How to Organize Your Quilt Fabric Stash

8 Sep 2011

pokey bolton

quilt fabric storage
My fabric stash.
Three years ago I gave my studio an extreme makeover. I not only redecorated in my favorite colors, I changed the layout for better function, and organized my tools and embellishments.

But the single most important change I made, and the one that has been the most satisfying, is that I organized my quilt fabric stash by color and purchased vintage locker bins to store them in.

I really like this method of storing my stash, because I can see the colors when I enter my studio, and that inspires me. I also like the fact that the bins can be taken off the shelves for use while still containing the fabrics. When I'm finished, I enjoy folding my fabrics again and putting them away for the next use.

This method works for me, but it's not right everyone. A lot depends on how you use your fabrics.

quilt fabric storage
Carol Taylor organizes her fabrics by value.
Value is a key element in Carol Taylor's quilts, so she organizes her fabrics  accordingly. Carol has a wall full of shelves in her studio, and she stacks her fabrics on them by value. A sliding design wall covers the fabrics and helps shield them from dust and UV rays.

quilt fabric storage
Judith Trager stands her fat
quarters on end.
Judith Trager also organizes by color, but stands her folded fat quarters on their sides. Judith, who is known for her landscapes and for small art quilts that reflect her wit, sorts her novelty prints separately.

I know many artists who specialize in fiber or mixed media collage; they often keep scraps in large bins. They like the serendipity of discovering a color or print combination that they wouldn't ordinarily think of. Designer and artist Betz White keeps her felted wool pieces unfolded in bins so she can mix-and-match patterns and colors easily.

quilt fabric storage
Betz White sorts scraps by color,
but doesn't fold.
Fabric artists who work with pieces larger than fat quarters often hang them, using tiered skirt hangers. Or, they roll and stack their fabrics. We've seen many different ways to organize fabric stashes, thread hoards, loose fibers, and more in the pages of Studios magazine. If you're looking for a better way of containing your stash (the better to use it!), be sure to check out these artists's spaces and many more in back issues of Studios.

P.S. How do you organize your fabric stash? Folded and stacked? Do you separate solids from prints? Everyone wants to know, so share with us!


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aukling wrote
on 8 Sep 2011 12:06 PM

I use vintage metal market baskets on shelves to hold my fabric -- which is arranged by color and folded -- fabric size is fat quarters or smaller -- I place them  on end into the basket

larger pieces are flat folded and stacked in bins -- they are arranged by fabric theme and color. I seldom separate my solids from the prints,  I love having the fabric visible as I work in my studio -- it helps me visualize my project

Pam Smith

MsDaisy wrote
on 8 Sep 2011 12:55 PM

I found that I can recycle tissue boxes by removing the top of the box and then store fat quarter size fabrics by color or value standing up. It makes it very easy to "thumb" through them to find exactly what you need. I am a art quilter. I store larger pieces of fabric by color on two tall book shelves covered with clear vinyl to keep dust free but still I am able to see what I have.

MollyI24 wrote
on 8 Sep 2011 1:08 PM

My fabrics are folded with the fold out and stacked by colors on open bookcase shelves so I can easily see what I have.  My batiks are on their own shelves, and fat quarters are in small, clear containers within their color groups and are also easy to see.  I make a mess when I'm working on a project, but since I have a good base for fabric storage, it's much easier to put it back together again . . . until the next project and mess begins!

on 8 Sep 2011 1:13 PM

About 15 yrs ago I took an old metal multi-drawer file cabinet from my parents's house.  It had about 40 drawers. Here is where I began my fabric organizing by color and shade, white to beige to pink, through deep navy to black.  As the fabric stash grew I had to invent different ways to organize. In the next house it was on shelves in a closet. Now the current house, I have mainly taken over my son's long closet. I had wire shelves put in and purchased many, many med to small clear covered bins. I still have my fabrics sorted by color, and placed standng with folded side up, rather than flat blues seem to take up the most as there are lt blues, med, dark, teal, turquoise, etc.. I label each bin and then because of my folding method , when i open the bin , I can see at glance the different fabrics without having to take them all out. I can stack them two high. I also have specialty bins, like flower fabric, William Morris fabric, collections You know those ribbon wrapped collections of fat quarters that go together, 30's fabric, my black and white, white with black and red and white. Novelty fabrics. It really saves me time in searching.

