If you’ve been following along with our fabric organization series, you’ve already learned about quality storage materials and folding your fabrics, and now it’s time to talk about quilt fabric organization!
Before I started working in the quilt industry, I was a museum curator. Many people don’t know this until they meet a curator, but being in charge of a museum collection’s preservation is a lot like being a professional organizer. In one of my biggest museum collections reorganization jobs, I spent two years reorganizing over 20,000 objects onto custom made shelving!
Maybe I started loving organizing because of my training in museums, or because I grew up in a home that was always neat and clean. However it happened, it stuck. Organizing is such a fun task, and any time I see a space that can function better, I want to figure out a way to fix it. It’s like a fun mind puzzle! And being well organized is a great way for me to reduce stress.
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If you want to learn even more about home organization, there are two popular books I can recommend, and both are also shows on Netflix! Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (and the Netflix show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo), and The Home Edit Life (and the Netflix show Get Organized with the Home Edit) share excellent tips that can be applied to your sewing room and every other space in your home.
I’ve learned a lot about organization between my work in museums and my hobby-like interest in home organization. Keep reading to learn the 5 best tips I’ve learned for quilt fabric organization!
Tip #1: Destashing Unwanted Fabric
We all have fabric we regret buying. The longer we quilt, the more our tastes evolve and refine, and that is great! It demonstrates creative growth. Over time, trends also change. Fabric that you loved five years ago might just be taking up space on your shelves now.
Why do we keep unwanted fabric for so long? Are we really ever likely to use it if it's been lingering on our shelves for years? There’s a big difference between fabric we keep with intention - special fabrics that have meaningful memories and are saved for special projects - and fabric that we keep without any plans to include in a quilt.
Sometimes we love old fabrics, and you should keep those! But often we cling to fabrics we don’t like anymore out of guilt. When we spend money on something, we feel like we can’t get rid of it because that would be a waste! But I truly believe that a well-organized fabric stash begins with keeping fabrics that you’ll use and destashing others. And there are plenty of ways to do that that will benefit others!
If you want to get some of your money back, you could sell your fabrics on a website like Feel Good Fibers. If you’d rather donate your fabric, you could offer it to a local quilt guild, charity quilting group, children's art program, or home economics class.
You could even consider gifting some unwanted fabric to the newest quilter you know or to a new longarm quilter to use as practice fabric. All of these are great ways to clear some space in your room while helping others. Once your fabric collection is more highly focused on your favorite fabrics that you’re likely to use, you can get started on organizing it!
Tip #2: Create a Categorization System That Works for You
You may have already folded your fabric using the Ultimate Guide to Folding Fabric. If you haven’t, set aside some time to do that! Folding your fabric neatly helps to maintain any organization system since it’s easier to keep your space tidy.
Creating a system to categorize your fabric helps to make sure that all of it has a home. That way, when you pull fabric to cut just a little bit or audition it for a quilt, you can easily put it back where it belongs instead of putting it onto a pile and having to search your sewing space for it again later. That takes up valuable quilting time! Putting the effort into an organizational system up front helps you concentrate on quilting without disruptions.
Here’s the organizational system I think works best, in the order of how you should start dividing up your fabrics:
- Material: If you use a lot of different materials, it’s best to keep them together so you can easily notice if you’re running low. The material categories in my stash are cotton, linen, wovens, double gauze, and wool. You can skip this step if you quilt using mostly cotton.
- Size: Within your material categories, if you have them, separate your fabrics by size. On my shelves, I keep fabric separated by fat quarters, half yards, and yardage. Scraps go in separate bins (we’ll tackle scraps in a future post). Check out the Ultimate Guide to Folding Fabric for more on this!
- Color: Organize your fabric in color order, and you will always know where to put it back on your shelves! Plus it looks beautiful.
Categorizing is your first step in finding a system that works uniquely for you. Take some time to consider how you work with your fabrics. For example, I use linen more than any other fabric, so I put my linen fabrics closest to my cutting table so they’re always close by.
Tip #3: Quilt Fabric Organization Supplies
Now you’re ready to get your fabric onto shelves! Everyone’s sewing space is different, so work within your own space to find containers and shelving units that will work for you. I use a five by five compartment Kallax from IKEA to hold my stash, and that is divided into what The Home Edit team calls zones. Each zone is a material type that is sub-organized by size and color.
For yardage, I use magazine or comic book boards to create mini bolts and store them vertically just like fabric shops do. Horizontal fabric organization can be a recipe for disorganization because it’s harder to pull individual cuts of fabric from your stash that way.
Half yards and fat quarters can be stored in clear plastic containers. My quilting completely changed when I started using this system and could so easily see all of the fabric I had! Between getting all your yardage onto mini bolts, and your smaller cuts into clear containers, you should be able to see all of your material. You may find yourself using a greater variety of fabrics now that you can clearly see everything!
Tip #4: Maintain Your Quilt Fabric Organization System
Here are some tips for maintaining your quilt fabric organization:
- When you buy new fabric, make sure to fold it before putting it on your shelf.
- Don’t exceed your storage space - if you don’t have a place to put fabric, don’t buy it or destash some other fabric.
- Use clear containers to hold as much of your fabric as possible so it’s easy to see what you have to work with.
- Think about how you use your stash! Everyone interacts with their fabric stash differently, and you want to create a unique system that works for you. Using containers for your fabric is also helpful because you can try out organizational systems for a few weeks and make easy adjustments until you find the perfect fit!
Tip #5: When to Reevaluate Your Quilt Fabric Organization
Just as your taste in prints may have changed over time, the way you make quilts may also change. Maybe you’ve never used linen before, and the first time you do, you get hooked! That’s a great example of when you might want to take a little time to reevaluate your quilt fabric organization. Shift some things around on your shelf, but maintain the basics of organization! Here is a list of what I believe are the most important basics of quilt fabric organization:
- Neatly fold fabric so it’s easy to pull off and put back onto your shelves.
- Categorize fabric by material type.
- Organize fabric by size and color.
- Store fabric in containers on your shelves.
- Always fold new fabric before putting it on your shelves.
- Don’t exceed your storage space - either wait to buy new fabric or destash some to make space.
Apply these tips to your fabric stash, and keep using them any time you need to reorganize, and your sewing space will be tidier than ever before! What organizational system will you use for your fabrics? Tell us in the comments, and let us know what other quilting organization posts you’d like to see in the future!