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Thread: How Long Do You Keep Your Fabric?

  1. #1

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    I was just curious about what is a safe amount of time to keep your fabric. I seem to always be buying new fabric, and never using up what I have.

    I remember working in a factory sewing with my mom. We were able to take some of the fabric home at one point, and a year or so later she told me it was rotten.

    Now I know that I store my fabric differently than it was at the factory, but about how long is safe to keep it before it starts getting weak and rotten?

  2. #2
    barberette's Avatar
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    Hi Melissa, I think that it all depends on the quality of the fabric. I myself never buy fabric from those bargin bins that the stores carry..Many years ago when I was 14 yrs old I made an apron for my grandmother in school. My mother bought the fabric for me and it was gingham check.. It was good quality fabric. I might add that I am now 65 years old and still have that apron. I remember my grandma wore it for years and years and the fabris looks just like it did back in 1956. :D

  3. #3
    Super Member Chele's Avatar
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    I have some vintage fabrics I suspect are 40+ years old. Old feed sacks, etc. They seem to be quite durable. I have had some pieces that rip easily, but I suspect sun or some other type of damage. You should be able to spot weaknesses or rot in most fabrics. Test first and if they're bad, go fabric shopping! :D :D :D

    P.S. Your baby is the cutest!

  4. #4
    Senior Member k_jupiter's Avatar
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    Well, some fabrics I keep 9 yards long, some others just a fat quarter long. It depends on what I have planned for it.


    Seriously, people go around looking for depression era feed sack material for their quilts. That is like 80 years old.

    Myself, I don't see the attraction, but that's just me. If it ain't made by Robert Kaufman or Michael Miller, it usually doesn't interest me too much.

    Take a piece of questioned material. Try ripping on the diagonal. If you can do that, don't use it for something you want to keep.


    tim in san jose


  5. #5
    Super Member zyxquilts's Avatar
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    Until I use it or give it away!!

  6. #6
    Super Member Tiffany's Avatar
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    I have fabrics that were passed down from my mother-in-law's mother, who dabbled in quilting but didn't have any formal training or another person to sharpen her skills off of. These fabrics are still quite sturdy and I would consider using them in a quilt today. Actually, I'm planning to put them together to make heirloom quilts for each of my daughters. I think as long as the fabric is in good condition it should still be usable. I know when I make most of my quilts I make them with the intention of them lasting 100 years or more, with decent care of course.

    Cotton fabric, because it is a natural fiber, needs to breathe. Never store your fabric in plastic (bags or tubs) with no air flow. It begins to break down the fabrics, which is counter productive to owning a fabric stash. ;) Also, if you live in an area where silver fish or other bugs may be a problem, never store your fabric with any sizing or starch in it. Bugs love to eat it and it's never a good moment when you begin to go through your fabric stash and discover holes eaten throughout. :shock: Let's see, what other tips do I know about storing fabric. You're supposed to occasionally go in and refold the fabric but I confess I rarely do this. If it gets refolded it is because I've used some of it, it's fallen from the pile and needs to be refolded, or it is something I've pulled out to consider for a quilt and need to refold it to put it away again. The thought of going through my stash and refolding everything is a bit daunting. I'd rather just make more quilts and use up the fabric I've got. Can anyone say shopping trip! :lol:
    ~Tiffany

  7. #7
    Country Quilter's Avatar
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    What I don't use before I die is going with me!

  8. #8
    Super Member vicki reno's Avatar
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    Country quilter, you sound just like me! I have a large stash and some pieces really pain me to cut into them. As a result, I have had them forever.

  9. #9

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    Vicki, I know what you mean. I have fabrics that are just for "stroking". They will probably never be in a quilt. I just hate the thought of cutting them. Luckily, I don't have many of these treasures, or my stash would be more out of hand than it is now. :lol: :lol: :lol: Pam :lol: :lol: :lol: Wait a minute, did someone say shopping trip? :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

  10. #10

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    Thanks, everyone, for all your help!

