If the mountains of fabric in your sewing space are creating colorful avalanches, this ultimate guide to folding fabric is for you! The longer you spend making quilts, the greater the chances that you have grown a plentiful stash of fabric. But that stash can sometimes cause extra stress.
This post shows you how to neatly fold fat quarters, 1/2 yards and yardage. PLUS a video tutorial so you don't even have to read if you don't want to!
One of my guiding beliefs in quilting and in life is that unnecessary stress is often caused by disorganization. Think of how many times you’ve been frustrated as a pile of fabric topples over when you pull one yard out from the bottom. Or how often you’ve spent time searching for the fabric you want, only to find it was hidden under a pile of notions.
These small breaks spent searching for fabric can be the most frustrating parts of quilting. When I sit down to quilt, I want to focus on the fun of the task at hand. If I’m distracted by a mess or fumbling around my room searching for things, that creates unwanted stops and tension. That’s not welcome in my sewing room!
Check out this video tutorial about folding fabric to get started, and keep reading for more folding tips and pictures.
Video Tutorial on Folding Fabric!
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Spending time organizing your fabric can seem like a huge undertaking. Why would you spend hours folding fabric when you could be quilting? While it seems like a lot, folding your fabric can jumpstart your journey towards organization, and that means fewer interruptions while you're quilting.
If you like having a little clutter around and don’t want to spend time organizing instead of quilting, that’s ok. But if you want to cut the clutter, keep reading to get started!
How to Fold Fat Quarters
Most fat quarters are already folded when you purchase them. Maybe you just bought a gorgeous fat quarter bundle or some coordinating fat quarters from your local quilt shop. Each quilt company has its own way of folding fat quarters, which means you might end up with a stash of lovely fat quarters that are folded in many different ways and are all different sizes, like the picture above.
If you’d like a more neat look in your sewing room, follow these steps for perfectly folded fat quarters with a tidy tuck at the end to keep them looking neat no matter how often you play with them!
- Unfold your fat quarter so the selvedge edge is facing you. Fold the top edge down to the selvedge edge.
- Fold the left side to the middle.
- Fold the right side to the middle.
- Fold in half along the middle. You now have the selvedge and raw edges facing you, and the side facing away from you has nicely folded layers.
- Rotate the fat quarter so the folded side is facing you.
- Fold the fat quarter about 2/3 towards the top.
- Lift the first layer of the folded end. This layer forms a little pocket you can tuck the selvedge into.
- Fold selvedge end into the fabric pocket to make your tidy tuck, and you're done!
How to Fold Half Yards
Half yards can be folded the same way as fat quarters, but it can be tricky and bulky. If you follow the steps below instead, you’ll always be able to visually distinguish between fat quarters and half yards in your stash because your half yard folds will end up a little bigger than your fat quarters, as you can see below.
A small change in folding technique can make a huge difference in how easy it is to see how much fabric you have! Follow the steps below to fold neat half yards.
A small change in folding technique can make a huge difference in how easy it is to see how much fabric you have! Follow the steps below to fold neat half yards.
- Fold the top down to the selvedge edge. This is the fabric’s second fold since it already has one from where it was folded on the bolt.
- Fold your half yard in half again, from the top to the bottom.
- Rotate your half yard so that the raw edges of either side are facing you.
- Fold the raw edge to the middle of your fabric.
- Fold it two more times until you reach the end.
Folding Fabric Yardage
One to three yard cuts of fabric can be folded onto mini bolts and organized just like you see fabric in a shop! Mini bolts make it easy to pull your fabric off your shelf while keeping your other yardage neat. All you need is a pack of acid free comic book boards or magazine boards. This is the easiest folding technique of them all with just three simple steps!
- Fold the top down to the selvedge edge.
- Make sure that the selvedge is facing up and the folded edge is facing down.
- Place your board on the fabric a few inches from either the left or right end of the fabric. It doesn’t matter which side you start with or how many inches are to the side of your board.
- Fold a few inches over onto your board to get started.
- Keep folding until you get to the end of your fabric. And you’re done!
Using the Ultimate Guide to Folding Fabric to Get Organized
Now that your mini bolts are made and your half yards and fat quarters are folded, you might be wondering what’s next. You just did so much work, now how do you take that work and create a functional organization system that will work for you?
