set up a folder on my Google Drive (which I use for all my documents except photos), and I use a common naming scheme to make it easier to find things:
pattern type-brand-name (i.e. Dress-Named-Inari.pdf)
Step 3: Put everything in a pattern binder
As I mentioned in Step 1, I don't want to have to dig through all the patterns to see what I have, so instead I took a note from the big pattern companies and made a book! I made a Word document which has one page per pattern, and I pasted either a picture of the front and back of the pattern envelope or the relevant info for pdf patterns, and left space for notes. This way I can say, oh, I would like to make a dress, and flip through all the dress patterns without having to spread them all over the place to see what I have. It's a lot of work, and I've only just started doing it, so we'll see how this goes. In theory, I love the idea, but maybe I would rather just sew than spend the time keeping up my pattern binder.
Step 4: Pull it all together in a database
This step is super similar to Step 3, just in an electronic form, the main difference being it doesn't contain the pattern images and info (like fabric requirements, etc). Being an engineer, I want to have a database of everything, so I set up a note in Evernote that keeps track of all my patterns, whether they are a physical pattern (either a printed pdf or a regular pattern), if they are in Google Drive, in the pattern binder, and if I've made them before. This is a lot simpler to keep up than the pattern binder, but it a bit repetitive. This is a quick way to make sure I have properly filed all patterns in their respective places though.
It's a bit of work to get it all set up (primarily getting my pattern binder all put together), but theoretically it will be fairly simple to keep it going and insert new patterns in the mix. Anyone have any good suggestions to simplify? How do you store patterns and keep track of them all? Am I just crazy? :)