    I've been storing my fabric in plastic totes for about 5 years or so (being in college it was just easier to move that way) I'll have to go through and see what is still good. I guess I'll just have to go and buy some more :!:

    Sounds like there's quite an interest for a shopping spree...anyone here own a bus? :D

  11. #11
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    I've had mine in Rubbermaid totes for about 15 years, and there is no damage. Of course, it's not sealed up tight, and I am always rummaging through them, so there is plenty of air circulation.

    Rot would come from water or bugs or other outside factors rather than just "happening" in old fabric.

  12. #12

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    I'm like Cathe, I store my fabric in Big Plastic Tubs, No fear of it rotting from lack of air, I'm in them always. I share what I have, if I have something that someone says they want or would like, ( considering of course, I don't have plans for it). I've met a Very Dear Friend on this board, that lives in Ala, we have gotton together twice already, I'm going to her house this summer. And we share and give fabric as well as books to each other. Shes taken pictures of lots of my quilts, I also just recentley shared some of my vintage fabric with her, since I was given 81 flour sacks, Also shared some very vintage dresden plate pieces, that will be used for framing. She shares with me, I share with her. I love to share with friends, and shes one that is top on my list. Is'nt that what quilters do? Share.

  13. #13
    Super Member Feathers's Avatar
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    I'm with you, Country Quilter...she who dies with the most fabric WINS and I've already made fabric storage reservations with St. Peter!

    Seriously, I made a quilt for the back of the couch about 6 years ago and early in the morning the sun hits the quilt...bad news! The sun, I'm sure, rotted the fabric in my quilt so now I don't open the drapes until the sun gets over the house which is only about a hour longer than normal as we have a mountain in front of our house that shades us nicely but I did learn that the sun is mean on quilts.

    I have an antiqe quilt that was made by my grandmother 80 years ago that is in great shape but does have some loose weave or damaged areas but the first few years of it's life it was used on my grandparents bed so it's had some use.

    Feathers

  14. #14
    lisae's Avatar
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    I have fabric beyond my lifetime expectancy now, and yet I buy more. I've been building my collections for over thirty years. It is important to keep it out of the sun, because sunlight damages fabric - as Feathers pointed out. I store fabric on shelves and in rubber maid tubs and on the sewing room floor... The floor is where fabric for current project winds up. Shelves are better than the tubs, because I tend to forget about fabric in the tubs.

  15. #15

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    I am so glad this question was asked! I have had some fabric stored in a Rubermaid tub for about 4 years and probably have been in it searching since then very few times. Should I worry about it or remove it?

  16. #16
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    I store mine in Rubbermaid bins....and I even have some in cardboard (Avon) boxes....which I already know is BAD for it but I do it....I move it around so much that it doesn't have time to get bad....I'm in them ALL the time! and they don't even end up in the same bin or box....when I put them away again they are all refolded just by chance... I don't worry... some of my older stuff I've found stains on...I just cut around it...and use it...

    If I was doing this for contests or something I would buy new ...but for me right now most of what I make is for fun...relatives, me, whoever....so it works for me!

    When it gets really bad...hubby gets new rags for his garage!

  17. #17
    Super Member Tiffany's Avatar
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    I keep most of my fabric in plastic tubs and like the other gals who posted above, I am in it so often that there is plenty of air flow. As long as you are into your rubbermaids often I don't think it would be a problem. Although Rubbermaid probably seals a lot better than my cheap Walmart bins. If that's the case, I'd probably just crack the lid to allow for air flow and not worry about it. Hope that helps.

    Plastic bins and shelves crammed full of washed, neatly folded fabric are my mainstays, but I must confess I have an enormous amount of blue fabrics in a huge, messy pile on my floor. I'm using them for several different quilts (all scrappy) and it's just easier to leave them out rather than folding them and putting them away just to take them back out again. I figure no one but me and my hedgehogs go into my quilt room (husband ventures in only when he has to) so only I see the messy pile. :P
    ~Tiffany

  18. #18
    Steve's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cathe
    I've had mine in Rubbermaid totes for about 15 years, and there is no damage. Of course, it's not sealed up tight, and I am always rummaging through them, so there is plenty of air circulation.

