Storing Fabric to Maximize Space and Reduce Hassle

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Did you know your ability to access your fabric for sewing projects is directly related to your productivity and creativity?

If you experience a noticeable feeling of apprehension and anxiety when you think about having to go through your fabric stash to start a new project, you need to make some changes in how you store your fabric.

a messy fabric stash

How to Focus on Fabric Storage

Whether you need to figure out a way to store your fabric or revise your current system, change isn’t easy.

If you have a large fabric stash, changing it up can seem especially overwhelming in the beginning.

When you start taking action to improve how you store your fabric, you’ll feel a weight lift off your shoulders.

All the creativity that was being suppressed will start to rise to the surface and you’ll feel a tingle in your belly and a flutter near your heart.

You won’t want to put off organizing your stash anymore.

In fact, you’ll be looking forward to it.

But where to begin?

Sort Your Fabric

If your fabric isn’t sorted in any way, do this first.

Here are some suggestions on ways to separate fabric:

  • color
  • type (i.e. knits, denim, upholstery, flannel)
  • holiday theme
  • coordinated sets
  • patterns/print (i.e. polka dots, stripes)

Don’t think too hard about it, just sort it in an obvious way that makes sense to you. It’ll be easy to reorganize later once you figure out how to store it.

A Big Sort

Important: A big sort is NOT for everyone.

Only do a big sort if EVERYTHING in your sewing space seems to be disorganized and doesn’t have a permanent home.

Label whatever you have – cubbies, boxes, bins, and shelves – and begin to sort all of your sewing stuff into categories like:

  • patterns
  • thread
  • needles
  • pins
  • fabric
  • cutting tools
  • measuring tools
  • batting
  • pillow forms
  • and so on

Don’t think to hard about this. Just start sorting and labeling. Remove anything that doesn’t belong in your sewing space.

sorting in sewing room
I finished up a big sort in my main sewing room around January.
fabric room is items sorted in boxes and bins
This is my second sewing space that is used for fabric storage and my office. The big sort in here is done. Notice all the labels?

Side note: Once you have sorted all of your sewing things, you’ll probably find yourself more productive with your sewing because you’ll know where everything is. But you don’t want to leave stuff like this forever.

For now, let’s turn our attention on storing the fabric.

Research Fabric Storage Ideas

You aren’t the first person to face the struggle of storing fabric, so let’s take advantage of the success of others.

There are 3 main sources of information:

  • Books
  • Online
  • People

Keep in mind that specific ideas for storing fabric are often included in an overall system of setting up your sewing space.

When you do the research, focus on gathering ideas on different ways fabric can be stored.

You’re not shopping for anything, instead, you’re discovering how others are storing fabric. Pay attention to what you like and what you don’t.

Books

Many sewing-related books have sections on setting up and organizing your sewing space.

Take a look through your sewing library and see if any of your go-to books have sections on sewing spaces and fabric storage.

Recommendations

Books about setting up sewing spaces.

These are a couple of books in my sewing library that I’ve returned to over and over.

Setting Up Your Sewing Space by Myrna Giesbrecht was originally published in 1994 but is a great reference for sewing spaces of all sizes.

It’s easy to read, has lots of photos and diagrams, and is an excellent resource for practical solutions.

Love Your Creative Space by Lilo Bowman, published in 2020, has a subtitle that describes the intent of the book perfectly – A Visual Guide to Creating an Inspiring & Organized Studio Without Breaking the Bank.

Let me show you how to turn that chamber of horrors into a playground that will rock your world, so you can get back to what you love: creating.

Lilo Bowman, Love Your Creative Space, p. 7

Online Searches

There are many people who have created content on storing fabric and published it online.

As you search online, different search engines may give different results.

Make sure to try:

  • Google, Bing, and Yahoo
  • Pinterest
  • YouTube

People

Being able to see how others successfully store fabric can be very helpful when you’re on a journey to get your own fabric stash in order.

I reached out to The Ruffled Purse® email community and asked them to share fabric storage systems that are working for them.

