5 Tips for Storing Your Fabric Stash

| Quilty | 301

Mary shares 5 awesome tips for storing your fabric stash. To read an article on storing your fabric, check out the January/February issue of Quilty magazine. For more great ideas, inspiration and lessons, check out HeyQuilty.com!

Hint: click on the photos to view the January/February issue of Quilty and Mary Fons’ Color Theory Class available online or on DVD! 

Quilty January/February 2013 Digital Issue     


  1. sorry I don’t believe that you should get rid of a fabric that you haven’t used in 2 years…I have fabric that I have had for longer than that…I do use fabric old and new..I buy fabric on sale and then use it as I need it..I make tons of quilts a year and donate most of them…just wanted to have my say..thanks …love your show BTW

    Helen, 2 years ago Reply

    • I too would not throw fabric away. I would give it to our local children’s school as they do sewing classes and craft classes after school time. I use the utility room drawers from Ikea and they hold so much and you can see through them to see which colours you have.

      MARIE DILLON, 2 years ago Reply

  2. Hi Mary, great ideas. I organised my fabric a little while back and you don’t necessarily need shelf space to put your fabric on bolts. I cut cardboard so it fitted the drawers in a chest of drawers and put the bolts into there. This size also fitted into some under the bed plastic boxes I have. I cut it just short of the measurement front to back of the drawers, and then about 2/3 to 3/4 the depth of the drawer to allow for the fabric wrapping around. Looks much better, and way easier to see what’s there.

    Kerry Davidson, 2 years ago Reply

  3. I cut up pieces of coroplast into 12″ x 8″ pieces. I can get 48 of them out of a 4’x 8′ sheet. Coroplast is like plastic cardboard. I fold my fabric lengths to 11″(ish) wide and wind it on the board. I then secure it with pieces of elastic – like from gift wrapping boxes. I put it in on my shelves so it is sideways – about 8-9″ tall with the 12″ length on the shelf. I can get more in my shelving unit that way.
    I move all the shelves down so there is just enough room to get the fattest mini-bolt in. I can still see the colors of the fabric and all I need to do to see more is to pull it out a little to see it. This works great because it leaves you with a shelf at the top with lots of room. I painted a piece of foam core the same color as my wall and put it in the back of the top shelf area. That’s where I stack my fat quarter packs and rolls of hand-dyed fabric. It looks like the wall is showing through and makes the fabric more interesting. I have to make the most of the room I have.

    Lynn Schiefelbein, 2 years ago Reply

    • Where do you get the coroplast?

      JoAnn, 2 years ago Reply

  4. I recently took a class given by a member of my quilt quild Cheshire QQ Keene,NH & used material I bought in 1994 for a class I never got to-so sorry your 2 year rule doesn’t work for me-by the way I love the results!!Class was on the amazing 3cut block-so easy & fun!!!

    norma, 2 years ago Reply

  5. thanks for the tips. I’m in the process of redoing a room in my basement that will be my new sewing room and I’m looking for new ways to organize and store my fabrics and crafting supplies

    Wanda, 2 years ago Reply

  6. Because I am retiring and moving to a smaller space I had to get creative. I sorted my fabrics by color, theme (Christmas, Valentines, etc.) and then had to store them in plastic totes. I took out all of the fabrics in each tote, photographed it. I then made two copies of the photos. One photo went on the tote, the other in a notebook that tells me where that tote is. Is has been working really well for me!

