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The evolution of my stash… and how I organize it

When I first started quilting, I was not a new hobbyist. I had already been through another major craft cycle – scrap-booking – and all that is entails. That means I thought about scrap-booking, I shopped for it, I attended classes, and conferences and accumulated a stash like you wouldn’t believe.

I remember sitting at a common table, eating lunch, during a ‘sewing expo’ in San Mateo, CA, and having a nice lady ask me if I had a big fabric stash.

My response went something like this:

“Oh no, I only buy fabric for a particular project.  I have enough stuff from scrap-booking and I have learned my lesson – don’t buy unless you know what you are using it for!’

I know at least a half dozen people spitting coffee out of their nose right now because that is not exactly what happened…

It started quite innocently. I would buy several charm packs and think ‘such a good price, and they are small‘. Or the Fat Quarter sale at the LQS ‘ these are pretty small, too….’

And so to organize it in an already bulging craft room.

I had (and still have, because they are fantastic boxes) clear 12*12 boxes from the scrapbook store that I stored the fabric in by color and they fit neatly on some shelves. Need pink? Grab the pink box. {note: I will find out where to get the boxes if anyone requests!)

Need Black? Blue? Wow 2 boxes of browns!

Then I heard about Japanese Fabric. The adorable, cute (but not cutesy), and even nostalgic fabric that I COULD NOT LIVE WITHOUT. (I am currently resisting the urge to see if sonatine is still an ebay seller – so I will not provide a link – and if they are – I don’t need to know!)

So we need an additional organization system because they simply could not be ‘mixed in with the colors!’ and I had to SEE THEM. (this need of seeing will continue as the stash evolves…)

I heard about (read about) these fabulous mini bolts that you wrap your fabric around. Awesome! The answer!

And so I wrapped. I wrapped the Japanese Fabric. And the Denyse Schmidt Fabric. And the Joel Dewberry. And the Heather Bailey. And the Amy Butler.

I added the cutest little hang tags with each collection and designer labelled on them! So cute!

Do you see what is happening here? I already know designers names. And the names of their collections. I am in big trouble now. Well on my way to the stash.

Now I do like the idea of wrapping fabric (I really do) but the problem with this idea is that I always need the fabric IN THE MIDDLE of the mini bolt. I would have to unwrap the whole thing – pull out the fabric I needed. Re-wrap it. And then open it up again to put the fabric away.

When I was disciplined and cleaned up after myself – it was just time-consuming. When I was not disciplined – it was a mess – fast!

Then we moved!

Bye Bye tiny craft room in the Bay – Hello Studio in Ohio!

By now – you can see that I am no longer pretending that I do not stash fabric.  I am a certified stasher and I have some fuglies to prove it!

It a long time to get from this pile of fabric

To this.

I used a lot of kitchen ware to add extra shelving for the precisely folded, glorious piles a reds, blues, yellow, greens (who knew I had so many greens?), and all of their color-wheel friends.

I had smaller pieces, just as precisely folded, tucked inside drawers absconded from Ikea organizing bits and bobs.

I used the ‘tried and true’ ruler-folding method for all of this fabric. But with a twist. Instead of using just the 6.5″ width of the ruler, I made plastic templates for the smaller sizes, such as these drawers, so that everything would be uniform.

Not sure what the ruler method is? I have a tutorial post on it. {edited to add – the link works now}

And then…

We moved again. Bye Bye custom built studio in Ohio and hello 800 square foot basement in North Carolina.

I have a whole slew of the ‘before’ pictures if you care to see them.

And now the available storage has changed again.

I no longer have built ins. I have pre-fab shelves from ‘insert big box x’ store.

{{side note: the built-ins in Ohio, while custom built – were not the right size. I had them built thinking about the 12*12 inch clear boxes that I had been using in the Bay. That is – 12 inches deep and 25 inches wide – and tall enough to fit 5 boxes….