Different size sewing spaces are represented in the replies as well as a variety of sewing interests.

Click over to read Successful Ideas for Storing Fabric and be inspired by sewists from all over the world.

Evaluate Your Fabric Storage Space

Once you’ve done some research and have fabric storage ideas percolating in your head, it’s time to evaluate your current fabric storage space.

Regardless of what you like to sew (quilts, garments, crafts, etc.), as you take a look at your fabric, there are a few questions you should be asking:

  1. How do you feel about your current system for fabric storage?
  2. What changes would you make so your fabric storage is more functional?
  3. What storage ideas do you want to implement in the future.

If you’re not loving how your fabric is stored right now, you’ve probably been thinking about ways to change it up already.

One thing to keep in mind is the amount of fabric you can store is limited to the amount of space you have.

If you currently don’t have enough space for your fabric, you have two options:

  • Find more space.
  • Get rid of fabric. (gasp)

Where to Store Your Fabric

If you want to make changes to your fabric storage, first decide where you want to keep your fabric.

The purpose of this exercise isn’t to start picking out and buying new shelving units, storage containers, or other pretty boxes and things.

Instead, the goal is to make a decision on WHERE you want your fabric to live in your home so you know what you have and can easily get to it when you need it.

Questions to Ask About Where

  • Where do you want to keep your fabric?
  • Does it all need to be in one place? One room? In several rooms?
  • Can it be stored in closets, under beds, in the basement, or garage?
  • If you store it in different places around your home, will you remember where it is and what you have?
  • Will you be able to protect the fabric from direct sunlight, dust, bugs, and other critters?

These are the types of questions you need to be asking yourself.

As you contemplate the options of where to store your fabric, you may need to make some hard decisions in the near future.

You may need to let some of your fabric go to a new home if you can’t make it all fit in the space(s) you designate.

How to Store Your Fabric

Once you figure out WHERE to store your fabric, you now need to start asking yourself some different questions about HOW to store your fabric in order to maximize the space you have.

Again, the purpose of this exercise isn’t to start picking out and buying new storage units, or a bunch of boxes, bins, and baskets (all the pretty storage things), instead focus on how to make the most of the space you have.

Think of your storage space as a Jenga game. You can get more blocks in the box if they are stacked and nestled together instead of just thrown in willy nilly.

Jenga game thrown in the box and stacked in the box.

The same is true for you fabric.

Before and after pictures of a shelf covered in fabric

Depending on how your fabric is folded, rolled or wrapped and the size of your current storage containers, shelves, drawers, etc., there is a way to increase the storage capacity of your given space.

You’re not making more space.

You’re going to figure out how to make the most of the space you have.

Be careful, though.

You want to utilize as much space as you can while still being able to get to your fabric easily.

It won’t do you any good if you pack fabric so effectively that you can’t easily move and locate fabric while you shop your stash for sewing projects.

Questions to Ask About How

I encourage you to work with the supplies you have.

Get scrappy with the resources you currently own and use them in creative ways.

Once you go through the process to get your fabric stash stored in its designated space(s), work with it for a while.

Chances are you will want to make some tweaks but you really won’t know until you need to shop your stash a few times.

When you are fully satisfied with your fabric storage system, you can pretty it up with new things if your heart desires.

Here are some things to ask yourself as you work to discover how to store your fabric:

  • Do you like looking through fabric that is stacked on top of each other?
  • How likely are you to go digging through bins to find pieces at the bottom?
  • Do you want to be able to see your fabric easily?
  • Is rolling fabric better than folding fabric?
  • Do you want containers with lids that make storage stackable?
  • Are you able to leave lids off containers and store them on shelves?
  • Can boxes be turned on their sides to act as cubbies on a larger shelf?

Fold, Wrap or Roll

Regardless whether you use shelves, containers, or drawers to store fabric, there are three main ways to manipulate the fabric:

  • Fold it nicely.
  • Roll it up and secure it with a tie.
  • Wrap/roll it around cardboard or tube.

