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Fabric Storage Ideas

Sandra Hatch

Storing Fabric

Stephany has a question about storing fabric. "As a sewer and a quilter to be -- I have tons of fabric. Should I store it in a plastic container or a cardboard box? Thanks for your help."

Fabric storage has become a huge problem for me. I have a large walk-in closet with shelves from ceiling to floor, another double-door closet with the same set up and about 10 plastic tubs of fabric overflowing my sewing room. I do have it organized in a system that only I can understand. I have all my solids in a small hoosier cupboard. I have one closet sorted by color; the other one is by kinds -- mottleds, stripes, Halloween, etc. I have two shelves that include pieces of 5 yards or more.

The storage containers are sorted into fabric panels, Christmas (I have two huge containers of these fabrics!), fat quarter collections and novelty prints. I have only one container of UFO's.

Stephany wants to know how to store her fabrics. I know that storing quilts in plastic tubs and garbage bags is not good for them because they need to breathe. It would seem that fabrics should do this as well, but I am not worried about short-term storage of fabric in this type of container. As for cardboard boxes, I don't use those because they don't allow me to see what is inside. I can view the fabrics through the sides of my clear plastic containers and am able to find what I need.

I continually reorganize my fabrics as I use it up and get more. It gives me great pleasure to be able to finish a quilt, grab a backing fabric off my shelf, add some batting and actually get a quilt finished. I have not started a quilt that I have not finished in a long time. This is because they are usually made for a book or for use in Quilter's World and I have a deadline. My only storage problem these days seems to be that I need more room. I would guess that is a problem I share with every other quilter in the world.

One Quilt Connections reader writes: "Regarding the question of fabric storage, I work in a fabric store and I collect fabrics, too. Your readers can ask if the store has any of the bent boards that they wind the fabrics on. Most of them are thrown out when they get bent. They make perfect storage for your longer lengths of fabrics. The added plus is that, since they are not folded up, they are cutting-table ready. Roll them out and start cutting."

And reader another suggests: "Regarding fabric storage using plastic storage containers, I suggest making small air holes all over them. This allows the fabric to breathe and saves synthetics from yellowing."

Delores writes: "I store my fabric in cardboard file boxes, and I have a small piece of each fabric taped to a sheet of paper on the outside of the box so I know what is in the box. When the fabric is gone I just remove the piece of fabric from the paper. These boxes hold much more fabric than the plastic containers."

Jan (from the cold Upper Peninsula of Michigan) shares: "Enjoyed your last letter. I am 71 and have about 300 yards of material stored in my basement (a finished basement complete with my sewing machine and serger). Some of that yardage dates back to the 1960s and, because no one in the family sews but me, I decided it was time to figure out a way to dispose of it.

"I just got done sending five baby quilts off to Newborns in Need in my state of Michigan and have five more ready to go. It is very special knowing that some tiny baby, who is a special gift from God, will be blessed with one of my original quilts made with love. I still have a long way to go to dispose of all that material, but the stash is starting to go down somewhat.

"I enjoyed seeing all the beautiful quilts in your last letter. That was special. It is my prayer God will bless you and that you have a lovely Christmas."

How about trying Doloris' fabric storage hint? "One of my storage solutions is to make use of my digital camera. I fold the fabrics, place them in a computer-paper box sideways, and take a picture of the contents. I print the photos and then write the yardages on it. I either glue the photo to the box or put it in a small picture photo book. This is called inventory control!"

If I did what Doloris does, it would sure control my inventory. I would not be able to keep up with the process. But it sure is the perfect way to know exactly what you have and how much.

Nadine shares some good tips. "I have a hint about thread. I put a dab of nail polish (dark enough to show) where the thread is fastened so that it is easy to see where to fasten it when finished. I also use divided, one-layer plastic containers to keep my thread organized by fiber content and/or brand such as 100 percent cotton, poly/cotton blend, rayon, etc.

"My mother sewed for many years and saved buttons from old garments. She also bought them when on sale. I have them organized in similar way.

"Another hint from my mother: I keep hand-sewing needles from rusting due to perspiration by putting a drop of sewing-machine oil on a small piece of cloth, sticking the needles in it and placing them in an empty prescription container between use."

I knew there was a good use for those empty prescription containers. Thanks for the hints, Nadine.

Don't Use Cardboard

Jan says, "Hello! I work at a quilt shop and would like to pass on a tip. Please tell your readers to never store their stash on cardboard bolts as they are not made from acid-free cardboard. These boards will discolor your fabric if you let it 'age sufficiently on the bolts,' as my friend stated it. I hope this helps."

I sure hope I don't let my fabric stick around long enough to age, even if it is not on cardboard bolts!

Bunk Beds

Marlene has the best idea for fabric storage. "After my first daughter went away to university, her room was empty 95 percent of the time. I replaced her bed (which went to university) with a metal bunk bed. I folded and sorted my fabric -- over 3 yards, 1-3 yards and under a yard -- and piled them on a board my husband made to replace the top mattress.

"When not using the fabric, a plain sheet covers my stash. When I need to contemplate the world, or just need to 'gather wool,' I go in the room and survey my stash.

"The only problem I had was reaching a piece to get it out from the top piles. A stool took easy care of that. Even my non-sewing friends enjoy the 'beauty of the stash.'"

When I read Marlene's fabric storage solution, I thought it was a truly perfect way to store fabric. If you have some unused bunk beds hanging around, think about putting them to good use storing your fabrics.

Fabric or Food?

Tonya's suggestion puts the importance of fabrics for quilters in its proper perspective. "In regards to your query about fabric storage, I knew I needed to write and tell you about my mother-in-law's solution. She has a large kitchen and has taken over much of her cupboard space with fabric. She has them all organized by color, and they are folded so that you get a good glimpse of the pattern when you open the doors. Because it is just her and my father-in-law who reside there, she has also taken over the eating area, and claimed it as her working space. This storage idea won't work for most, but I thought it was a great idea for her at this time in her life. Thanks for the great newsletter."

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think about storing my fabric in my kitchen cupboards, but look out, Randy! Food and dishes may be a thing of the past. This would be a great dieting exercise for me as well, killing two birds with one stone, as they say. With 60-plus cupboard doors, I can store a lot of fabric!