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Thread: Storing larger pieces of fabric

  1. #1
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    Storing larger pieces of fabric

    I've ended up with lots of quilting fabric, most of which was purchased at estate sales. Between my purchases online, at stores and the estate sale fabric, I probably have 200 yards of fabric. I also have a a couple of jelly rolls, some fat quarters, charm packs, I spy squares and quilt kits. Most of the fabric is yardage, however ( a good percentage between 3 and 5 yard pieces).

    At present, I have most everything stored in plastic totes. Obviously, I don't have a clue what's in them. Most of the fabric was bought when I was working on my first quilt, so I didn't have a clue what I would need in the future. Fortunately, most of the yardage I chose at estate sales is a small scale print that could be used as a blender or is a bright primary colored fabric suitable for a child's quilt.

    There's a conflict here. If I put it out where I can see it (on shelves, for instance), it will be subject to dirt, dust and fading. On the other hand, if I can't see it, I probably won't include it in the plans for my next quilt.

    Then, there's the way to keep it and sort it. I just pulled out a tote to see what was in it and found a 6 yd X 12" strip of calico. Then, there was a blue calico fabric that consists of a 5 yd piece, a 1 1/2 yd piece and a 3/4 piece. I bought a ton of gingham a while back and just looked at one piece, which is a 2 yd piece folded around some large scraps. I probably have 15 or 20 yards of gingham in various sizes and colors. (So, do you sort by color or would you put all the calico together, all the gingham together and all the I spy (my favorite fabric) together. But then the dots and stripes don't get grouped.

    As far as I can tell, none of the fabric from the estate sales has been washed. Lots of it is older and has that "super starched" feel. Washing and ironing 100+ yards of fabric sounds daunting, but you really need to know what you have before you put it in a quilt.

    I've watched some youtube videos, but they usually have 1 yard pieces of fabric that they store. They don't seem to show what they do with the parts that don't fit, but are too big to go the the scraps box.

    This is so daunting that I just stare and it don't do anything with it.

    Any suggestions on getting this to a usable/findable situation would be appreciated.

    bkay

  2. #2
    Super Member redstilettos's Avatar
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    First of all...yay for you! Lots of choices then!

    But, even though daunting....I would wash what you have. Some materials just aren't "feeling good" in a quilt. But that is just my opinion. I wouldn't bother ironing until ready to use it, unless it comes out of the dryer exceptionally wrinkled.

    Wash what you have. Buy foam boards (or get unused cardboard things from the quilt store or Joann's) and place them on the bolts. Get some heavy duty shelves and put them on there. If you are worried about dust, try a shower curtain on a rod to cover. Will help with sun-fading as well.

    Personally, if I can't see the fabric I have....it's out of sight out of mind.

    I would do it by color with the exception of holiday fabric. All my Christmas stuff stays in a group because I don't want surprise santas showing up in a quilt for the middle of summer just because it happen to have the right color red LOL

    It WILL be a LOT of work. Do you have a quilting friend that could maybe come and help you? Have an organizing/folding party?

    I'd help....but you'd have to have diet coke on hand

  3. #3
    Super Member needles3thread's Avatar
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    I store fabric in a metal cabinet/pantry with shelves and doors.......can see it readily and keeps dust etc. away.

  4. #4
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    I sort by size because I can see color and print but not size.
    * greater than 5 yds goes on boards that jo anns and quilt shops throws out.
    * between 1-5 yards, I wrap them on comic book archivial cards (about 8 x 11")
    * less than 1 yard, I wrap them on fat qtr boards (cut down from comic book cards)
    * strips & strings are sorted into 2 tubs: lights and darks (grocery bag brown is the dividing color line between lt&dk)
    * scraps are cut and sorted into either 5" squares or 2.5" squares and sorted into "those already swapped", and those "waiting to be swapped". This organizes all my fabric and I find it most useful, and obviously, you can sort the fat qtr boards and the comic book boards into what you like:
    color, fabric type (batiks, civil war, brights, solids etc), collection, etc.
    I wash, test for bleeding, and starch as I use them before cutting to size. Hope this helps you. Work at it a little at a time, and eventually you will have easy access to all your fabric. Jane

  5. #5
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    I sort by some categories first: baby/child; Christmas; fall(includes Halloween) then do general fabric by color. Your gingham might be more useful sorted by color with other fabrics as you probably wouldn't be looking specifically for gingham so much as color and then find that the gingham will work in your project. I have some fabric in a glass door cabinet and was able to place it in the room so it never gets any sun light on it.
    Having said all this, I must admit that right now my fabric is in great confusion and has been that way for quite awhile since we moved many months ago. The trick to organizing is slow but sure. Carve out some time every week to arrange and sort and eventually it will be done(at least I always hope so, lol).