    marilyn z, 2 years ago Reply

  7. Good tips. Love the show, and thanks for acknowledging us guys out there, too! Yes, there ARE men who like to sew and quilt!
    I’m definitely one who has to be organized so I have drawers, bags, bins and baskets for everything.
    The stash is kept on shelves in my sewing room closet; large baskets for yardage, canvas bags for fat-quarters.
    In order to save time down-the-road, I try to handle a piece of fabric only once, so, after I cut out the piece I need for a current project, I take a few extra minutes to further cut up the left-over fabric in to smaller, commonly used pieces. That way, it goes from being a “scrap”, to being something which has a more specific purpose, something which is instantly usable. I have several small plastic bins for all such pieces; 1″ squares, 2″ squares, on up to 6″ squares. Larger bins hold 1″ and 1.5″ strips, 2″, 2.5″ strips, and I have a 16″ x 16″ plastic box to hold orphaned blocks and left-over pieces, like half-square triangles. It may sound a little obsessive, and it is, but for the days I don’t want to think too much, but still want to be productive, I can open the 2.5″ bin and quickly sew a couple scrappy log cabin blocks because all the light and dark strips are already cut and neatly folded, just waiting to be used. I’m also trying to get into the habit of making half-square triangles or piecing something when starting and ending a seam, instead of using a little jumper scrap of fabric which will just be tossed away. So many quilts, so little time!

    Mike, 2 years ago Reply

    • Mike,
      I have 2 older male teens quilting. One is my son who is 17 and the other a good friend of the family. My son will state”Yes, I can quilt!” The other will not admit to anyone he too is a quilter.

      Mauerswald, 2 years ago Reply

    • I also cut squares from 2 to 6 in. , press & store in see thru plastic containers or drawers. Find the plastic or cardboard shoe organizers, lots of little cubbies, perfect for storing fat quarters. And I have fabric YEARS old! I also donate quilts & baby quilts, never know when those little charms will come in handy.

      Jane FLORES, 1 year ago Reply

  8. Mary, I too have fabric that I have had for years. I have also donated more that 400 yards of fabric to a church that has an international mission that teaches women to sew. The oldest fabric I have was some 100% cotton that was my grandmothers. I may never use it but I will keep it forever.

    Camille, 2 years ago Reply

  9. I usually store my fabric by patterns and fabric colors of that pattern so that when I start a new quilt, every fabric I need for that quilt is in the same place, along with a pattern or my own designs, plus all notes I need to make and cut what I need. I do also store some of my other fabrics in cabinets, drawers, boxes, and waterproof plastic containers, by colors, style of fabric, and types of fabric. It’s just easier to be able to find it that way.

    carole hill, 2 years ago Reply

  10. Love Quilty! Just cleaned & organized my quilting space!!! Have shelves & using clear containers from dollar store, I organized by color. This let me see where I am short on some colors while plenty of other colors. Time well spent! Woo Hoo now off to Quilt!!!

    Rene', 2 years ago Reply

  11. What? Get rid of fabric?????What are you thinking? Well….ok, I probably should get rid of some, but it’s like giving my kids away! Are you kidding me? Just build or buy more storage space, duh. Every time I give something away about a month later I’m looking for it cause it would be perfect for whatever I am doing. The only time I give fabric away is to help out a fellow quilter who ran short of something I’m not using (yet).

    Linda Pyke, 2 years ago Reply

  12. Just a note about storing on cardboard – make sure it is acid free or your fabrics will fade and create washed out colors areas on your fabric over time. I went to a website and bought some flat ribbon/lace holders from a wholesaler after not heeding the warning and having my fabric fade from not using acid free cardboard. the holders are similar to what you can find online for storage, but much more reasonably priced.

    sharon, 2 years ago Reply

  13. What a joy to be able to watch a video that downloads so easily! Thanks for painless viewing!

    Joyce, 2 years ago Reply

  14. Hi Mary, These are great tips -some I had never thought of like the bolt idea. Can I share one more tip? I usually have about 4 or 5 projects ahead of the game. Each project goes into a plastic bin with the fabric stash I want to use, the thread, pattern and anything else relevant to that project. They are then stored on a shelf in the closet ready to start when I’m ready. Love your tips, shows and best of all your enthusiasm that inspires all of us.

