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.

Monday, August 25, 2014


I'm not sure how long this chest of drawers has been in my family, but at least as early as when my parents married in 1948.  I remember it being a nightstand in their bedroom when I was a little girl.  Then they bought a new bedroom set when I was 11 and I got it as a nightstand.  At that time, my mother used it to store her sewing notions in it.  When we broke up my parents house, I took this chest, put it in my sewing area and also used it to store notions.  
I have probably had it for the last ten years with grand plans to paint it.  Well, I finally got around to doing just that.  Three years ago I found button knobs and thought they would be perfect for the chest.  Last week I painted it and put on the new knobs.  Voila!  New life for an old chest of drawers.  It's now back in my Lady Cave proudly holding notions again. I'm sure Mom would approve.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Lady Cave

It's been a while since I posted, but I did complete my sewing room.  Actually, I finished it last March, but was too involved with everything else to post pictures.  I have the time now, so let's take a tour.

This is the majority of the space.   I did purchase the Ikea items that I mentioned in my previous post.  I am so happy that I did.  My friend Ann wants to get the desk for herself.  My husband was all for me moving from the basement to the attic, mostly because he wanted my old space for himself and his hobby.  Anyway, I could never have put everything together without him.  The two bookcases and the desk went together in an afternoon.  The hardest part was getting the boxes up two flights of stairs.

I am posting pictures starting with the bookcase on the left above and following around the room.  I have never added this much to a post, so I'm sure there is a more efficient way to do this, but this is the best way I know for now.
 The green bins hold quilting projects.  Sewing magazines (Burda, Threads, Patrones) are stored in the white cases. I store my buttons in plastic embroidery floss bins from JoAnns.  My grandmother's sewing baskets are on the left middle shelf.  The black boxes contain quilting fabrics and supplies.  The books are old sewing books, drafting books and quilting books.
 My trusty Bernina which is 25 years old.
 Another view.  My Baby Lock serger is under the green polka dot cover.  That's 24 years old.  I also have a Singer Featherweight which I store in the closet when I'm not using it. 
 Top green bins contain projects which I have started, but need to complete.  Something else became more important at the time, but hopefully with this new room, they will get finished this year.  The binders hold online classes and sewing newsletters.  Sewing and fitting books and supplies & notions in the black boxes.
 Thread storage.  The small chest of drawers was used by my mother for her notions.  I plan to refinish it and have new knobs waiting to be added.  I bought the picture of the girl at the National Gallery of Art when I was 18.  It went to college with me and has always been in some important room.
Pressing area.  I have a Naomoto gravity iron.  Because of the sloped ceilings, I need to move the board when I am using it to accommodate the water tank.  I also move the board when using my press for fusing interfacing.  The press if behind the board. In the green bin are my hams, seam rolls and press cloths.  This area needs more light, so I'll be searching for a lamp at Ikea.  The lamp in the picture was at my mother's sewing machine when I was a teenager.  My older son's old boombox is at the right on top of a case my other son made in woodworking shop.  I store my sewing dvds there.
 Cutting area with a stool for company (or me).  I store my patterns in the plastic bins by category.   The dress form is 40 years old.  I'm not the same shape as back then, but I have remolded it to me several times.  I really need a new one. 
 Bookshelf and closet where my stash is stored.  Muslin for a shirt project is hanging.
This bookshelf came from my in-laws' house.  In it are fashion history books, designer bios, style & wardrobe books.  The black boxes contain notions.
 The stash.  I previously had my fabrics in bankers boxes stored by color and have a book of inventory by fabric content.  My husband removed all the old closet rods and we put in a metal wire shelf unit.  This is my dream storage space.  It's hard to see, but I have a 2-step stool so that I can reach the top shelves.

 Besides my grandmother's sewing baskets, my mother's notions chest and the picture of the girl in the yellow dress,  I have added other personal items to the room.

