I spent the last few days of 2022 getting organized and ready for the new year. As part of a larger studio clean up, I tackled my fabric stash. The situation had gotten out of control over the past few years and I decided it was time to tame it. Over the course of a few days, I touched every single piece of fabric in the studio (and bins that were spilling into the hallway) and decided what I wanted to keep and what I was ready to part with. For what I was keeping, I committed to organizing it in a way that not only looked nice but also made it useable — meaning I could actually find it when I look for it. Today, I’m going to share my system for organizing my fabric stash. I hope it inspires you!
Side note: I donated two large boxes of fabric, batting, and other tools that served me in the past but I am unlikely to use in the future. The materials went to my local Creative Reuse store (a store that sells upcycled materials and gently used craft supplies).
Here’s a photo of the studio before (sort of*):
*to be fair to me, I didn’t capture this photo until I started pulling supplies and materials out of the closet to begin cleaning and organizing. My space wasn’t always this messy, but you can see how haphazard the fabric in the bins was before the clean up!
My biggest tip for tackling a fabric purge/reorganization:
Before tackling my studio reorganization, I set some rules/guidelines or boundaries for myself. Here are the 7 boundaries that currently feel right for me and how I work:
1. I am only going to keep fabric that I still like and is good quality.
I’ve been quilting for about 10 years. When I first started quilting, I used inexpensive materials—partly because I was experimenting and partly because I didn’t know good quality, quilt shop fabric existed. There’s nothing wrong with using inexpensive fabric and thread, especially when you’re starting out. While going through my fabric, I also discovered fabric that didn’t appeal to me anymore. It happens! Our taste and preference change and there’s nothing wrong with giving fabric to someone who loves it more than you do!
2. I am going to organize my fabric by color.
I love rainbow color arrangements so that’s how I’m going to look at my fabric collection. If I’m going to be in a space 8+ hours a day, I should be surrounded by what makes me happy. Plus, by organizing bins in color order I know exactly where to find what I’m looking for. You may ask what I did for colors that aren’t in a traditional rainbow. I also have bins for gray/black, white, brown/cream, and multi-color.
3. I am going to organize my fabric that is at least a 1/8 yard by type (print or solid).
In my main bins, I’m only going to keep fabric pieces that are 1/8 yard (or a Fat Eighth) or larger — more about what happens with smaller pieces below. I find it takes a lot of time when I’m looking for the perfect shade of a solid fabric and have to sort through fabric that I know I’m not going to use. If I’m looking for a solid, I don’t need to be browsing through prints (and vice versa). For each color of the rainbow, I have a bin for both prints and solids of that color. I also created some subcategories within bins like:
• multicolor: geometric / floral / novelty
• white: low volume (or white on white)
4. I am going to keep scraps that are smaller than 1/8 yard in separate bins.
I do occasionally make scrappy quilts or just need a little bit of fabric to prototype a design so hanging on to scraps makes sense for me. That said, scraps can QUICKLY get out of control so keeping lots of little pieces of fabric may not work for everyone. To tame my scraps, I’m going to also organize them by color in their own bins. Anything less than 1/8 yd or a Fat Eighth is in this category. The tricky thing is determining what is the minimum size that I hang on to. To be honest, some of the scraps I kept are as small as a 1″ square. I have some projects in mind where these would be useful so I kept these small pieces. I hope by having my fabric organized, it will motivate me to get these scrap busting projects into gear! Interested in more on how I organized scraps in the past (and still have some of these systems in place)? Check out 7 tips for organizing your scraps.
5. I am going to use the same family of bins so everything fits together.
I’ve been using clear Salma boxes from Ikea , in several sizes, for years and they work well for me. If you go the direction of plastic storage containers, I HIGHLY recommend finding one product and sticking to it. One of the things I like most about my storage containers is that they’re all consistent. This makes them easy to stack (no teetering containers) and pretty to look at. Even though I use two different sizes, the width and length of the boxes from Ikea are the same, making them easy to stack and the lids are interchangeable.
6. I am going to take the time to fold all of my fabric to roughly the same size and label every bin.
I learned while reorganizing how long it really takes to fold fabric, but it was well worth it. While deciding what I was going to keep and what I was going to gift, I touched and folded every single piece of fabric to a standard size (roughly 8.5″ x 11″ fits perfect in my Salma bins). While I “sort of” folded all of my fabric previously in the photo at the top of the page, really taking the time to fold consistently does make the fabric look SO much better and makes for an efficient use of the space in the bin. I took the time to write a label indicating the color and if it was “prints only”, “solids only”, or “scraps only”. We have a label maker, but I decided I wanted the “friendlier” version of my own labels—writing neatly with a new fine point Sharpie and Artist Tape. I then organized my bins by prints, solids, and scraps so I essentially have 3 rainbows in my studio!
7. I am going to be adaptable and bend some of my boundaries when it feels right.
I do have a couple of bins that don’t totally follow the guidelines I outlined above. I have a collection of Art Gallery Pure Solids so I kept them all in one large bin (in rainbow order of course). I also have a few print collections by specific designers that I adore and I kept them in their own bins, neatly folded.
Here’s a photo of the studio after (sort of*):
*I work in a pretty small space, so tables and some other necessary items were moved back in after this picture was taken!
SOME CLOSING THOUGHTS:
Organization is an evolving process and requires upkeep. Did you notice how I started each boundary with “I am” — this is a reminder to myself that I need to maintain (and evolve when needed) this organizational system.
Do you have a fabric organization tip or a system that works well for you? Let us know in the comments below!