You're in luck! Our next sewing studio organization post will be all about how to organize your fabric in a way that creates order out of creative chaos. We'll talk about getting your fabric in order as well as my favorite storage container for fat quarters and half yards. Stay tuned for that post soon, and in the meantime, let us know in the comments if you're going to fold your fabric!
72 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to Folding Fabric (with Video Tutorial!)”
This was great! Thank you! I can’t wait to start organizing now. Question: what do you do with something that is halfway between a fat quarter and a half yard?
I’m so glad you like it! When I have a cut that’s half way, I usually fold it down to the closest size above. So I’d probably fold something shy of a half yard using the half yard system. It does mean that you might pull it out for a pattern that calls for a half yard and be disappointed that it’s a bit short, but it works best for keeping the space tidy!
Thank you. Great tips!
You’re welcome, Sandy!
Thank you for doing this, quite helpful. Where are some of your fav online fabric shops?
Also, I store my fabrics from light to dark, top to bottom on a bookshelf, and then left to rt in the different color groups. I’ve tried this for a couple of years, however it gets extremely messy quickly. Another problem I have with it is that I can’t see all the prints of fabrics as well. Wondering if you separate your solids, dots, prints from a certain designer, etc. just looking to improve, bec i use so many fabrics in my quilts. Thanks for doing this folding video and posting where you purchase the trays and folding cards. 🙂
Thanks Cate! I’ll be talking about some strategies for organizing folded fabric in a future post, and some of what I’ll go over is similar to your system! I like Cottoneer and Lamb and Loom, but lucky for you, there’s a great online fabric shop guide on the Suzy Quilts website: https://suzyquilts.com/the-ultimate-guide-to-best-fabric-online/
Brilliant, came at the right time. I know the fabric I want is in a large laundry bag, but where?! So I will empty the bag out and fold. Place folded FQS in a clear fronted zipped case. The laundry bag will be used for batting. Thank you for the kick start I nended. Xoxo
That’s a great way to switch up a storage container you already use for something that’s a less common need! Sounds like the laundry basket is going to work great for your batting.
Thank you for the tutorial!
Do you know the name of the purple fabric with dark and yellow Xs on it? I had a fat quarter of it and want to buy more, but cannot remember where I bought it or what it was! Thank you!
Yes! I’m not sure of it’s exact name, but it’s a woven from Diamond Textiles. I bought it from Fabric Worm, because I think they carry most of that wovens line. It’s so lovely!
Thank you! I’ve been searching for more for a couple of months, and that’s definitely the right fabric line.
I 100% came to the comments to ask about this fabric!!
Can’t wait to start …I find my sewing room always can use more organization… what containers do you put them in and where can I get them?
Aren’t the containers great? There’s a link the the last paragraph of the blog post for where you can snag one. They sometimes sell out, but always restock! I’ll also do another blog post about storage strategies and containers soon!
Read through the whole article and watched the video. Was very informative and I learned a lot. Thanks for the info!
Glad it was helpful, Susan!
Hi, just watched you video on fabric folding for storage, it has inspired me to spend a day sorting out my stash, instead of scrabbling around pulling out of a cupboard. I need done of those plastic boxes, I’ll keep a look out for them. Thank you for your time in showing us how to fold properly.
That was fantastic! I aspire to folding all my fabric just that way! Thank you
Thanks Peggy! Best of luck on your fabric folding!
Thanks Laura, this was extremely helpful.
So glad to hear that, Geraldine!
Yes! I am going to do this today!!!! Love it!
Have fun! I find it can be such a relaxing time. And you might find yourself feeling inspired to use a long-forgotten piece of fabric again when you look at your whole stash individually!
I’ve been folding my larger pieces on comic book cards, and that works out well for me. I like the way you fold fat quarters and 1/2 yards, and will switch over. I like how even they come out.
Thanks Sue! I love how they look folded too. It’s such a nice way to view your stash. I’ll do another post about organizing once you’ve folded everything, and it’ll touch a bit on sustaining the system once you’ve done all this work!
Hi Laura! Welcome to Suzy Quilts! Your “inaugural” video is very timely! No apologies for organization!! Organization is key to maintaining an well-functioning quilting “studio.” Your techniques are so simple, and so “smart.” Each size of fabric folds to its own, very identifiable shape – so not only is the fabric well-maintained as to keeping the fabric smooth and “square,” it makes it easy-peasy to ID just how much of each fabric is available for any given project. Also makes it easy to arrange fabric by color / pattern – which simplifies finding the “right” fabric needed.
