I love fabric. I never seem to come home from the fabric store with just the fabric I need for my project. It eventually became an organizational disaster... couldn't remember what I had, couldn't find it if I did. Something had to change.
Talk about storing fabric for a long time, a couple of years ago my grandmother gave me nine yards of beautiful brown flowered silk. My grandfather brought it back from China at the end of WWII. My grandmother could never bear to cut it. I can't bear to cut it. Someday, maybe I'll come up with a worthy project. Until then, I want to keep this 60-year fabric in the pristine condition it's in now. This is what inspired me to finally organize my fabric stash.
I know people who have fantastic ways of organizing their fabric stash: by color, size and fabric content; folded on acid-free boards, labeled with swatches in notebooks. Oh my! I admire people who are so organized, but I struggle. If it's too complex, I won't stick with it. This is my easy organization system. If you have better ideas, please, PLEASE, post them in the comment area below.
Like many people, I have limitations on how much fabric I can store. My sewing area is in the guest room which, lucky-for-me, has a walk-in closet. This is where I keep my stash, away from light and out of view, yet still accessible.
I bought nine identical plastic containers at the local Kroger store. I like them because they're all the same size and shape, and:
- They were cheap; $5.99 each (on sale).
- They are a manageable size: Twelve gallons; 21-1/2" L x 16" W x 12-1/2"H (546mm x 381mm x 317.5mm).
- Stackable. I have them stacked three-high in the closet.
- See-through. The fabric is reasonably easy to spot without opening the container.
- Easy to open. These containers have hinged interlocking double flaps that are very nice to open and close.
Really, any see-through container you like is fine.
Divide Fabric by Size
In some of the more elaborate fabric stash systems, people organize by color, by size, by type of fabric and more. However, when I finally decide I want to use something from my stash, it's often with a project in mind. I want to see only the fabrics that are big enough for the project.
We all have buying habits. I tend to buy 1-1/2 yards when I don't know what I'm going to do with it. I also buy irresistible remnants. I have a lot of what I'll call "medium-sized" pieces of fabric, a good bunch of small stuff and fewer larger pieces. Your buying habits may cause you to plan your containers differently, but this works for me:
- Two containers: Scraps and remnants under 1/2 yard.
- Three containers: More than 1/2 yard to 2 yards. The bulk of what I have.
- Three containers: More than 2 yards. I have less pieces, but they take up more space.
- One container: Wool and silk. I save my old cotton pillowcases and store silk in them. That's how my grandmother stored the silk she gave me. Wool goes in plastic. I keep this container filled only about 80% and I duct taped a small cedar block to the upper lid where it does not touch the fabric.
That's my limit! Your limit may be greater or smaller; so measure your space, figure out how many containers you can store, and when you hit FULL, either sew or discard.
It's a great idea to prewash and press your fabric before storing it. Then you are always ready to sew. I just put it in the laundry room and wash and when convenient.
I neatly fold all my stored fabric selvedge-to-selvedge, and then in half and in half until it's about 5-1/2 inches wide by about 9 inches highs. With pieces bigger than 2 yards, I just do my best. How you fold doesn't so much matter as getting it to be fairly consistent in finished folded size. Stacks are placed flat in the appropriate container. I can see through through the clear containers well enough to normally go right to what I want.
Some people use stainless steel pins to attach a label recording the fabric information to each piece of fabric. That works, but if you have a computer, use it. You can create a simple spreadsheet as I did, but a simple document file is adequate. When I cleaned out all my fabric, I spent a little time online identifying the fabric I already had as well as I could. Now, when I come home from the fabric store, or as I order fabric online, I add it to the list (I didn't bother with remnants). The spreadsheet below is a sampling from my full spreadsheet to show examples of how I've entered data:
I usually remember what a fabric looks like once I see the name, but I can quickly look it up online if I forget. Just having a system, any system, is a big step in preventing closet fabric avalanches.