This question is something that I get asked time and time again. For some of us, it really isn’t an issue and are so disciplined, that there is NO fabric stash, as you only buy what you need for your current project. What category would you put yourself into – A fabric stasher or A ‘buy as I need to’ person?
It is strange thinking back on when I first started to sew and quilt, many decades ago. I remember there being a time when I would have put myself into the last category – I brought what fabric I needed for the project I was planning on making. It got hard at times, as I would buy the fabric at the regular price and it could get quite expensive. Even though there was a couple of dressmaking fabric shops in the town I lived, there were NO quilting fabric shops! In fact, the nearest quilting fabric shop was about 7 hours drive away in Auckland! It was the time BEFORE online shopping! It was only a few years before I moved to Northern Ireland, that my local town got a large craft store (Australian chain – Spotlight) and it was a treasure haven of all things crafting!!
I also found that I would get the sudden urge to start creating (often at weird hours) and just not be able to, due to not having the fabric on hand. It was frustrating. I started searching in the local charity shops for fabric lengths and clothing made from cotton fabric that could be repurposed into quilts. That was the start of my fabric stash but it was manageable and I stored it on shelves in my ‘sewing’ room.
In moving to Ireland, I had to start my fabric stashing again. For a number of years after I moved, I had no such thing as a fabric stash and really didn’t do much sewing or crafting. I had to find the quilting shops which is hard to do when you are new in an area and don’t know of other such minded people. However, the internet has made shopping so much easier and maybe abit too easy for emptying our wallets.
I started to buy fabrics that were on sale, mostly fat quarters, and these I started to store in plastic containers. I remember I had a good size one (or so I thought) that would be perfect to store my fabric stash and make it easier to create when I got the sudden urge. That storage system worked well for a short period, but my buying of fabric started to grow when I saw fabric on special.
I had to rethink a good way to store my stash so I could easily see what I had before I started on a project. It is hard when you suddenly decided that you have to create that quilt on a Sunday and then realise you don’t have the fabric and there are no shops open.
I have become a shopper of quilting fabric, mostly when it is on special. I have also come to the conclusion that Fabric buying and storing is a separate hobby from sewing. I would always buy Fat quarters which were great for small projects or scrappy quilts. But as I progressed (& especially when I started to design) I realised that sometimes fat quarters just don’t fit the bill so I would buy half metre or over metre lengths.
So this brought about the issue of how to store your fabric (which is the purpose of this blog). I thought that it would be useful to share my ideas and resolutions on how to store that fabric stash.
I wanted something that stored my fat quarter fabrics in a way that it was easy to see what they were and kept them protected. I found the best storage solution was the Really useful containers – 6.5 litre size that are meant to store CD’s into. These are just the right height to keep the folded fat quarters in so they stand upright. I sorted the fabric into categories – Christmas fabric and then into the colours – a box for each. It is a great way to see exactly what colours, prints and fabrics you have. I also keep my half metre lengths in these containers which works well.
The next issue that needed to be sorted was how to store my fabrics that are a metre or more in length. The real issue I had with these fabric lengths, was how they would come folded from the shops. They are usually folded in such a way that makes it awkward to cut the fabric into the required cuts on the cutting mat. This is especially true if you have a length of 3 metres or more. Basically you would have to unfold the length and then fold in half along the length so the cutting length is manageable and fits onto the cutting board. I found that having to do this really took away the joy of preparing and starting a new project, as all you want to do is to get struck into cutting and begin sewing, and not having to wrestle with fabric lengths.
I found this way a few years ago on the internet and it works for me, so I thought I would share this with you. It means that when I want to use the fabric and start cutting… the fabric is all ready to cut into. The fabric is folded in such a way, that the fabric width is ideal for the cutting board and you don’t need to spend the time trying to wrestle and fold the fabric when all you want to do is start cutting and sewing. All the hard work is done when you store your fabric. Its brilliant, especially when you have lengths of 3 metres….
- Fold the fabric lengthways- selvedge towards the fabric fold, ensuring it lies straight with the grain n no major creases. You may need to iron the length of fabric.
- I then take a comic book backing board (A4 size) and fold in half lengthways as shown in the photo. The boards are from Amazon – comic book backing boards- 100 for around £10. I also reuse them when I have used all of the fabric.
- Place the fabric end into the board so the fabric end sits in between the board touching the board fold as shown in the photo.
- Start folding the board along the fabric length ensuring the fabric remains smooth n flat as you fold the board.
- Fabric length folded onto the board- easy to keep tidy in storage and ready for cutting when required. All you need to do when you want to cut, is to unfold some of the fabric so you can cut the required size. The fabric on the board stays tidy and out of the way.
- The fabric boards are now ready to be stored upright on a shelf which makes it easy to see the fabric. I store my fabric lengths in an Ikea box on a shelf away from direct sunlight. The fabric bolts are placed in a box according to their colours. I have a box for plain fabrics as well as Christmas fabrics.
As well as collecting fabric lengths and Fat quarters, I seem to have succumb to the habit of collecting pre-cuts. You know, the ones with pretty sounding names – Jelly rolls, layer cakes, honey buns, charm packs and so forth. You could be mistaken in thinking that I am referring to a sweet shop …. But these lovely names refer to pre-cut fabric bundles for quilting.
I remember years back, I vowed never to collect these…. But times change and sometimes we succumb …. To the point … where I had acquired several items in the range and placed them randomly about my sewing snug to only lost them in the abyss of the dark corners ….. I no longer knew exactly what I had brought over time with all good intentions to actually use them. YES, buying fabric and ACTUALLY using it …. Are TWO separate hobbies!
So…. With the Quilter’s handbook in the planning …. I strongly felt that a space was needed in the book to have a pre-cut inventory! I spent a lovely afternoon, quietly locating ALL of my pre-cuts (though I do fear that the ODD one or two still remains lost!) and I dutifully recorded ALL of the pre-cuts into my inventory. I was shocked with what I actually had on hand, and it quickly filled up several pages! However, at the end of the exercise, I was able to know exactly what I had, how many of each and exactly where it was now located. Yes, I designated several drawers and plastic containers for the different types of pre-cuts. I can now look at my inventory sheet, know exactly what I have and in what designer collection and where it is located. One of my goals this year is to use up those pre-cuts to create some quilts.
It really was the most satisfying afternoon I had spent in a while. There was such a sense of achievement in the end with it all recorded in a safe place where I can quickly refer to and know exactly where to find a particular pre-cut.
With starting on my pre-cut inventory journey, it seemed natural to continue with compiling inventories of my other notions and tools. You just never know what item you will reacquaint yourself with …. There is always bound to be that notion or tool that you have forgotten about or mislaid…..
Come back next week and we will discuss the other inventories in the Quilter’s Handbook and how to use them ….