I reimagined my sewing room fabric storage, and I wish I would have done it, like, years ago.
I went from a jumbled mess to a neatly folded fabric collection that I can peruse on my phone (Trello FTW).
Here’s the why and how of updating my sewing room fabric storage. I hope it provides you with some ideas and inspo for how to optimize your textile library.
This post features affiliate links chosen for you. If you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support! 💙
RELATED: The Unrivaled Guide to Types of Linen for Garment Sewing
Why I Reorganized My Fabric Stash
There were three things that spurred the Great Stash Reorg of 2K23.
1.) Spring Mini Capsule Wardrobe
This is the biggest instigator of the stash shuffle.
I floated the idea in the weekly Sie Macht email newsletter of sewing a mini capsule wardrobe for spring. Subscribers were interested, so I thought I’d look through ye olde fabric bibliotek to see what I had for materials.
That’s when I realized the fabric stash needed major TLC.
2.) Storage Style
I had been rolling my fabric for a while to limit creases created by folds. But, I never was good about rolling fabric in the same way so all cuts were the same height/width/depth and space efficient.
In short, I was wasting tons of space in my plastic bins for fabric.
3.) Fabric Orphans
We moved into our current home in 2014, and I claimed a bedroom for a sewing room/office immediately.
Over the years the way I stored fabric changed, and I went from having like fabrics with like fabrics to… not. I think this is a function of buying fabric, using it, and jamming the leftovers anywhere they fit, thinking I’ll find a better place later.
Eventually fabrics that would have made sense together (e.g., knits, rayons) got further and further apart. I was breaking up fabric families!
RELATED: What Does Weight of Fabric Mean?
Whipping my sewing room fabric storage into shape was a two-part process.
I had to find places in my studio for the fabric, and I wanted to have a cloud-based archive of my fabric collection accessible on my phone.
The first thing I did was unpack my fabric and sort it into three groups:
⭐ Odds and Ends (quilting batting, ribbing, linings, tulle, leftover coat-making materials, faux fur)
Then it was time to re-fold the fabric in an orderly and eye-pleasing manner.
When it came to how to fold fabric for storage, I fully copied Kelly of True Bias patterns, down to the materials she used.
(Hey, no need to reinvent the wheel, right?)
I folded/wrapped the cuts of fabric around acid-free, 8 1/2-by-11-inch magazine boards and secured them in place with 1 1/2-inch plastic plastic alligator clips.
How to Fold Fabric for Storage
The folding method went like this:
1.) Fold the selvages together the long way, wrong sides facing.
2.) Lay the fabric on a flat surface.
3.) Place a magazine board at a short end of the fabric, about 5-6 inches from the raw edge.
4.) Fold the raw edge over the long edge of the magazine board. The fabric should cover a bit more than half the width of the board.
5.) Fold the selvage edge over the short edge of the board. Continue this fold down the length of the fabric.
6.) Fold the folded edge over the other short edge of the board. Continue this fold down the length of the fabric. Now the board is encased in fabric.
7.) Flip the board down the length of the fabric, wrapping the fabric to create a “mini bolt.”
8.) When you reach the end of the fabric. clip it to the wrapped fabric on opposite short ends with two plastic alligator clips.
A few of notes about how to fold fabric for storage:
➡️ You can tidy up the end of the fabric bolt by folding it in. That way there’s no raw edges showing; a fold faces the outside.
➡️ Heavier, thicker fabrics are too much for the plastic clips. You might want to skip clips and use straight pins or skip securing the end of the mini bolt altogether. (I did both.) You could use big rubber bands, too.
➡️ For lighter, thinner fabrics, after folding the selvages together the long way, you may want to fold the yardage again the short way (opposite direction) to give the fabric a little more heft while wrapping it on the cardboard. This folding-in-half-short-ways also is a good move for extra long fabric cuts.
➡️ If you use straight metal pins, be aware that if they get wet, they could rust, which would be bad news for your fabric. (I’m taking my chances that my stash will stay dry in an upstairs office.)
Containers for My Fabric Stash
I wanted to keep like fabrics with like fabrics as much as possible, and I wanted to use the bins I already had.
The wovens and odds and ends went in bins in the closet, and the knits ended up outside the closet in more aesthetically pleasing containers — a fabric-covered bin and a wooden crate (it’s IKEA) that I got from Habitat for Humanity ReStore.
I ended up with two empty plastic bins once all the sorting and stashing were through. The mini bolts are space efficient. 👍
(P.S. Yes, I did have a bit more room because I threw away unusable fabric scraps/cuts. But, I think folding made the most difference in gaining space.)
Physical organization was only the beginning. Next came digital organization of the fabric stash.