on 8 Sep 2011 1:22 PM

When I first started sorting my fabric I had taken from my parent's house a 40 drawer, metal file cabinet. it was organized mainly with quarter and half yard fabric by color, including white and black and a couple of drawers for embellishment stuff. Now in my current house I have taken over most of my son's 6 ft long closet . I added shelves and purchased clear plastic bins in small and medium sizes. I label each bin. I only put 1 yard or under in each bin, I fold them and put them upright with folded end up, this way I can see what design and shades are in each bin when I take the lid off.  I sort by color, or degree of color depending on the amount  of that shade. So I might have light to med light yellow in one bin, and yellow to gold to dark yellow in another.   I also have bins for novelty, 30's , black and white prints, flowers, William Morris, and litte sets of either solid color packs or those little ribboned groups sets you buy in fat quarters. This serves me very well and I can easily retreive and glance at what I might need.

laleona wrote
on 8 Sep 2011 1:36 PM

One thing I've learned is that just because you do an extreme makeover one time, you will need to keep organizing.  New fabrics, new tools, new ideas mean new ways of organizing things.  I wish it ONCE and DONE.  Alas, it isn't.

I use a heavyweight plastic containers with holes in the side to keep the fabric breathing and thick enough to keep the light from doing much damage.  I got these at the Container Store on-line.  

Betty Craven wrote
on 8 Sep 2011 1:45 PM

I sort my stash, keeping quilting fabrics separate and then sorting them by color and storing them in one spot.  The rest of the materials are sorted by color and stored in a different spot.  I store them in plastic bins that show the colors.  When I need a certain color for a certain project I can just choose the colors I want for that project, choose the patterns I want and put the bins back.  

on 8 Sep 2011 2:18 PM

I agree with Laleona. there isnt a once and for all organizning. I have reorganized a few times through the years because of a new space, new tools, new way of doing things.

debp33 wrote
on 8 Sep 2011 2:25 PM

I love looking at peoples' stashes!

I wrap my fabric on comic book boards, then store my fat quarters in shoe cubbies I found on clearance. I took some of the dividers out of the shoe cubbies to make more space for wrapped fabric.

I don't know if I'm allowed to post links here or not, but here's a picture of what that looks like: debzpicaday.blogspot.com/.../day-57-of-365.html

(Moderator, feel free to delete the link if necessary.)

mistydeming wrote
on 8 Sep 2011 3:07 PM

My quilting room is half of my guest room. So to keep my fabrics easy to access but "pretty" for those who don't like to look at a stack of fabrics (those crazy souls) I put mine in hatboxes.  I have long flat ones for fat quarters organized by color and other boxes organized by color and some by pattern type then color within the box.  I use little stick up notes on the boxes to tell me what fabrics are in each one (my paisley fabrics deserved a box of their own!!!).  Its a bit of a pain sometimes when the notes fall off (like when I moved) but then you get to go through your stash and see all the wonderful things you have that you forgot about!  I use a letter holder on the wall above my cutting table to hold pencils and small scissors for easy access.  And my cutting table is an old desk top mounted on top of two side by side kitchen cabinets with drawers for stashing all those other "i need it close by" things.  I use shoe cubbies for organizing and stashing yarns.  Of course there are always fabrics that I have out which inspire me!

Misty

Janetstudios wrote
on 8 Sep 2011 3:41 PM

My studio of fabric consists of plastic containers full of fabrics, one is for cottons, for crafts, and quilting etc. Another container is for knits for tshirts and things.

One more container for used clothing that will be repursposed. Yet another container for muslim and cottons, burlaps,  for crafts, these are big plastic containers that are see thru and then i have two smaller see thru containers for all my fat quarters. I have lace and other things in bags. I always have alot going on and try to keep it under control.  

anita reed wrote
on 8 Sep 2011 6:10 PM

I buy collections and keep it together in bins.  This way all of the fabrics go together well.  I have had many people  ask me how I get my colors to match so wel  and that is the answer.   I have found designers'  new collections often go with the old ones also.