    By the way, I measure fabric as I sort and write the amount on a selvage with a fine point permanent marker(put paper behind selvage). If there is no noticeable selvage I pin a small paper to the edge of fabric with a brass pin(no rusting).
    Last edited by selm; 02-24-2017 at 09:37 AM.
    Sally

  6. #6
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    ​I store all my yardage on mini bolts in a cupboard with doors. They are in colour groupings on the shelves.

  7. #7
    Super Member cashs_mom's Avatar
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    I store yardage over hangers in the closet. I color group it to make it easier to find things. Smaller pieces are stored on shelves on the wall in plastic boxes. By being on the wall, it leaves me more floor space. The downside is that I do have to use a small step stool to reach the upper boxes. I color/theme sort those to make it easier to find what I need and all boxes are clearly marked using mailing labels and a sharpie. I also have the shelves away from the windows and light so there is no fading.

    As far as washing goes, it might be best to wash it. You could do a load every time you wash regular clothes or whenever you have time. I wouldn't bother starching and ironing until you're ready to use it. When I buy new fabric, I usually don't wash it, but I do a lot of wearable art jackets that won't ever be washed so I'm not worried about shrinkage or fading
    Patrice S

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  8. #8
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    I think it's important to get rid of fabrics that don't feel good or are just not your style. I was gifted a friend's mom's stash. It contained lots of thin polyester blends from the 80's. Pretty colors, just not the quality I wanted today. If I were in your shoes. I would go thru one tote at a time. Look at each piece in the tote and determine if it is your style or not. Then organize by color or type. To me if I want a blue background I like to go to the blue tote. Larger pieces that are good for backs go to the bottom of my bins. I wouldn't worry about washing unless you think it's polyester and you want to check.

  9. #9
    Super Member rryder's Avatar
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    I store all my fabric, even yardage, in those plastic drawer units that Target and Walmart sell. I use comic book boards that I cut down so they fit in the drawer units. I have different drawers for different lengths. So one drawer holds anything over two yards, including backing fabric. One drawer holds cuts that are between 1 and 2 yards, another drawer holds scraps that are larger than a fat quarter and another drawer holds fat quarters. All are wrapped around comic book boards that I cut down to fit into the units and are stored on end with the folded side up with a label showing size pinned on. these are arranged from dark to light in the drawers. These are great because I can pull a drawer out and take it to my cutting table when I want to audition a bunch of different fabrics. That means that any that don't get used get put back in the proper drawer immediately which helps keep the clutter down (a little LOL). The drawers keep dust off and fit under my work tables in my sewing area which is great since I don't have wall space to put up shelves.

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  10. #10
    Senior Member Diannia's Avatar
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    My fabric is on boards made out of corrigated plastic or foam board purchased at Dollar Tree then cut down to size. I don't wash my fabrics. I am always on the lookout for Lawyers Cabinets (they have glass fronts) and currently have 4 big ones that hold my bigger fabrics, 2 small and 1 med one that hold my FQ's. I sort my fabrics by type, w/w, creams, pinks etc. EXCEPT for kids, holidays, special like CW or 30's. Confused yet???
    I am too blessed to be stressed and too anointed to be disappointed!

  11. #11
    Super Member roguequilter's Avatar
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    my way ..
    ...i don't wash all new fabric that comes in. the sizing on new fabric is to protect & shield the fabric until ready for use.
    ...i also have lots of yardage and large scraps from yard & estate sales. if musty or whatever i wash, smooth and fold. before adding it to fabric i already have.
    ...nothing is ironed until i need it for a project. i think heat can damage fabric fibers and limit ironing only until it's needed.
    ...large pieces are folded selvadge to selvedge, then in half lengthwise to selvedge again, then end to end till its about 12" or so wide. this fits on most bookshelf depth shelves.
    ...my current fabric archive is kept ..yardage in closet with doors closed.
    ..fq's, scraps etc are folded and kept in underbed flat plastic boxes. easier to dig in.
    ...i sort by ..florals
    ..era ie- 1800's, 30's, vintage
    ..solids
    ..stripes, dots, pindots, batik ..and other odds & ends are stored seperately in bins --i never buy yardage in any of these except for a few nice/interesting stripes.
    ...in my last home i used a spare bedroom for my sewing room. i noticed after a couple of years that there was fading on the folds of the fabric on shelves. ambient overhead light, no sunlight ..so your room lighting can fade fabric. my solution was to hang sheets over the shelves of fabric. worked perfectly. no more fading. very seldom do i buy for a project. if i'm near a fabric store i shop by needs ..more small prints, more large florals, etc. then i 'shop' in my closet and plastic boxes for new or ongoing project. i have noticed over the years that all my purchase have tended to same/similar styles, subject & colors. the exceptions are things i get at estate sales or are given to me. which is good ..so now i can experiment and find that hmmm ..that green is perfect ..even tho i never would have bought it
    the rogue quilter - in from wandering in the sun and snow with camera in hand.

