Sewing In Harmony Part 4: Fabric Organization

Monday, September 01, 2014

Hello and Happy Labor Day for those celebrating!  I've got the day off and I plan to spend it sewing, woot, woot!  Before I do that a (hopefully) quick post for part 4 of my series, fabric organization.


Like most of you reading I'm most serious about garment sewing.  When searching fabric organization ideas on Pinterest a majority of the results seemed to be geared towards quilters with pictures of colorful quilting cottons all perfectly organized in filing cabinets or closets.  For garment sewing and the type of fabric I buy that just doesn't seem realistic.  Folding 3 yards of linen into a neat 12 by 12 square for hanging in a file drawer is just damn near impossible.  But the pictures are so pretty! Just take a look at them all here.  Do sewing rooms really look like that?  Mine sure doesn't.  When taking pictures of my stash for my post I realized I have a lot of fabric stashed in various spots throughout my room.  I'm pretty happy with my knit organization however my wovens could use a little work...and scraps, whaddaya do about those scraps!? Today I'm gonna show you my fabric storage and ideas for improvement.  


Prewashing Fabric

First things first, I always prewash my fabric before storing it so it's ready to go when I'm ready!  This takes care of any shrinking there may be and sets the fabric meaning the way you wash it the first time will be the way you should wash it all the time.   If I wash my cotton voile in cold water on the gentle cycle then that's how I will continue to wash it for the rest of it's life.




My knit fabric is stored above in a 6 cubby storage cube.  I find rolling my knits allows for more room and as you can see I need more of it.  I sort by weight.  Far left is my heavier weight knits..double knits..ponte knits or sweater knits.  The middle is more light weight knits such as jersey knits.  In the far right I have spandex knits and the overflow of what I couldn't fit in where it belongs.  These cubes are great for fabric storage. I wish I had the space for more in my room.  If you have a Big Lots near they are on sale right now, BOGO 50% off.  The 9 cubby storage cube is the perfect width and height for building your own cutting table as seen here.  


Here's where my fabric gets a little disheveled, the wovens. I store mine on a book shelf.  Easy enough to find at Wal-Mart, Target or thrift shops.  As you can see some is folded, some is rolled.  I was testing out the rolling option and I think I've come to the conclusion that I like my woven's folded better. I feel like I can get more room out of folding and I can better see the fabric and it's print.  Do you roll or fold your wovens?  My top shelf holds heavier weight wovens appropriate for winter...wool, flannel, tweed and corduroy.  My middle is a mixture of cottons and rayons and the bottom shelf holds twill, linen, silk, chiffon and linings.  Here are some ideas for improvement that I plan to put in place very soon.

Fabric labels...
I sometimes forget the type of fabric I bought or how many yards I have.  The one thing I like about buying fabric from Fabric Mart, they always attach a label stating the type, amount and care of the fabric. Why not do that with all my fabric?  Make your own labels or use these free printable labels from Family Ever After  

Here is a good, slightly humorous video of how to fold your fabric into uniform squares to fit your shelves. Not gonna lie probably gonna go do this after I finish out this post!

Interfacing & Home Decor
Sterilite 3 drawer cart purchased at Wal-Mart

I also have a place for my home decor fabric and interfacing located in a 3 drawer plastic cart hidden under my cutting table.


Fabric Scraps
My rule of thumb when it comes to fabric scraps, anything large enough for pockets linings or facings I keep, generally about a 1/2 yard.   Anything smaller than a 1/2 yard gets thrown in a donate bin.


Sterilite Show Offs (these are good for pattern storage as well!)

Ideas for fabric scraps:
1.  List your scraps on Craigslist.  One man's scraps is another man's quilting treasure.  I've given
     away garbage bags full of scraps to quilters.
2. Check with churches, schools or senior centers.  Many use fabric scraps for different projects.
3.  Pinterest: the ideas are endless here
4.  Tipnut: another source for scrappy projects
5.  Display them!  If your going to keep your scraps to make a quilt or other projects fit them into
     the decor.

                                                 Apothecary Jar / Image source: Prudent
                             Image Source: A Happy Nest Blog  Check out her sewing room, it's a dream!


Building Your Stash

I don't necessarily find that sewing my own clothing is cheaper all the time but it can budget friendly.  Here are some of my tips to you on building a good fabric stash...

1.  Thrift stores, flea markets or yard sales...I just can't beat it into your heads enough.  My stash has
      grown tremendously thanks to antique stores, flea markets and thrift stores.  You have to keep
      your eyes peeled and be willing to dig for the goods.  Even if the fabric is not that great
      if it's cheap and I have the space I will still buy it because it makes good material for muslins.

