Are you tired of digging through your fabric stash to find the perfect piece? Follow these five tips to organize your fabric collection and make sewing projects a breeze!
Tell me I’m not the only one that has too much fabric! A few years ago, it was such a mess that I had a hard time finding what I needed. So, I came up with a new system to help me decide how to organize fabric.
It has worked so well for me that I thought I’d share it with you today. Along with some of my favorite tips for organizing fabric! If you like this post, then you may also like this tour of my sewing room.
Table of Contents
- How to Organize Fabric
- Five of my Favorite Tips Fabric Storage Ideas
- One: Don’t store fabric by color
- Two: How to Organize Holiday Fabric
- Three: How I Organize Fat Quarters of Fabric
- How I Store Pre-Cuts
- What is a Fat Quarter?
- Four: Fold and Sort New Fabric ASAP
- How to Fold Fabric Neatly
- Frequently Asked Questions
Like many of you, I’ve got quite a large stash of fabrics. I love to “collect” them in little bits. A yard here, a half a yard there, leftover jellyroll strips here and there. I’ve been “collecting” fabric for about eight years now and realized a couple of years ago that my organization system was NOT working.
I could never find what I needed when I needed it. Also, I ended up forgetting about certain prints until they were found months later under a pile of stuff. I did not make for a productive workspace. Previously, I kept my fabric sorted by designer/line on my IKEA bookshelf. I just haphazardly folded the yardage and piled it up with out any sort of fabric organization plan.
How to Organize Fabric
As my blog grew, so did the number of projects I was completing on an annual basis. Not only was I collecting fabric, but I was also using it almost as quickly (which is good, right??).
I soon realized that I needed a better system. A friend of mine told me how she used quilt rulers to fold her fabric so that it was all the same size (you can also use pieces of cardboard). She also mentioned that she organized it by color, not the designer.
I spent an entire week refolding and organizing ALL of my fabric. I got a big folding table out and went to work. After I was done, I was so happy with the results that I don’t know why I didn’t do it earlier.
I’ve had my fabric organized that way for about five years now, and I love the system.
Five of my Favorite Tips Fabric Storage Ideas
One: Don’t store fabric by color
Don’t get me wrong, 99% of my fabric is folded neatly and stored on a bookshelf by color. However, I think a few fabrics are better stored elsewhere.
I have separate racks for large-scale novelty prints, stripes, and basics. For example, I keep all my gingham and pin dots together.
Two: How to Organize Holiday Fabric
I keep my Christmas and Halloween fabric separate from the rest of my stash, folded into labeled storage cubes or fabric bins. I love to sew for holidays and think it’s easiest to keep all of that fabric together. Also, I keep my fabric scraps in Ziploc bags with the fabrics. (They are the only scraps that I store in my stash).
Three: How I Organize Fat Quarters of Fabric
For the most part, I store my fat quarters with my yardage. I unfold them so they are the same size as the folded yardage. I keep my bundles together, though. After I use them, I sort the extras in with my stash. I have a friend who keeps her fat quarters organized on pants hangers and hung in a closet, which also seems like a great idea!
How I Store Pre-Cuts
I display unopened pre-cuts on a bookshelf in my sewing room. They are so pretty, and I love that they double as cute sewing space decor!
Until recently, I threw the leftovers from my precut fabric stacks into my scrap fabric tub. Then I realized that I frequently needed just one or two pre-cut squares for a project and have since then started storing my leftover pre-cuts in a separate storage container.
What is a Fat Quarter?
A fat quarter of fabric is a quarter yard of fabric that is cut to yield an 18″ x 22″ piece of fabric rather than a 9″ x 44″ piece of fabric from a traditional cut. It is common to see pre-cut fat quarter packs of fabric for sale. Many designers write quilt patterns designed specifically for Fat Quarters.
Four: Fold and Sort New Fabric ASAP
I am not naturally organized, but I fold my new fabric and sort it as soon as I get it. I also try to refold what I don’t use after each project.
Since I spend many hours a week sewing (for this blog and for fun), it’s important for me to try to stay on top of the mess. It gets out of control sometimes, but I try to keep those times few and far between.
