How I Store my Fabric Stash

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I have been working, rather intensely, on my new Etsy store throughout most of this year.  The store focuses mainly on felt made mini hats, headbands, and my über-adorable PeanutPalz… all of which can be worn in the hair.  I mainly use a ton of felt in my designs, but recently have expanded into many kinds of fabrics, each with their own storage problems.  Most fabric storage articles deal with quilting and small sewing areas… none of which deal with the bulky and random fabrics that I choose to work with, so I decided to write my own article on fabric stashing.  I am positive my learning in fabric storage is not complete, this is how and what I have learned so far.

At first I only had sheets of felt, which were numerous but easy to store in stacks.  As my need for more felt grew, I started buying off the bolt, both at hobby stores and online.  This required a change in how I stored items, since these pieces are considerably bigger (pieces are up to 72″ wide, sheets are 9″ x 12″).  My husband and I emptied a large bookshelf and I put all my fabrics on there.  Unfortunately, a yard of folded felt is quite bulky, and those shelves filled up quick.  Add to that my love of buying remnants of felt (way cheap and perfect for the small items I make) and I have a filled bookshelf.  Pulling out felt from a bookshelf stuffed with folded felt causes a mini-avalanche for me every time.

Now, I have introduced many other items into the mix: lace, flannel (I love plaid hats!), cotton prints, tulle, hat lace, velveteen, fuzzy felt, faux fur… even duct tape, burlap and lamé. I just lumped them into the storage shelves with the felt.

Felt is a lover of lint, catching pieces and flecks of it that you didn’t even see.  It stores well with itself, but horridly with oh so many other things.  I learned this on a shopping trip where I brought home remnants of felt and burlap.  The felt looked like it had been attacked, and took forever to clean.  When storing the felt, I also found that it was better to leave as little surface area exposed as possible to minimize lint catching.  Until I get enough money to buy a ton of clear storage, the best option I have found is to roll the felt up into cylinders.  I try to make each cylinder about 18-20″ long so they don’t run the risk of falling off the shelf.  Once all stacked together on the shelf, I found that I got about 30 rolls on one shelf.  And when I pull out a cylinder to use, the other cylinders stay in place… and there is a perfect hole for me to slide the felt back when I am done.  For the sheets that I still use occasionally, I cut a gallon water jug in half and stored all the rolls in two of those.  I also learned it is best to just NOT store other fabrics with my felt.  The time saved in not cleaning the felt is well worth finding other spots for my other fabrics.

Next, let’s talk about the burlap.  I don’t have but 5 colors of it, but I really love it.  I make trimmings with my burlap, so I only buy remnants right now, but I am learning how to handle them more.  And let me tell you, it is best to treat them like the dirtiest of fluffy dogs: they leave bits behind as they walk through your room, and the longer they stay in one place, the more they leave behind.  I am saying this because I cut into burlap so much, so I hope I don’t offend burlap enthusiasts.  I store all my burlap also in rolls, but not on my shelves anywhere.  The large pieces of burlap are rolled and kept in a tall, reusable shopping bag.  The rolls are shorter than the bag, so moving the bag doesn’t prompt burlap spores to be released into the air.  Ribbons and single ‘threads’ are kept in quart sandwich bags in the same shopping bag.  The bag itself is kept right next to my work space for easy retrieval.  On a similar note, I have also started using a drop-cloth for my work area when using the burlap.  When I am done, it looks like I gave a shave to a tiny dog on that drop-cloth.  I fold it up and take it outside to give it a good shake before putting it away.  I don’t put those tiny, fluffy scraps in my trash.

There are several fabrics I can store together, which I am very thankful for as storage is at a premium.  Broadcloth, duck canvas, printed cottons, and similar fabrics are rolled (I love rolling in case you can’t tell) and are stored on the third shelf of my fabric area.  The lamé has proven tricky as it is thin and very easily frayed.  I decided to fold it and store in a gallon storage bag, which worked perfectly.  Tulle ribbons come on their own rolls which are great to store as rolls, but as they also love to collect lint I try to group them away from lint producers.  Velveteen, fluffy felt, and faux fur is easily stored once I learned to roll them inside out.  This way they don’t catch nor easily release the dreaded lint.  Lace from bolts is also stored in storage bags, with just the corner opened to allow them to lay flat.  I have a lot of different colors of lace, so I put these slippery bags in a drawer on the shelf I made from a perfectly sized cardboard box.  I also store the hat lace in there.  If you don’t know what hat lace is, it is a plasticy netting that looks rather like the netting in this video (and almost as fun):

Duct tape is easily stacked but has a tendency to stick to other duct tape rolls.  I have moved around this by putting a piece of waxed paper between each roll.  It isn’t perfect, but the waxed paper doesn’t leave the edges of the rolls in a gooey mess either.  I tried storing them on rods like ribbon, but it is not very useful when actually using the tape.  The tape doesn’t like to cooperate on the rod, and it always seems I need the tape in the middle of the rod, which is inconvenient.  So I made something that resembles a paper towel holder for my tape, which is just an upright dowel rod on a platform, and keep the wax paper between the rolls.  Because it is vertical instead of horizontal, I can just pull it down to my work space when I need it, remove the tape I need, and quickly replace the other rolls onto the holder.  Works like a charm.  I found I wasn’t the only person who liked this idea, so here their how-to.

For all the scraps that I reuse over and over, I have a sweet basket made from recycled magazine paper that I bought at Bed, Bath, and Beyond.  I bought it to learn how they made it so stiff, because I already know how to make one.  It took a while but I finally figured out how they might have done it and will make my own at a later date.  But that basket is not overflowing with all sizes of fabric scraps.  So… I turned to my favorite snack treat, Cheez-Its.  I kept the boxes from them and labeled each with a separate color.  Now the largest pieces are in those boxes and the littlest odds are in the big basket.  When the little odds of a certain color are all used up, I have a stash on my shelves to go to, rather than cut into the large cylinders.  I do plan on using the duct tape to pretty them up, but right now they are perfectly serviceable.  And, they file like books or stack very well, so space is no problem.  Yet.

Last but not least, ribbon and all my findings are my latest trouble.  I am making ribbons myself now, in addition to buying them.  I also started making my own felt flowers and bows whenever I can to keep my inventions as unique as possible.  This results in a large amount of odds and ends in random sizes.  I splurged the last time I saw an awesome sale at my favored craft store (Joann’s) and bought about a dozen photo boxes.  As a scrapbooker I know about the awesomeness of photo boxes.  I got different patterns and colors so each one was different and labeled each one.  This works great for my odds and ends (I have a whole box just marked “shinies!”), but not as well as I had hoped for my ribbon.  I tried ribbon boxes, but they cost between $7-10 and really don’t hold much.  Plus the ribbon in these premades are prone to wrap around each other and become a hot mess without constant vigilance.  Right now I have a ribbon box for the smallest of my ribbons, a wooden 2-tier ribbon holder for grosgrain and sparkly ribbon, and two good-sized cardboard box for everything else.  As I am moving my office into the larger spare room across the hall (which will take a while, unfortunately) I have decided to use large wooden dowels on a pegboard on one side of the room.  I will have an area dedicated to my underused sewing machine, and there I will keep the ribbons and threads, which do very well on dowels and spindles.  Right now… at least they are stored somewhere instead of falling all over the place.

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