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HELP :P My fabric stash is transforming into ONE BIG PILE OF FABRIC'.. It needs organization and I'm sure you have a suggestion about how to do it.

Do I sort by color or theme? I have a lot of themes, like dogs, cats, lumber, coffee, food, flowers, americana, etc. But I also have a lot of miscellaneous fat quarters from "friends". Then there are the "donation" boxes from well-meaning friends who are 'cleaning'.

I don't have a lot of storage space, and I don't have room for more furniture. I can stack in a corner and under the table, and hang from the ceiling. Right now it's all in a closet in bags and baskets--where the sun doesn't shine. AAARRGHH and I can't see what I have.

Do you use baskets? or boxes? or bins, ----or what's out there?

Maybe there's a thread that already addresses this issue. Point me in the right direction, please?


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I store my smaller pieces of fabic in a mesh shoe holder that I got in the laundry section at Target. It has a bunch or pockets on it and it's mesh, so I can see whats in there without digging through. I screwed two cup hooks into the wall and hung it up. Works pretty good. Peggy

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I have 5 plastic 4 drawer dressers type gizmos, 10 large plastic containers, and a zillion bolts of fabric....the bolts are under my bar on the shelves, (we don't use the bar, it was here when we moved in), the plastic containers, are under the quilting machine, and the dresser types are under the cutting table....I at one time had it all organized by colors and all the themes were all in one container, but since things have gotten messed up. A project to get finished also here this summer.

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LOL. I recently convinced my cleaning lady to help me organize my quilt room. She knows nothing about sewing, so I was there to direct traffic. We took everything out of the room, and put it all back in. It turned out Great! Then, about two weeks later, I was looking for something and noticed the large bin under my cutting table labeled "MUSLIMS". I couldn't help myself. I was ROFL.

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There is an IKEA store in Portland...can you get there to take a look at all their organizational aids? I keep most of my fabric in their wire bin units (like the elfa ones only MUCH less expensive). Depending upon your space you can buy a 4 basket rack, a six basket rack, or you can stack two of the 4 basket racks. I know everyone has a different system...I have most of the fabrics colorized but there are also separate bins for solids, batiks, novelties...and I have a big plastic tub of 1 and 1/2" strips and a few tubs of backing fabrics. IKEA makes a very inexpensive rack meant for pot lids that works great for rotary rulers. Take a walk through their marketplace and think about re-purposing some of their storage items. Oh yeah, some IKEA stores even have fabric too.

For space saving, a gal recently did a demo at our Guild meeting...she folds in all the raw edges until the pieces are similar widths (depending on your storage containers), then wraps each piece of fabric tightly around a 3 or 4" ruler. It did seem to save some space and all the neat edges are visible in drawers or bins or boxes so that you can see what you have, when you need it. Hope this helps.

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I have had my fabrics sorted by color, then I decided that didn't work, so I tried to group fabrics that would "play nice" together, then, I tried to separate fat quarters, sorted by color from the larger pieces and after all of that, I still don't feel that I have a very good system. So I will be watching to see what everyone else does and see if that will work for me.

I do have a large "utility room" closet that I put a 4 drawer wire mesh unit (from Lowes)into it & that has most of my fabric in it and the top part of the cabinet holds some of my larger things like my quilting hoop, some big round bins that hold craft supplies, crochet hooks, knitting needles, etc. I also have 7 or 8 - 3 drawer plastic stackers that also have fabric in them. I think that I have enough fabric!!! Oh, did I really say that? ignore that last remark. :o

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Love what Darlene did to the place!

I use the big plastic bins from wally world.... I sort by color, and by theme... I also have project boxes where I keep the fabrics that "play nicely together" waiting for their turn to be turned into a LOL work of art!

I recently went through all my fabric, even the boxes that were 20-30 yrs old, and donated about 1/3 of my stash to a quilt guild that does charity quilts. It felt great to do that on soooo many levels!

I've become more and more objective about my belongings, it's so freeing to just get rid of stuff you'll never use! Kinda like all the old recipes in my cookbook - you know the one - the old Betty Crocker with the binding that's falling apart because you stuffed sooo many recipes in it? Purge! Be realistic about what you will really use and what you won't. You won't feel so overwhelmed.

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I this I've used a bit of both methods.

I have fabric sorted by project and then by color ans I have made it a point to fold them all the same size so they stack well, and then there's that stuff you just through in on top, lol;)

I have the 70 gal see thru plastic bins that have scraps in them, mostly folded, and then I also have a section for large pieces of fabric that I might use for backings---I keep them seperate so I can see at a glance what colors I have for use once I finally finish a quilt...(huh, what's that???):P

And, while your going through those bags and find fabric that you've purchased and wonder what you were thinking I recommend seperating them and giving them to your local guild.