First I took a photo that I thought best represented the color of the fabric.
Then I created a new board on Trello, the organizing app, called Fabric Stash.
Inside Fabric Stash, I created three lists: Wovens, Knits, and Odds and Ends.
I populated each list with the appropriate fabrics and photos.
I tagged each fabric by color, so I can filter my stash by hue. I also tagged quilting fabrics, because it’s not likely I’d use those for apparel.
For the record, Trello says that I have 148 fabrics: 68 wovens, 57 knits, and 23 odds-n-ends.
My most popular color is blue (not surprised), which is featured on 74 fabrics. (See the filter — #blue — in action below.)
What I Like About the New Organization
Along with looking tidy, there are other benefits to this fabric storage scheme.
See All Fabric at a Glance
If it’s wrong to pull out my fabric bins to admire my collection of mini bolts, then I don’t want to be right.
Now, when I get a garment idea or have an itch to check the textile library because I *think* I have enough such-and-such fabric for X, I can pull out the bins and SEE EVERYTHING. There’s no more hiding from me, fabric!
Check Stash on the Go
Now that my fabric is in Trello, I have my stash at my fingertips as long as I have my phone. This means if I happen to be somewhere with fabric for sale, I can check my stash FIRST before making a decision.
Reintroduced Me to My Stash
Y’all, there are some TREASURES in there that I forgot about. That’s what happens when you don’t do a good job of organizing your sh!t — you forget what you have at your disposal.
Rekindling my relationship with my stash also has thawed my sewjo and sparked ideas about future projects. (How’s that for fire metaphors? #sorrynotsorry)
How My Sewing Room Fabric Storage Could Be Better
The new storage system is great, but it’s not perfect. I identified the following future upgrades.
Add Fabric Lengths to Trello
I didn’t measure lengths of fabric when I was putting it on the magazine boards. The added step of measuring everything seemed like a bummer, so I skipped it.
Will I regret this? Probably? Maybe?
I actually have a pretty good memory for fabric lengths (as in, Do I have enough for X? ), especially considering I’ve touched EVERY PIECE OF FABRIC I own. Plus, you can see from the tops (short ends) of the mini bolts how much fabric is wrapped around the board.
Get the Whole Stash in the Closet
GAH, I wish all the fabric fit in the closet. I really, really, really hoped that this reorg would get everything in the closet, but no dice.
I could move some more stuff around in the closet and possibly make room for at the least the light-brown fabric-covered bin, but that’s not happening for a while. I want a break from organization.
Mismatched plastic bins aren’t the most ~*aesthetic*~ choice for storage, but they work a-OK. Perhaps someday, when I can squeeze the entire stash into the closet, I’ll look into buying some flavor of matching storage units.
ALSO — I make sure to leave the lids off the bins so the fabric can “breathe.” I’ve always been concerned about getting moisture trapped in a plastic tub and letting fabric get moldy/mildewy/musty.
Final Thoughts About Reorganizing My Fabric
I wish I would have done this sooner. I could have stopped myself from buying fabric I didn’t have a plan for.
The challenge now is to sew from my stash, and I think I have enough of a selection to keep me busy for a while. I don’t think I’ve achieved SABLE status — stash acquisition beyond life expectancy — but if I’m not mindful, I could get there.
Over to you, sewing friends: How organized is your fabric stash? What fabric storage tips can you share?
Paint me disorganized and not likely to change. I’ve got a 30 year stash in 7 bins, 6 zippered quilt storage bags, a 2-drawer plastic unit, a box for hanging files, a zippered bag sized for FQs, a fabric bin, and a few plastic bags under the ironing board. I am definitely at STABLE level, and now that I am retired I am shopping my stash first.
Hi, Alice. Thanks for reading. Are your FQs finished tops only? I feel like I’ve heard a lot about quilters finishing tops and then… not much. LOL I get it, though, because quilting is hard, and the alternative is sending a top away to be quilted, which can be $$$$. Oh well. The fun is in the making, right?
Good for you for shopping your stash. Don’t know if you’re familiar, but PatternReview.com does un/official challenges of sewing down your stash. Never joined, but I like the idea. Could be a good motivator – for me, anyway.
The FQs in the zippered bag are just cut yardage – when I need a particular color I go through the bag and pull one or two. I also have 2 QIPs and one cut-but-not-started quilt, but they aren’t in storage, since they are being worked on (in theory). I enjoy the patchwork, but I have no desire to do the quilting, so I send completed tops out to be quilted and bound – pricey, but I’ll keep doing that as long as I can afford it – after all, I’m no longer spending money on fabric.
My sewing area doesn’t have much room for storage even though I bought a used dresser with nine drawers through OfferUp.
