Help! How should I organize my sketchbooks?

I draw a lot. For every issue of Craft Leftovers Monthly, I burn through about 2 dozen pages or so of my sketchbook, drawings, notes, patterns, and to do lists. For each post, at least a few pages. I see things, I read things, they inspire me, I write them down, tear them out, save them. I get a snippet of an idea and jot it down. How in the world do I organize all that so I can actually reference it later?

I don’t.

And that’s a problem for me.

These are my sketchbooks from the past year or two, some others are already in storage at home. I have 3 boxes full of them + many folders of drawings and small paintings.

I read once that Martha Stewart has an army of interns that file away her ideas for her in a complex, multi-filing cabinet system in her at home studio. I would love that. Without an army of interns, how do I make a system that’s both simple to maintain and works well?

I’ve been thinking more about following her example and setting up a filing system to capture all these ideas and things. I thought about just cutting all the pages out of my sketchbooks and dividing them into categories which would be the easiest way to do it. But that really pained me the more I thought about it.

Some are just notepads I don’t mind dissecting into their categories, but some, like a few hard bound ones, I have a harder time taking apart. And some sketchbooks show a really nice history of where I was when I did that, almost like a diary. Well, exactly like a dairy, just a visual one.

One option I thought about was to number each sketchbook, then photocopy everything in it and label each photocopy with the number so I know where it came from. Then I would file all my sketchbooks chronologically and all the photocopies alphabetically according to category–like “pattern,” then tag it “knitting.”

That would be the best way to do it because I would preserve my sketchbooks. I would also have an easy way to find my original notes for patterns I’ve written (always longhand, always drawn) which is increasingly problematic.

There is only one problem. I don’t have an army of interns and that’s a lot of work.

Do any of you file your ideas/resources/references? How do you make it happen?

Any suggestions for an easier system idea?

On a side note: I’m excited that I even have the time to contemplate such organizational topics. It’s been far too long. :)

Happy crafting!

8 thoughts on “Help! How should I organize my sketchbooks?

  1. It’s a tough one, for sure. I make a separate note of especially good ideas on my computer but I also allow creative time for just reading back through old sketchbooks.

  2. You could number the books and the pages and make a indexe where you reference/name the important things you might want to refer to later, either in the computer or in the beginning of each books. I also use tabs a lot, to separete the different areas of interest in one ongoing notebook.

    Being or becoming organized is hard work, but in the end its a great thing… I guess. ;-)

  3. I’d scan them rather than photocopy if possible and index them electronically. I find that often, even without indexing, the preview icons of the scans let me narrow down an image search very quickly.

  4. Evernote to the rescue! Evernote is a free program designed for just such things. It is an incredibly diverse program that would allow you to tag and organize your ideas into themed “notebooks,” all electronically. I would suggest taking photos of each page and uploading them into Evernote that way rather than scanning, it would be much faster. Good luck!

  5. Not knowing your funding situation, I would suggest a scanner and Evernote. Evernote is an extremely rad app for collecting and organizing information. It will hold your scans and PDFs and web pages and everything you can think of, even audio notes. There’s an iPhone and iPad app and they all sync so you can access your stuff any time. You can tag each page and organize them in notebooks. Check it out. As for the scanner, any flatbed would do, but I would also suggest checking this one out… It’s called a HoverCam and it would allow you to just lay your notebook down and take a “scan” of it from above. Might be faster than a flatbed. I’m saving up for one myself.

  6. I’m stuck with the same problem. Lots of sketchbooks and no easy way to organize them.

    What I’ve been doing (mostly), is saving the first page for my contact info, the date, and a general subject matter. If the contents are more varied, I add little post it flags to stuff when I need to reference it later.

    It’s not a perfect system but it works for me.

  7. If you are going to take the time to photocopy them why not find someone that can scan them onto a zip drive. It will take a bit of time to label them, but if they are stored electronically you have a way to search them. Placing them on a zip drive gives you an instant back up in case of computer crash and keeps the bulk off your hard drive, too.

  8. I like to scan instead of copying. It’s quick and saves paper ($) as well as file drawer and attic space (both of which are at a premium in my house). You have the option of storing stuff on your hard drive or CD or another removable storage device. Another timesaver, you can name each file and organize it in the same step. Example “sewing nb12 p4” for sewing project number 4 in notebook number12.

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