Saturday, 13 February 2021

Fabric Stash Organisation

I mentioned in a post earlier this year that one of my aims for 2021 is to make better use of my fabric stash. I'm not limiting myself with a rule of not purchasing any new fabric as I firmly believe that making good and careful fabric choices is integral to the success of a project. I don't want to settle with 'that fabric will do because it is in my stash' and then end up not wearing it because the fabric wasn't quite right. That doesn't feel sustainable to me. However, sometimes a really interesting a unique fabric choice is right there in front of you when you take the time to think about it and you don't need to buy something new.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Fabric Stash Organisation


After a slow start to the year I've suddenly found myself full of motivation to sew and create and was starting to feel a bit overwhelmed with all the inspiration! To help me plan out some projects and match up fabrics with the ideas in my head I spent some time last weekend sorting through my stash. A few of you expressed an interest in how I organise my fabric stash and as I was reworking it I thought this was an ideal opportunity to share.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Fabric Stash Organisation

My organisation method certainly isn't ground breaking or particularly exciting but a basic easy to access method is what works best for me. I think my stash is fairly modest compared to some. I'm definitely a sewer who predominately starts with the pattern before the fabric so I tend to purchase fabrics with a project in mind rather than on a whim. The fabrics in my stash generally had a purpose at one point but either I didn't get around to making it (because lets face it the sewing time I hope for in my head is far less than I have in reality!) or I went off the idea. Quite a chunk of my stash are sentimental pieces which were either gifts or I bought on a trip and has a special memory. In particular I've got some African wax prints which my sister and best friend brought home for me and a couple of pieces of Masai fabric which members of the tribe gave my boyfriend on a trip to Tanzania. They are the traditional cotton plaid so I'm hoping to make him a shirt or pyjama bottoms from these but in general I find it so hard to decide on a project for these special pieces! Do you?

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Fabric Stash Organisation
My fabric stash is in the hamper on the right of the photo, under the globe! 

Ed and I live in a small flat and my sewing space is in a corner of the living room so I try to make sure everything is hidden away as much as possible so we can both enjoy the multi-purpose space. My fabric is all stored in a big bamboo hamper in the corner...well I say all but there's usually a few pieces that won't fit. I am happy to report though after a month of sewing from my stash it now all fits back in there comfortably! The basket is great for keeping it all hidden away but it does mean it is not easy to see what I've got in there. So I created these easy reference sheets so I can see what I've got at a glance without having to empty the whole thing.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Fabric Stash Organisation
A sheet of knit fabrics

I've tried a couple of stash organisation books and print outs and while they were great they weren't quite right for me. I know a lot of people like to use an app like Trello. I might try using this for my patterns but with fabric I need to be able to touch the fabric. A lot of these methods tend to include a lot of information right down to washing instructions and personally all I need to see at a glance is a sample, the fabric type and the length and width of the piece. You might like to include a note to say if it is pre-washed or not but I make sure everything is washed before it goes in the basket so I know they are all ready to go. The only other information I include is a pencil note of any ideas I have about what to make with the fabric. Once I've used a fabric I cross it through with a sharpie and remove the sample or adjust the quantity if I've still got some left. 

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Fabric Stash Organisation

I considered putting the swatches into a book or making a sort of flip book of individual tags (like this one on the Colette blog) but I find this sheet method works best for me as I am able to spread them all out easily and see what I've got at a glance. I find them much more inspiring to look at this way. I can also keep them vaguely organised in groups of knits, denims e.t.c. I think that these sheets might actually be a habit I've picked up from work! As a Costume Supervisor you put together a 'Costume Bible' for each show you work on. This contains all the information about every costume in the show; where you bought those shoes and what size down to what buttons were used on that dress. You compile a sheet per costume and staple a sample of each fabric to the sheet, making a note of the price, width, quantity and source. These sheets I've made are actually very similar...I feel like I've just costume supervised my fabric stash. I guess I'm missing work during the pandemic more than I thought!

I could put the sheets in a folder to contain them but I like having them loose and stored in a tray on my desk so they are easily accessible. 

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Fabric Stash Organisation

I then keep a 'To Sew' list and a 'Sewing Ideas' list in the reminders app on my phone/iPad, which is great as I can update them when I am out and about. I quite often have sewing ideas while daydreaming on a train. 'To Sew' is projects that I've got fabric ready and waiting for and 'Sewing Ideas' are just thoughts or projects I need to buy fabric for. I never end up making everything on either list as my tastes and the seasons change before I get round to it but it helps to keep me focused. If an idea has been on there for a long time and I'm still excited about it I know it is probably something I'd get use out of or enjoy making.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Fabric Stash Organisation

Looking back at my Instagram I can see it has been pretty much exactly a year since I started using these methods. I think they are working out for me well. Since starting these sheets I have found my stash decreasing or at least staying at a manageable size and feel more on top of my sewing projects and ideas. How do you keep track of your fabric stash and plans for it?

