A Quilter’s Fabric Stash – Sorting and Storage


For some time now I have been researching fabric stashes.  Any why not?  Fabric seems to be one of the most important thoughts in making a quilt.  Without fabric there is no quilt.  Fabric excites us, inspires us and if you are like me it can literally make you drool.

I am not alone when I say that I am thoroughly obsessed with fabric.  There’s an army of quilters that feel the same way.  And if you are here reading this, chances are you are part of that army.

There are few things that can unite so many different people from different walks of life, different beliefs, different nationalities, different EVERYTHING, but quilting can and it does.  And apparently, so does fabric.  This past week I received a message that I couldn’t read.  There were a few recognizable words and I thought it was Spanish.  I put the message in google translator and it didn’t translate.  Then I remembered the massive amount of quilters down in Brazil and thought I’d try to see if it would translate to Portuguese.  It did!  Guess what me and the Portuguese speaking quilter talked about…. fabric, of course!

I asked you earlier to tell me about your fabric stashes.  Almost forty quilters responded to my request.  Today I want to show you the results.


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How do you sort your fabrics?

By Color

Sorting by color is dividing up all your fabrics in color group (IE red fabrics, blue fabrics, green fabrics, etc.).  71% of the quilters that completed my little questionnaire said they did indeed sort their fabrics by color.

I am in this group.  My own fabrics are in a vintage dresser and I have a drawer for each color family.

I’ve been quilting for almost ten years and have only swapped over to stashing by color about five years ago.  In my own opinion it makes me use the fabrics much better and easier.  I also know what colors of fabrics I should be buying and more importantly I know what colors of fabrics I definitely do not need to go and buy.  Fabrics don’t get lost or forgotten.  And my favorite part, if I’m making a quilt all turquoise, blues, greens, and low volumes, I go and pull out each drawer to my cutting table and go through them seeing which fabrics I want to use.

You told me that you sorted by color for pretty much the same reasons as I do.

By Collection/Designer

Sorting fabrics by collection or designer means keeping a whole line of fabrics together or keeping fabrics from particular designers together.  28% of questioned quilters said they sorted by collection/designer or even solids and different substrates.

I have one collection of fabrics that I keep separated and that is my Liberty of London fabrics.  I like using Liberty with Liberty and there is such a vast amount of those fabrics that it makes sense to me to keep them separated.  The only issue I have found with this is I don’t tend to use them all that much.

Until a few months ago, I kept my Heather Ross fabrics separated in their own basket as well.  Same problem as the Liberty, I never used them.  I have since broken them up into colors and combined them with the rest of my fabrics stash.

You told me that you sorted by collection or designer because you didn’t feel particularly good at mixing fabrics and there were a few of you that mentioned you just like all your Tula fabrics with the other Tula fabrics.  Other designers that popped up were Alison Glass, Carolyn Friedlander and Kaffe Fassett.

By Size

Sorting by size is having all of your fabrics grouped together by their size (IE. fat quarters, half yards, etc).  Less than 1% of you admitted to sorting your fabrics by size, but it was only part of the way you sorted.  Those who said they sorted this way also sorted in the aforementioned ways as well.  This seemed to be more of a sorting within the other sortings.  That’s a lot of words I just used to just simply say that you sorted your fat quarters together, but in color order.  You sorted your half yards together, but in color order.

I can’t quite make sense of this method, except maybe you have it that way if a pattern calls for fat quarters, you know where to go.  Or a reason I like even better is, you have so much fabric and have run out of space in place 1, so you made a place 2 and got super organized.  Or something else I thought of was the bigger pieces you just for backing and they are all in one place.

If you sort by size and want to correct me and my assumptions, leave me a note below.  I’m always interested in different perspectives.  I never know what nugget of information could benefit me.


1% of you also mentioned using more than one way to sort.  Since I have a basket of nothing, but Liberty I feel like I fit in this group as well.  This 1% has favorite designers and they want the fabric of those designers together.

Remember there is no wrong way to sort your fabrics.  You just have to find out what works best for you.


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How do you house your fabrics?

This question has just come from pure curiosity or maybe even nosiness.  The only other sewing room I’ve been into besides my own is my grandmother’s.  I asked you what you keep your fabrics in.  Your responses went from one end to the other.  We are literally keeping our fabrics in anything we can find to keep it in.  And guess what?  The place we are keeping it are pretty much the exact same thing.

