Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Week Two - Sorting Fabric

Fabric, fabric, fabric! Every quilter loves it. We love the touch, the feel, the sight of fabrics of all colors, prints, designs. We have a hard time not buying every piece we see. Most of us buy more than we need for our current project. Some of us have more fabric than one person could turn into quilts in one lifetime. We sometimes hide it -- under beds, in car trunks, at a neighbor's house. I, personally, proclaim several times a year that I won't buy any more until I've put a dent in what I already own. It's our passion, our addiction - it's our "stash".

The last time we did our Quilt Room Organization, I sorted through my fabric and found a Gawd-awful piece of purple paisley with a pink-sub motif. It was the ugliest piece of fabric I ever saw, and I thought "Where on earth did I get that?!" And then I remembered my first visit to a fabric warehouse several years ago, and this was the fabric I absolutely, positively HAD to have.

Understand that it's OK if your taste in fabric has changed over the years. Your taste in clothes, music, hair style and food have probably evolved and changed over time, so why not your taste in fabric?

If you find you have fabric in possible space in your quilt room, as well every closet in your house, under every bed, in your guest room, in giant plastic containers in the basement, in the eaves of the attic -- you have too much fabric.

That's right. I said it. You have too much fabric. It's not time to go buy more 60 gallon bins, it's not time to put an addition on the house or hope your guests won't actually mind sleeping on stacked fabric instead of a mattress!

Your quilt room or sewing area size is not going to change. Most of us can't go out and buy a new and bigger house because our current home is overflowing with fabric. How much fabric is TOO much fabric? When it's more than you have room to store. Keep this in mind as we handle this week's assignment. You may actually have to "put your big girl panties on" and get rid of some fabric!

Peter Walsh says, "The space you have isn't going to change. What CAN change is the amount of things you put into that space."


The first step in this week's assignment is to gather ALL your fabric in one spot. Clean out your main fabric storage area, dig fabric out of closets, out of dresser drawers, out of your car's trunk, out of the basement and anywhere else you have it stored.

There is no set fabric categories to sort by. You need to sort your fabric in the way you work with it, see it, look through it for quilt ideas. Some might sort by amount of yardage, some by color, some by subject matter. If you do other sewing or crafts, you might want to sort non-cotton or cotton-blend (if it's not suitable for quilts) separately.

To give you some ideas, these are my fabric categories (at the moment).
Children's prints
Batiks, tropical, marbled, hand-dyed
Christmas, holiday
Multi-color (the kind you really can't identify any one color as the main color)
1930's repro
Mary Englebreit
Shirting (miniature prints)
Scraps (under 1/4 yard)
What's left is then sorted by color, light to dark

Now that you've gathered your fabric, look it over and think of how you want to break it down into categories (which can include breaking it down simply by color) and make an index card for each category. Gather laundry baskets, cardboard boxes, plastic containers, trash bags or anything else that will help you sort your fabric into categories and/or colors, and tape a category index card onto each one to help you sort. Get an additional container and mark it OUT. This is the box where you will put fabric that you can let go -- sell it on Ebay, a yard sale, give it away on Freecycle, donate it to local sewing or quilt guilds.

As your sort your fabric, here are some things to consider:

If you've purchased fabric for a specific project, group those fabrics together (put in a separate box, tie them with ribbon or string, put them in a xlarge ziploc bag, etc.) and label them with details -- Split Rail fence, Fons & Porter magazine 06/07, pg 32

Keep these project-specific fabrics apart from your other fabrics so you don't accidently use them for something else!

If your fabric stash is large, during this initial sort don't worry about fabric under fat quarter size. Find a box or bin to toss these smaller fabrics in as you sort (or see options below). You can deal with these later. For now, just work on sorting the fabric that is fat quarter size and larger.

Before you start sorting, decide what the smallest fabric piece you will work with is, and make this the minimum size you will keep. If you don't do paper piecing, applique or make mini quilts, you may not want to keep fabrics smaller than 2 inches (1.5 inch strips).

Just this one time, consider giving away small scraps you don't have time or don't want to deal with sorting and storing. Then set up a system to deal with small scraps in the future -- cutting in strips and squares as you go, using them as leaders and enders, etc. But it may be easier (and less stressful) to let them go now rather than to try and play catch up to try and get them cut and sorted in a way that makes sense.

Look at every single piece of fabric as you sort it, and ask yourself the following:

1. Can I picture this fabric in a quilt?
2. Do I truly love this fabric?
3. Does this fabric fit in with the rest of my fabric?
4. Is this fabric a cotton blend that would be difficult to work with?
5. Realisticly, do I have storage room/shelf space for this fabric?

If the fabric gives you any negative feelings at all, let it go. It might to appeal to another quilter or someone who sews other crafts. If you can't picture yourself ever using a piece of fabric, it is taking up precious storage space!

It's better to use precious storage space for fabric you love, than to clog it with fabric you will truly never use.

When you have all your fabric sorted by category, look at it again. Will this amount of fabric fit in the storage room you have available? Does that amount of fabric make you swell with pride or overwhelm you? Do you feel the creative-bug hit as you look at your fabric, or do you feel pressure to be productive because of the amount of fabric? Only YOU can decide how much fabric is right for you -- how much fabric allows your creative juices to flow -- how much fabric you actually have physical room to store without impeding on the comfort in the rest of your home. But if you need to get rid of more - now's the time!


Try and get all your fabric sorted this week. It doesn't have to folded. It doesn't have to be pretty. It just has to be sorted and contained by categories that match the way you think and work. If you want to use your quilt room this week, stack all the boxes and bags of stored fabric to the side for now. It's also very important to GET RID OF THE "OUT" BOX. If you're going to Freecycle it or sell it on Craigs List, get it posted and get rid of it. If you're going to donate it, put it in your car and drive it to where it needs to go. If you're going to sell it in a yard sale, mark YARD SALE on the box and tape it closed and store wherever you store other Yard Sale items. But get it out of sight before you change your mind.

"By perseverance the snail reached the ark." -- Charles Haddon Spurgeon

1 comment:

Rhondee said...

Wow! You have given me a kick in the pants to get rid of those 1/8" piecies that I've been holding onto with nothing in mind other than....."I can't throw this away. I might need it some day!".....LOL....Thank you!