I didn’t think about how I would store the fabric ‘currently’ which is always a consideration. }}

Pre-fab shelves can be hacked, though. I will show you how I added many more shelves than came with the unit in a future post.

But now – instead of using a ruler, a template, and a lot of time spent getting it smooth, and fitting it to the ‘T’ – I am using the comic book board method instead.

Of course, I still have the lovely Japanese fabrics set aside.

And the solids, as seen above.

But mostly I am sorting my color. It’s how my mind works. I realized long ago that I don’t always want to use a collection all together. I am digging the color matching or mis-matching, if you will between designers, collections, and even manufacturers.

Lest you think I am all finished with the comic book board re-fold empire – take note of the pile below. This is a spit in the proverbial stash.

I have already used 1,800 comic book boards at the time this post is written.

I wonder how many I will need!

I will link you to the original post where I learned of this myself as well as a few other crafters that have taken the plunge!

Smashed Peas and Carrots

The Ornament Girl

Feathered Fibers

That Girl That Quilt.

But I will be back with the details on my latest organizing fabric frenzy. I have been working with what is already folded and so I have a little insight into the ‘working’ side of the organizing equation. I mean, pretty and organized is great, but can it stay that way if you actually sew?

I will also be back on what to do with the scraps…. This picture below is a bit anal,  even for me!

And so I say ‘go forth and fold’.

Get your fabric out where you can see it, if that’s possible. I will add that my shelves are on the far back wall of the room – as far from direct sunlight as possible.

And the boards are acid-free and archival so they won’t eat my fabric. (heaven forbid!).

You can find comic book boards on Amazon – but I highly recommend googling your own town for comic book stores. The prices are much better!

Fabric comes in all shapes and sizes… now, where to put it?

As I begin my own organizational challenge (and I still can’t find that darn camera – seriously, where the heck is it?) I have been pondering a lot of questions. Like, ‘where should I keep the smaller stuff?’ or ‘by color, by designer, or prints vs. solids?’….

Sandi, from Piecemeal quilts has had the same questions pass through her mind, and she is here today to share some of her own answers with us.

It is plain to see that she has taken a lot of time and care to write this piece for us – so please leave her a comment and give her a little lovin’!

Hi, I’m Sandi Walton, and I blog at Piecemeal Quilts. I was excited to hear from Allison about doing a guest post on fabric organization because I (fairly) recently completed a major reorganization and can only talk about it so much on my own blog…

I have mixed feelings about the word “organization.” On the one hand, the result is satisfying, even enjoyable. Looking at neat stacks of uniformly folded fabric sorted by color creates an “ahhh…” feeling. On the other hand, the process of getting to that point can be time consuming and frustrating.

After 1

I recently needed to move the bookshelf containing my fabric stash from one wall to another. Sounds simple, but since that bookshelf is almost seven feet tall and four feet wide, it required removing every piece of fabric from the shelves. The fabric was fairly well organized before then, but in the past year or so I started folding it a different way and since I was handling every piece of fabric anyway, I took the opportunity to sort and refold it. With help from my mom and aunt, it took two full days! It also meant fine tuning how I have the fabric organized. You can see a few before and during pictures here.

I am a stash builder, and I often buy one or more yards of fabric at a time. I have a few half yards and fat quarters, plus the scraps that we all accumulate. The smaller pieces disappeared on the shelf because they were so thin, so anything smaller than half a yard came off the shelf. Anything larger than three yards is very bulky when folded, so I pulled those fabrics as well. I went to the local quilt shop and JoAnn Fabrics and asked for their discarded bolts – they were happy to get rid of them. I rolled the larger pieces of fabric onto the bolts and I keep them on an out of the way but still accessible shelf.