All of us face the same issue of having enough “space” for our fabrics – your well-thought out organization for fabrics makes it easier to maximize the space available.
Thanks so much for this blog and video – timely and well-thought-out!
Aw, that’s all so nice Anne! I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed both posts. I have many more coming up that I’m really excited about! You’re absolutely right about my goals – optimize my small sewing room (mine is about the size of a full bathroom) and make it easier to interact with the fabric while I’m working on a quilt. And I’m delighted to hear that you like it! It’s taken me several years to get to this point, and now it’s time for other people to benefit from that work!
Hi Laura. Thank you for the folding suggestions. I’m interested in your storage bins. Where did you get them? Thank you, Lane in Michigan
Hi Lane, I’m originally from Michigan too! There’s a link to the storage containers in the last paragraph of the blog post, and I’m planning to do another one in the future that dives into them more. Sometimes the amazon shop that sells them runs out, so if they’re sold out, just keep checking! I always see them getting restocked.
Such a nice post on folding, and your pictures are always so pretty! I’ve been looking at the magazine boards and comic boards, but I’m not sure they are acid-free all the way through. I believe it may just be a coating on one side, but I’m not sure. Have you figured it out?
Thanks so much Paula! You are exactly right about the comic book and magazine boards. Many acid free materials only have a coating that tests as acid free, but has an acidic core. For the purposes of a fabric stash, I don’t think that causes too much of a problem. I like to encourage people to use their stash, so that it doesn’t sit for years and years on your shelf, that way using materials that are of a less high quality isn’t too big of a deal. I use them for my stash even though they’re only coated because I view my stash as active. But for something like an heirloom quilt, that’s when you want to invest in fully acid free materials which are often much more costly. I hope that helps!
Thank you, Laura, that validates what I have learned, too. Since I am better at admiring my fabric than I am cutting and sewing it, I think I’ll look for sources of archival-grade cardboard. Making the tidying up process easy is key, since I use our great room for sewing.
Thank you so much for the informative video. I have just started quilting and my stash is pretty small. I received some fabrics from a friend. They need refolding in the worst way! After watching the video I will be able to fold then properly. Thanks again, stay safe…
How lucky to get some fabrics from a friend! You’re in a unique position because if you are able to sustain your folding system as a new quilter, you might always have a pretty tidy workspace. I’ll talk about sustaining organization systems with these folds in the next post in this series!
Great tutorial! I was wondering about your clear containers you put your folded FQ in.
Where can I find those?
Thanks so much Kim! There’s a link to the containers I use for fat quarters and half yards in the last paragraph of the post, and I’ll be talking more about them in the next blog post in this series. Sometimes the shop on amazon that sells these goes out of stock, but just keep checking because they always restock!
I’m curious what would happen to fabric if I had it folded on a board that wasn’t acid free? Would it discolor the fabric? I’m wondering how important this is.
Hi Gretchen, so glad you like this post! Yes, acidic materials are dangerous to textiles, they can discolor them and lead to breakdowns in the fibers over time. This tends to be long term though, and for something that’s actively changing and in use like a fabric stash, it’s most likely going to be ok. But using acid free materials is much more important for long term preservation (think heirloom quilts and important things you hope to pass down to future generations). Hope that helps! I’m planning to include some more information about what acid free really means in a future blog post!
My husband and I are just redoing my office/quilt room and organizing fabric was one of my next steps (still need a sewing desk and a design wall). Thank you for inspiring me to get going on this part of the project! I don’t have a lot of stash fabric, yet, so it is a perfect time to get into good habits! I filled a drawer up (it may move) and I’ll share a photo on Facebook 😁
Welcome to the fun of SuzyQuilts groupies 🥳 Glad you have joined us and I’m looking forward to learning so much more!!
Your picture was so cool Wendy, thanks for sharing it! This is definitely the perfect time to put good organizational practices into place. I’m going to write a little bit about how to sustain a good organizational system in my next post in this series, I hope you’ll enjoy it!
Great tips Laura and stacking things on end is way better than the “stacks” that I have. I’m looking forward to checking whether my current storage containers will work for these folds. One thing that you did not touch on and which plagues me to no end is “leftovers”. What do you do with these? They are of so many different sizes and shapes… some quilters cut them down to nice rectangles, but I’m always afraid that if I do this, some small but essential strip will be missing for some future need. In the meantime it’s just chaos!