    Liz Juby, 2 years ago Reply

  15. Do have the pattern for the quilt that is hanging behind you in the video?

    Kay, 2 years ago Reply

  16. I buy a lot of fat quarters—and yet you say to do 1/4 and less are scraps…..More suggestions for fat quarters that I don’t consider scraps….??

    KcScamp, 2 years ago Reply

  17. I have to agree about keeping as much fabric as you have room for. You never know when you (or a friend) might need it. Fabrics that you do not use frequently can be turned into practice squares, quilt backs, charity quilts, underlinings, pillowcases or gift bags. I purchased 100’s of yards of fabric ( yes, I mean 100’s) when a fabric store was going out of business several years ago. Some that I wondered if I would ever use has been a surprizingly great contribution to my collection. Since it was good quality cotton and only $4 a bolt, I bought it. I have also been the thankful recipient of vintage fabrics from other collections. Amazing stuff! With the current price of fabric, I would say store it until you can’t stand it or until the fire marshall complains. Happy stitching!!

    Anne Lawver, 2 years ago Reply

  18. I love your site, I organize my quilt closet a few times a year. It is like shopping when I find some that I have not seen in a while. I did give away about 2 yards a fabric that I thought was ugly. I gave 1 fat quarter of it to each my sewing friends. Well one of them made a quilt using some of it and it was beautiful and I wanted it back. So no I never give away fabric anymore.

    Sheryl Larson, 2 years ago Reply

  19. Your are the best Mary…thanks for all the tips.

    Jan in Pa., 2 years ago Reply

  20. I store my fabric on acid free comic boards. They are a lot cheaper than the regular fabric storage boards! It makes it a lot easier to put my fabric into an antique dresser that I store some of my fabric in.
    They also line up beautifully on my book case shelves and in my vintage china cabinet. I also have fabrics folded around them and stored in storage containers in my closet. I refuse to get rid of ANY fabrics! I have some from the 30’s and up. You just never know when you are going to need it!

    mymsmess, 2 years ago Reply

  21. Love that quilt and fabrics in the background! Can you help with the pattern and fabric collections?

    Kim Lawton, 2 years ago Reply

  22. I’ve considered sharing some of my material, but everytime I do something happens and I find a use for it. Last week I made a sweet clutch for my grand-daughter to use for a dance. I used some burgundy velveteen that I had used to cover her mother’s headboard about 35 years ago! I also have inherited some of my grandmother’s and my mom’s stash of material. I could not part with — yet. We all do our best with what we have.

    Brenda Sheets, 2 years ago Reply

  23. I too don’t have a lot of storage area, so I put nails in the rafters in the basement and use baskets to store scraps. Not only is it functional it is nice to look at!

    Cindy L., 2 years ago Reply

  24. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the quilt hanging in the background! Where can I get the pattern for it?

    Cathy McAvoy, 2 years ago Reply

  25. I agree. I have fabric that is much more than 2 years old. In fact, I have a substantial amount of older fabric and even some that my mother had before she passed 20 years ago. As long as it is aired out once in a while and refolded, and stored away from the sun, I believe you can keep fabric for quite a while.

    And imagine what kinda of frenzy that will put appraisers in once you sew all those timeless fabrics into one quilt.

    Eula, 2 years ago Reply

  26. She is an expert???? Famous name or not, I don’t think so. She lost all credibility with me when she advocated making bolts out of ‘old cardboard boxes’.

    I would never store fabric on a shelf in my sewing room either. If there is a lot of light, you may have a fade line on the edge that is sticking out if it is there for awhile.

    I never throw away fabric either. Two years?? I’ve probably got fabric older than she is. LOL
    and I’m probably not the only one.

    I had quit making garments by that time so I did donate over 300 yards of garment quality fabric fabric before we left CA. Just kept my cottons.

    I, too, donate the quilts I make. At today’s fabric prices, It is so much fun to be able to ‘shop’ my ‘resource center’ for fabrics. I am trying to work thru my ‘resource center’ and make up as much of it as I can.

