Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Organization and Resources

Sue Jacobs recently posted about her methods for organizing her patterns, and the question has come up before in various blogs and groups. It came up again in the Zentangle Inspired Art yahoo group. And, I've been meaning to share the techniques I decided upon for a while now.

This seems like a good time. :D

First off, I subscribe to several sources for notices for new patterns. Some of them are:

Molossus / Sandra Strait over at Life Imitates Doodles keeps a pretty good eye on new tangles being released. It helps that she's a (the?) moderator to the Freehand Doodle Patterns pool on Flickr. :D

Those that she misses are usually picked up in Genevieve Crabe's Weekly Roundup at Amaryllis Creations / Tangle Harmony

Usually, by the time they appear on another wonderful resource, Tangle Patterns, I've seen them on Sandra's or Genevieve's lists. But not always.

Of course, I haven't even hit the official resource, the Official Zentangle Newsletter. Any new "official" patterns that are released over the web are released in their newsletter.

And these are just the online resources. Don't forget the various books out there. I can highly recommend any of Sandy Steen Bartholomew's Zentangle books, or Maria Browning's Time to Tangle with Color. Those are the only ones I've gotten so far, and they're all wonderful even just to flip through and look at for inspiration.

So, once you have *located* the patterns... then what?

Books are easy. Set them on the shelf within reach of tangling. :D

But what about the online patterns?

What I do first is save the steps to a directory on my computer. I also have subdirectories for my own patterns and creations, and for images that inspire me, and for potential future pattern references. I then use Google's Picasa to view the images (though I've recently realized that it doesn't pick up on the png files that I've saved, or the gifs. Those, I've had to print through windows)

When I get either a pattern I really want to print now, or a multiple of four, I'll print them four to a page. That's what I've found to be the best compromise between number on a page and ability to see the steps. I tried nine to a page at first, and that was too small on too many patterns for me.

I then put the printed patterns into report covers with easy slip-on binding. I like that better than trying to punch holes in them and put them in an full big binder, because it's easier to flip through for me and easier to just grab one of the mini-books (6-15 pages each) and run out the door when I'm going to mom's or the doctor's. It also makes it very easy to remove a page once I've drawn out all of the patterns on that page.

When I finish making a pattern card (which I'll detail a little later), I'll make a check mark next to the pattern I just drew out so I know I have that one in my cards. Sometimes my cards show steps, but usually it's just the finished pattern. Once I have all four patterns from a page on cards, I'll remove that page and set it aside to give to mom for *her* collection. If I need to look steps up again in the future, I've still got the digital copy, but usually I can remember how to do them by looking at my card.

As for these cards... they're ATCs, with the pattern square a 2 inch square. I use Bristol Smooth for the cards, and always use black (with occasional red or maybe a touch of sepia for variation) microns. Except on rare occasion where I've forgotten the pattern name, I try to include both the pattern name and the designer on the card. Noting the designer name makes it easier for me to direct someone else to that pattern, gives credit to the steps that were used to create that particular pattern, and allows me to note who some of my favorite pattern designers are so I know to watch for theirs again.

I've tried some of the other types of ATCs, vellum and watercolor most notably, but didn't like their textures or how the ink went down quite as well for a reference card. I do use the other materials in actual projects, but not for my pattern collection.

I keep the pattern cards sorted into deck boxes. Right now, I've got them in one box for the official patterns, one for "borders, bands and lines", one for "grids" (patterns that are best done on a grid), and two for anything else. But I'm going to have to expand the grids to a second and the "catch all" to a third before long. Right now, all the patterns in the boxes are sorted alphabetically by first letter, but that's not going to stay that way for too long.

The idea behind the pattern cards was to be able to mix and match patterns easily, hold them up to each other to decide which ones to use, and even to shuffle them and that way randomly select a handful. I've done all of the above.

(Side note, you may notice my other use for ATCs and reference... my materials reference cards. Those I have on a key ring and have punched holes in. Though the card that is up on that one is my graphite card, I have samples for all of my pens, gel pens, and some of the pencils. My intention is to eventually have cards for all my colored pencils and watercolors, too. But that's another project...)

Originally, the pattern cards were meant to be portable. And they are pretty portable. But I'm up to around 500 cards now, and that's not nearly as quick to flip through as I originally intended. And with well over 1500 patterns out there, it's only going to get worse. :)

So, enter yet -another- organization project. My pattern reference -book-.

This project I've mentioned before, and it's still ongoing. I am up to the letter "i" now, but I already failed to leave enough space for all my patterns in some of the letters... so I'm going to have to either make *another* book, or go to the other side of the pages. These are done on a moleskine japanese fold-out book. Each letter has anywhere from 1 to 4 pages, with 15 squares on a page. Each square is just under an inch square, except the letter box, which *is* one inch.

And this is going to be a long project, considering mom wants one too.

These little samples aren't meant to be major examples, but quick reference to decide on patterns to use on projects. It's also a lot more portable than my entire collection of pattern cards.

Hope this helps some of y'all who are trying to decide on your own organization system. I'd love to see what y'all use. :D


  1. awesome work. Thanks for sharing.
    Sydney Australia

  2. Very interesting. Thanks so much. I've been wrestling with how to keep a reference of tangle patterns and I'm liking the ATC size idea, which would store in ATC plastic sleeves in a binder. I like that you can pull them out and place them side by side to see the effect - especially useful for ZIAs.

    I have a list of tangle names divided into Grids, Borders, etc. too, but there's no image with them. I think my List and the ATCs may be a system that will work for me. Fingers crossed!


  3. Great system!!! you are very organized! I had no idea there are that many patterns out there!!! Wow!!

  4. Thanks for some great suggestions, Tammi! I confess I'm still searching for the best way to organize all the tangles I have collected (1,200+).

  5. Great ideas! I've kind of fallen into disarray lately--I used to keep everything so neat and organized. But now that I've learned the coptic stitch for bookbinding, I want to organize my patterns and get them bound into a reference that I can lay flat.

  6. I wonder what would be involved in getting your accordion fold resource book published and made available to the rest of us. I know I'd be first in line!

  7. Mitzi -- for one thing, I'd have to become a CZT, if I understand things correctly. And that's not in the cards right now, unfortunately. But if you visit Mafe's site, (tangle brazil, it's on my list of followed blogs), she has one similar that she is able to sell. She's where I originally got the idea, I just expanded on it. :)

  8. Love the fold-out book idea!! I save the tangles into a word doc and print each page out as it fills up...and all the pages are in a flip file...I also put other tanglers inspiration in so I always have patterns at hand.