The half yard to three yard pieces make up the bulk of my stash, and a VERY bulky stash it is. If it isn’t well organized, I’d never be able to find anything. Regardless of how you choose to sort it, you need to fold the fabric as uniformly as possible so you can see everything when it’s stacked together. If pieces are folded to different sizes, the longer ones can cover the shorter ones. The folding method I use is very simple and doesn’t require any special tools, so I can do it right at the fabric store. That way when it comes out of the bag it can go right on the shelf. The added benefit is that it takes half the time at the store because the clerk doesn’t have to fold a piece before she can move on to cutting the next one. If you’ve ever been frustrated when you’re stuck behind someone with twenty bolts of fabric to be cut, you’ll certainly appreciate that!

The half yard is the basis for my fold. A half yard of fabric is 18″ wide, so first I fold it in thirds, overlapping the sides to the center, to make a piece that is approximately 6″ wide.


I then fold it in half, end to end, so the final piece is approximately 6″ wide and 11″ long.


If you want, you can use a 6″ ruler as a guide, but with a full half yard of fabric it really isn’t necessary. The ruler comes in handy when folding pieces that aren’t exactly 18″ wide.


I always try to enclose any cut edges into the center of the folded piece. They’re less likely to catch on this and crease or distort. When folding a yard of fabric, first I fold it in half to make it 18″ wide, then I continue exactly as I did the half yard. It’s a little bulkier, so I smooth the fabric as I go to keep it flat and uncreased. For two or three yards I fold it to a yard, then to 18″, then thirds, then half. Larger pieces get quite bulky and it’s hard to avoid creases at the final fold.

I used to fold my fabric to the same final dimensions, but I folded it in half first before folding it in thirds. This made sense for cutting, but it wasn’t as easy to see the fabric when it was stored on the shelf. By folding it in half last you can see a greater portion of the fabric at the folded edge, compared to my old way of folding it.


New way of folding


Old way of folding

Fat quarters are also folded uniformly. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I’ve been known to iron a fat quarter before refolding it, just to make it lie flat. A fat quarter is approximately 18″ x 22″ – a bit longer with the selvage left on. I lay the fabric wrong side up, then fold it in half, cut edge to selvage.


I fold it in half again the same way, so the piece is approximately 18″ x 6″.


I fold each side to the center, then fold it in half.



Again, this keeps all cut edges contained in the middle. I store my fat quarters and other smaller pieces in drawers, and I try to keep the final fold up for easiest viewing. I’ll be honest, I don’t get quite so picky about keeping the smaller pieces uniform. I keep the drawers neat, but they are far from perfect.


What I call a scrap, you might call yardage and someone else might call garbage. I’ve tried to cut back on keeping really small pieces, but I do save pieces as small as 2″ x 4″. That size comes in handy when paper pieces or experimenting with new blocks or techniques. I store my scraps, sometimes strips and rectangles, sometimes odd shaped pieces, in plastic shoe boxes.


They’re sorted by color to make it a little easier to find things.


If I have a strip the full width of fabric I’ll sometimes roll it up and tie it with a piece left from squaring up. (Those skinny strips are also handy for tying together fabrics you’re saving for a future project.)


I do keep very small pieces if they’re squares cut to specific sizes left over from other projects. These pre-cut squares, along with left over half square triangles and other subunits, are stored separately to keep them neat.


I have squares as small as 1 1/2″ – they’ll make fantastic mini blocks or centers for log cabin blocks.


I also use a plastic shoebox to keep the assortment of orphan blocks I can’t bring myself to get rid of, including a handful of eight year old test blocks in red, white and blue from my very first quilting class.


Most of my fabric is organized by color. The yardage is further sorted by value, so if I need a light aqua or a dark red, I can go right to it. I used to have it sorted just by color, but I found that value is actually more important. For a time I considered sorting it all by value, regardless of color, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to do it. This is my compromise. In the Skill Builder Series that Grey Cat Quilts and I are doing, we talk (at great length!) about fabric selection. I enjoy pulling a variety of fabrics for projects, so this arrangement makes sense for me. I can easily see what I have by color and value. If you prefer to use fabrics from the same line, it would make sense for you to group fabrics by line rather than color.