  12. #12
    Super Member roguequilter's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by toverly View Post
    I think it's important to get rid of fabrics that don't feel good or are just not your style. I was gifted a friend's mom's stash. It contained lots of thin polyester blends from the 80's. Pretty colors, just not the quality I wanted today. If I were in your shoes. I would go thru one tote at a time. Look at each piece in the tote and determine if it is your style or not. Then organize by color or type. To me if I want a blue background I like to go to the blue tote. Larger pieces that are good for backs go to the bottom of my bins. I wouldn't worry about washing unless you think it's polyester and you want to check.
    great ideas! around here where i live, church quilting groups love getting fabric donated for charity quilts. the local thrift shop also, are a favorite place for locals to shop for fabric for childrens clothing, home dec items ....
    the rogue quilter - in from wandering in the sun and snow with camera in hand.

  13. #13
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    When I used totes to store fabrics I folded it so it was the with if the tote (short side). I laid the tote on the short side and then layered my fabrics folded edge to the top. Took a photo from the top and printed it and put it on the side of the tote. That way I knew exactly where each fabric was hiding. I have since moved and now have a closet dedicated to fabrics. But before I had the closet I felt I was able to find what I was looking for.

  14. #14
    Super Member QuiltnLady1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maggie_Sue View Post
    When I used totes to store fabrics I folded it so it was the with if the tote (short side). I laid the tote on the short side and then layered my fabrics folded edge to the top. Took a photo from the top and printed it and put it on the side of the tote. That way I knew exactly where each fabric was hiding. I have since moved and now have a closet dedicated to fabrics. But before I had the closet I felt I was able to find what I was looking for.
    Great idea -- I don't have room to store all my fabric in my sewing room so I think I will do this. I also have a lot of "project (read UFO) boxes" that are stacked on shelves -- this would help me remember what I have yet to do. Thanks Maggie Sur.
    QuiltnLady1

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  15. #15
    Power Poster QuiltE's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by QuiltnLady1 View Post
    Great idea -- I don't have room to store all my fabric in my sewing room so I think I will do this. I also have a lot of "project (read UFO) boxes" that are stacked on shelves -- this would help me remember what I have yet to do. Thanks Maggie Sur.
    I use the shallower totes, about 6 or 8" deep.
    Fold the fabrics, so that they are the depth of the tote.
    Then when I open the tote I can see the array of fabrics in it.
    Anything over a metre folded the long way and has the measurement noted on painters tape on the fabric.
    Under a metre is not measured, but folded about 5" square.
    So with a quick look I have a good perspective as to the length of the fabrics.

    The sort per bin is mostly by colours ... with separate bins for Christmas, Seasonals, Patriotic, Batiks, etc.
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  16. #16
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    I was lucky enough to have a whole bedroom for my sewing room, and because of that I had a free closet that I could use. I ended up taking all my large pieces of fabric (the colors that were alike together so I might have 3 or 4 pieces together on the hanger) and "hanging" them on clothes hangers in the closet. It's the best solution I have found for seeing what I have available. All the greens are together and all the blues, etc. It's just wonderful to look at what I have in one glance. Now if I could figure out a good solution for those little pieces I'd be all set.

  17. #17
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    I have all my fabrics(unwashed) and ruler folded, then I sort by background color, then put into the appropriate drawer, in the drawer the fabric isn't stacked on top of each other, but laid side by side, this way you can see what's what, and don't have to disturb the "stacks".

    As far as the gingham, most of the gingham is cotton/poly and quite "lightweight", so I would hesitate to use it in bed quilts. As I just recently moved into a new sewing room, I went through my fabrics and donated a large amount of gingham, simply for the reasons above.

    What I would recommend is try some of the "hints/suggestions" and see what works best for YOU, since what works for one person doesn't necessarily work for another.

  18. #18
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    I recently went thru my fabric and pulled out pieces of fabric, good but didn't think I would ever use it so I donated it to an organization that makes simple dresses and shorts for boys in Africa. They in turn make up kits for anyone who wants to sew these articles of clothing. I have never missed any I gave away and my fabric closet has been downsized. I did wash and press any I donated. Also there are churches out there that love to get fabric for making quilts for the needy. Just a thought.
    Last edited by Karamarie; 02-25-2017 at 05:50 AM. Reason: Error in spelling

  19. #19
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    How fortunate that you have this fabric. Yes, it seems like an overwhelming project to sort, store, etc. As you tackle one tote at a time you will be able to quickly sort as if you are decluttering: likely to use, worthwhile to share, and probable trash. IMHO I wouldn't spend time at this point trying to sort specific storage categories for anything less than a fat quarter......just toss the ones you want to keep in their own separate container. Launder the yardage bit by bit in amounts you can handle quickly. That for me would be one load when I'm not burdened by other responsibilities. If you are able to launder and fold for storage without ironing, I repeat not ironing, you will see results as you go along.

