Organizing & Folding Fabric

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I have finally started the long road to folding and organizing my fabrics.  The cabinet these are stored in now have glass doors on them and so I wanted it to look nice.  Plus, I wanted to be able to see all of my fabric easily, and having them folded this way makes that possible.  So far I’ve taken two large tubs of fat quarters and pressed out the more stubborn folds and refolded them.  The right two stacks are all fat quarters and most of the middle stack is, too.  The left two stacks are half yards.  This is one shelf of 7 shelves of fabric.

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I still have a long way to go, but started in on the yardage yesterday.  Before now I folded the fabric differently and was all different sizes and just didn’t look organized.  Now I fold it so that they all come out the same size (no matter the length of fabric) and all have a nice pretty folded edge showing.  Anything under 1/2 yard (that isn’t a fat quarter) is sitting in a pile for now.  I’m not sure if I should fold them and place them somehow in the cabinet, or toss them in the [larger pieces] scrap basket.  Odd lengths between a 1/2 yard and 1 yard still get folded for the shelves.  And what do I do with all of my odd sized solid pieces?

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So here’s my dilemma: how do I sort them once they are all folded properly?  Do I sort the yardage by color?  By designer?  By type?  It use to be sorted by designer and type.  I would have all of my Amy Butler and Heather Ross together, as well as sorted by lines within the designer.  Then I would have it broken down in to types : animals (dogs, cats, dog + cat – I have a whole shelf of these fabrics), children, stripes + dots, holiday, floral, etc.  I still might sort some stuff by designer and type, but for the most part I feel that it hindered me from pulling fabrics for a quilt.  I’m someone that pretty much takes a whole line and makes a quilt and I want to get away from that.  So I feel if I sort by color, and not think about the print itself, I will be more inclined to pull fabrics for a quilt.  But, at the same time, if I’m not wanting dogs and cats in a quilt, it would be better to know they were separate.  So maybe I sort some by color and some by type (holiday, animal, kids).  What do you think?  I’d love your two cents on the topic.

Folding

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The method by Happy Zombie is a great way to fold your stash fabric, unfortunately, the fabric doesn’t fit on my shelves once folded in half (too long) and I don’t think it would work out for folding fat quarters.  Maybe it does, I haven’t tried it on fat quarters.  Also, I’m kind of lazy about stuff, and using a ruler to fold over seemed like a lot of work for my stash size.  I can’t find a tutorial, so here is a quick look at what I do:

1. Spread out your yardage, fold at the top, selvage at the bottom.
2. Fold the bottom selvage edge up to the top fold.
3. Fold from the top (where the fold and selvage are now) down to the bottom.
4. Fold from raw edge to raw edge (left to right or right to left).
5. Fold this direction again (from fold to raw edge).
6. And there you have it, a nicely folded piece of fabric with selvage edges encased.

This works for any size piece of fabric.  If I have a half yard or fat quarter I skip step 5 and if I have multiple yards I fold it so it is a yards length (36”).  If I have odd yard lengths (like 3/4 yard or 5/8 yard) I fold it in thirds instead of quarters (step 4 & 5), making sure my final piece is 9” long (1/4 yards length).  Okay, off to fold more fabric!

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  • Your post reminds me of the scene in “High Fidelity” when John Cusack is reorganizing his record collection. Not alphabetically, not chronologically, but autobiographically.

    If you’ve never seen it, please go out right now and get it – one of my faves.

    And I think I’m catching your organizing bug…too bad I have to go to work and can’t play with fabric.

    Good luck!

  • I envy your closet space, and with glass doors so you can see it all, how great is that? I like sorting my fabric by colors, because as you said, it will help you pull fabrics easier and you’ll have a good variety. It will help you manage and use your stash. I do keep some of my fabrics together that are from certain designers too. Enjoy organizing :)

  • One of my favorite quilt shops organizes their bolts by color and also has an area for more specific print type fabic, like children prints and animals. It’s so easy to pull together fabric for a quilt there. So that’s my vote!

  • I just re-folded all my fabric too. It was a huge job! You have more fabric than me and I’m in awe of your folding and sorting dedication!

    In answer to your question, I love sorting my fabric by color. I want to see every fabric I have in a certain color so I can pick the perfect one. I don’t want to have to hunt through various piles to audition fabrics. Sometimes I forget I have a fabric if it’s not in the pile with the other colors…and I find it later and think “This would have been perfect in that one project” and then I get annoyed.