Here’s the list of the responses I received:

  • In a filing cabinet, with fabric hanging from “folders”
  • bookcases and shelves
  • Rubbermaid sweater boxes, regular size and deep placed under cutting table
  • A cupboard unit
  • Shelves, bookcase, drawers and baskets
  • folded on bookshelves to look at
  • metal cabinets
  • Cubbies, shelves and baskets
  • Shelves
  • shelved double closet
  • cabinet
  • cube storage
  • plastic dresser
  • plastic totes
  • bins
  • Hefty stackable storage containers
  • 18 gallon totes
  • storage containers
  • piles
  • yards stored around comic board cards, smaller stash in drawers
  • bookcase
  • Cubbies
  • plastic dresser
  • plastic shoe boxes
  • cubbies
  • shelving on walls and dresser
  • closet shelving in plastic shoe boxes
  • plastic bins in multiple places
  • no dedicated places
  • floor to ceiling shelves
  • plastic bins
  • French armoire
  • lidded tubs on shelves
  • plastic bins on shelves
  • plastic storage tubs in cupboard
  • folded around comic boards on bookshelf

The French armoire sounds dreamy and the piles made me snort laugh.  Who doesn’t love a good pile of fabrics?

What we keep our fabric in seems to correlate with what we have on hand or what we are willing to spend on it.  If I’m spending all my extra money on fabric, no way do I have the money to buy a fancy place to house it all.  But organization, for most of us, means a little more breathing room and not having to go and look for something when we need it.  It seems to be worth it for the majority.


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Do you have a dedicated sewing space?

I bought myself a Singer sewing machine from Sears in 2008 and lugged an extra desk to place it on in my laundry room.  This was my very first sewing space.

My laundry room doubles as my pantry and one long wall is lined with shelving where food is kept.  When I started snail paced slowly building a fabric stash I moved the food around to have space for “piles” of fabric.

The table my sewing machine sat on, also doubled as a cutting table.  I started sewing and fell madly in love.

I tell you this story to say you can literally sew anywhere.

It wasn’t long before I felt stifled by the laundry room and wanted my own space.  I will also admit that the fabric was out of control and something had to be done.  We had two guest rooms.  I took a bed out and made that my sewing room, but only after spending two years in that laundry room.  I would eventually take the unused “playroom” space from my kids and turn that into my sewing space.  They were not happy, but I can’t say that I regret it.

But you want the data I collected so here it is:

  • 14/38 quilters questioned had a full blown dedicated space, meaning they didn’t share it.  It was for their sewing alone.
  • 7/38 quilters questioned had a dedicated space but shared it with a bed, either their own bedroom or the guest room.
  • 6/38 quilters questioned had a dedicated space that was in their dining room.
  • 1/38 quilters questioned did not have a space, but made do.
  • 10/38 quilters questioned didn’t answer this question.


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When is a scrap a scrap?

I’m going to do a separate post for scraps, but I asked you this and I didn’t want to leave you hanging.

I think a lot of quilters don’t like scraps and don’t know what to do with them.  I happen to LOVE scraps and my favorite quilts I’ve made have been made with scraps.  In fact, the vast majority of my quilts are made with scraps, but I can see why they are so troublesome.  You pretty much have to have another place to sort them.  You have to actually do the sorting.  And if you don’t plan on using them, why would you even keep them?

Many of you told me you didn’t keep them, you handed them off to needy friends or charities.

I think most of us felt that we couldn’t just toss them, so we had to use them, and if we’re going to use them, they need to be sorted.

Today, when it comes to scraps, we are only discussing when you remove the fabric from your stash and toss it in with your scraps.

Here’s what you told me:

  • under 2.5″ square
  • odd sizes smaller than a fat quarter
  • anything less than a fat quarter
  • smaller than 5″ square
  • only keeps 2.5″ strips
  • anything 10″ or smaller
  • anything smaller than a fat eighth
  • less than a 1/4 yard
  • anything smaller than a fat sixteenth

Those were the answers repeated over and over again.

Like I mentioned above, I’ll be doing a separate post on scraps, very detailed, but until then if you are sitting on a large amount of scraps here are some quilt patterns of mine that are focused on ridding you of them:  The Landslide Quilt, Good Girl Quilt, Stomping Grounds, Falling Slowly, and Scrappy Tumbler Quilt.


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We are so much alike in the way we buy, purchase, store, organize and use our fabrics that I’m thinking we are all looking at the same things.

