I used to use the same trick Rodney Dawes describes in Subverting Subversion. Yes, it was very annoying to have to set everything from a file every time, or from stdin.
Ah, but there’s a better way, and people new to SVN seem to somehow miss this valuable command.
$ svn propedit svn:ignore
Up comes your editor, just as if you opened .cvsignore. You can now safely nuke your .cvsignore files. This is a useful command, so write it down until it’s burned into your brain.