    Just my opinions.

    K, 2 years ago Reply

  27. I find that organizing my stash is like therapy – you get into it, and all those nagging thoughts about real life just disappear! I love going through my fabrics after paging through a few magazines. With the patterns fresh in your mind, it’s easy to get get inspired and imagine a fabric as part of a finished project. Mary – just wanted to say you’re a natural, and a breath of fresh air in the quilting world. Keep up the good work!

    kequilts, 2 years ago Reply

  28. I have my family members save clear plastic containers that some pre-washed salads come in. I can see the colors without opening it,they stack beautifully and they didn’t cost anything since we were going to eat the salad anyway. I put prints of the same color in their own container and solids in their own container. I stack them on the bottom shelf of my longarm, that way they’re out of the way but I can still see them

    MaryEllen Proscia, 2 years ago Reply

  29. Hi there,
    I get old bolts from the quilt shop. However to make them fit on regular bookcase shelves I cut them in half using my miter saw. Then the bolts are all the same length and I can fit TONS More fabric on my shelves. :)

    So if you have a miter or chop saw. This works WONDERFULLY! And best of all it’s free! :)

    Michael Holmes, 2 years ago Reply

  30. I buy foamboard at the dollar store. I cut it into bolts the same size as the plastic drawer units I have under my cutting table. I fold the fabric and wrap around the bolts. It can be secured with a binder clip, rubber band, or even a pin. Then I just line them up, standing on their side. Now my granddaughters and I can flip thru them and pick out what we need without making a big mess. I also have a tub for small scraps. I have a separate bin on a shelf for holiday fabric, and another bin for flannel. I try not to buy too much fabric ahead of time, because my sewing room is not that big! My yarn is in a rolling bin under my bed. My house bunny sits on it, under the bed, almost all day long. It is her fun secret place!

    Peg, 2 years ago Reply

  31. Mary, you have a quick mind and have mastered a lot of quilting know-how. Your video was fun to watch.
    I have been sorting my fabrics, large and small, by color. Each color goes into a separate large tote of the same color as the fabric and the totes are shelved. Though I can’t see all the pieces through the totes, I enjoy going through a tote for the color I need, as it reminds me what I have for other projects, too. When I have used a fabric and only a small amount is left, I either cut it into squares or cut strips that I can use to braid rugs. Pieces that would be good for applique go right back into the tote as I do a lot of applique.

    Marian, 2 years ago Reply

  32. I have been told that you shouldn’t store fabric in plastic boxes, so I have cardboard gift boxes. My local shop sells all sizes for $2 so I always buy the large ones. I store mostly by colour, but also have ones for scraps, patterns (bears, wolves, animals, etc) panels, kits and one for my favorite patterned material, ladybirds/bugs! I also have small boxes with templates, scissors, rotary blades, etc. I use Microsoft Word to label my boxes.

    Dona, 1 year ago Reply

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    JENNY, 1 year ago Reply

  34. I’ve recently been using a system that I saw on Pinterest. I use dollar store cooling racks (2 for $1) hanging from pants hangers to store my fat quarters. It works wonderfully! I’d been using pants hangers anyway, but they didn’t hold much. Now I can get a lot more into the same space. :-)

    JulieCC, 1 year ago Reply

  35. I buy the white cake boards and cut them down to fit the height on a bookshelf … I fold the length of fabric in half width wise and wrap around the cut board .. looks like I have “books” on shelves when I actually have halfsize bolts .. and I also buy the heavy duty plastic canvas like we used to make Kleenex boxes etc years ago … I cut the sheets down to fit on bookshelves ……..

    and I sort by colors …….. then I get these awesome plastic storage boxes with lids at staples .. and separate jelly rolls, etc …..
    too organized .. but that be me !!

    roxi, 1 year ago Reply

  36. I love your tips and your show Mary! Keep up the good work, education and entertainment!

    LOU, 5 months ago Reply

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