Ever get tired of wasting your whole sewing session trying to find fabric? And what about all of those scraps? I’ll show you how I have kept my collection neat and tidy for more than 10 years!
When I first started my fabric organizing project, I'll have to admit I'm going to be real here, I had a very messy sewing room. I wish I had known this technique years ago when I was sewing a ton of skating outfits. I used a lot of Lycra and similar slinky, slippery fabrics that you can fold until the cows come home, as the saying goes, but nothing worked to keep the piles tidy. As soon as I put them on the shelf, they would not stay put. I had to figure out a method that worked on the most difficult fabrics and get things under control. I found this method (along with my little trick) even works with those problem slippery fabrics.
The idea is to take the yardage you purchased
and roll it around a ruler.
When you get to the end, fold the raw edge of the fabric under so you have a nice, clean edge.
Then take a large bobby pin (my secret weapon), and slide it to secure each edge to the rest of the “bolt.” I opted for bobby pins over straight pins so I wouldn't get poked. I also chose bobby pins because they're inexpensive and I had a large collection of fabrics I needed to tame.
Fold it in half and then it's ready for storage.
My bobby pins came from Sally Beauty Supply. They are about three inches long and are rust resistant. I have found that smaller bobby pins work as well. I live in a humid climate in Dallas, Texas, and I have not had any problems, whatsoever, with rust.
I have use this method for up to eight yards of fabric and it works great. If I have bolts, then I keep it on a bolt and store it that way. If you're a pre-shrinker, I recommend that you wash your fabric first.
How do you figure out what size you need to roll the fabric?
I measured the inside width of my cabinet. It was 22.5” so I had both a six-inch-wide ruler and a five-inch-wide ruler. I wanted to stuff as much of my collection in these cabinets as possible. If I used the six-inch ruler, I would have only been able to have three rows across (6 x 3 = 18). I found that if I used the five-inch ruler, that gave me four rows with a little bit of play (5 x 4 = 20).
So measure the area that you're going to store your fabric in and decide what size ruler will give you the most rows with the least amount of waste.
What if I don’t have a ruler that is wide enough?
If you don't have a ruler, you can cut cardboard to the size that you need. Just make sure you cut it nice and straight and that will be an inexpensive substitute for a ruler.
What about fabrics less than one yard?
For fabric amounts under a yard, I use Sterilite plastic drawer units. I used to store my fabric in the drawers flat. I was consequently digging through fabric to see what I had. Now, I use the same method that I do on shelves except that I always put the folded finished edge facing up in the drawer so that I can see what I have at a glance.
I use a little toilet tissue holder as a spacer to keep the folded fabric upright. I mark each drawer with a vinyl label and washable Bistro chalk marker (found at Hobby Lobby).
My sewing room is always evolving as I find new or better ways to store and organize things. Vinyl labels with Bistro washable chalk markers give me the flexibility to do just that. If I need to make changes, I simply wipe clean with a wet cloth, let dry, and write the new contents on the vinyl label.
How do you sort fabric?
Standard fabrics are sorted by color. Specific holiday fabrics are sorted by holiday and then by color. Some collections are sorted by designer with coordinates kept together.
What do you do with the scraps?
Perfect for applique, bits and pieces are sorted by color. I lay them flat to minimize wrinkles and keep similar colors together in plastic zip bags. These are easily stored in plastic drawers or totes.
I've been able to keep my collection tidy and I can pretty much go and find fabric that I purchased several years ago. Modify the technique based on the size of the container or space you have. Give it a try and see how it works for you. This is just a springboard to get you thinking about how you might want to organize your space so that it is more functional.
View the fabric organizing video here and the ruler rolling method of fabric folding here. I’d love to hear how you organize your fabric.
May your day be blessed with perfect stitches and GlitterFlex!
Sherin - January 15, 2021
Great ideal thank you going to get my Bobbie pins tomorrow
Bonnie Welsh - January 08, 2021
Sherry—I’ve done this for many years without any issue of rust. Bobby pins have a thin coating over them to prevent rust since they’re normally used on wet hair.
Sherry Mileham - January 08, 2021
I was concerned about using bobby pins to hold fabric ends, because I thought over time they may begin to rust.
Bonnie Welsh - November 30, 2020
Mary—You can do this. I know how daunting a task it feels. What helped for me to get through it was to time myself each day. I allowed 30 minutes of folding time. Little chunks of time to get a big job done. Don’t try to do it all at once. You’d be surprised how much you can get done when you know you’ve only got 30-60 minutes to get something accomplished. You’ll start to see progress and you’ll want to make more progress but it won’t feel impossible. Keep us posted. =)
Mary P - November 29, 2020
I’ve realized that my fabric stash is a shameful mess on open shelving units. My carefully folded piles by color have become a jumble as I need this or that from the bottom. Unfortunately, I’ve gotten lazy and just buy MORE. I have a closet with a curtain which I will be converting to the storage area of my fabric using your folding methods. Check with me in about a year from now—I could be organized by then—-maybe.
Fay from Delaware - April 26, 2020
Went to the dollar store and bought up the bobby pins. I found that I could use just one after taking the material off of the ruler and folding it in half. I’ve organized all of my material this way, including some of the larger scraps of material. So much easier, cost effective and storage than using pressed board, sign board, etc. that others have used. I’ve also used Wonderclips (Amazon) and they work great, too. Thank you so much Bonnie!
