Tips for Organizing Fabric and Sewing Supplies

Queen of Fabric

Okay, it’s no secret that I love fabric. But sadly my love of fabric is beginning to overpower the storage units set aside to contain it. After a recent fabric buying trip and many hours spent shopping for fabric, I had to admit that I needed to have an intervention with myself.

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As I survey my apartment with bags filled with awesomeness sitting on the floor with nowhere to go, I know that I have not only outgrown my current storage solutions, but that I also need to assess and purge my fabric stash. Notice that I do not feel that I should buy less fabric.

Since the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, I turned to a fabulous new book by one of my fellow Interweave editors, Cate Coulacos Prato, called Inside the Creative Studio: Inspiration and Ideas for Your Art and Craft Space, for some much-needed advice and inspiration. Jackpot! Besides pages and pages of amazing studio spaces that make me totally jealous (but give me lots of great ideas), the book also includes lots of practical advice for de-cluttering, organizing, and personalizing your creative space.

For assistance with my fabric predicament, I was immediately drawn to an article by Lesley Riley titled, “Clutter Out, Creativity In: 10 Steps to a More Artful Studio”. In the article, she offered a great list of tips for avoiding “fabric creep,” which she accurately defines as the “slow and steady migration of a fabric stash beyond the boundaries of its designated storage containers.” Since I’m sure I’m not the only one that suffers from this, here are a few key tips that particularly resonated for me but can help us all.

1. Hoarding is a primitive instinct. But it is not necessary for your survival as a fabric artist. In fact, having a limited selection of fabrics forces you to be more creative and make better design decisions. You learn to alter the fabric that’s available or even to create your own by dyeing or painting or surface design.

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2. Know thyself. If you’re like me, you have been collecting fabric since forever. But over the years I developed preferences and a style that made use of only a small portion of my stash. I realized that I had outgrown or moved beyond most of my fabrics. Think about which fabric, colors, patterns, textures, etc., you turn to again and again. Keep those and get rid of the others.

3. Treat your stash like your clothes. The rule is, if you haven’t worn it in a year, get rid of it. Be honest with yourself as you review each piece of fabric. Have you used any of it in the last year or two? If not, pass it on.

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4. Spread the wealth. There are many organizations that would love to have your excess fabric. Larger pieces can go to a senior center or any charity organization that has quilting or sewing classes. And don’t forget your local schools, camps, and theaters. Anything from snippets to cuttings to fat quarters can find a home in a student’s art project. And obviously, if you take a bag full of fabric to your local quilt guild, it will disappear before you can finish saying “giveaway.”

Good advice, right! I just participated in a fabric swap with some friends, and it actually felt great to see my unused fabric going to happy homes. So it can be done! Mostly I subscribe to the idea that the best way to avoid fabric storage issues is to sew it up. So purge your stash, organize it, then get sewing!

Happy sewing,


Fabric designer Lucie Summers' cheerful studio

Fabric designer Lucie Summers’ cheerful studio  in Suffolk, England.

Lucie organizes her fabric and supplies and in open bins for easy access.

 Lucie organizes her fabric and supplies and in open bins for easy access.

 Organize your fabric into coordinated bundles.

Organize your fabric into coordinated bundles..

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5 thoughts on “Tips for Organizing Fabric and Sewing Supplies

  1. I can find no place to “Contact Us” on the website. Thus I cannot tell you that the ebook 10 Sewing Techniques link leads me to You do not have the authority to perform this action (?!) And a search of the site does not reveal this free ebook either. What’s up?

  2. I totally feel this. I did an inventory of my stash late last year and color coded in see through bins. Its hard but I now have to look at the “if you haven’t used it in a year give it away” rule. ….I will try..

  3. I had the same problem..I cleared out the closet in my sewing room, took the doors off and bought 3 tall bookshelves. My hubby screwed the 3 bookshelves together and bolted them to the wall. I bought 4 packets, of 100 each, of cardboard used for comic book collectors and proceeded to wrap fabric. I was sure I wouldn’t need 400 but “just in case”. I had to order another packet! The fabric is all upright and sorted by color, except for the specialty fabrics. I made “bundles” of coordinating fabrics so they would stay together. I was an amazing process but I love the results.