Let’s talk how to store fabric.
Once upon a time I had a giant bin I shoved all my fabric in. Every time I wanted to sew, I first had to dump out everything on the floor, hope there weren’t any stray pins in it, and then maybe I’d find what I was looking for. Your sewing space can really easily get out of control.
Let’s face it, this passion we share comes with a lot of stuff that needs serious organization.
Here’s how to store fabric 5 different ways that will make your fabric stash a lot more useful for you.
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Things to consider when you’re thinking about how to store fabric
Store your fabric where you can see it
The biggest thing I do want you to remember here is that whatever storage solution you choose, you need to be able to see it. I will put my ranty pants on here for this, and I’ll say it again:
Fabric that you see is
Fabric that you’ll use
We’ve all had those bottomless tubs and bags filled with stuff that’s been hanging around for years.
I hear that sigh when you have to dig through a bin to maybe find what you’re looking through. You forget about what’s in them, so by the time you finally get around to using that fabric, the love is gone.
To So let’s remove barriers between you and a relaxing feeling when you enter your sewing spot by making your fabric stash work for you. That said…
How to protect your fabric from UV light and insects
Storage bins are not necessarily bad. They can keep unwanted pests like moths away from your quality wools and precious silks.
Always store your fabric away from windows where the colors could potentially fade from strong light. If you store your fabric in a cabinet with glass doors or your sewing space has a lot of windows, consider adding a UV filtering film to the glass to keep out harmful rays.
I do store most of my wools in bins to keep moths out, and if you’re in an area where moths are a problem, consider adding cedar chips, a cedar lined drawer. Other botanical alternatives like sachets of lavender, cloves, rosemary, and thyme can also be a good alternative to strong smelling mothballs.
On to the fabric organizing ideas!
5 fabric organization ideas
1. How to hang your fabric
Pants hangers can be a good choice for storing your fabric in a closet. Simply fold up your piece of fabric and clip it into place.
Pants organizers go an extra step. Since they’re multi-tiered, you can store several lengths of fabric on one hanger. Any time you can maximize that vertical space, it’s a good thing! I’m just using regular pants hangers, clipped on to each other, and that works too.
Another idea is to use filing folders inside of plastic filing cubes. It’s a little bit better than doing the same thing in a filing cabinet because you’ll still be able to see your fabric. This can be a good idea for seasonal fabrics like this set.
2. How to store fabric on bolts
We all love waltzing into fabric stores and seeing all the fabric folded neatly on cardboard bolts.
You can easily store your fabric this way at home.
Scoring free cardboard bolts for your fabric
Your best bet if you want to use actual cardboard bolts is to ask for them for free at a local fabric shop. My JoAnn has refused me on multiple times, but it never hurts to ask.
The next time you need yardage cut and it’s down to the last little bit, ask if you can have the bolt as well. You might have to talk to a manager to see what they do with their old bolts.
It might also be helpful to go on a cardboard bolt collecting quest on off hours when the store isn’t too busy. I wish you luck!
Also, if you order fabric online by the bolt, you will get the bolt to go along with it. Obviously, if you’re buying fabric by the bolt just to get the cardboard bolts, this is too expensive of a path. But if you do, and you love cardboard bolts, definitely reuse them!
DIY fabric bolts
The other option for storing fabric on bolts is to make them yourself.
You can use foam core to make heavy duty bolts that will last for several years. Just cut it down to a width and length that you like and wrap your fabric around it.
These Elmer’s foam core boards will give you 50 boards for $1.15 each if you cut them in half vertically. A simple box cutter or X-acto knife plus a ruler is all you need to cut foam core.
I use a lot of foam core for photography, so when my boards get beat up, it’s a quick fix to cut them up and repurpose them for fabric.
You can always save shipping boxes too to cut up for cardboard bolts.
When you have a collection of boards, you can store them on bookshelves, baskets, or keep a few handy on a magazine rack.
Comic book boards
Comic book boards are another great option. They’re acid free, and you can get a huge pack for not a lot of money. This the solution that Becky at Sew Adagio uses, and I think they look great on her shelf.
3. Baskets for your fabric storage
Baskets are another nice way to store your fabric. I think they work particularly well for knits which are always a little squishy when you store them on bolts!
Roll up your lengths of fabric into little bundles. Tie skinny scraps of fabric around them to keep them tidy. Foldover elastic works well for this too.
To keep the fabric where you can see everything and it’s accessible, just tip the baskets on one side. That way you can reach in and grab whatever you need without digging.
Several baskets on a shelf or a bookcase and your fabric is right there ready to go when you are.
4. Large fabric rolls + wine racks
This is my personal favorite way to store my fabric. I personally think this combo is one of the best fabric organization systems. The first part are the cardboard tubes.
Most fabric stores that sell fabrics for garment making have their fabric on large cardboard tubes.