2.  Mailing lists...Subscribe to the mailing lists of all your favorite shops online or brick.  You'll get 
     sale notices and coupon codes in your inbox.  Some of my faves: Fabric Mart, Mood Fabrics
      -I know their fabric can be pricey but it's so worth the quality.  Once a week they offer 
     two different fabrics at half off.,  JoAnn Fabric- download their mobile app 
     for coupons or sign up for their mailer. 

3.  More isn't always better.  Keep in mind, just because it's on sale doesn't mean you need it or 
     should buy it.  Shop with a plan, am I in need of pants, tops dresses?  And yes there will be
     those times when you don't have a plan for it but you just have to have it.  For those times I 
     allow myself 2 yards of fabric.  I find that is usually plenty for a simple dress, top or slacks.


I hope you have found this helpful.  Please let me know if you have questions and please share your fabric tips in the comments.

Check out the other parts to the series:
Part 1: Series Introduction & Giveaway Entry
Part 2: Setting Up An Efficient Space: Furnishings & Layout
Part 3: Pattern Organization: Paper, PDFs & To Sew Lists 

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  1. Great ideas Shanni! I need a better way to store my fabrics...they are in plastic totes am it gets pretty messy in there when I dig through them. At least you can't see the mess when the lid is on I guess... So my answer to your folded or rolled question would be....neither! Mine is more like ...balled up!

  2. Wow Shanni - your fabric looks awesome! Way more organized than mine! Love that folding video too - I agree a bit neurotic but it looks so good after. I ordered some fabric from Hart's and it came all beautifully folded like that - I put it on my shelf and admire it all the time. I can't bring myself to wash it as it looks so perfect LOL. My fabric is stashed in drawers and closets all over the house so it doesn't look nearly as nice as yours. I'm working on it though.

  3. I just worry that the fabric colour will fade on the edges when stored like that.

  4. I've also found fabric organization on Pinterest to be focused heavily on quilters, so your post was so helpful! And thank you for the heads up on those cubbies! I have been meaning to try to get a little more organized--that is a great deal.

  5. Ha ha! I know what you mean. When my sewing room used to be downstairs all my fabric was balled up in cabinets. The doors closed so no one could see it. ha!

  6. Yes when my fabric comes all beautifully folded it's sooo hard not to just throw it on the shelf. I can never get it to look the same after washing and refolding.

  7. You mean stored on a shelf or the way it's folded? I've stored mine like this for going on 3 years now and some of it is just that old. I've not had any problems with fading.

  8. It's been hard for me not to buy a couple more of those too. I wish I had more room for them!

  9. You are giving me an incentive to get more organized! Also, your ideas are helpful with my planning. I managed to avoid the Labor Day sales. I have lots of fabric that is tucked, folded, rolled and pushed on the shelves behind closed doors on various closet shelves. Sometimes the fabric falls and hits me on the head (probably trying to knock some sense into me - glad that fabric is soft) I'm thinking about Fall sewing and don't know exactly what I have. It's disgusting, but exciting to think about going through all those treasures lurking in the closets.

  10. You will be like a kid at Christmas finding fabrics you forgot about! I'm gonna try and get some fall sewing plans in place this week too.

  11. Yes, I've seen those sites, with all the perfect cotton wrapped around boards and they recommend comic book dividers. And, conveniently located next to my house, used book store with the entire basement...all comic books!! (I know, nerdvana). So, I went to have a looksee, but thought the same thing as you. I can't wrap chiffon around these, or wool, or even cotton sateen, or slippery satin, or even a knit. But, I do like your rolled fabric idea. The folding video is so complex! LOL.

  12. I'm moving aboard in a few weeks and I had to go through all my stash... What a job! And I was so disorganised that I couldn't remembered what fabric had been already washed, ironed and correctly folded :( But it gave me a good kick to sort everything out and I did exactly what you advise for my woven fabrics. I haven't dealt with my knit yet, so I'm going to try all your tips for that. Otherwise I find throwing fabrics (even small fabric scraps) so hard! So I think I'm going to change my habits and buy a fabric for a specific project and not just buy a fabric that I like. But sometimes, it's hard to resist to a nice fabric ;)

  13. We need personal fabric assistants! There in a moments notice to wash and fold our fabrics! Wouldn't that be a dream? lol!

    I voted for you in the Burdastyle top 50 sewing blogs!!!! Congrats!

  14. That is a good idea and one I've tried to enforce on myself. I can't help but go shop for a specific fabric and get sidetracked by another shiny fabric and leave the store with an empty wallet.

  15. I mean stored on the shelves. I had some fabric stored in a crate that the sun shone on, and there was a pattern faded into the fabric, also I had garments hanging in the open for a while and they got a faded shoulder. Maybe your shelves are in a less bright area than I was using.

  16. Aw, thank you lovely! I was disappoonted to see so many of my favourite blogs not included on the list but not sure how scientific their selection process actually was. :)