    Some of my special fabrics (Mendocino and Neptune) are kept separate from the rest because I know I want to use them in a quilt together (same with holiday fabrics).

    Solid fabrics go in piles of warm or cool. Scraps go into bins of warm or cool.

    Here’s my fabric shelf if you’re interested:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/sonnetofthemoon/4265461101/

  • Ive sorted mine by color – mostly.
    Then stuff like HR, FMF, and Ta Dots get their own pile or lumped together. I actually have HR and KJR next to each other. and Munki and FMF next to each other. Then its color sorted.
    I fold into a kind of 8×11 size and that works for most cuts except the very large.
    I have a small bolt section (a cupboard with the shelf removed) so really large cuts get bolted (5yds+).
    omg High Fidelity! Too funny… :D

  • Ok, you might want our two cents, but I think most of us just want your stash!!!! Wow! Your dedication to organization is astonishing. My fabric shelves are a disaster, so this post is most inspiring. I started organizing by colour, then the batiks got their own section, then I started collecting all of the ‘modern designers’ so they needed a special spot, too, then linens started arriving. It’s a dog’s breakfast. I need to go through your process and weed out all that fabric I most definitely will never use (which will make a LOT of space!).
    Thanks!!

  • I sorted all my fabrics first by type, then color, keeping all the cotton solids separate from the prints. I have so many vintage pieces, some as much as 5 yds and some the size of my palm. I keep the bits less than a fat quarter folded and ironed in a basket by my machine. If I’m losing focus I’ll thumb through them for a few minutes as a break. Its working for now but if I ever have a dedicated studio things will change :)

  • I fold all my fabrics into long pieces, less crease lines that way, fat quarters and yardage…. Selvage to selvage and then in half or thirds or whatever, until it’s about 4-5″ wide. I have a hutch with a glass door and I stack them by color, 2 stacks deep on a shelf. Blue and green on the top, then pink and purple on the next one down, and black/red/orange and yellow on the bottom shelf. Extra space at the ends hold the novelty fabrics, folded the same way but then in half again to make them shorter. The drawer has whole lines together, like the Mendocino and the Authentic and the Neptune, also jelly rolls, charm packs, etc.

    This works for me, I think you just need to find the way that works for you and what you decide on right now might be the way and it might not but you’ll eventually hit on it, Christina.

    You’ve got a lot of fabric, and that is wonderful!

  • As someone who has never made a quilt from a line….
    I sort 1st by color. I also have a pile for animals/ kid-ish prints. There’s a separate section for flannels. I also have one for multi-colored prints that don’t go with any one color.

    Then I also have a shelf where I put new ones that I just want to look at and be inspired by.

    When it comes time to make a quilt, I just start with one fabric and start interviewing things from different piles!

    Good luck!

  • I purchased a set of drawer dividers from Ikea, they are fabric w/zippers and The two smallest sizes are perfect for folded fat quarters. The larger square boxes, I used for larger pieces of fabric – this box looks less orderly, but it’s still all in a box, so it stays tidy. I sort all fabric strictly by color (I agree with you about splitting up designers), but I think if a few of your fabrics are strictly for children or holidays and would never be used elsewhere, then sure you should seperate them. I keep my fabric in a cupboard and can quickly pull out practically all my fabric to look at and mix and match. I love it.

  • I am so jealous. I tried to organize my stash yesterday and it still looks nowhere near as great as yours. Thanks for the folding tutorial, I think I’ll go rearrange now.

  • Yes, I like the colour idea and the novelty fabric idea. Perhaps you could just colour code all the children’s fabrics on a separate shelf?

    I do love looking at those neat piles of fabrics. Sigh… Then are you coming to my house? :)

  • I can’t get away from sorting by line either. I’m not ready to get away just yet from making quilts by the line, but someday, someday!

  • that’s how I started folding my fabric too after I saw Tallgrass Prairie studio’s sewing room. She does it the same way and sorts by color. Eventually I hope to sort by color, but for now, I’m satisfied with neatly folded piles. Do you wash and iron before you fold?

  • AFter years of drooling over my grandmother’s yards and yards and yards of material for quilts, I completely vote for sorting it my colour!
    BTW, I just stumbled across your site and very quicked bookmarked it and added it to my reader…definite source of inspiration!