Best of luck in your journey to re-organize your fabric

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Hmmmm Lots to think about. Thanks to everyone.

I do have a cabinet in my laundry room that is FULL of wrapping paper--Christmas, birthday, etc. I think it is time to "re-purpose" that cabinet. I can see now, nicely folded remnants colorized on one shelf, themes on one, batiks, etc. WOW what a thought. :D

Pictures? Thanks for the link to Darlene and quiltville. When I'm done I'll post a pic.

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I sorted all of my commercial fabric into plastic sweaterboxes, from Target, Walmart, wherever they were on sale. They are the size of two shoeboxes. I divided them into colors, except the prints that had no dominant colors, and those went in their own box. Also, batiks have their own box. Conversation prints, like pigs on motorcycles, etc all had their own box too. (I finally gave that box to a friend with small children. Her kids interacted with the fabric more in one day than I had in several years.) The sweater boxes work well for quarter yards, you can fold the fabric up and see each piece. Full yards go into bigger bins with lids.

Last week I moved all of my "commercial" fabric into my daughter's closet and discovered my stash wasn't really that big after all. It only had a few stacks of fabric from what I collected. I did have three bins of fabric from my own lines with Cranston's Quilting Treasures, I hadn't noticed that they built up so quickly.

My hand dyed fabric lives on a bookshelf. I dye 4 yard long pieces and fold them raw edges together, and then selvedge to selvedge so I have three stacks on each bookshelf, five shelves high, arranged in colors. I did notice that ironing the fabric makes it take up less space, but I'm too lazy to iron all the 4 yard lengths just to save room. After a while the stacks flatten a bit under their own weight and I can put more fabric on top. (Or maybe I'm actually using some, hard to tell....)

I keep my "international fabrics" stuff I collected when traveling or people gave me them, on a shelf too.

If I were just starting to sort out my fabric, I think I'd group it all by colors, except for the batiks and the "International" fabrics that I've collected, those could have their own pile and then I'd see what size containers I need. The smaller the container, the easier to see all of your fabric options at once, and it's easier to put them up on a table and grab from what you want, then digging through a big bin. Or trying to heft a bin up on a table.

I think one key, is to buy everything you can at once, so the lids from one container fit on all the others and you don't have to waste time looking for just the right lid. And they stack better too.

I hope that helped!



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This is a huge problem for me. My mother would come over and spend two days in my basement and organize everything. It would stay that way for about a year and then she would come do it again. She had amazing organizing skills. It was obviously not genitic. She has passed and it's been about three years and the area keeps getting worse. I an thinking of bartering with a friend who has those amazing organizing skills.


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I have been reading the great book "It's all too much" by Peter Walsh about clutter. He mentions that it is impossible to put 10 pounds of stuff into a 5 pound bag. If you only have room for a certain amount of fabric, no amount of organizing, and no purchase of organizers will make it fit into your space. Keep the fabric that speaks to you, and get rid of the excess. When new fabric comes in, old fabric has got to go out. Otherwise we will end up buried under our fabric. ;-)

Janet Mohler

Colorado Springs

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I use the big plastic bookcases from Walmart that you snap together. Then I buy the plastic tubs that are the size of a dish pan. I find the smaller tubs better because I can really see what is in there. I organize by colors groups, maker like all of Kaffe Facet all together. Then all 30's together. Some groups are quite a bit larger so I use bigger bins. Martha Stewart is not coming to see it but oh well. Then I periodically have to get out lots of fabric to play with and look for colors and it gets put spread out on the floor. Yikes a fabric explosion. I call my fabric storage "MY Store" It's my personal fabric store. I constantly tell myself to check my store before I buy more but it's not a perfect system. I know I have more than I can probably ever use up. When I get a will I will say to donate it all to project Linus or some other worthy quilt work so I don't feel super guilty just super quilty.

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I can address the sorting of fabrics. Storage will be dependent upon your space to a large degree. I have a vast stash. I, too, was trying to re-sort. I found I had to combine methods. Right now, while my studio's still being built, I have them in plastic bins w/color-coded 8 1/2 x 11 thicker paper(written w/Sharpies) stating what's in each bin. The thick (so it can be pushed in and out when adding stuff) paper is inside the bin, but faces the front so I can read it. I won't do plastic long term w/o lining the sides w/muslin as at some point the plastic can deteriorate and leach oil into the fabric. You also have to be careful if you live in a humid/damp area, as they can mold.