I have a few “in progress” projects – the Test Your Skills Sampler and my Dear Jane quilt, in particular – that need to be kept out of the main stash. I have a rolling cart with wire baskets that works well for keeping the these projects separate but still visible.



Blocks of the month, especially 12″ or smaller blocks, fit nicely in plastic folders meant for scrapbooking.


A group of family and friends get together once a month at our house to sew, and we need to keep the space super-organized or we’d never be able to cram that many people in here. It’s a big space, but when you add 8 or 9 people with sewing machines, then find space for ironing and cutting, it gets crowded. I have a couple of old vanities (dressers with a space to sit like a desk) that make wonderful sewing spaces. They have the added benefit of lots of drawers, each assigned to a different person so they can leave some basic supplies here instead of carting them back and forth.


The extra drawers are perfect for storing charm packs and jelly rolls.


Believe me, I know how lucky I am to have this much space for my quilting addiction! But even with all this space, I need to stay organized. If it gets too cluttered or I struggle to find things, the creative juices dry up and I stop sewing. Even though the process can be boring, it’s worth it to go through and organize when things start getting jumbled.

Let the Challenge Begin … with a little inspiration!

In challenge related news… I can’t find my darn camera! If you see it please let me know.  It looks like a camera.

I have been inviting guest bloggers to hop on board and share some of their best organizing tips for FABRIC! Yes, we are starting with the fabric because it is usually the most plentiful thing in the room and so, it takes up a lot of space both physically and mentally.

So while I keep looking for the camera, I am so pleased and excited and proud to present to you Monique from ‘Sew Fun by Monique‘! I first came across this awesome gal through my newest heartthrob, pinterest, when I saw her absolutely drop dead gorgeous storage unit called ‘the selvedge dresser‘.

She also has an Etsy shop under the same name, where she sells ready-made and custom order quilts, blankets, bags, baby items, and entire CRIB SETS! She is extremely talented and I am so happy to let her take over this post!


Hi, my name is Monique Reynolds and I’ve had my Etsy shop for about 3 years and have been sewing for about 20. I love doing custom work, but that means I need to have lots of fabric choices to pull from. About a year ago we decided to add a sewing room to our house because I ended up moving out of my 10×10 room and into the dining room. My finished room is 13×19 and I use every inch of it!

As we were planning the construction I dove into every Studios and Where Women Create magazine to get ideas as well as the web. Both offer lots of creative and beautiful solutions.

The local Borders bookstore was closing and a friend told me about their bookshelves that they were selling for $25. They were perfect!! They have a depth of 7.5″ and worked well for my organization. I purchased 4 of them and they cover an entire wall of my sewing room on the wall where the door is.

When people first come in, they like the colorful space I work in, but when they turn around and see the wall of fabric they say “Wow! That’s a lot of fabric!” So, I nicknamed it the Wall of Wow.


There are so many ways of organizing fabric, and I think it depends on how much you have. Since I have so many different fabrics I chose to organize by fabric designer, then fabric line, then color (in most instances) I also have a section for just a particular color.

I sew many quilt using 8″ squares, so I purchased by yard sale or new plastic drawers and then I write the designer name and color(s) on the outside of the drawer.

I have toyed with the idea of taping a fabric color to the outside of the bin. I only think it works if you have one color in the drawer. It looked too messy when there were 3 colors.

For my various pieces of rectangles & squares I use ziploc baggies and mark on the outside the sizing. All pink 6×6’s have their own bag, 4×6 pink another, etc. I store those pieces in my selvedge dresser. (Which is grossly overflowing and actually many baggies are stored under my sewing table. I hope to put them in a destash section of my shop someday). I try to cut all my scraps into certain sizes so that if I have a project in mind, I can easily use what I’ve prepared. I have baggies of 1.5, 2.5, 3.5″& selvage strips. (Again, overflowing!) It takes longer when you are working on a project to do this, but your scraps become usable and accessible and less waste is a result. You just need to decide what size you want to keep on hand, and just stick to those sizes. I keep a pile of all the cut pieces and ‘file’ them later. They also make great gifts for your friends that sew!