Thanks Marsha! I’m glad you found some useful tips! Scraps are so difficult to deal with. I’m working on some ideas, and when I come up with something great, I’ll share it 🙂 For now, I keep very few scraps. I separate them into two small trash bins – one for solids and one for prints. One thing I want to learn a bit more about is textile recycling and what we can do with scraps to help make things more sustainable instead of throwing them away or saving them forever. Working on researching that!
Thank you for taking the time to teach us about folding. I have spent at least 10 hours since I read this yesterday folding my fabric. I have several more tubs to organize. It looks so pretty but I don’t wanna show anyone, it’s almost embarrassing. They could go shopping in my closet. I love scraps and remnants, so I can’t wait to hear your thoughts. I appreciate your great communication skills.
Oh, thank you so much Traci! I hope you’re having fun going through your fabric. It’s always fun to find a cut of a long forgotten print and get excited about using it again. And I know the feeling you have – I once had a non-quilting family member over after I bought my house and gave him a tour. He said my sewing studio looked like a quilt shop, even though I feel like I have a pretty modest stash compared to most quilters I know! I’ll try to come up with some good ideas for scraps, they are so difficult!
I love going through a tub of scraps. It’s like a treasure chest. I piece several together (end end or side-by-side) and make long strips. It helps me come up with new color creations. And they make Gorgeous kitchen towels as gifts. I’ll have show you pictures. Don’t need to publish this 🙂
Thanks for the great tutorial! This is definitely something I was needing help with. I have been gifted with my mother’s fabric stash as well as that of her longtime best friend seamstress and quilter. Some of the containers are full of yards and yards of fabric, and I’m not sure whether to leave as is or get them out, unfold them to see how much there is, and possibly put them on bolts. There is about every type of fabric imaginable from double knit to fashion fabrics to quilting cotton. Any tips for folding or storing larger fabric pieces? Do you recommend trimming odd cuts of fabric so they are easier to store? Thank you and I look forward to reading further posts on the subject.
Thanks Darnelle! What a fantastic gift. I use mini bolts for 1-3 yards of fabric, and anything larger than that I put on regular bolts, which you can usually ask for at your local quilt shop. Hope that helps!
Thank you for this Laura! How do you recommend we store precuts such as layer cakes, charm packs, and jelly rolls? I end up throw them into a lidded plastic bin and then have to dig around when I’m looking for stuff. There must be a better way!
Great question Betheny, and I’m so glad you enjoyed it! I don’t have too many pre-cuts, so I think my organizational system might not work as well for others. I have some baskets I made and I store my charm packs horizontally in those. They’re in a line, so it’s easy to flip through them, instead of being stacked which would make that more challenging. I also store jelly rolls in my fabric baskets lined up on their sides. I put the few layer cakes that I have horizontally with my yardage. I put them at the very end of my shelf that I keep yardage on so they’re separated a bit, and the yardage helps to hold them up. I might go over this a little bit more in my next post in this series, but I hope I explained this well, it’s hard to explain! 🙂
I’m need to organize my stash so this blog post and video are very timely. Once I’m neat and folded Do you recommend storing by color, designer, future project or other
We’ll be going over that in the next post in this organization series! Keep an eye out for it 🙂
Loved your tutorial. Looking forward to seeing anything you come up with for scraps also. I have a large amount of Fat Eighths. Would you fold these like Fat Quarters or should I try something else?
Hi Gin, I don’t have many fat eights, so I don’t have much experience organizing them. But I think you’ve got the right idea! I bet that if you fold them like fat quarters, you could get your tidy tuck but also get a visual difference because they would probably end up smaller than fat quarters. Give it a try!
After watching your tutorial on folding, I ordered a 100 pack of the acid free magazine boards, thinking I would have leftover boards. Spent the weekend organizing yardage that was stacked into totes, rolling the fabrics onto boards and storing upright on shelves. To my surprise, I ran out of boards (100!!!) and need to order more. But my shelves in the basement look amazing…all color coded, of course. And now I can easily see what I already have (maybe that will help me resist the temptation to keep buying fabric???). Thanks for the nudge.
Thank you so much for this! It is much needed. I’m not going to start sorting my fabric out as I have a lot go through!
It’s going to look so pretty once it’s done! And I’ll be all organised!