    I thank you for posting this question. It's not unusual for each of us to want to kick up our methods a step or two. There is a world of experience available at this site! Thanks to all who shared their techniques. :-)

  20. #20
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    About 3 or more years ago I was in your position. I would find fabric on a "can't resist" sale or friends would give me their scraps and I had those huge plastic boxes full of fabric and had little idea what was in there. So with the inspiration of the good folks here, I went to the Comic Book store and bought 300 comic book boards, then over to Joann's to buy their storage boxes because they were on sale. The storage boxes are the file style so the boards would stand up straight - they hold the boards and I can see the fabric from the side. Then I went through one bin at a time. Separated the fabric by themes (Christmas, Fall-Halloween, Childrens, floral, etc. and solids by color.) There was some I got rid of because it wouldn't work in a quilt. It turned out I had over 250 Christmas fabrics and 100 Halloween fabrics - so I was back at the Comic book store and Joann's a few more times. It took me a couple days to get it all done (I'm retired, otherwise it would have been a couple of weekends).
    My fabric is washed when I bring it home - and I do not iron it until I use it. So when I did the sorting, if I didn't think it was washed I washed it then.
    After I knew what I needed I went to Ikea and bought some storage shelves. Since mine fit in a closet I just got the wire ones that were the perfect height and width. So much easier than stacking the bins on top of each other. I kept 2 bigger bins for very large cuts of fabric (5+ yards and flannel) and my UFO's. I have notes on the inside that can be seen on the outside that say what is in the bin.
    I am sure you will enjoy it - playing with all the fabric, seeing what you actually have is like finding a new treasure. You may even put together fabrics for your next quilt.

  21. #21
    Super Member tlpa's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maggie_Sue View Post
    When I used totes to store fabrics I folded it so it was the with if the tote (short side). I laid the tote on the short side and then layered my fabrics folded edge to the top. Took a photo from the top and printed it and put it on the side of the tote. That way I knew exactly where each fabric was hiding. I have since moved and now have a closet dedicated to fabrics. But before I had the closet I felt I was able to find what I was looking for.
    This is a great idea! My fabric is stored on shelves and in containers. It isn't all consolidated at this point....not enough time....but I can see most of it....on a shelving unit (with a sheet covering it) and in clear totes. I'm to a point where if I bring anything home, I try to take something out. Therefore I don't I usually wash when bringing it in, but that depends. I found some vintage 1930's & 40's fabric and did wash & iron before storing. I do keep the Christmas, novelty, kids, vintage and solids separate, and then loosely by color.

  22. #22
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    This is how I store all of my fabric and it is so easy to grab when auditioning fabric for a project.

  23. #23
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    Since I sew clothing as well as quilts I have the scrap problem you describe. All my yardage is ruler folded and stands on shelves in the closet. Large scraps are laid as flat as possible on the table, then rolled, tied with a thin piece of fabric (selvedge maybe) and stacked on a shelf like wine bottles. This way I can see the colors but I know it is not a continuous large yardage piece. Some people would take these scraps and cut into strips or squares. I never reduce the size of scraps until I know what size I need in the project I'm using it for.
    Shirley in Arizona

  24. #24
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    I prewash everything brought into my home. In fact it goes straight to the laundry shed before it goes into the house. I can't tolerate the odor that comes off new fabric and after what I saw at a big box (woman wiping her very sweaty brow, neck and pits), I make sure to wash. I sort first flannel, knits, muslin, then theme (holidays) color. I try to do it like laundry. I also do this on my cutting table (for measuring) and easy folding or using the comic books or for fat quarters. I don't cut pieces until I need them. If the fat quarter piece is a little larger than it should be (a little wonky) it still becomes a fat quarter (trim later). my fabric used to sit on shelves in a very light room. Some not so great fabrics to work with were used to cover the other fabric to prevent fading.

  25. #25
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    Thanks for all the great ideas. I only have two more work days before retirement! I'll be starting on my sewing area then. First, I have to clear most everything out of it (garage sale, probably) and give it a good cleaning. I have a huge space (size of a three car garage), but it has no closets. I have shelves and tables, but nothing else. I'm really looking forward to this.

    I have some of those stacking plastic drawer things that I can empty out and try.

    Thanks for the reminder that stuff needs to be on shelves, not stacked.

    I've already bought some comic boards, so I have a starting place.

    I have 5 big totes of quilting fabric (they are heavy!) + my I spy fabric which is in 4 smaller totes and then one of those large shallow totes full of oddball silks, linens and the like. I think those things would make great sachets. I have lots of quilt possibilities, as well. Most are calico, so are going in quilts or to donation.

    Lots of big changes are coming in my life, so I have lots of room to experiment.

    Thanks again for helping me think this through.

    bkay

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