Friday, January 16, 2009

Organizing Your Stash - The Database

Last Saturday, I had the opportunity to share with members of Empire Quilters one of my tips for organizing my multitude of quilting items. We commiserated about finding a hot new gadget, getting it home, and finding out you already had it. Ditto for books, templates, stencils, etc. This, by far, is the most important organizing tool I own, and it is easy enough to do. I am including a sample of my book database below, but if you would like a sample file to download, subscribe to the blog and send me an email.

A database is a fancy word for a computerized, sortable list. There are many ways to create a database; the most popular programs are Excel and Word. I prefer Excel simply because formatting and manipulating the database is a little bit easier, but the input for Word and Excel are exactly the same. I have a master database, which is comprised of several smaller databases, including books, patterns, inks/dyes/paints, templates/rulers/stencils, markers/pencils, batting, thread/floss/yarn, and notions.

Because of my formatting limitations here, I have taken a photo of my screen which appears at the top of the blog. Below are the fields (columns) in my book database, and I have provided a sample entry and described the information that I input in the column. The most important thing for you to remember is that the database should make sense to you. If you need more columns, add them; if you don't need all the columns that I have, delete the ones you don't need. I type everything in capital letters to make the inputting faster.

TYPE BOOK Is it a book, a magazine, an ebook?
TITLE 1000 GREAT QUILTING DESIGNS Self explanatory; Omit The if it starts the title.
AUTHORLAST ROBERTS If there are two authors, I enter both last names.
AUTHORFIRST LOUISE If there are two authors, I enter both first names.
CPU 22.95 Cost per unit; how much did it originally cost? This is for resale purposes.
SUBJECT M I created a one or two letter system for categorizing my books; i.e., A= applique, AQ = art quilts, etc.
The hard process is gathering your stuff and doing the initial entry. After that, it should be simple to to maintain. I hope this helps you get started, and feel free to answer any questions. The full database will be available on my website at a later date for a nominal fee.