For example, I mentioned my grandmother before.  She was mostly a garment sewer, but she also made at least a dozen or so quilts.  Grandma lived through the great depression, so she didn’t buy things she didn’t need (except thread from what I can tell), unlike her granddaughter who buys stuff just because it’s pretty.  She purchased fabric with a purpose in mind.  It didn’t sit stacked up lovingly on her shelves, nor was is it any drawer.  If she bought fabric she used it.  I’ve got all her project bags to prove it.

She kept dozens of ziplock bags filled with a pattern and the leftover scraps that were left from each of her projects.

I wonder if my grandmother had been quilting obsessed like me would she have had a fabric stash like I do or is this just a generational gap.

Of the quilters questioned by me, the overwhelming majority had a decent fabric stash, only a few saying they only had a little and those sounded like new quilters.

We’ve got Pinterest and Instagram for inspiration, we have more magazines, books, and blogs than ever and we are all seeing the same quilt rooms, the same organized fabric stashes, and we are all trying to capture the beauty we are seeing out there in our own way.

Enjoy this board I’ve gathered of sewing spaces and this board of fabric storage.  Tell me what thoughts you have below.  Tell me if you have more questions.  And tell me if you have any advice for a hopeless fabric addict.





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  1. Your grandmother and my mother were probably a lot alike. My mother only developed her stash when she started working in fabrics at Walmart. That was just the last 10 years. She would buy anything that was on sale or clearance. A lot of tags are still on the fabrics and some say 25 cents.

    1. I have a memory of when I was really young of being in Hancock fabrics (not around anymore) on broad street with her and helping choose fabric. ?

  2. Don’t think l replied to your original query in time for your post so I’ll add my info now, as it addresses your question regarding sorting by size.

    I have a very small dedicated sewing space. It’s about 8’x8′, smaller than that actually because two of the corners are angled in (think of snowballing 2 corners on one side of a square of fabric and you get the idea). One of those angled corners houses the door, so it swings in and takes up a good bit of the space (not that I leave it open but I have to allow for clearance). There is also a 6′ wide alcove that’s about 2′ deep with a bi-fold door closet on one end; that closet is where I store my fabric and most sewing items. Because my space is so small and I have a lot of fabric (and I do mean a lot) it is important that my fabric be extremely organized.

    I sort in all of the methods you mentioned: size, color, and collection. I segregate fabric by certain designers that I tend to collect: Tula Pink, Kaffe Fassett, Allison Glass, Anna Maria Horner, you get the idea. These are together regardless of size. The rest of my stash is sorted by color based on size. Fat quarters are folded and stored in clear, divided containers. WOF cuts up to 1/2 yard are also folded and stored in color order in other clear, divided containers. Pieces 1/2 yard and up are wrapped around comic book boards and located on shelves in the closet. All of these are in ROYGBIV color order with a section for white-tan-gray-black. There are a few further segregations within this: solids, holiday, 108″ wide backings, etc. Lawns are segregated too; most of those are Liberty of London.

    I sort by size mostly because I have to be hyper organized in my small space. I don’t have the shelf space to wrap every sized cut on comic book boards so I save that method for pieces larger than 1/2 yard. Also, as you mentioned, it makes it easy to find what I need based on size requirements. Quilt calls for fat quarters? I check that size first, then move beyond that if I don’t find what I need. Need binding? Check the 1/2 yard+ cuts. You get the idea. The downside? Looking for that perfect pink? I have several places to look. It also makes it difficult to see the big picture of my stash and/or find color gaps.

    As for scraps, I keep anything about 1″ wide and/or square. A little extreme, I know, and I’ve been rethinking this of late. I also save the trimmings from snowballed corners and toss them into a specific bin; there is a super scrappy “bonus HST” quilt in my future.

  3. This is a great post Melanie!! How interesting to hear how experienced folks store their stash!! I am so new to this, but had previously huilt up a pretty good stash of home dec fabric in my (dedicated) sewing room!! So most of my existing strlorage was taken up with that. That really needs to MOVE, now – so i can store quilt fabric!!! For now, i have it in in clear plastic containers so i can see it, but its not well organized at all!! This was really fun & interesting to read! I cant wait to read about scrap storage & maintenance, bcuz i am clueless how to do it, but i already have a ton…mostly from newbie cutting mistakes!!!

  4. You are such an inspiration! Thank you the time and thought that you spent on this post. Your love of our craft and its supplies shines through in your words!

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