 I've had Ringo for 50 years.  Yes, I am old enough to own him.  I saw the Beatles in concert in 1966.  The cedar box is from Lane.  When I was in high school, every senior girl could get one of these free from any furniture store which sold Lane hope chests.

 I bought this picture at an antique store 15 years ago.  I finally have a place for it.  I think it was taken from an old fashion magazine.

 I found this antique button card at a Paris flea market in 2012 and had it framed.

This picture is my grandfather who was a tailor and you know who is the other guy.  Next to him are sheep bells (that's another story).

I am so happy with my new sewing space.   I was in the cellar of the house for 24 years.  When that was first done over for me by my husband, I was so happy.  I loved that space for many years, but I outgrew it and my stuff was all over the house.  The machines were in the basement along with some books, the fabrics were in my closet, then as they expanded, in the attic.  Five years ago, I bought a table for cutting and drafting so that also when up in the attic.  Before that, I cut out on the dining room table (like most people).   I now have a place for everything and could not be happier.

Friday, January 17, 2014


The whole family is off to Phoenix today.  Our son, Jeff, is running in the P F Chang Rock & Roll Marathon on Sunday.  The race starts at 7:50 a.m, a little early for a marathon back here in the east.  If he finishes in three hours, he will qualify for the 2015 Boston Marathon which is his goal.  Yes, he has done it before.  Jeff has been training for the past several months and is ready.

Our son Kenny and his girlfriend, Patty, will be joining us and we all will be staying in Ken's sister, Nadine's, condo in Tempe.  It will be a little tight, but at least there are 2 bathrooms and three courtyards to take in the weather.  Nadine is putting Kenny & Patty on an air mattress in the garage with a space heater, good luck to them!  I can hear Kenny complaining already.  Temperatures are in the 70's during the day, just perfect, and down to 45 at night.

The sewing room organization is coming along.  This week I have been going through patterns, weeding, asking myself will I ever sew it, what made me buy it and discovering duplicates (which means I will definitely keep one since I liked it enough to buy it again).  I have been planning the layout of the room and checking out IKEA to see what would work.  Last Saturday, I visited IKEA for a couple hours to check out the furniture I was interested in.  I found out that the store will deliver (for a fee) the same day you purchase it, so the Saturday after our return from Phoenix, I'm off to IKEA in the morning.  I plan to pick up two Billy bookcases and the Malm desk which seems pretty sturdy and has a moveable return which will be great for my serger.
BILLY Bookcase IKEA There is plenty of storage space for large books or other objects on the deep shelf.MALM Desk with pull-out panel IKEA The pull-out panel gives you an extra work surface.  I already have a smaller bookcase in the room and will add a couple other small storage pieces which I have, but want to paint first.  Lastly, I want to add a file cabinet for my patterns.  They have been in banker's boxes for the past ten years and it's time to upgrade.  The end result of my weeding patterns will help me determine the size of the cabinet.  Staples delivers for free and within a day of ordering!  I should also check out Craig's list just in case.

So no clothes shopping while in Phoenix, but I think there will be some wine tasting somewhere in the agenda.  There are some really fabulous wineries out there believe it or not.

Go Pats!

Monday, January 6, 2014

2014 RTW Fast

RTW Fast badge 
I've revived my blog (after much trouble figuring how to get back into it) and plan to post all my sewing in 2014.  Since both of my sons have moved out of the house, I am in the process of cleaning out one of my son's room and turning it into my sewing room.  So I'm moving out of the basement into the attic.  I have gone through all 700 yards in the stash,  eliminated what I know I will never sew, stripped the closet and inserted a wired shelf rack.  All fabrics have been refolded and stored by fabric content and color.  I'll post a picture soon.  I truly love these fabrics and am not afraid to cut into them,  I just need to get back into sewing all the time.  The room has more work to be done, but my goal is to finish by the end of January and start sewing again.