    Rot would come from water or bugs or other outside factors rather than just "happening" in old fabric.
    Ok, ok, confession time. I said it wouldn't grow to over one, but I've two large and one small Rubbermaid type bin already. My question is how do you keep it all straightened out Cathe? I too rummage constantly, and they're always in disarray. It could be worse I suppose, but doing double and triple ironing duty kinda sucks. Grrr... I wonder if they have king size walk in tubs? :lol:

  19. #19
    Senior Member Connie1948's Avatar
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    I have fabric that is 20 years old from my sewing days. It is stored in plastic totes with a few small holes drilled on the lids and on the sides. I just checked and all seems fine. Found some beautiful fabrics in those boxes so I might just sew me some new clothes for spring/summer. What fun finding this stash!. As long as the fabric can breathe it should last a long time if stored properly. If a quilt can last a hundred years or more why can't our fabric? Thanks for the question Melissa; as I found a forgotten teasure.
    Connie

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve
    Quote Originally Posted by Cathe
    I've had mine in Rubbermaid totes for about 15 years, and there is no damage. Of course, it's not sealed up tight, and I am always rummaging through them, so there is plenty of air circulation.

    Rot would come from water or bugs or other outside factors rather than just "happening" in old fabric.
    Ok, ok, confession time. I said it wouldn't grow to over one, but I've two large and one small Rubbermaid type bin already. My question is how do you keep it all straightened out Cathe? I too rummage constantly, and they're always in disarray. It could be worse I suppose, but doing double and triple ironing duty kinda sucks. Grrr... I wonder if they have king size walk in tubs? :lol:
    A GENIUS!!! King-size walk-in tubs!!!! I want three of them! :lol:

    Well, mine aren't very tidy, but they are sorted. And I do try to go through them periodically and slice any really small pieces into 1 1/2" or 2" strips (which go into their own tubs). When I have rummaged and am ready to put things back, I TRY to take the time and self-discipline to fold them instead of cramming them back into the tub. It helps if the tubs aren't too full, but they usually are. So often I do have to iron before I cut. I keep a spray bottle of water handy and I have a hot Rowenta iron, so it's not that big a deal most of the time.

    I need to do serious stash reduction. I have the most indulgent husband in the world, but he is starting to look askance at the number of Rubbermaid totes in the attic. I have assured him that they are great insulation and help keep our heating bills down, but I don't think he's convinced.

  21. #21
    Super Member Tiffany's Avatar
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    I need to do serious stash reduction. I have the most indulgent husband in the world, but he is starting to look askance at the number of Rubbermaid totes in the attic. I have assured him that they are great insulation and help keep our heating bills down, but I don't think he's convinced.
    I have not yet reached the point where I am convinced I have too large a fabric stash and I am not sure I ever will reach that point! I envy you ladies who feel you have too much fabric and I would love to come play (steal) with your cast-off fabrics!!!!!!!! :mrgreen:
    ~Tiffany

  22. #22
    Mandy's Avatar
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    i agree with the idea that since quilts can be hundreds of years old, why can't just the fabric? washing it periodically will help with deterioration issues, but i like the idea of using open-top plastic bins to hold them in and also if you can find large mesh bags, that would let you see your fabric, let it breathe, and also keep the bugs out of it. when i see older quilts that have been put away a while, there are those "rust" looking stains on them from time to time. i did my homework and found out that they aren't old blood stains, but actually bugs that have gotten into the quilt and died. the same thing could happen to your unused fabric as well. Keeping out the bugs and letting in the air isn't always the easiest thing to do, but i think garment or lingerie bags might be a decent solution! :mrgreen:

  23. #23
    Steve's Avatar
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    Other than a field of wildflowers, I can't think of much that's more beautiful than a clothes line littered with quilts put out to air. That'll make me smile everytime!

  24. #24
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    I confess... the guilt got to me. I spent this afternoon cleaning up the Pink totes.

  25. #25
    Steve's Avatar
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    Every time I hear of these large stashes, the joke about the woman who insisted that it be buried with her stash comes to mind. After she dies, she gets to heaven, stash in tow, only to be asked by the quilting circle there if she'd thought to bring a needle. :D

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