At the risk of becoming better known for having a mild case of OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) than for my quiltmaking, I am sharing "how I organize my quilt cave."
Do I have a light, airy sewing space filled with fancy magazine-photo shoot fixtures? No, but one can dream. I live in a small house with an unfinished basement, but area rugs, lighting, mostly second-hand fixtures, and a TV make it a quilting oasis.
I am one of those people who just don't function well amidst chaos. I have little patience for hunting things I can't find. I also have to share my quilt cave with my husband, daughter, and cat, so it helps to keep my quilting area as neat as possible.
There is a book that really put the importance of getting organized into words for me. When I read it (devoured it, really), I realized that I had found a kindred spirit (it made me feel less like a freak - big grin). Organizing from the Inside Out by Julie Morganstern is the definitive book on the topic of getting...and staying...organized. She walks you through finding a system that works for YOU, helps you achieve your goal, then teaches you how to maintain it.
As I share my stash, please understand that this is what works for ME...organizing is a very individual thing, depending on what you have to organize, how you use your space, whether you share your sewing space (the dining room table), how much stash you have (remember, I've been quilting a long time...), etc.
I recently shared how I organize my sewing space in a couple of classes at my LQS. I thought doing posts with pictures might be helpful to the class participants, and perhaps to others. Actually, this would have been a class better taught in my basement instead of a quilt shop classroom! A couple of years ago, I was invited to guest post on Stash Manicure (now called ), so maybe some of you have already seen my "wall of stash" before...
I will share about stash organization in 5 posts:
- Part 1: Organizing Misconceptions/Method and What I Do With My Fabric (FQ and larger)
- Part 2: Taming the Scrap Piles
- Part 3: UFO's and Kits - Improving Their Odds of Being Finished Someday
- Part 4: Tools and Supplies
- Part 5: Media - Books, Patterns, Magazines, Ideas, Loose Ends
At the beginning of my recent classes, I asked the following questions of the participants:
- Do you feel comfortable having sewing friends just "drop in," unannounced, to your sewing space?
- Are things lost in your sewing area?
- Is there something lost that you have completely given up looking for?
- Have you accidentally re-purchased items?
- Have you intentionally re-purchased items, after giving up on ever finding them in your sewing area?
- Do you have more than one project spread out on your work table right now?
- Do you have a "double secret fabric stash" hidden somewhere in your home...or in a remote location?
- Is there fabric in your car trunk right now? (you're BUSTED, Ola!)
- When you have a spare 15 minutes, can you enjoy 15 minutes of sewing "play time?" (thank you Victoria of Bumblebeans...)
- Does your sewing space fill you with anxiety and anger or peace and creativity?
According to Ms. Morganstern, the biggest misconceptions about organizing are:
- "Organizing is a talent." Nope. It is a skill that can be learned.
- "It's hopeless." No, not really. It only seems hopeless.
- "It's impossible to STAY organized." Nope. It just requires a good system and a little maintenance and EVERYTHING MUST HAVE A HOME, otherwise, it is just clutter.
- "Organizing is a waste of time." And looking for stuff and not finding it isn't?
- "My only problem is a lack of space." This is rarely ever the case.
Julie breaks the organizing process down into 5 steps:
- Sort - identify important things, group similar stuff.
- Purge - are there fabrics you will never use? There are groups that will gladly accept donations of fabrics. I still remember the day (only about 5 years ago) that I threw away my earliest, worst stash...don't panic, they were really horrible early quilting fabrics from the late 70's/early 80's. There were also some BLENDS!
- Assign a home - everything must have a home! Put like items together.
- Containerize - don't do this prematurely...you can't do this step until you sort and see what you are dealing with.
- Equalize - it works! This is the "maintaining" step. Periodically stop and put things away - in the places you have assigned.
Now that I am over 50, I find I don't like lugging around or lifting heavy tubs of fabric. I also find opening some container lids can be hard on my fingers and hands. I am using smaller and smaller containers when I can, so my "floating" labels are getting more and more specific.
