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Friday, October 31, 2014

What Makes or Breaks a Sewing Pattern Database Entry

So... in my last post I mostly just said what is going on and that it's a massive task (building a huge database with information about sewing patterns). But I didn't really say how and why exactly we're doing it from a bird's-eye point of view. And I actually wanted to say something about how a good pattern entry looks like.


  1. Have you ever had difficulty finding a pattern for a project idea you had?
  2. Do you own a lot of sewing magazines and lose track of what patterns are in what magazine?
  3. Is your stash so large that you could use a site to help you organize it?
We're building a site where a lot of interesting sewing information comes together.

Patterns are linked to the sources (books, magazines) that contain them. Patterns are linked to their size charts so that you will be able to search for all patterns that use a certain size chart and are available in a certain size. We're indexing the data in such a way that you can really drill down into the search results to find exactly what you're looking for.

The center of the site are your stash your projects. But it doesn't end there. You can link fabrics and patterns (or even pattern views) - allowing you to move along these links to get to the related information. Add a magazine from the pattern sources database to your virtual stash and the site lets you browse all the patterns that are contained in your stashed magazines!

The magic lies in that the site understands dressmaking enough that it can give you this powerful search. A search that lets you actually find the things you're looking for - without having to click through a huge load of useless results (as found on Google when you're searching for patterns).

We're building something that you can truly make your own by setting up your own space for yourself and your friends within the site.


We're starting with a smallish set of tags (currently around 250) that can be attached to projects and patterns. These tags talk about sleeve length, neckline style, waistline style, and so on and so on. It's detailed enough to be able to do interesting pattern/project searches, e.g. for "ankle-length dresses with v-neckline and empire waist".

In addition to the tags recognized by the site, we can tag projects and patterns with any keywords we think suitable - and when we recognize a popular tag, we'll make sure to gather it (and all of its synonyms) into a site-wide category. The system is flexible enough to be able to handle that.

We're adding brands, publishers, magazines and books to the database and linking them up to the patterns. That lets us search for patterns by brand, by magazine, by book, by publisher. It's really quite simple.

So what does a pattern entry look like?

A pattern entry on the site currently consists of the following:
  1. A name. For commercial patterns sold in envelopes, there's often a pattern code - in this case, the name starts with the pattern code and proceeds with a short description of what the pattern is for, e.g. "2498 Dress".
  2. If applicable, the brand under which the pattern is published. The system automatically puts the brand name of the pattern in front of its name whenever the pattern gets shown.
  3. If applicable, the size chart of the pattern.
  4. If applicable, the designer(s) who designed the pattern.
  5. If applicable, the source(s) in which the actual pattern can be found (usually a magazine or book).
  6. If applicable, the fabric requirements of the pattern as specified on the pattern.
  7. The official URL of the pattern.
  8. A list of pattern properties. Pattern properties are things like whether it's a "paper pattern", a "print-and-tape PDF", or some "pattern drafting instructions", whether it's designed "for woven fabrics" or "for knit fabrics".
  9. A list of finished object attributes. These are the tags that describe the object that can be made from the pattern, i.e. here we have the tags mentioned in the previous section
  10. Optionally, a pattern can have several pattern views that each describe the different variants of the pattern specifically. While the finished object attributes recorded on the pattern apply to all the views, it's possible to add additional finished object attributes to the individual views. Having a system this flexible is particularly useful for patterns that have completely different views (e.g. pants and top).
  11. Optionally, a short description of the finished object(s).
  12. Optionally, additional notes about the pattern. Currently, we record fabric recommendations as well as notions requirements here.
At some point, we'll extend the system so it lets us record fabric recommendations and the list of notions needed in a searchable way.

What makes a good pattern/source entry?

A good entry...
  1.  has the relevant tags - so it can be found through the pattern search.
  2.  is named in such a way that it's easy to put it into your virtual stash. That is, it's named exactly like written on the envelope / magazine (wherever possible). When you enter something to your stash, you get a dropdown menu that lets you search through the names of the patterns.
  3. links to the specific brand that is displayed on the pattern envelope / magazine. I.e. when I'm adding a "Vogue Easy Options Custom Fit" pattern, I link it to the brand "Vogue Easy Options Custom Fit" - a sub-brand of Vogue Patterns.
  4. has projects attached. With your linked project, you're helping others to find out whether a given pattern is for them or not. You're also helping others with your notes on whether the pattern instructions are clear and whether there were any troubles with the pattern or not.
In short, a good pattern entry is useful. Anything that makes a pattern entry more useful makes it better. :)


  1. This is super exciting. I was just complaining on FB that there needs to be something like Ravelry for sewers.

    1. I find it super exciting, too. And I know I'm not the first who tries to make it happen. It's pretty challenging, but also a lot of fun figuring out how things can work so they're useful.

      Soo.. back to working hard on making it useful soon. :)