Bonnie Welsh - March 26, 2020
Marie—Your room sounds great! I’ve wrapped all my laces and ribbons on mat board so they stand upright in a drawer too. Very easy to see what you have that way for sure.
Marie Davis - March 23, 2020
Gigi…I also got the empty fabric bolts from Pacific Fabric and JoAnn’s. After moving back into country home in 2018 I discovered a walk closet had been built in sewing room (contractor had turned the lower part of split level into a mother-in-law area). I stood in the door way of this walk in several times in 3 days and came up with the idea "ok my sewing room is right here so why not turn the walk in closet into a fabric room so my wonderful Grandson built in 4 wrap around shelves 18 inches wide which can be moved up or down. I thought sure this would hold all my fabric but NO not at all but pretty close so I refrain from buying anymore until some of this is depleted. I also had purchased a pattern cabinet years ago from a fabric store that was closing so I use that to file all my embroidery designs in. I do need one shelf moved a couple notches higher then I think everything will fit better. I love having this room and I can close door when someone comes to visit. I have lots of lace and have it on cardboard and standing up in one drawer of the pattern cabinet so I can see it at a glance.
Bonnie Welsh - June 10, 2019
Gigi—Great idea! I just didn’t have room in my smaller space to use the bolts. I’ll bet it looks very nice! I think you’ll love using bobby pins over straight pins—especially if you’re like me and have a tendency to poke yourself. =)
Gigi2015 - June 09, 2019
Joann Fabrics will give you, at no charge, empty fabric bolts. I use these to roll my fabric on. On the ends, I put a date and the amount of fabric. I have been using straight pins to hold the fabric in place, however, I will now be trying your bobby pin method
Bonnie Welsh - May 19, 2019
Lorraine—You’re most welcome! The vintage law book shelves sound lovely! If they have the pretty class doors you’ll be able to see everything all need and tidy like candy!
Lorraine Goldstein - May 19, 2019
I have 2 vintage law book shelves with 5 shelves each that are 12” deep and about 20” wide. I’m going to cut cardboard about 10” wide and see how that works. Depending on the width of the fabric I could probably fold it to use the full width of a shelf X the depth of shelf. Love your idea about the Bobby pins. Safer than straight pins. Thank you.
Bonnie Welsh - May 07, 2019
Helen—I may have a section of prints or if it’s part of a designer collection, then I’ll put it with the collection. Otherwise, I’ll put it with the same colors as the predominant color within the print. =)
Helen - May 06, 2019
Some fabrics are easy to colour code. How do you decide which stack a multicoloured fabric goes in?
Bonnie Welsh - January 30, 2019
Betty—You’re most welcome! =)
Betty Hack - January 30, 2019
Thank you really needed help with ideas
Bonnie Welsh - January 21, 2019
Pea F.—Try using the ruler to remove and replace any fabric removed from the stack. It works great and they slip right in and out. =)
Bonnie Welsh - January 21, 2019
Debbie G.—How awful an experience to go through! I’ve heard bed bugs are attracted to cardboard boxes—or maybe it’s the glue on cardboard. Not sure which but I won’t use boxes in my room. I can only imagine how awful that must have been for you! Yikes!
Bonnie Welsh - January 21, 2019
Linda Ballard—Love your idea too! I needed to use every available inch and couldn’t fit baskets in, however, that’s very close to what I do to my smaller pieces—fat quarters and such. I’ve also learned a trick (from another) that if you use the ruler to slide in where you need to grab fabric or put away—it works very easily to get fabrics in and out of a large stack without disturbing the rest of the stack.
Bonnie Welsh - January 21, 2019
Judy G.—That’s a great idea! =)
Pea Farm - January 21, 2019
I know I needed to do something different with my fabrics, they are folded and color sorted but get messy when I pull out a too tight stack. Also, not folded in same manner. Bobby pins are excellent as the lady that mentioned the other plastic clips—thank you to both.
Debbie Greenfield - January 21, 2019
Thanks for the hints. Two years we had a awful experience with bed bugs. I thought I would never get all my fabrics rewashed and stored in Ziplock bags. It was such a horrible experience that I now have my fabrics sorted mostly by color and in individual bags. I should have taken stock out in the Ziplock folks cause we spent lots of money in bags. I can’t seem to get past the horror of that experience so when you open my drawers and cabinets, things are still… and probably til my death…stored in bags. Hope none of you ever have to experience that!
Linda Ballard - January 21, 2019
After I fold the fabric instead of just piling them onto a shelf, I put them in baskets, folded side up so all the fabrics show, sorted by color and keep all the blues in several baskets by shade of blue and type of material. The same with all the other colors. Then I can easily take the entire collection to my project by baskets and pull out the colors I need. If left on a shelf, I mess up the material when I try to pull out the bottom fabrics and then when I put it back it is in the wrong place.
Judy G - January 21, 2019
I fold around a ruler also, but use clear plastic shirt clips instead of bobby-pins. They never rust, regardless of your local humidity and are comparable in price to bobby-pins. You can get a box of 500 or 1000 for a few $$$ online from any cleaners supply store or that online store we all know that has everything.
Karan Abbott - January 21, 2019
Thank you, I needed some good ideas