How to Fold Fabric Neatly
Once I began storing my fabric on a bookshelf in my studio, I noticed that a lot of fabric looked sloppy and knew I needed a better fabric storage solution.
I decided to unfold and REFOLD all of my fabric so that it was the same size and looked uniform on my shelf.
This accomplished a few things. First, it allowed me to see all of the prints of fabric I own more clearly at a glance (i.e., they don’t get lost under a sloppy piece of unfolded fabric). Second, it makes it easy to leaf through the pile of fabric to grab the print I want. Third, it just looks so much better. Since I don’t have a closet in my sewing studio, it helps to have visible storage look neater.
One: Decide on the Width of the Fold
You need to decide whether you want your piles to be 4 ½″, 5″, or 6″ wide. For me, the 5″ width fits perfectly inside my IKEA bookcase. I have the Expedit; I believe they have changed the name to KALLAX since I bought mine.
Two: Fold the Fabric Selvage Edges Together
Begin by making sure that your fabric is folded with the selvage edges even and is as flat as possible. If the selvage edges are off (for example, if the fabric was folded at an off-angle previously), I take the time to refold it the right way.
Three: Fold the Fabric around the Ruler
Lay your ruler on top of the fabric, with about 3″ of fabric over the top of the ruler.
Fold the fabric over the top of the ruler.
Then using the ruler as a guide, fold the fabric again, making sure to hold onto the part of the fabric that you folded over the first time. Keep folding until you get to the end.
Pull the ruler out and fold the fabric in half when you reach the end.
Four: Stack and Organize the Fabric
You now have a perfectly folded fabric that will look great stacked up on your shelf. The best part is when you want to use it, you unfold it and cut the part off that you want, then refold it, and it keeps its shape.
The stack of fabric above was folded with a 6″ wide quilt ruler, just so you can get a feel for the difference in size from 5″ to 6″.
Do you guys have a favorite way you keep your fabric organized? What about your fabric scraps? I’m terrible with scraps!
Frequently Asked Questions
I have not had a problem with this. Since I mostly sew with quilting-weight cotton, I would wash the fabric to remove the dust if dust were to accumulate. I also live in a humid environment and worry that fabric may smell if it’s kept in a closed container. I would prefer wire baskets to closed tubs.
I don’t! I know that many people are very passionate about this subject, but I have not had a problem with excess shrinkage or fabric bleeding in my finished quilts. If you sew with high-quality quilting cotton, color bleeding is not as much of a problem since their mills use higher-quality dyes.
I don’t. I have a good “instinct” for how much fabric is in a stack by the thickness of the folded fabric. I know many people keep a Post-it note pinned to the folded stack and note how much they use as they cut the fabric.
I don’t personally use that method, but a reader does and was generous enough to share how she does it.
“I use comic book boards that are 8.5″ x 11″. For half-yard and longer cuts of fabric, I use the board full size. Match salvages and bring the folded edge down to meet the selvage. Overlap an inch or two on the board and begin folding. I secure it with a straight pin in the corner.
For fat quarters, I cut the boards into fourths. I follow the same method as above. Place your selvage edge towards you and fold down until it fits the size of your board, and then fold as above.I use the board full size for half-yard and longer cuts of fabric
I keep my yardage in a shelved cabinet and fat quarters in a chest of drawers.”
Right now, I have two big baskets under my sewing table and throw them in the baskets. When they fill up, I donate them to a friend who makes scrappy quilts. Soon I plan to keep back a select amount of scraps of novelty prints and store them in a plastic tub. I wanted to make an I Spy quilt last year and realized I didn’t have any scraps to make one!
I live in a very humid climate. Even though we have dehumidifiers in our home during summer, things still get pretty damp sometimes. It would mold if my fabric were stored in a closed plastic bin. If you live in a drier climate, then that may not be a concern for you.
My sewing studio is upstairs in a room with skylights but no windows. The skylights make it so that there is no direct sunlight in my room to fade my fabric. I would not store fabric near direct sunlight or right next to a window because it could fade over time.
Yes, but only because, as a fabric designer, that is how the fabric is sent to me by the manufacturer. I keep my bots on bookshelves in my sewing room.