Hello and happy Wednesday! Today I’ve decided to finally write the post that has been on my “to do” list for quite a while…a post on managing your fabric stash. I’ve written on many related topics over the years…
Other Posts on Organizing Your Fabric Stash
- Building a Fabric Stash,
- How to Sort & Organize Scraps,
- Organizing Quilting and Sewing Projects
- and Organizing Project Left-Overs
However, today’s topic is a little different: I’ll be focusing on great ideas for weeding out your stash and deciding what to keep.
Recently I read an article on how to manage a fabric stash from Unclutterer (an organizing/decluttering blog I’ve been reading for several years) that gave several good ideas on this topic. While all of them may not apply to every serious quilter (only storing an amount of fabric you could carry out in an emergency or the idea that scraps are clutter definitely don’t work for me), there are some really good ideas to be found in the article.
Quarterly Stash Management
But one of the best things I’ve read on this topic was the idea from Becky Goldsmith that one should weed out their stash at least once a year (or sooner if there is fabric stacked on the floor)! I often end up with piles on the floor several times a year, and so I’ve started weeding out or more properly “managing my fabric stash” quarterly. This quarterly organizing seems to keep me on track, and since the quarter just ended and this task is on my list for this weekend…this post!
Tips for Managing Your Fabric Stash
Sort pre-cuts first
Pre-cuts are fairly easy to organize and store, and they are the easiest to sort. Beginning by sorting these fabrics gives you a win-win feeling right at the beginning. Usually what I do is go through my Fat Quarter Bundles and decide if there are any I’m sure I won’t use. My daughter will often take some off my hands, but others I occasionally list in my Etsy shop. I also go through charm packs, Layer Cakes, and Jelly Rolls the same way. Mini charms that I’m not going to use I bundle up in packages of two to give to students when teaching. Trading, donating, or gifting pre-cuts is also a great way to keep them under control.
Sort Larger Cuts of Fabric
Since larger cuts of fabric take up the most space, sorting them next will help you make progress fast. One thing I’ve started doing when I decide I can’t part with some fabric is pinning a note to it with what I think I’ll use it for along with the date I wrote the note. Then, if I find the fabric untouched the next time I organize, I think seriously about donating it to charity. Remember that fabric pieces close to a yard make great pillowcases which are great to make for charity or even for gift-giving.
Sort fat quarters and other similar pieces
I organize most of my fat quarters and pieces just a bit smaller than fat quarters by color. I have a designated shelf for these, and when I start running out of room I go through the fabrics color by color to see if there are any I don’t love anymore. This has really seemed to help a lot lately. Now there are fabrics in this part of my stash that I’ve had for several years and still love, and I’m fine with keeping them indefinitely on the shelf (although lately I’ve been doing better about using them).
I do keep holiday fabrics together and certain fabric collections together that I know I’ll use again in their entirety.
Finally, sort scraps
For me, sorting scraps often has to happen even more frequently than quarterly. I try to cut up left-overs from projects into usable pieces as I finish– 1 ½″, 2″, and 2 ½″ strips, 2 ½″ squares, 3″ squares, and 5″ squares. These pieces are the ones I use the most. I also have a separate bin for low-volume fabrics which comes in really handy when I need small pieces of backgrounds for a project.
A Few other ideas…
- Becky Goldsmith also suggests just trying to power through it. If you think about it too much, you’ll want to keep everything! I’ve had great success having someone else help me…sometimes someone else can look at things a bit more objectively and know whether you are going to use it again or not.
- Keep orphan blocks together…there are so many great ways to use them for small projects…see my post on tips for using orphan blocks here.
- Know when to abandon a project. If you’re never going to finish something, donate it to charity. One time I gave a lot of left-overs to a friend’s sewing group, and she was able to tell me later that one woman happily finished and used some of my unfinished works in progress. I’m so glad those aren’t still in my closet!
- Reminding yourself that stash management is an on-going process keeps it from becoming too overwhelming. You don’t have to get to everything at once. Progress is progress!
- Remember that your style may have changed since you first purchased a piece of fabric. It’s okay to get rid of it when you know you won’t be using it.
I hope some of these ideas will help with your on-going process of stash management…this is definitely what I’ll be doing this weekend!
Thanks so much for stopping by!
Sherry VF says
Great ideas. For me, the best advice is to put the managing stash task on my calendar which gives it some credence.
Thank you for this article. We may be moving to a smaller home where I'll have to leave my "dream come true" quilting studio. I was just looking at all of it last night and wondering how I could get it all to fit ! I did a large purge/donation last year and it felt GREAT knowing it would be used for charity quilts. Time to do it again 🙂
I'm not sure why I even started collecting fabric to create a stash. Bad me. I have sew sew much fabric. I just moved to a smaller rent house while we build a house on the farm Maybe. That's another story. Anyway I'm trying to figure what I'm going to do with it all. As I pull it out of boxes I'm sorting it and making a pile of fabric that I haven't and probable won't use. I will be giving it away. Some of it isn't quilting quality fabric it's more clothing type fabric. It's a start.
Thank you for sharing these tips with us! I really need to look through my fabric stash and make room for new fabrics to play with.
Where can I donate fabric? I just moved and don’t know anyone who sews.
Thank you for your article! My fabric is fairly organized but there are a lot of older fabrics that I know I don't love anymore and they are taking up space. I appreciate the idea about making pillowcases with the larger pieces too. Thanks again!
Mary Bolton says
Thanks for the ideas! Love your Blog!
T Holzer says
Sherri! In 15 years I've never purged my fabric!!! Oh oh!! And you do it quarterly?? Now I feel really bad!! LOL Well I picked up another Creekside JR and yardage to make pillow cases for the Simply Woven quilt that I'm making with the JR that I won. I definitely don't sew as fast as I can buy! Aye, yai, yai!!!
T Holzer says
I'd really like to see a photo of your fat quarters and how you have them stacked.
Helen L says
thanks for the good ideas. I'm going to have to use them as I finally begin to move into my new sewing room, at least I'll be moving in if the fires don't get our house first. If that's the case, I won't have anything to sort through!! Problem solved!! Haha!! Really, we are packed up and ready to bug out if the winds shift or get stronger and blow our way: spent the whole day packing up needful things! And I never thought that a disaster was close as I was saddened by the Houston hurricane! You never know!! Have a great weekend, and now I appreciate SO MUCH our firefighters!! Tell your hubby thanks for all his brave work that he has done in your neck of the woods!!! Hugs, H
I love your idea of purging regularly. It is so freeing to get fabric out of your stash that you don't love anymore. The first time I did that I felt set free! And you are blessing someone else. My fabric taste has evolved as you said-why keep stuff that doesn't make your heart sing! I have a friend who recently purged her stash-she brought it to my house- I organized it on my dining room table( we are talking several hundred yards of fabric!) and called my quilting friends to come over and shop. Lots of it went to charity. Win win for everyone! Thanks for your inspiration.
Great post! My biggest issue is with pre-cuts, particularly FQ bundles that I purchased and now don’t know what to do with them. I feel a little guilty having that money just sitting around!
Such a great post. It's close to my heart these days as I have in the past couple of years starting managing my stash much better. I also go through mine quarterly and what I decide I will never use gets donated to our local Project Linus charity. The ladies at the group love getting fabrics from my stash to make these quilts for kids. It's a win-win in my book and by donating to a charity, I don't feel as though any of it is wasted.
Thank you for sharing!
Thank you for your tips and ideas !! This post came out right in time!
Great ideas! I weed my stash monthly, I try to refold/assess a color or section each month. It really helps me use my stash and use up older fabrics so I can buy new ones!