There are all kinds of containers...I use plastic with lids, due to my basement. I have plastic utility shelving (from Home Depot or Lowes) lining my poured basement walls, so my containers have to fit the space. Container companies can be annoying, as they may stop making the kind of container you choose. Even the shelving has changed over time.
I tend to mix and match containers, as I am in the basement and don't care too much about those things. I have found storage containers at Joann's, cheap big box stores, garage sales, the re-use center, and even plucked them off the curb on garbage day...they don't have to be expensive, just clean.
Fortunately, my two favorite types of containers by Sterilite and Art Bin are still manufactured...the lid colors come and go, but that is OK.
My labeling system "floats." By this I mean I don't use permanent labels for many things. Because my stash organization is a work in process, containers and container contents change. I don't want to waste a lot of time peeling and scraping to remove sticky labels. I love 3 x 5 index cards and a good, fat black marker. Most of my containers are "see through" so I put the index card on the inside of the container so I can read the contents.
This container of ballet fabric is the perfect example of my need for flexibility - I won't be replacing what I use (my daughter no longer dances). I can move the contents/label to ever smaller containers as I use it up, then, eventually, use the container for something else and recycle the label.
Even though I mostly sort by color, I have found it necessary in some categories to sort by TYPE of fabric first then sub-divide by COLOR or SUB-THEME:
REPRODUCTION - divided into neutral, gold/cheddar, light brown, medium brown, dark brown, black, red, pink, purple, green, dark blue, light/medium blue
GENERAL - divided into very light blue, light blue, medium blue, dark blue, light green, light medium green, dark medium green, dark green, red, yellow/peach, orange, pink, purple, light brown, dark brown, black
NEUTRALS - divided into solid, tone-on-tone, dots and checks, geometric, sampler, large floral, sprigs/leaves/vines, light cream, heavy cream, big yardage (applique backgrounds), white on white, white on cream, solids
HALLOWEEN - divided into pumpkins/geometrics, witches/"Ghastlies"/misc, spiders/ghosts/skeletins/cats/bats/candy
MUSIC - divided into instruments, music notes, Andover
PATRIOTIC - divided into neutral, red, blue
CATS, DOGS, HORSES, OTHER ANIMALS, BUGS AND BIRDS, FISH AND FRIENDS are all togther on one shelf, behind the...umm...litter box (not trying to be cute...it's just the best use of the available, isolated space for a shorter shelf unit that is tucked between the furnace/AC, hot water heater, and under the house electrical box).
Other things I like to keep separated are certain fabric collections I want to keep together (usually with a future project in mind) and weird things I collect, for example:
CHOCOLATE BOX SPORTS
SOCK MONKEY DR. SEUSS/OLIVIA,
MISC NOVELTY-girl MISC NOVELTY-boy
BATIK (I don't have that many, so I don't sort by color)
I'm a fabric "washer" due to skin sensitivity and fading/running issues (THAT topic is a separate post...). I rarely use soap...just soak, hand-agitate, drain/spin, then throw in the dryer with half of an unscented dryer sheet. I never iron at this point...just remove from the dryer warm and fold. I sometimes pink the raw edges with my rotary cutter/pinking blade before I wash to cut down on strings. Since I don't put the fabric through a complete washing cycle, the strings are at a minimum.
This may seem fussy, but uniform, neatly folded items take up less space, making storage more efficient.
This bundle shape works for flat or "on edge" storage in my smaller containers and also "on end" in my big containers. My other goal is to see things without moving too much stuff around (makes for quicker retrieval).
The larger and heavier the tub, the lower I store it. With the biggest tubs on the bottom shelf, I can just slide them out to the floor to find my treasure.
Batting scraps, larger yardages, and backings go in bigger tubs that live under the basement steps.
I have more small yardage and fat quarters than long yardage. If you have more long yardages, maybe a chest of drawers would work better. Just make sure the inside of the drawers is painted or sealed so that the natural Lignon in the wood won't stain your fabric (over time).
Tomorrow (Friday ), I will post about scraps...how to sort, containerize, and turn them into piecing gold!
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