No matter the size of your budget or sewing space you can create a custom fabric organization system! Fabric organization for small spaces and small budget is possible.
I used to struggle to find the right fabrics- I’m not a natural organizer (despite loving organized spaces). I had things folded and put away in bins, but I couldn’t see inside to the fabrics underneath unless I dumped everything out! Sound familiar?
I decided to start sorting my fabric and learn how to optimize the space I had. It has made sewing so much easier! Trust me, if I can do it, you can too!
Fabric Organization Foundation: Sort, Sort & Sort Some More
This is easily the most time consuming part of the process, but it’s also the most important. To create a system that really works you need to know exactly what your fabric stash is made up of.
Go room by room and take as long as you need until you have sorted through it all. I used those huge IKEA bags to hold like fabrics together while I was working my way through my stash.
Sort fabrics into groups based on fabric types first. I like to separate my quilting cotton from my apparel fabrics. Then I separate knit apparel fabrics from woven apparel fabrics.
I further subdivide according to fabric type or end-use, depending on fabric quantity. For example, I have a loooot of cotton lycra jersey knits so they get several bins of their own. They are further sorted into kid prints and grown-up prints. However, I have only a couple pieces each of various lightweight fabrics so they are all grouped together by fabric weight and end-use (blouses or dresses).
Group miscellaneous fabrics together and take inventory of your interfacing at this time as well.
If you have a lot of fabrics in any category consider further sorting by:
- prints and solids
- Similar print motifs (ie, children’s, plaids, floral, etc)
- Seasons or holidays
- intended use
This is the time to get rid of any fabrics that don’t fit with your sewing style anymore. If you need to fit your fabric in a set space you may need to reduce your fabric stash. Check out this post on how to minimize your fabric stash with no regret.
Analyze what you want to sew and identify how to best sort your fabrics to that end. Take your time with this as it will determine the layout of your space.
Fabric Organization Storage: Fabric in Medium Plastic Bins
I used medium sized plastic bins to store my less bulky fabrics. If you’re on a budget like me you probably want to use what you have on hand. You can always upgrade to a different storage container down the line.
You want your fabric stand up in your plastic bin. The goal is to see it all at a glance.
Comic boards are popular for organizing fabrics on a shelf so they stand, but they are too big for small plastic bins. I got creative and cut poster board to use instead.
Make your own Fabric Organization Boards
- First, measure your bin’s height and width.
- Cut your poster board width an inch smaller than bin width.
- Subtract an inch from the height and multiply by two for the height.
- Fold in half.
- Optional- round the cut corners so they don’t snag fabrics.
If you have a lot of a thicker fabric you may need to trim the height of the board so the wrapped fabric fits in the bin. I chose to roll thicker fabrics (which I talk about below).
Fold your fabric so it measures just under the width of your plastic bin.
Ideally, your folds should be equal (if possible) so that your fabric piece isn’t lopsided when fully wrapped. Even a couple inches extra on one side can make a big difference when wrapped.
Some basic math can help us with this. Divide your WOF (width of fabric) by the width of your board and see if you get something close to a whole number.
My bins are 9″ wide so: 45″ divided by 9″ gives me 5. I can fold my fabric over 5 times and I’ll end up 9″ wide. For my 42″ wide fabrics 5 equal folds ends up being 8.4″. Still a good fit for my bins.
60″ wide fabrics were trickier to fit in my small plastic bins. If the math doesn’t work out and you can’t avoid lopsided fabric wraps, it’s fine. I was able to make my wrapped knit fabrics fit by flipping some fabrics around so that the lumpy sides alternated.
Fold the poster board over the raw edges.
Wrap the fabric around the board.
Package and place in your bin.
Perhaps you noticed that I took a cue from the fabric store remnant bin and packaged them with paper strips? Did you also notice that I wrote the length of the fabric cut on the paper band?
Measuring your fabrics and packing them this way will make it so easy and fun when it comes time to choose fabrics for a project!
Many fabrics that I had been planning on making dresses out of were actually too short! ::cry:: They just looked like bigger pieces because of the fabric thickness. Noting the length takes all the guesswork out of choosing your fabric.
It doesn’t need to be anything fancy. I just used strips cut from brown paper rolls I buy at the dollar store for my pattern drafting. And then I wrote on it with sharpie.
Full disclosure: Pre-kids me would have done lovely little labels, but nowadays this mama doesn’t have time for that. (I’d rather actually sew on my 15 min break, thank you very much.)
That’s How I Roll. Next Level Fabric Organization
Rolled Fabric in Open Bins
Rolled fabrics are basically the same concept as wrapped fabrics, just without the board.
Measure the height of your bin and fold your fabric to fit. If possible try to make even folds so your fabric rolls up evenly.
Roll fabric up and label. As you can see I ran out of brown paper rolls and my toddler was far too interested in the sharpie so I improvised with pen and construction paper labels.
Sometimes you’ll find multiples of the same fabric in your stash. Or you’ll have fabric scraps for that fabric. Roll them all together, distributing the scraps as evenly in the yardage as possible to avoid a wonky roll. Cut off unusable scraps and put them in your scrap pile.
Fabric Organization Method: Rolled Fabrics on Shelves
Rolling bulky fabrics works well on my metal shelf. They are visible and accessible, and I’ve maximized the space.
Since my metal shelf has open sides I had to use MacGyver (anyone remember him?) methods to prevent my rolls from falling out. I ended up zip-tying poster board (glued together for double thickness and cut to size) to the sides. Bonus: My toddler left me alone while rolling fabrics since he was helping mommy by decorating the shelf “wall.”
To roll these fabrics I used the same methods as previously.
This time measuring the depth of my shelf and folding fabric to that measurement.
If you have a cube shelf rolling fabrics is a great option for you! You can roll them so they stand up in the bins or so they lay sideways in the shelf.
Personal Side note: The only downside to rolled fabrics on the bottom of this shelf is that they are an irresistible temptation to my children and I’ve woken up a couple mornings to the sound of exuberant laughing as they pull out fabric rolls and proceed to literally roll around in the rolls. Oh well. At least they love fabric. I think I’m raising them well.
Bulky Fabric Organization
I don’t have the space to store bulky fabrics so I donated a lot of them and have been trying to use up the rest so I have more space for my apparel fabrics.
Most bulky fabrics that I did have fit fine rolled on the bottom shelf, but some fabrics need special storage solutions. I have my batting stored in the closet and my interfacing is on the bolt in the closet.
Consider rolling bulky fabrics on actual fabric bolts. You can request them at the fabric store for free or you could make a DIY version by cutting up some foam board to size.
If you have wall space, bolts look great on custom shelves. Or if you’re like me and have no room feel free to stuff them in a closet as long as they remain accessible and visible.
Voila! We are Done and our Fabrics Organized!
Having your fabric under control and beautifully accessible is a pleasure that not many may understand, but oh… is it good!
This process took me about 2 months to do all together. I started while nesting in my 9th month of pregnancy, took a pause and completed it a couple months later.
Little by little and anything is possible sewing friends!
PSA on protecting fabric:
I have personally experienced fabric fading from sunlight exposure so now I cover my exposed fabric, hence the curtain around my shelf. Florida sun is no joke.
The curtain also has the side bonus of hiding my fabric from little hands that like to pull things out. It also makes the room feel less cluttered. And when you lift the fabric it’s like opening a present!