Marion BP wrote
on 8 Sep 2011 9:13 PM

I have a whole spare bedroom with a double doors which should be used as hanging space. I purchased sets of clear plastic containers which are in a file-like stack & have placed these in the cupboard. I then sort my fabrics into sets e.g. baby materials, florals, colours(going from light to dark shades),flannels, quilt kits, fat quarters, charms & so-forth. Therefore I can easily go to the draw depending on the project I am doing.

The large boxed charm fabrics are stored on the floor & my utensils & mats needed are stored on the flat surface on top of the files. On the parcel shelf above is where the batting etc is stored.

Everything is neat & tidy & the doors protect  from light & dust.

The grandchildren know that this room is a No Go Area unless invited in  by me.

Marion B.P.

RaeVivienne wrote
on 9 Sep 2011 1:41 AM

My sewing place was once a bedroom, and has a short wall of built-ins - 2 hanging spaces, 2 sets of 2 shelves + 4 shallow drawers, and a central hutch with a mirror back and drawers beneath - 4 large and 2 small.  I took all the doors off, kept one hanging space for tall rolls of tearaway paper, pellon, vilene and the like, and had shelves fitted in the other and in any space that was high enough to take another shelf.

The big drawers hold a good collection of hand-dyed fabric, mostly fat quarters and half-yards, folded for the depth of the drawers, sorted by colour and stored vertically, folds up.  (After trying this, I will never stack horizontally again).  One drawer holds backing fabrics folded to fit the full width of the drawer.  The shelves hold bulky items (a lace pillow, a set of old treadle machine drawers for tapes, darning wool, odds & ends) and material for different projects in fridge baskets.  The small drawers hold prints - batiks, Japanese, stripes etc, and one drawer has Bits.  I've tied luggage labels to the knobs and used a collection of tea-towels collected for their personal meaning as curtains to keep dust and sun off the fabrics.

laabix wrote
on 9 Sep 2011 11:37 AM

I wrap my fabric around a comic book board and put in on shelves by color.  For scraps, I cut the comic boards into 1/3 strips and wrap the scraps around the very thin board.  Those thin boards are kept alongside each other in a shallow box that I covered with fabric; when I pull the shallow box off of the shelf, it is similar to pulling out a file drawer.  My fat quarters are folded and kept in those $1 clear plastic containers.  

taylorgal wrote
on 9 Sep 2011 1:07 PM

I just (within the last week and a half) pulled together my quilting studio.  I purchased clear plastic bins to put my fabric stash in.  They are organized according to color.  I am inspired by Carol Taylor's approach, but not good at value yet, so color will have to do.  I like to sort the bin according to value within that color, but I haven't gotten around to that part yet.  So glad to see this post!!  For a year I've thought about how I would organize my fabric stash if I could.  Now I was blessed to be able to do it.  Posts like these have been instrumental to working towards the goal of having my own studio.  Thank you!

cjfquilts wrote
on 9 Sep 2011 1:48 PM

I had a lot of my fabric in an Elfa drawer rack.  I found that this exposed the fabric to too much dust!   I now have a wonderful glass doored cabinet with drawer from Ikea.  It shows the colors and keeps the dust off!  I have my completed tops and quilts folded to show color/texture.  In addition, my fabric sets for specific projects are in there.  I also have another restaurant stainless steel rack for plastic boxes of the stash sorted by color.  It is a lot of fabric!

floozette wrote
on 9 Sep 2011 9:24 PM

I have a number of 48 litre/12 gallon translucent plastic tubs on wheels which fit into purpose-built spaces under a work bench.  The fabrics are folded in the bins in colours, eg, blue, green, orange/reds, pink/reds, etc.   I have one bin for patterned fabrics which have many colours and are difficult to classify into one colour or another.  This system works very well for me, as I mostly work in monochrome so I can wheel the current bin to wherever I want it.

Fat quarters have their own little boxes  into which they fit on end and because  the boxes are also translucent plastic I can see exactly what is in each one.

sabknits wrote
on 10 Sep 2011 7:54 AM

I store my fabric stash, which consists mostly of folded fat quarters, by color in large, shallow bins under my mixed media studio worktable.  The table will shelter two stacks of 3 bins.  I store all my fabric scraps in a large, covered bin.