16 comments:

  1. Love it! I use Evernote which works really well for my fabric stash, especially as I can tag things with length, width, woven / knit etc. So if I have a project in mind, I can drill down and only be shown suitable fabrics. Like you I prewash (and photograph into Evernote) every single fabric before it gets put away. I learnt the hard way that when inspiration hits, if I have to wait for fabric to be washed and dried, the moment will have passed! I find I can remember each fabric well, as I don’t have that many, so I don’t necessarily need to feel it on the day to know if it will work. I definitely prefer feeling a fabric before buying though, but alas it’s not possible at the mo.

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    1. O yes I forgot about Evernote! I might look into that for my pattern stash. I do prefer having a sample to remind myself as sometimes I remember the colour and scale of print slightly different and I like to be able to touch things for inspiration! But then I do like the idea of the app as you are carrying it with you when fabric shopping!

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  2. Thank you for this Fiona. I have a question about Fabric Store as I know you like their fabrics. I nearly bought some in their sale this week but I was worried about the customs charges is that something you have encountered?

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    1. Hi, this is a question I get asked a lot! I have had to pay customs charges on some orders but it is luck of the draw really whether your parcel gets caught up or not. I'd say 1 in every 4 or 5 orders for me and i is around £25 of charges on an order of about £110 (which is what you need to spend for free delivery). I always think it is worth it as the delivery is free and the fabrics are a reasonable price in the first place for such good quality. I haven't had any deliveries recently though so I'm not sure if this has changed as the pandemic has continued and Brexit has happened. I hope that helps you make up your mind!

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  3. Yet another interesting post - excellent. Glad your mojo is on the up!

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    1. Thanks very much Lyn, me too! I love feeling excited to sew!

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  4. I know that I collect way too much pretty fabric 🙄, but your 'little' stash hamper makes me think I may have a problem!
    Your system looks like it works well for you. I've been reorganizing my sewing loft and my next step is putting all the fabric together. ("Together". What a goal!) Thanks for sparking that spark!

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    1. Haha! I'm sure you don't have a problem! I'd love to have more but space does not permit it and forces me to restrain myself! probably a good thing for my bank balance...
      A sewing loft! That sounds like the absolute dream! It is not the most fun process organising and folding it all but so satisfying once you've done it

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  5. Hi Fiona, interesting post again! I do samples taped and described in sheets, similar to you as I like to touch the fabrics. I completed documenting earlier this year - it really helps me to use what I have! I have a larger collection than you - and some beautiful fabrics I've had for over 20 years - mainly natural fibers. I do buy occasionally, e.g. Just got a beautiful lining for a coat. Thanks.

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    1. O that is really interesting to know! I agree, it definitely helps me use what I have and also helps me know when I do buy that it is something I really need. Gosh I'd love to see some of those special pieces you have got!

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  6. Nothing wrong with using professional tools to organize your own stuff 😏. Sorry about the job situation still being in the pits, but it's good you are keeping your hand in with a bit of organizing. And no,you're notthe only one whohas trouble with figuring out what to do with overly-precious fabric. Maybe make wearable muslins for those so you're certain that you will like the finished garment before you cut?

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    1. That is very good advice, I will definitely be perfecting the fit before I cut into any of it! The trouble is I have so many ideas about what to do I get the fear about picking the wrong one and being dissatisfied! I guess I need to see it as just fabric at the end of the day!

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  7. Hi Fiona! I liked reading about your organizational system and it actually reminded me of the app I‘ve been using for some time now. The app is (very creatively) named Sewing Patterns (by Claus Krogholm Pedersen), and it‘s available in English and Danish.
    I can enter all my sewing patterns with all the info I need to buy whatever I need for each project (like yardage and other notions), I can add photos of the patterns and I can assign fabrics to each project, and I can enter info on each fabric (material, yardage and so on). And to make things easier, I can sort the patterns into categories.
    I know that sounds like I‘m advertising, but I just really like the app. It has made it a lot easier to keep track of my patterns, fabrics and planned projects.

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    1. O this sounds fantastic, thank you so much for the recommendation. I'm going to check it out!

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I love hearing from readers of my blog so please feel free to leave a comment letting me know what you thought about this post/make! Any hints or tips to improve my sewing are always much appreciated too!