Quick Tips to Organize Your Embellishments

24 Mar 2011

When I start a project, I like to walk into my studio and see all my supplies neatly organized. And while having an organized fabric stash is important to starting any project, I’m going to argue that having an organized embellishment stash is equally important to FINISHING any project. Embellishments don’t fold nice and flat on shelves like fabric and they also fall into the “out of sight, out of mind” category. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in my studio, ready to add the final touches to a project, and muttered to myself, “Now if I could only find…”


And while it can be a nice surprise to find something I’ve forgotten all about in my studio, it usually is followed by wishing I was just a bit more organized with my embellishments. So taking inspiration from my (more) organized fabric stash, and to celebrate a little spring cleaning, I’ve come up with five quick tips I used to get my embellishments ordered, organized, and ready to go.


1.   Sort by color-- I like to organize my embellishments by color. I’ve found that when designing a new project, it helps to have buttons, beads, and found objects already sorted by color so I can visualize how I might use them in a project.

2.   Sort by size—I also organize large collections of items, like buttons, by size. This makes a huge difference if you have smaller buttons, as they will get often lost among the larger pieces.

3.   Keep containers small and easy to sort through-- Use small containers to make it much easier to find what you’re looking for. Containers that are wider rather than deeper make it easier to quickly see items. In my studio, I use small vintage flower pots to organize scraps of trim, yarn, and bits of lace. The flower pots make an otherwise unruly pile of fibers look neat and pretty. I also wash and save glass jam jars and use these to hold buckles, beads, and sequins.

4.   Display your items on shelves for easy access -- Nothing is more frustrating than not being able to access your embellishments. Dedicating a shelf or two to displaying your embellishments not only helps keep them organized, but can also add a great deal of style and color to your studio. Artfully displaying your embellishments also makes them easier to use.

5.   Be flexible— Different artists use different embellishments and there is no one solution to solve storage and organization problems. If your organization method isn’t working, keep experimenting to find solutions!


How do you organize your embellishments? Any tips you’d like to share?


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Maria Elkins wrote
on 29 Mar 2011 11:49 AM

It helps if containers are clear so you can see contents at a glance and not have to read every label.

It also helps if containers are uniform in size. Makes stacking easier and also makes it easier to re-organize your boxes as your needs change.

Try to keep thinks as close as possible to the area where you actually use them. Makes it easier to clean up afterwards, or to grab something quickly without interrupting the flow.

pjmockit wrote
on 29 Mar 2011 12:34 PM

Organize them, now there's a thought...lol That's one area that can use some work. I have two drawers of larger embellishments. The smaller ones are kept in tins with clear tops to see at a glance. I separated the larger items by type (grungeboard, rub-on words & letters, wire, etc) and tucked them into large zipper-topped bags, but that's bulky. Appreciate any suggestions you have for those.

on 29 Mar 2011 2:34 PM

I do that too - sort fabrics by color.  Fabric scraps are in big ziploc bags.

However, as for embellishments, I have clear bins of color.  And those colors include everything.  So my red box has red ribbon, red buttons, red beads, red yarn...  My white box has white ribbon, white wool, white beads, white yarn,... etc etc.  I found it too difficult to have each embellishment separated on it's own, and then separated again by color.  This way when I need blue, I can see all embellishments that are blue at once.  I find can make a better choice that way regarding texture I think.

Good topic!

~Monika Kinner-Whalen

dsavage wrote
on 30 Mar 2011 2:35 PM

Love it..... thanks for the tips!!

tiny3 wrote
on 2 Apr 2011 7:43 AM

i am useing 2 liter pop bottles cut in half for my small supplies, i slip the top half on and they stack pretty neat this way, also the cat , and dust can't get to them. this is a egco way to go, thanks for sharing as i had to learn to organize, i even use water bottles.  ps the new containers for baby food are great,

WhoopeeGirl wrote
on 3 Apr 2011 5:45 AM

Baby food jars and small jam or jelly jars with the lids are great for beads.  You can see them, but if you drop them your beads don't turn into vacuum food.  I keep game pieces, corks, bits of yarn and fabric, keys, watercolor paints, knitting needles, etc., in clear glass containers I find at the thrift stores or yard sales - cookie jars, mason jars, wide-mouthed vases.  

Ribbons on spools - take a round wooden base (I used a plaque about 4" across), screw a dowel (mine is about 1-1/2' tall) into the middle, paint the whole thing a pretty color (aqua!), slide the spools on, and then screw an antique glass drawer handle (or whatever you like!) into the top of the dowel.  

I've also been using peg board to store my tools for about 5 or 6 years now.  I framed it with a really pretty clearance frame I painted ivory.  It makes it really easy to find tools that way.  

Now.  If I could just organize my fabric collection...

WhoopeeGirl wrote
on 3 Apr 2011 5:52 AM

@ pjmockit:  For stickers, photos, weird little bits of paper and gum wrappers, sheet music, bingo cards, etc., I go to craft stores and buy plastic scrapbook paper boxes.  They're about a foot square and about three inches tall.  They work great for me and everything lays flat.  The ones I buy aren't completely clear but I label them so I know what's going on inside!

fabric100 wrote
on 9 Mar 2013 12:59 PM

Years and years ago, I inherited several large button and embellishment collections. It was wonderful, but a bit overwhelming at first. I started with the buttons first and found a solution that is still functional (and holding together) 20 years later.

I bought good quality ziploc sandwich bags and stitched 5 o 7 together, by covering the ends of the bags (non-opening end, obviously), with bias tape. The bias tape 'bound' the bags together.

Each bundle represented a color and size of button. I had SO many, that I divided small red and large red into separate bundles. Each little bag held matching buttons if there were a large enough quantity of one size or similar size if there were not more than 8 of one size.

The bundles are stored in large Rubbermaid containers that are about 9-10" square. I write the variety of contents on a 3x5 card in bold dark letters. The card is lightly taped to the inside of the container, so that it is readable from the outside. The containers stack nicely on the bookshelves I used for storage.

I did not know how long the sandwich bags would hold up, but they have survived much abuse over the past 20 years. Now, I may just sort my other odds and ends the same way.

You can also recycle ziploc type bags that come from other sources, such as our pharmacy that uses bags that are about 4x8. They would be great for longer items.

on 9 Mar 2013 2:24 PM

I don't understand what tiny3 is saying about the top halves of her bottles. Is there a way to post a pic? this could be interesting.

I stupidly took all of my ribbon off the reels and put them in zip lock bags, but I'm hating it, they are in a tub and I can't find a thing!


on 5 Jul 2014 9:21 AM

This is for Susa and anyone else trying to organize ribbon and trim.  At Christmas, I saved several long cardboard rolls when the paper was used up.  For ribbon not on rolls, I wrap it around the long rolls and clip it with a paper clip or tape it.  One roll is lace trims, one colors, etc.  I can get about 8  different types on a roll.  I then run another scrap ribbon through the roll with a dowel rod and hang it up in my supply closet.  Ribbon on rolls is stored on a dowel rod similar to what Whoppee Girl does.  Hope this helps.