Finally, I also use clear, plastic bins to store things like novelty fabrics that I don’t use as often and also for smallish scraps by color.

Since I have a fair amount of space to work with, I can spread out the organization. If your space is small, you could just condense things. Hope some of my organization helps you get your fabric in order!


Please leave a little love for Monique in the comments here and definitely check out her blog as well.

Thanks again Monique!


Studio Organizing Categories

I am going to split this crazy ass lengthy list of items that I would like to tackle in my own studio into different categories.

My studio is huge. My stash is huge. I never met a gadget I didn’t ‘need’ and I am a sucker for taking on just ‘1 more hobby’! So it is reasonable that my list of items is also huge.

Some of these may apply to you – some of them won’t. And some of them may confirm that I am a cuckoo clock bird looking for a home!

The point is – take what pertains to your situation and leave the rest.

HOWEVER – my own experience has shown that even though I may need to organize spaghetti and the lady is talking about pencils – they are both long and thin and so I may just pick up an idea or two from the spaghetti lady and apply it my pencils.

So keep an open mind and think of shapes, uses, and of course, the items themselves when searching out systems that may work for you.

I remember about 7 years when I was really into scrapbooking but the industry hadn’t caught on to the storage needs yet. We were all trying a zillion clever ways to store our 12″ by 12″ paper because there was NOTHING ready made that was meant for it! Let us remember our creative sides that led us to quilting and sewing and will guide us in our search for the organizational methods as well!

So about those categories:

{and please note that as I add posts to the blog regarding these categories or any others – the page called ‘studi-O-rganization’ will always have updated links to each post for easy access}


  • Fabric
  • Rulers
  • Pens/Marking Tools
  • Gadgets (think ‘the angler‘)
  • Cutters/Die-Cutters/Go!/Digital cutters (like the silhouette or the cricut)
  • Embroidery (machine)
  • Embroidery (by hand)
  • Thread
  • Scissors
  • Patterns (physical and digital)
  • Books
  • Notions
  • Templates
  • Sewing machine feet
  • Batting
  • Cutting for garments
  • WIP’s and UFO’s
  • Paper Crafting
  • Painting
  • Upcycling
  • Kid Zone in the Studio
  • Odd sized items like rolls of fusible webbing and such

Have I missed anything? Leave a comment and let me know!


Oh my – I am SUCH a bad hostess, making you wait this long just to see a gal fold some fabric…

Gee Whiz – just when you think you have it straight. I linked to this post recently and it was pointed out to me that photos have up and gone! Imagine!

I am re-doing the old post because that is just not right.

Folding Fabric with Rulers:

I chose to fold my fabrics with varying rulers widths so that the size of the pile would indicate the size of each fabric.

Here we go. This is an example with a Fat Quarter.

Lay out your fabric with the selvedge along one side (the left, in this case) and fold in half, selvedge to selvedge.

Place your ruler across your blurry (sorry about these pictures!) fabric as shown below.

Start rolling up your fabric. I like to do a little bit to start so I can grasp it and roll it at the same time in order to keep it taut.

OK – all rolled up – nice and tight. It’s worth mentioning that I have the edge of fabric on the bottom of the roll AND that the edge is towards the back of it.

This way – when it is on the shelf – I have a ‘finished side’ to thumb through. You can also remove them a lot easier if they don’t unfold as you take them out.

Remove the ruler.

By sliding it out the side.

Here you can see which rulers were used for the different sizes in my stash.

4 inch = 1/8 yard or less

6 inch = fat quarter

8 inch = 1/2 yard

9.5 inch = yard or more

This way – I know how much I have just by the size of the folded stack.

And here they are – sitting in the shelf! Pretty edges. I can see everything – and removal is pretty easy!

Do you use a ruler to fold your fabric? How do you like it?