Our problem with FQ here in the UK, is that some shops do them by the yard and some do them by the metre 🤦🏻♀️. So I have so many different cuts.
I am also a bit of a thrifter, so have lots of scraps, but like what the quilterof4 does and has see through jars in colours (loosely) of anything less than a FQ and then makes scrappy quilts from them.
Thank you again.
Laura, I am so excited about how neat and tidy you like to keep things. Organizing is a passion of mine so I truly find your meticulous mind to be a treasure in my SuzyQuilts journey. I’ll be busy over here for the first week on Voyage folding my scraps! I’m looking forward to hearing what you do with fabric that is less than a fat quarter.
I love hearing that, Suzanne! I list organizing as one of my hobbies 🙂
When you purchase FQ bundles, do you store them together or separate them and organize them by color with the rest of your FQ’s?
I like to separate them. I rarely use fabrics from only one line in a quilt, so that’s what works best for me. Being able to see all of my fabrics in color order makes me more adventurous when choosing what to sew with!
Thank you for this. I would like to share a similar technique for folding and storing yardage. I visit a local frame shop that uses a high-quality acid-free mat board. They recycle all of the pieces not used. Some of these are quite large as they are in the middle of the cut picture frame and I can go through their “barrel” to take the size I need (it’s free); white and larger than 9″ x 12″. I cut each board with a designated rotary cutter to 9″ x 12″ and wrap the board just as you do for the yardage. The best part (besides the free board) is that if you count the folds, each fold equals 9 inches, four folds is a yard. No need to unwrap the fabric to determine how much you might have.
Sounds like a great system!
Hi Laura! I should be finishing my voyage blocks.. but I’m folding! Question about odd sizes —. Maybe not quite half yard — how to fold those? Cut strips and then cut into FQs? Or just try to force it to be half yard size? Also… how about straight up quarter yards instead of FQs? Scraptastic spring! Thank you.
Great tips! So, I wash my fabric right away, and many times I go ahead and iron it and lay it out flat (I don’t have a lot of fabric just yet), but would you just wash it and fold it and wait to iron it when you want to use it?
Thanks Vanessa! Glad you found this helpful! The order of washing, ironing, and folding doesn’t make a difference here, so feel free to do whatever you’d like! I prefer to pre-wash my fabrics before using them for my project in case I have to skip pre-washing any smaller cuts in order to ensure I have the correct amount of fabric, so I just fold and organize my fabrics after I buy them. Have fun organizing!
I organized my fabric a few years ago using similar folds. What I found was that what I thought was the overwhelming task of folding all my fabric the same way, became a very relaxing, almost meditative activity. I was surprised when I was done, it did not take as long as I thought it would, and I was almost disappointed that there was not more to do.
Love that story!
Can you fold yardage(1-5yds) without a board?
You can feel free to fold fabric any way you’d like! I find that without using a board, yardage is very floppy and easily becomes disorganized. It will be much harder to store vertically on your shelf the way you see bolts in a fabric shop, and I personally stay away from horizontal organization because it’s a recipe for chaos if you need something towards the bottom of a pile. The key to good fabric organization, however, is finding something that works for you. If skipping the boards works for you and your organizational system functions well, go for it!
I love this post Laura and refer to it often.So thank you! One question, how do you deal with fat quarters and half yards that you’ve cut into but have lots left? Cut it down, add to scrap baskets?? Would love to hear what you do. xx
Thank you, Sophie! I’m so very glad that this post has helped you! For FQs and half yards that I’ve cut into but still have a lot of, I usually just fold them right back up and pop them in my organizer. That means that sometimes I may pull out a fabric for a project that requires a full FQ and be a little blue that I can’t use it. But that’s ok! I just move on to a different fabric in my stash or treat myself to something new. I’m actually working on a post right now about what I do with scraps (hint: I don’t keep them!), so stay tuned on the SQ blog late next week!
Great tutorial as I start to rethink my fabric organization! I’d love to hear tips and tricks to organize scraps!
Wonderful, I’m glad to hear that! I actually don’t keep my scraps. I compost them if appropriate (here’s a post about that: https://suzyquilts.com/sustainable-quilting-101-scraps-batting/), give them away, or throw away ones that can’t be composted/recycled and no one wants. Realistically, I’m not a scrappy quilter and I try to make every quilt with as little fabric waste as possible, so that makes it easy downsize the few small pieces I have after making a quilt!