I, at first, said I'd organize like the quilt stores do, which is what I almost follow. These are my steps:

If I buy fabrics to make a specific quilt, they go in a bin (along with a reference to a pattern or book page, picture, etc.) marked "Kits". On the paper, I then write the name of the quilt, type, etc. below it. So w/o opening (these are stacked 5 high) the bin I know what's in it. When possible I take a photo of the pattern and put it on the paper or the bin. If I buy a kit it also goes here. These are bins I know I can grab what's in it and make the quilt w/o more fabric.

If I buy a fabric grouping, but have no specific quilt in mind, this goes into another bin marked " fabric medleys". I list the fabric line and mfr. on the 81/2x11 paper. I have found that for me, these tend to run in several directions, and each has its own bin. So, one might be marked "purple/lavender/green" floral fabric groups, or "Christmas medleys", or "Pastel florals", or "Funky Retro Fabrics", my current rage.

If I buy a fabric just because I like it, say, an Art Deco pattern, it will go into a bin marked "Art Quilt Fabrics", or "Landscape Fabrics", or "Fabrics for crazy quilting" (typically not cottons). If its just a normal easily usable fabric, it will go into my grouping called "Fabrics by Color". Each bin has a few colors in it. "Blues", Greens", "Black/white/grey". Batiks have their own bins, too, based on color.

In the above ways I try to emulate the way quilt stores group fabrics.

That brings me to what to do w/scraps. If the scrap is at least the size of a fat quarter, it goes into its appropriate bin, which could be a new bin for that fabric (say, if its an almost solid). If scraps are on the small side, they get cut up into 2 and 2 1/2 inch strips (for strip and log cabin quilts, etc.), and placed into a strip scrap bin. If smaller, they get cut into a 2x2 square scrap bin (for watercolor type quilts/backgrounds). I also cut 1 1/4 strips and put them in a bin to make rugs with. Anything smaller gets thrown out. That leaves me with the in between size, say--3/4 of a fat quarter, which is still too good to cut down into strips. These are all small, so I fold them so I have one fold facing the outside and sort by color and stack them. These have their own bin.

I also do not stuff the bins to the top--I'll typically start a new bin. I do this as when I used to stuff bins to the top, if I went into it looking for something, I found it hard to get everything back in. So I leave a few inches at the top, then start another bin. So I have a "Kits 3" bin.

Good luck!

Marlene in Tahoe

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I've tried the Rubbermaid bins. After hurting my back lifting and toting them, I gave up on that, and almost gave up on quilting. It seemed by the time I found the fabric I needed, I was too exhausted (firbromyalgia) to do anything with it!

NOW I have a system that's worked for about 15 years. I love it because it's portable, versatile, and moves with me and reconfigures in a new house. I got my cousin on the same system and she lives in a one bedroom suite and has LOTS of fabric, so I know this works, whether you have a lot of space or not.

IKEA!!!!!!!!!! I use their Antonius wire basket storage system. I started with just one 6 drawer unit. As I could afford it, I added more, until now I have 5 six drawer units and 8 four drawer units. Unlike my last sewing room, where I had them tucked into any space I could find because of the odd shape of the room, I now have a full wall of 6 and 4 drawer units stacked (10 high) and another bank of 3 four drawer units at the end of my cutting table. These have a melamine counter top on them and a cutting mat. It's the perfect height for my little granddaughters to stand at. (Yes, I started them standing up to sew.)

The beauty of this system is that you can tuck a unit anywhere. My cousin has no long hanging clothes, so we raised her clothes rod a bit and put the drawer units underneath her tops and pants in the closet. We had round tops made for end tables and she uses 4 drawer units with round cloths on them for her night tables. That's 8 more drawers of fabric!

Now to organize the fabric! I think I've gone through just about every system there is, but after reading a book on color (don't remember which one) I got an idea. Many fabrics have many colors. Where do they fit in? The book talked about getting a lot of texture into our quilts and I realized that's how I like to construct my quilts. I like lots of texture. So here's how I organized the fabric. Each drawer has a hanging label on it so I know where to look. (Grandkids like to switch the labels on me and some have gone missing :o;) )

How you label them is up to how YOU quilt. For me, this is what works. Over the years I've changed the style of quilts I make and have deleted (given away) collections of some textures, like a lot of small florals.


BACKGROUNDS - these are tone on tone fabrics or ones that read fairly solid from any distance.