You can try and score some free tubes much like the cardboard bolts. I was also unlucky with my local store on this point, so I ordered a case of open end mailing tubes from a paper company. These are more sturdy than wrapping paper tubes which will break eventually. Definitely shop around for a good deal. Online, I’m seeing in the neighborhood of $1.59/roll for 1.5″X24″ tubes.
Few of us have space for big open shelves that they use in a lot of fabric stores, but that’s okay. A great home option that doesn’t take up a lot of floor space is to use wine racks vertically.
Roll your fabric onto a tube, tie it up with a couple of fabric scraps. After that, put your wine rack on the floor and nestle a tube inside of the rack. I often see racks at the thrift store for a couple bucks and a few of these together will make for quite a lot of fabric storage.
In this video I show a little more clearly how this system all comes together.
5. Vertical rack for storing fabric
So let’s assume you have most of your fabric either folded, rolled, or hanging on one of the other storage solutions we’ve already talked about.
What about fabric that you’re just about to cut into? If you’re like me, you probably throw the next fabric that you’re going to work on onto a chair. Chairs are great, but maybe there’s a better way to store fabric that’s next up in your sewing queue.
Enter the vertical rack.
You can use a lot of things here for this fabric storage solution. If you have an old crib side, or a baby gate you’re not using, simply rest it vertically and hang a couple fabrics that you’re ready to use. A ladder could work for this too!
On to conquering all your fabric scraps + some ideas on different ways to sort your fabric
How to store fabric scraps
If your fabric scraps make you want to scream, I’m right there with you. Every time I think I get a handle on them, it’s all chaos again.
I like a divide and conquer strategy with fabric scraps.
First dump them all out. This will be chaos. Deep breath!
Fold the useful stuff
Fold everything that’s big enough to use. You can cut small pieces of cardboard for tiny mini-bolts or roll your fabric.
For every piece you have, first fold the raw edges to the center. Then make a tight little roll. Tie it up with a fabric tie or foldover elastic.
Hanging shoe organizers can be a good way to store tiny fabric bits. I have this floor shoe rack that also does a good job when I remember to not stuff it!
Sort your little fabric bits by color. If you have several really small pieces, maybe store some in jars. These ribbing remnants kept getting stuck at the bottom of my knit scraps basket.
Cull the small weird bits
Divide out any pieces that are too small or awkward to make something from. Ask yourself:
- Can you make bias tape out of it?
- What about cutting it up for stuffing for stuffed toys?
- You can also donate scraps to quilting groups or see if there’s a recycling center in your area that will take fabric scraps.
Make rainy day scrap kits
The last thing I like to do with scraps is cut them up into small projects for a rainy day. My church makes a lot of 7 minute zipper bags for charity sewing. On a day when I have a little time, I’ll cut the outside and lining for several zipper bags. Add a coordinating zipper, and you have a little kit to make up at any time.
Ways to sort your fabric
Up to this point, we’ve talked about several different ways to store your fabric, but let’s add another layer of usefulness and sort your fabric.
Pick a way to sort your fabric that makes sense to you.
I’m a visual person, so sorting by color makes 100% sense to me. If I can zero in on the color I’m looking for, I can easily go and find the right fabric in my stash in seconds. Ditto my colored pencils, closet, shoes, etc.
If you don’t think in color, here’s some other ways to sort fabric:
- fabric content: wools, cottons, silks, etc.
- fabric type: linings, knits, wovens
- yardage: big rolls, small rolls and everything in between
Some fabric stash apps
There are some fabric stash apps that can help you keep track of your fabric stash. I know good old Trello is a favorite for Helen of Helen’s Closet. She uses it here to keep track of her pattern stash, but the same principles can apply to your fabric.
Cora is another fabric stash app. Take a pic of any fabric in your stash and enter in all the details like fabric type, yardage, colors, content and weight. The cool thing about this is that you can customize filters to find a fabric that you’re thinking about right on your phone. I can see this being a great little tool the next time you’re fabric shopping.
So hopefully by now you’ve got some good ideas about how to store fabric. How do you tackle organizing fabric in your own sewing room?
More things to make your sewing easier:
- How to start sewing with a plan (hint: it’s never too late)
- 16 tips to better online fabric shopping
- 15 ways to make time to sew
- Sewing efficiently: Your Ultimate Guide
Elizabeth Farr is the writer behind the Elizabeth Made This blog where she shares helpful sewing tips, step by step sewing tutorials and videos to help you explore your creativity through sewing. She has written sewing Eguides and patterns, been a featured teacher at Rebecca Page’s Sewing Summit and Jennifer Maker’s Holiday Maker Fest and her work has appeared in Seamwork and Altered Couture magazines. She also created a line of refashioned garments for SEWN Denver. When her sewing machine isn’t humming, she’s playing and teaching violin, and hanging around a good strategic board game with her husband and 4 kids.