Sunday, April 3, 2016

Taming the Fabric Stash

When I first started sewing as a teenager, I never had a stash.  If I needed to sew something, I just headed to the fabric store and picked up whatever filled the need at that time.  All my supplies fit in a shoebox and patterns in a paper bag.  Life was simpler then, no one collected fabric--at least they did not admit it.

When I hit 30, I had about six pieces in my stash and each piece had a definite purpose to be sewn within a few month.  By the time I was 40, the stash started to grow.  I had a couple dozen pieces and they all fit in a banker's box in my closet.   Then that began to grow and there were two banker's boxes.  I decided that I needed a little more control over the fabric, measured the length & width of each piece and pinned a piece of paper with the measurements to each fabric.  I also started clipping a small swatch from each piece and attached them all together with a large safety pin to bring with me when I went fabric shopping--just in case I found something that might coordinate with something from the stash.  Coordinating became an obsession and the stash grew larger.  Fabric spoke to me and I listened. 

Then I started going to sewing expos and traveled and collected more fabric.  The stash was now in a large chest on the third floor of my house.  Fabric began overflowing from the chest and new banker's boxes began to show up to hold the ever-growing stash.  That's when I decided just attaching the measurements of the fabric and my portable safety pin stash was not enough.  Stash control was now a topic on the sewing boards and people were giving suggestions as to how to organize fabric.  This was around the year 2000 and I found a template on the internet which was just what I needed.  I personalized it, changed a few things, and I continue to use this template today.

My template is a Word document stating the fabric, source where I bought it, yardage, width, fiber content, notes about the fabric and a spot to attach a swatch.  I place these sheets in plastic sleeves in a 3 ring-binder and have a template for both left and right with the fabrics in the middle when the pages are opened.  In the binder I have divided the categories alphabetically by cotton, knits, linen, miscellaneous, rayon, silk, synthetics & wool.  The binder has pockets in the cover where I keep blank templates to which I attach swatches and info whenever I can't resist buying more fabric.  These days, I update my binder a couple times a year since I just don't buy as much as I did in the past.  I just look at my binder and stash and am quite happy with what I have.

I would love to attach the template, by Blogger won't let me attach a Word document.  I do type in the info and save it in a folder on my computer, but anyone could create a template and just fill in the info by hand and it would still serve the same purpose.  It's just that I have always been an administrator and typing is what I do, how I communicate.

As for storing the fabrics, I would keep them in my now familiar banker's boxes sorting them by color, white, cream, blue/green, red/coral/orange, grey, black, black prints, black knits.  I would write on the side front and side back of each box the color so that whenever I took one out and put it back, I could see what the box held.  I had around 20 boxes at the height of the stash collection.

When I first started organizing my fabrics, my sewing room was located in the basement of our house.  I was there for 20 years. My sewing stuff was located on three different floors.  I had outgrown my corner of the basement and wanted everything in one area. Then both our sons grew-up, became Marines, and off to college.  I asked them if ever planned to move back, and both told me they did not see any reason to move back--although we do see them all the time.  I took over Jeff's room as my new sewing room.   Jeff had a small walk-in closet which I took out the rods and replaced them with wire shelving which I found at Home Depot for $50.  I was ecstatic because I always wanted to have my fabric on shelving in a closet and now I would!  I folded my fabrics to fit the shelving and placed them mostly by fiber content--wools on the bottom, silks of different weights next, cottons and linens, rayons, dark knits & light knits, and outerwear on the top shelf.  In order to keep my folding uniform, I used two different sized pieces stiff cardboard as templates to wrap my fabrics around.

The closet has been working out so well for me.  I still have my swatches on a safety pin, but there are a few more of them, not just one these days.  On the very bottom of the closet, under the shelving are four cardboard boxes with my quilting fabrics.  These are for specific projects.  I do like quilting, but only make one or two a year.  The quilting fabrics are under control and I don't catalog or swatch them. 

I also tape an additional swatch of each fabric in the stash to a piece of foamcore board so I have a quick look at what I have and can move the swatches around and not disturb the closet until I have decided which fabrics I will be using on my next project.

So in a nutshell, when I add new fabric, I measure it, cut 3 swatches (one for the binder, one for the safety pin and one for the board), then fill in the binder template with the appropriate info and fold the fabric placing it on the appropriate shelf in the closet.

I needed to get this all in writing since I am discussing this at our next ASG neighborhood meeting and thought a web connection would be an additional resource for our group.  I have been researching this on the internet and most fabric stash organization deals with quilting fabrics, not garment fabrics.  There are a few resources, but none of them really cover the entire subject, just parts.  I hope to make a video since this is not covered very well on youtube.  There are mostly quilting fabric stash videos on youtube and I found only one decent video dealing with clothing fabrics.

Anyway,  here is a fabric stash video which is really entertaining.


Anonymous said...

Love the idea of the foam core pin board. Looking forward to your presentation this week. Will be there.
Can you talk about hanging vs. folding stash?

MarilynB said...

Sure, hanging vs. folding. I have too much to hang. I think it's just a matter of space. I have lots of other idea and suggestions to give this Thursday.