Thanks for posting this article!  I've been thinking about rearranging to make it easier to access my fabrics and got some great ideas from the article!

jala wrote
on 10 Sep 2011 11:40 AM

I have changed my organisation of fabric stash. First I had all  by colour  solids and prints together. But now I know what I need for my work. So I changed my organisation and put fabric that I can use for Water and Skies together so do fabric which I can use for stones like houses and streets. Others are for flowers and so on. Also one case is filled with organza,s and Tule. For now that is how it works for me.

Greetings from Jacoba Lange (jala)from the Netherlands If You are interested to see some of my work pls go to http://codiart.blogspot.com

dfmrobinson wrote
on 11 Sep 2011 11:43 AM

20% of my stash is put together in fabric bundles that I will make as a complete quilt. So depending upon my mood, I look at the fabric design and color and pull out a package. This even includes the backing that I included in the original package.  I have so much fabric, I decided it was easier to put packages together so I would not get so irritated when trying to get fabrics together for a quilt. It works well for me. When I first did this, I had pulled all my fabric off shelves and bins and it took two weeks to re-organize my studio to be able to put quilt packages together.

on 12 Sep 2011 1:30 PM

Hooray for Carol Taylor in hiding her stash to prevent dust and which also helps prevent the fibers from flying around.  I wish all people would.  My mother worked at a knitting mill for 25 years where wool fibers flew around in the air and caked onto the wall fans plus the people had their own table fans during the summer. My mother also sewed at home, with her stash uncovered on shelves, and knitted yet kept the yarns in boxes.  Three months after she moved her sewing room from my old bedroom to a basement room, the doctor thought she had pneumonia.  After a biopsy, they found she had BOOP, Bronchiolitis obliterans with organizing pneumonia (see MayoClinic.com).  This lung disease is more prevalent in women than men. My mother was kept in a coma, because she couldn't breathe on her own. After a month, she was cured but the constant oxygen took the elasticity out of her lung tissue.  After 10 minutes off life support, my mother passed away at the young age of 70.  A year later, I finally had courage to clean out her sewing room and got the worst sinus headache.  The next time, I sprayed everything with Lysol and wore a mask. So please, folks, be aware of how you store your fibers ! - Leslee Gardinier, in memory of Barbara Gardinier

noggin wrote
on 14 Sep 2011 8:29 AM

more ideas please on b

noggin wrote
on 14 Sep 2011 8:50 AM

I also use Elfa wire basket ,but put them on shelves,with a roller blind attached to the top shelf. This keeps light out and dust at bay. Still trying to find an efficient way to keep all notions/sissors/ paper of all types/rulers,tidy. Any idea Sheila Daines Cambs England x

seamedUP wrote
on 15 Nov 2011 8:40 AM

You may like to check out the website www.seamedup.com where you can keep track of your stash, patterns, books, etc as well as assign them to the different projects you are working on!

We are building quite a community on SeamedUP and we would love to have you join :)

Neenyak wrote
on 3 Mar 2014 8:12 AM

Six years ago, I purchased an entire set of red oak kitchen cabinets and drawers  from a local recycler. There was a bank of lower cabinets, upper cabinets and enough extra to build a 36" x 60" cutting table in the center of my studio. In the upper cabinets and the cutting table cabinets, I arrange my fabrics by color with water, gradations, stripes, metallics and landscapes separated out. I fold the fabrics and stack them on the shelves starting with the lightest colors moving to dark left to right, top to bottom. It is such a joy to open the cabinets to all that color and yet be able to close all the doors between projects. In the lower cabinets are bins of wool arranged but color as well as by solid vs pattern. I also keep a small stash of larger cuts of fabric backs in there. I find that seeing too much diverts me from the task at hand as I am tempted to just play with the fabrics. Two sets of drawers for gadgets etc. are directly to the right of my sewing machine within easy reach and two other sets are in the cutting table island for fusibles, paper, patterns, sketchbooks and the like. I painted the walls tomato red and have a large double door glass slider on the south side for natural light. Just to the left of that is a design wall that I glued cork to, top to bottom, for pinning without damage to the wall. It is my workplace, my hideaway, myheaven.

emerald41 wrote
on 29 May 2014 3:17 PM

If you store your fabraics by color, do you sort fat quarters, layer cake, 5"x5" squares, etc? I am a beginner in quilting and I am learly of not being able to get the right colors to make a quilt. Thanks