I have some storage underneath my two six feet x 3 feet folding tables. I had some leftover pieces from on of those metal wire corner storage racks which fit nicely underneath one of the tables.
Some of my thicker fabrics I hung on skirt hangers which I should probably change to hangers for slacks to eliminate creases that would come from the skirt hangers. (I appreciate you pointing that out, Erin 😊) . These I’ve hung up in our walk-in closet toward the back of my clothes along with my 65 miles of lace 😲😁🤪
Yes, heavier cuts on skirt hangers is a great idea! Thanks for sharing, Roberta.
And do you REALLY have 65 miles of lace????
Ah! I goofed! I only have 100 yards of lace but I had 65 miles of thread of which I have used a pittance of.
I have a little corner of the basement for a sewing space, and one wall is framed, so I had my husband hang narrow shelves for me. It is awesome and I am so grateful to have it, even if it is not light and beautiful.
My stash is organized into kinds of knits (stable, slinky, lingerie); wovens (shirt, dress and bottom weights), and a pile of fleece and technical fabric, plus three milk crates of remnants that can be used for underwear, pockets, or outerwear. Having those narrow shelves helps me to see at a glance what I have, and that is so nice.
Periodically I have to purge the remnants/scraps, because it’s easy to be too optimistic about what can be used .
I also have a shelf for fabric in queue that I keep the next 5 or so projects on. Stacking those up in order of need or desire helps me focus and stay motivated. I found cute little bins at Aldi to keep whatever notions or hardware I might need for each upcoming project. That habit also reminds me to check supplies so I”ll have what I need when I begin to working on something new.
Katie, your organization system is inspirational! I like the idea of having fabric in the queue on display.
When I did my stash reorg, I did include several “optimistic” cuts of fabric – I say optimistic because they’re not particularly long or square. Thanks for planting the idea of purging these little guys every once in a while. I’m like you, thinking that I’ll use the scrappier cuts for undies or pocket linings or something.
Great article! I’m going to seriously consider folding my stash on “mini-bolts”. We’ll probably be downsizing our home sooner rather than later so I want to sew down my stash by then. But what I don’t get finished ( I AM a realist;) ) I’ll have to get folded and stored in a cabinet. No more sewing room all to myself. My shit has to fit in one half of a study I’ll be sharing with my husband.
P. S. I think you will be sorry you didn’t take the extra time to measure. I have mine folded over hangers in a closet right now but had to go back and label with measurements. I kept surprising myself with fabric I thought was enough for a project then coming up thiiiis much short!
GAH, Diane, I know, I know. I think you’re right about regretting measuring my yardage. That’s a problem for future Erin, I guess, LOL.
I highly recommend the mini-bolts. They look so tidy! I love them.
Thanks for reading. 😀
Great post can really relate. Enjoy your newly organized space.
Thank you, and thanks for reading, Pat.
Congratulations for doing all that work – looks great! I just keep fabrics in big plastic totes in our dry basement – knits with knits, wovens with wovens, fancy stuff with fancy stuff, etc. The lids are not on tight because the containers are all overflowing. Every season I go root around in the tubs and bring likely candidates to be used up into my sewing room on the second floor (formerly my son’s bedroom, with his Sonic the Hedgehog poster still on the wall) and sew some of it up, then at the end of the season the unused fabric goes back to hibernate and is replaced with a new selection of hopefuls (“Sew me! No, sew me!!” “I can’t sew you all, guys!”). I think I need to give up on thinking I can ever sew my stash up, because it is mysteriously replenished 🙂 My mother was almost 96 when she died, and she did almost finish sewing her stash – she was a very self-disciplined and determined person – at one point in her 60s she pretty much stopped buying fabric, measured everything she had and attached small pieces of scrap paper to each piece with the width and amount of yardage in pencil, and then bit by bit, she dipped into her stash until it was just about all gone. She had a couple of basic, classic patterns and made beautiful garments which were just right for her (her mother was a dressmaker to a wealthy family, so she was schooled from the start). She made me what I can only describe as a housedress in a very pretty fabric that I will absolutely never wear (well, I don’t think I will, anyway) but I will absolutely never get rid of, and I still have the last project she cut out for herself with the tissue paper still pinned to each piece – can’t bring myself to disassemble it – and it doesn’t take up much space compared to all I have! It was hard for her to sew as time went on due to macular degeneration and arthritis, but she did a little at a time and made it happen. Anyway, congratulations again on all the thought and work involved in getting things straightened out – don’t add to it, or you’ll wind up like me, in danger of being outlived by a bunch of inanimate fabric!
Hi, Mary Jean! Thanks for reading, and thanks for sharing about your mom. I also would not be able to take apart the last project my mom pinned. That’s a beautiful memento.