Anyway,  while surfing sewing blogs, I came across the 2014 RTW Fast on .  I was always running to the mall for pants.  I live in pants, rarely wear a dress these days.  What I should have been doing is concentrating on fitting a good sloper for pants instead.  I look at my stash and am so inspired--I just need to start using it again.  By not letting myself purchase clothes, I will be forcing myself to start sewing these lovely fabrics. 

My local ASG group is also concentrating on sewing blouses/shirts this year.  I love to sew blouses, and will be running a couple meetings on pintucks and flyfronts for blouses. 

So into this RTW Fast I dive, first to finish the jacket I cut out last year, then a shirt to go with it.  After that, I will concentrate on pants.  No more short cuts/cop-outs buying clothes.  I have the skills and fabric to make the clothes I really want to wear happen.

My best wishes and happy sewing to all of you who are part of this lovely group.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Ah Wilderness Revisited

This past weekend we went back to fix the ceiling and get everything back to normal.  We arrived late Friday night and while getting ready for bed, I discovered that neither of us had used the main bathroom.  When I turned on the light, I found a new surprise.  A dead mouse in the toilet!  I wanted to flush him, but Ken decided to scoop him out and dispose of him outside.  Evidently, D-Con makes mice thirsty.  They are supposed to leave the house looking for water outside, but this guy decided to take a fatal shortcut.   We now have mousetraps set up in the house and will return next week to check them.  Say a prayer that the traps are empty and we are finished with little visitors.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ah, Wilderness!

Three years ago, Ken & I bought a little second home in the North Conway, NH area.  We just love our petite maison.  We stay there at least one weekend a month, often more.  Yes, it looks small, but it has five rooms, 2 bedrooms and 1 1/2 baths.  All creature comforts are covered and it is located close to everything.

Thanksgiving day we went to my sisters for dinner and afterward we drove up to our little house for the rest of the weekend.  When we entered the house we were greeted with a strong stench!  We had rented the house two weekends earlier, and at first, we thought someone didn't take out the garbage when they left, but the can in the kitchen was empty.  We also found the smell very strong in the second bedroom directly under the kitchen.  This led us to the conclusion that some creature got into the house and died between the two floors. Yuck!  I thought it must be a chipmunk since they are always running around outside the house, Ken thought it might be a mouse.  We were both hoping it was nothing larger than either of those.  The smell was pretty much contained in the kitchen and one bedroom, so we closed the door to that bedroom and went to bed.  In the morning, Ken decided to rip out part of the bedroom ceiling to take a look since we could find no evidence of anything in the kitchen.  Well the smell was even stronger once the ceiling was removed.  He couldn't find the critter, but did find a lot of mouse droppings.  I got up on the ladder with a flashlight and found the varment.  I saw two little mouse ears peaking out from under an electrical wire.  The little guy had got himself stuck under the wire and couldn't get out.  He had not been there long enough to get messy, thank goodness, just stiff and flat.  Once we removed him, removed all the insulation around the area and sprayed a gallon of Lysol, the smell improved.  By the end of the day, there was no smell in the kitchen and the bedroom had a faint smell.  We decided to leave the ceiling open for now  to air it out and will repair it on our next visit.  I guess we are lucky all we had was a mouse.  We do have electronic critter repelents in the house, but this guy somehow got through.

As for sewing, I am working on a fancy evening jacket to wear with black crepe pants to a couple Christmas parties coming up in December.  I cut out the jacket and fused interfacing the weekend before Thanksgiving, sewed Sunday and Monday night and it is half finished. I had sewn this jacket before, so the fitting issue was not something to slow down the process.  The jacket is McCalls 6042 I'll post a picture when I'm finished which hopefully is next weekend since I need to wear it on December 12.

Sunday, November 20, 2011 10th Anniversary

Yesterday I attended the PR Boston Anniversary Party.  About 30 women and a few husband were there enjoying each others company while treating themselves to munchies, mocktails and cake at the PR headquarters.  There were 18 other such celebrations around the world yesterday.  PR has grown so much in the past 10 years. 