White, Creams, Browns, Blacks (includes my collection of black and whites), Blues, Greens, Yellows (incudes oranges), Reds (includes pinks)

BATIKS (3 drawers), SM.Florals, MED.Florals, LRG.Florals, Stripes, Plaids, Dots, Leaves, Paisleys, Vines, Nature (woodgrains, rocks etc.), Swirls, Novelty, Christmas, 30's (3 drawers), Childrens, Flannels (3 drawers), Hand Dyes, Fossil Ferns, Hand Painted (Phil Beaver), KITS, Fat Quarter projects (bagged) etc.

The beauty of this is that I can put my hands on any piece of fabric in about 15 seconds. All fabrics are folded so they stand on end and I can see at a glance what's in each drawer. I can easily pull the drawers out and take them to the cutting table for closer inspection.

I also have bolts on a bookcase (IKEA) and under my cutting table. If you were short of space you could use these drawer units as the base of your cutting/pressing table. Or you might be able to fit the 4 drawer units under your sewing table. Just look around and see where you can use them creatively.

IKEA even has large drawers on castors that fit under beds. Hubby never needs to know that the master bedroom is actually housing a lot of your stash! :cool:

Get that fabric organized in a system that works for YOU. Then you can actually enjoy the process of quilting. You may also find you've bought the same fabric 4 times like I did! :mad:

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Ditto, on IKEA.

I got great shelving units at IKEA that we then put on mover's dollies. I have them lined up sideways so they don't take up so much wall space. When I want things on the inside I just roll them out and push them back in when done.

I also got nifty boxes at IKEA. Very inexpensive, with little label slots.

My stash is sorted a couple of different ways.

Accents/blenders, by color. Some by theme, i.e., Florals, plaids, solids, Christmas, juvenile, Batiks, etc. Sets that I get for a specific purpose are put into boxes marked kits with the pattern. Fat quarters, or large remnants are in boxes by color. Another very vital thing I have finally started doing is keeping binding fabric for tops, completed but not quilted, in a seperate basket. Don't ask me how I found this was vital.

My DH asked me once if I found it easier to just go buy more fabric than trying to go through what I already had, LOL. He was right, it was. Now I actually DO go to my stash once in awhile. I also strongly feel that being able to see my stash all nicely stacked and visible lowers my blood pressure.

Pictures are posted in webshots.

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I took the metal shelving out of a standard closet and put in metal "linen" shelving about 6 shelves 90" long. I have one shelf for paper etc for stamping. On the floor I have a serger, a big paper holder that fits under the first shelf, and misc rulers and items I use fairly often. 2nd shelf holds kits, fabric collections, fat quarters, etc. All the rest is sorted by color--except fabric with real themes--that's stacked together. Flannel is together, home dec fabric is together. First time I started a project I actually used fabric out of the stash--instead of buying more fabric! I'm sure I don't have near as much fabric as most of you--but that same closet was piled 6 or 8 high--and five or six across with clear rubbermaid type boxes with lids--and of course I never wanted to get to the bottom of any of those. I'm better now about keeping only pieces large enough to actually use! It's like having a store in my sewing room--I love it! (we'll see how long I'm able to keep it organized!) Jane

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I follow the method I found in a quilt magazine - sort by color, but also by light, medium and dark. So - I have separate containers for Red-light, Red-medium, Red-dark, Red/Orange-light, Red/Orange-medium, Red/Orange-dark, Orange-light, Orange-medium, Orange-dark, etc.

Doing the mix of colors and not just the main colors really helps. Is this red? or is it orange? It's red-orange!

I agree with Darlene about sorting by how you quilt. I do a lot of scrappy quilts and only buy fat quarters or 1/2 yards, so this works for me. I have separate containers for florals (I do a lot of watercolor quilts) and novelty.

I have yardage for backings in a separate location. I only buy this at "yard sale" prices, like at guild quilt shows where people are selling from their stash at $2/yard.

I also have my scraps sorted by color and make lots of scrap quilts. My fellow guild members bring me bags of the stuff...


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WOW What a response to my dilema! You guys are the greatest. I'm getting the idea that I need to do some sincere soul searching and look into my inner being to determine my true quilting style, and need for keeping what I have.;):D;)

If I can't take it with me, then I'll leave it behind in someone else's stash. If I dedicate one cabinet to my stash and limit my habits to just that cabinet, then it's in with the new and out with the old.

If I haven't used it in a year--out it goes. I wonder what quilt shops do with their old inventory? I know I've bought bargains that have a sun-bleached crease--or worse. I don't want mine to do that.

Well, I'll be working on this project for a couple of weeks and I'll let you know how it progresses. Thanks again to everyone.

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