  • well I have already told you I am not really sure how I want to organize but currently I have it by style like polka dots, japanese stuff.. and some by line. but it gets confusing. I like having all of my fmf or heather ross together but then I also like to have it organized by color in a way too.. haha good luck and you have a crazy nice stash

  • I also have mine in fabric/zip draw dividers from Ikea, they are the perfect size for folded FQ’s, currently my are in rainbow order, but I sometimes think I should take out a few of the fabrics I will never use or that aren’t the same 100% cotton.
    All my draw dividers are on the shelves in my craft room, I just bring them down when I want to choose. I also echo the serious fabric envy going on…your stash is AMAZING!!!

  • I personally sort by color. But … with that gorgeous fabric and those glass doors I find it hard to believe there will be a wrong way. Have fun!

  • I envy your storage space and your stash. I guess I would sort by color, but maybe keep novelty prints separate. I’m a little like you with designer lines at times. For example, if I like certain fabrics, I’ll just buy those and have no trouble letting them mingle with other fabrics. But, if I just adore an entire line, then I want every single fabric and after purchasing, they have to remain separate for awhile at least. Sometimes I have to make at least one project with just those fabrics and then I feel free to let them intermingle with other fabrics. Hmmmm. Maybe I need therapy. Maybe all quilters do :)

    joan

  • I am jealous…7 shelves of fabric!…and I can’t wait to see all of them folded into their nice, neat stacks.

    As far as sorting goes, I used to do separate them by designer/manufacturer, etc. (Similar to you)….However lately, I have sorted everything by color so that when I am looking for a certain shade I can see everything that I have rather than searching all over the place.

    Thanks for sharing your tip with us!

  • I was bit by that same bug lsat night and started organizing my stash too. I sort by color, my solids are all kept separate from the prints, My Japanese are all separate from the American designers but still, all by color. I don’t have near as many FQ’s so I keep those separated on a cute little shelf on the wall. Now that I see yours folded so nicely, I think I should go back and use your tutorial on folding. Mine may be sorted but it’s not that neat. :) Thanks for sharing. Good luck finding what works for you.

  • That’s a big job, isn’t it? I did mine about a year ago — it took forever but I sure love the result. I sorted mine by color — it bothers me a little that fabrics from the same line are separated and I might forget that they belong together, but they look so pretty!

  • I am not a quilter, but I work with fabric. I like to store my stuff by fabric (weight, mostly) and color. I don’t care who designed the fabrics, and love putting new stuff with vintage pieces – keeping colors together helps me do that without digging to deep. I do put stripes and plaids together and florals together… again, to help me coordinate. But, that’s just me. :) Love your pics.

  • Personally, I love having my fabrics organized by color. Weather that is the most practical way to have fabric organized I’m not sure, but for me it works. Just seeing everything in color order is so pleasing to me.

    I’ll have to try out your folding method. I’ve tried the folding over the ruler method before but it just was taking so long, I stopped.

    Good luck! :)

  • 7 shelves?! So much loveliness! I am in the middle of organizing my stash with Billy bookcases from Ikea and just love seeing them through the glass doors.

    I have everything mostly in color order, except any designer I have a lot of. Like my Heather Ross or Anna Maria Horner, I keep those in their own groups and arrange them by their own color order. Helps me to remember what I have, instead of shuffling through too many stacks. =)

  • What a great stash you have! I used to organize by types of fabric- but that is too hard and ended up being disorganized again. So I finally thought to organize by color. Apparently I am not the only one! It is very pretty. I don’t have any shelves right now- so they are in clear totes- I wish I had shelves…
    Good luck!

  • I too just folded all of my fabric, and I LOVE IT. I did use the Happy Zombie method (I’m all about using a folding template) I just used a smaller ruler for my fat quarters. As for how I organized mine, I kept them together by collection as well as yardage amounts, solids, type of fabric, etc…it is working well for me.

  • I divide mine into widths, then types of fabric, then pretty much by colout, but I have a separate section for kids stuff / animals etc. I have a lot less to sort, mind…

  • It seems like spring cleaning is in everyone bones!
    Omagash, that sounds like such a dilemma….for me sorting by color is extremely helpful but I’m an INFP + Leo so visual color idea is how we tend to make most decisions! Mmmm…color.

  • I think that Christmas and Halloween fabric should be separated by holiday. I have a lot of these fabrics. The rest of your fabric should be separated by color. Those really odd fabrics could have a separate section all of their own. My thoughts. Good luck with your project. Sincerely.