I first knew of Deepika back on Sewing World around 2001.  She was always asking questions, seeking information.  I do remember her asking if anyone knew of a site where sewing patterns were reviewed.  Although there were a few sites that posted reviews, they were limited in their scope.  Deepika decided that she would set up a site.  I thought to myself "Who is this girl?  She thinks she can set up a site for pattern reviews?  Good luck to her!"  A few days later, she pops back on Sewing World announcing her site along with a link to it.  Hey, not bad for something off the top of her head!  Little did we know at that time that she was a professional web designer.   At that time it was just reviews of patterns, but people started adding more and more reviews, then it began to expand to other areas of review, then on-line classes, message boards, get-togethers, etc.  Who knew it would become such a force in the sewing world.  Certainly not Deepika. 

I feel a major reason PR has grown so large is because Deepika is an open-minded, curious, friendly, risk-taking, always positive individual who has a strong love of sewing. I have been lucky enough to personally know Deepika over the past 10 years and have met many other members at various events including 3 trips to New York, seminars, and a few celebrations at her house (at one we celebrated PR reaching 25,000 members!). 

Anyway, we had a lovely time last night along with a fashion show of stunning cocktail dresses, gifts, a slideshow which will most likely make its way onto the website, and great conversation.  Afterwards, we went to dinner together (and had real cocktails).  I did take pictures, but my camera is not cooperating by letting me download them all.  But this picture did make it through.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


After a nearly three year break, I want to start this blog up again.  A lot has happened to my family and me during this time, most of it is positive, thankfully.  Both my sons are now out of the Marines and going to college full time--and both have moved out of the house.  I love when they are here, but an empty nest is also a good thing.

My husband, Ken, has retired, but is working part-time for two engineering firms.  He really is enjoying himself.

Three years ago, I started a business with two other gentlemen.  It is viable and for the past six months we have been paid salaries.

We have taken two trips to France and have been taking French lessons for the past three years.  We are not great at French, but can communicate.  Also we took a major wine tasting tour last April in France for five days in the Rhone area.  It was heavenly.

I have been sewing, though not quite as much as I want.  I have also taken up quilting which I had been avoiding for fear of a new addiction.  I was right, the quilting stash has 5 quilts waiting to be made.  I love planning quilts, picking out the fabrics, patterns, figuring out sizes, cutting, sewing--just everything about it.  I have only completed one so far, but another one is about a third sewn.  I'll post my progress. 

My life is good, and sewing is still a major part of it.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Thoughts on Wardrobe Basics

I love reading about how to develop a wardrobe and there are so many schools of thought on this subject. SWAPs follow right along with this thinking and I feel SWAPS are more detailed than a lot of other routes. I recently fell upon this online article from Forbes which I wanted to share. It is about a basic as it gets, yet I agree with almost everything in this article except for the Hermes Kelly bag. In forty years I have gone through five Coach bags which the total cost still doesn't add up to one Kelly. To sum up the article, go for great basics, think it through, buy quality, skip the trends, don't be matchy-matchy and just be your well-dressed self. Well, in this corner, we'll sew quality and snoop shop instead.

What intrigued me most about this was the link to Eight Essential Items For a Perfect Wardrobe.

Black Pant Suit
Black Pumps
Trench Coat
White Blouse
Cashmere Sweater
Pencil Skirt
Ballet Flats

The only thing I feel that was omitted was a pair of great fitting jeans. With these essentials, just add a little color with another jacket, sweater and blouse, a couple scarves and a string of pearls then world is at your feet. Hey, you can pick up a cashmere sweater on sale right now! These eight items are pretty much in line with Tim Gunn's 10 Essential Elements with just a change here and there and Tim has no color restrictions. I guess why I'm drawn to the Forbes article is because I feel black & white basics are just a great starting point for most of us.

Since this article was in Forbes, it is aimed at business women, but the basics really apply to everyone when they are out in public. Do you ever notice the well dressed women in the grocery store look so much more sure of themselves than the ladies in baggy Patriot shirts and worn sneakers?