I strongly encourage you to try all three methods to see which one (or combination of ways) allows you to store the most fabric in the space you have.

Comparing the Fold, Roll, and Wrap

Are you wondering, “Does the way I store my fabric really matter?”

The short answer is yes.

To see how much of a difference it makes when fabric is folded, rolled, or wrapped, I took my box of flannel, tried each method, and then stored it in the same box.

In the images below, you can clearly see the difference in how much fabric can be stored in a box based on if it is folded, rolled and tied, or wrapped around a board.

Comparing folded and stacked fabric with rolled, tied, and standing up.
Comparing fabric that is rolled and tied being stored standing up and laying down.
Comparing fabric rolled, tied, laying down and wrapped on boards standing up

Imagine how easy it would be to shop your stash if you could see the fabric in one glance.

Look at the difference in volume between the rolled and wrapped flannel. Wow!

Comparing 3 yards of fabric rolled and tied with a mini-bolt

The way you store your fabric DOES matter.

Getting Started with Folding, Rolling and Wrapping

So far you’ve researched different ways to store fabric and figured out where you want your fabric to be kept.

But right now, as you think about how to store the fabric (folded, rolled, or wrapped), the job in front of you seems ginormous. You’re hesitant about which way to go.

It’s easy to get stalled during this part of the process.

No amount of thinking is going to give you the answer and avoiding your fabric stash isn’t going to make it more organized.

It’s time to jump in and get your hands on your fabric.

With action comes clarity.

Just start.

  • Try folding the fabric.
  • Then try rolling and tying.
  • Don’t forget wrapping to make mini-bolts.

You won’t know what way, or combination of ways will work the best for you until you try them all.

Supplies

You actually don’t need all of the following supplies. What you end up using, will depend on how you want to roll, wrap, or fold your fabric.

Before you go and buy anything, watch the video below to see how I used all of these items.

  • measuring tape
  • rotary cutter, ruler, and mat
  • painter’s tape
  • paper for labels
  • a pen or pencil
  • paper scissors and fabric scissors
  • straight pins or safety pins
  • fabric strips if you’re rolling
  • cardboard or comic book backer boards for wrapping

Video – Maximize Fabric Storage

Watch the video to see the rolling and wrapping in action.

Use the timestamps below to quickly locate any section you want to watch again.

Timestamps

  • 0:06 – Rolling Fabric – Determine the Height of the Roll
  • 1:03 – How to Roll Fabric
  • 4:11 – Wrapping Mini-bolts
  • 10:18 – Tips for Increasing Efficiency
  • 16:50 – Wrapping more Mini-bolts
  • 19:04 – How much time will this take?

Tips for Folding, Rolling and Wrapping

First, measure the dimensions of any box, shelf, drawer, or cubbie you want to use for storage. This will provide a starting point of what size you will need to fold, roll, or wrap the fabric.

Now, decide what length of fabric you want to store and how you want it to be.

For example, if you want to try wrapping on boards, you may start with:

  • More than a yard on a full-size backer board (6.75″ x 10.5″)
  • Less than a yard on half a backer board (6.75″ x 5.25″)
  • Less than a fat quarter (18″ x 22″) is designated scraps

Next, lay out a fabric piece. Remove any odd cuts.

Then measure the width and length of the fabric before you fold, roll, or wrap it and write it down on a small piece of paper.

After that, fold, roll or wrap the fabric and attach the label with a pin.

remove odd cuts and create labels

Finally, place the fabric in different containers, drawers, shelves, and positions (i.e. stand up, lay down, on the side) to determine what method allows you to make the most of your space.

FAQs for Storing Fabric

What do you suggest for folding fabric that is more than 3 yards?

It’s always a little tricky to work with fabric longer than 3 yards.

Most of my fabric is less than 3 yards, but for those longer pieces I do own:

  • I folded them in half with selvages together. Then I laid what I could on the table and let the rest hang off the end.
  • Depending on the fabric width, I would fold the fabric in half again or fold the edges to the middle to get the desired width.
  • Then I rolled/wrapped what was on the table, pulling the remaining yardage up. After folding and smoothing out the fabric that had been hanging off, I would continue rolling/folding.

My blogging buddy, Elizabeth Farr, has a clever solution using open-end mailing tubes and a wine rack.

Veronica E., a member of The Ruffled Purse® email community, suggested a storage transformation video by Lady Rebecca Fashion.

In this video, Lady Rebecca thinks through the storage of her sewing space and shows how she works with multiple yards of fabric of all different types.

What can I do with all the scraps?

Many quilters and other sewists have come up with scrap storing solutions. I haven’t settled yet on the best system for me but I’ve seen several ideas:

  • Claudette P., a member of The Ruffled Purse® email community, uses color-coded fabric baskets for her scraps. This seems quick to set up and easy to implement.
  • Shirleyann G., another member of TRP email community, has been using Bonnie Hunter’s Scrap User’s System for storing fabric strips and orphan blocks.
  • Joan Ford, a professional quilter, has a 7 step process for managing scraps which she introduced in her book, Cut the Scraps! I’ve got the book but haven’t tried her system yet.

What can I do with fabric I no longer want?

There are several things you can do with fabric that won’t fit in your space or that you no longer want:

  • Give to family, friends, or recycling organizations.
  • Donate to a church group that makes charity quilts.
  • Donate to an animal shelter.
  • Donate to a school’s art department or retirement center.
  • Sell it online – Feel Good Fibers is a destashing website where you can sell (and buy) secondhand fabric

Transformation of My Fabric Storage

My goal is to get most of my fabric in the closet of one of my sewing rooms.

The closet doors were removed from this closet years ago, and I had put up curtains. There are also adjustable shelves in the closest.

I had purchased transparent plastic bins last year in an effort to manage my growing fabric stash and sorted fabric by color.

The amount of fabric outgrew the bins. The shelves in the closest, along with the floor and other flat surfaces in the room, became a dumping ground.

I needed a solution and wanted to find a way to maximize the space I had. So, I went through the process presented in the post with surprising results.

before picture of shelves in my fabric closet
BEFORE: This is 4 of 5 long shelves in my fabric closet. Brown and yellow fabrics are on the top shelf out of view. These shelves take up about 2/3 of the closet space.

After sorting the larger pieces (fat quarter size 18″ x 22″ and greater) from the smaller pieces, I folded them around comic book backer boards and put them back in the bins. This was the result.

Fabric wrapped around boards in a closet
Larger pieces wrapped around comic book backer boards.

I ended up with an overflowing banker box of pieces less than 18″ x 22″.

box of fabric pieces smaller than a fat quarter

So I sorted those by color.

Small fabric pieces sorted by color

I made two stacks of pieces that were too small to fold, made another stack of strips, and folded everything else so they were similar in size and separated them by color.

Small fabric pieces folded and stacked
Stacks of small pieces and strips are in the middle of the table. Everything else is separated by color.

Once it was put back in the closet, it looks like this:

Organized fabric closet
This is everything that was on the shelves in the before picture just folded and wrapped in an organized manner.

It is now easy to see what fabric I have and there is still space on the shelves for more fabric. This is good because there is still a lot more fabric to fold, roll, or wrap.

Things to Remember

You may be tempted in the beginning to go out and buy storage units, boxes, bins, and pretty things to put in the place(s) where you decide to store your fabric.

Hold off on that until you know for sure, exactly how you want to store your fabric.

Also, going through your fabric and reorganizing it for maximum storage and usability takes time.

Transforming fabric storage

Do what you can, when you can.

Focus on your progress and celebrate throughout the transformation.

Each time you roll a piece of fabric or make a mini-bolt, you’re that much closer to being finished and having a storage system of fabric that works for you.

Let’s Connect

My main goals are to support, empower, and inspire you to discover the joy of sewing.

Need help or have questions on this project, pattern, or tutorial? Send me an email at nicki@theruffledpurse.com and we can work together to get it figured out!

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Pinterest image showing before and after of shelves with fabric on them.

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