January 12, 2017

New Year, Old Goal

It is a bright and shiny new 2017 everyone! I do love this time of year for that wiped slate clean sort of feeling, though it does tend to wear off rather too quickly. I'm not partial to making lots of resolutions as I've found that I never make good on them. One or two goals for the new year is good for me. An old goal that I've always had is to sew all the fabric. Or at the very least, to sew all of my fabric. More often than not, the accruing/hoarding part of my #fabricjunkie personality takes over and the sewing part gets tossed to the wayside. This year I decided to take more logical steps in trying to sew all the fabric. I mean, there's saying that I'm going to sew all the fabric and then there's actually making plans, laying groundwork and forming a foundation from which to accomplish a goal. While I know I won't be able to sew all of my fabric in one year, I can at least make a concerted effort to sew more of my stash than usual.
To start, I thought I would share a project that I undertook as my first official stashbusting step. Making a Swatch Journal. This was a tall order. I have a lot more fabric than even I realized. There were so many pieces that I forgot I had and some that I have no idea where they even came from. In fact, going through all of it gave me some much needed perspective. It is time to get some sew on.

I decided to overhaul my fabric stashing process by putting like fabrics with like fabrics. For the most part, this was already done because I tend to do this anyway, but there were several stacks that needed to be reorganized. As much as I could, I put all the wools with wools, the silks with silks, etc. From there, I also tried to organize by sub-type, for example, Double Knits, Wool Suitings, Cotton Shirtings, Cotton Mid and Bottom Weights, etc. I felt that as far as wardrobing was concerned, aka matching up different types of fabrics with clothes already in existence in my wardrobe, this would fare better and be easier to coordinate when flipping through my swatch journal. So, to sum up, I put all the like fabrics with like fabrics in tubs and there ended up being 18 of those. #fabricjunkieshame
While I was doing this, I clipped a swatch from each and every fabric piece, stapled that to a page of cardstock and wrote how much yardage I have x the width. For every cardstock swatch set within a tub, I've labeled the bin accordingly - just with a number, mind you - but this makes it so much easier when it's time to go dig out that fabric in future. One thing that has long been a problem with my productivity is that I tend to drag out all sorts of fabrics from all sorts of bins and from there just keep it around the sewing room. This takes up a ton of room after so much of this behavior. Once this starts getting to a critical point, I loose interest in any process of sewing because I can't see the forest for the trees and then something like a couple of weeks will go by where I just don't have it in me to clean up and keep going on what was already on the sewing table. So then when I finally get up the gumption to clean my sewing room, I end up discarding ideas and starting all over again with new ones. It ends up being quite time consuming and I felt like this idea of keeping a swatch journal would really cut down on the need to drag out the fabrics in the first place.
After completing the swatch pages, I put the pages in page protectors and then filed them in a big binder - The Swatch Journal. Once all the bins were gone through and organized, I organized all the swatch pages by fiber type and tabbed them so that they were easier to flip through. I have Cottons, Silks, Laces, Rayons, Wools and Linens. While on a somewhat small scale, I've found that this has already proved pretty useful. My first sewing project of the year called for some contrast fabric for sleeve plackets and cuffs. Flipping through the Swatch Journal made it so much easier to see what fabrics I have, how much I have and if it would work for the project at hand. I'm excited to utilize this tool this year. I'm hoping for results. I'll keep you posted on how this works out and give you an update at the end of 2017.
I'm sure many of you have similar methods for keeping a stash. I would love to hear about them! What do you do with all of your fabrics? How do you think about using them? Do you have a method for organizing all of them?
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35 comments

  1. I have a box that's just the right size for index cards. I write all the pertinent info about the fabric on the lined side of the card, things like what it is, how much of it I have, where I bought it and when, and any specific plans I have for the piece. I also note if it coordinates well with another piece. I staple a swatch to the opposite side of the card.

    The cards are filed by fabric type and within type by color. Once I use up a fabric, I remove the card and keep all the used-up cards grouped. I supposed I could get rid of those but haven't yet.

    It's been really handy to rifle through the cards looking for just the right thing.

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    1. I love that you put down any specific plans that you have for the fabric. That is something that I was thinking about as I was going through my stash. Actually I was more thinking, "What in the world did I think I was going to use this for?" It would be really nice to remember! Very handy system.

      I also love that you keep the cards - shows how much progress you've made. Something that instills a bit of gratification and momentum to keep going.

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  2. I use evernote. I have a notes for my patterns and a notes for my stash in there. I make links between them when I plan a project. I update them when I buy patterns, or fabrics. I have my fabrics in bins just like you. But I also have some that I hope/plan to sew soon out on the open. :)

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    1. Oh I love the cross-linking idea. Oh that is a great idea!

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    2. I use Evernote too! But, for pattern tracking. I should do something about my fabric....

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  3. Oh my goodness you have a ton of fabric. It is overwhelming and sometimes cripples creativity when there is too much. I think your plan is much more realistic to put it all into your book and now you can create without digging through your stash, which by the way is fabulous. Good luck, happy sewing.

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    1. I do have a ton of fabric - too much! As I kept going through each bin, I just felt guiltier and guiltier. And you are right. Being overwhelmed does cripple my creativity. Having it all organized really feels good and feels like I can make progress on a goal that definitely needs it.

      New mantra: Sew more, buy less.

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  4. Right now...I have my fabric in the same bins separated by whether they are wovens / knits. It is not sufficient of course since when I want to make something, I have to dig through the bins to see what I have. I either get discouraged or end up buying more fabric to make what I want. I like your system. It makes so much sense to me and would definitely work for me. I just need the time and motivation to do it. I know it will be worth it in the end!

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    1. Yes, the time and motivation is key. I did almost abandon this project midway through because it seemed like I would never be finished and everything was pulled out and in disarray. But I soldiered on and felt new determination with each cut of fabric because this stuff has got to be sewn! After I had a few pages down I noticed that I loved the freedom it gave me to cross reference what I have and find exactly where the fabric lives. I plan to give updates so that you can all see how it is going.

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  5. Great idea to keep actual samples of the fabric handy--that's so much better than trying to remember what *exactly* you meant by "light blue!" I am sorry that your stash makes you feel bad, but hopefully your new system makes it easier to put it to good use and lose the guilt while gaining a wardrobe. =)

    I have a system of sorts, but it has its shortcomings. Mine is a Google Sheet, and it is exhaustive. I record fiber content, weave type, width, yardage, source, price, designer (if applicable), and a halfway decent description of the color or pattern. But I don't have swatches, and I don't know where each piece is physically located. I'd like to organize it so that I know where everything is and label that on the sheet (and then I can get swatches while it's out!), but I probably have even more than you do so it will be quite an undertaking! x'D

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    1. As I was going through my stash, I did feel bad. While there is still some shame, I feel empowered to do something about it! Woot! It is funny because I fall for fabric so much. I don't typically do this with anything else, which is good. But fabric is that one thing that I feel like I get to have and I just love it. I am a fabric junkie! Plus it's guilty pleasure and not just guilt. We all have our vices, right?!

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    2. Hooray for feeling empowered! Hopefully that makes all the work you put into this project that much more gratifying. And I completely agree: of all the vices we could have, fabric isn't even close to the worst one! I love fabric too...I understand how crows feel when they see a shiny object!

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  6. Thanks for sharing a realistic approach to what I too have understood recently; lack of order leads to less things made, and only guilt is accumulated. I have thought of using an app, but I would opt for your swatch system, as the love of seeing is not abstract. I seldom buy fabric without having touched it, and a binder with notes would free my creativity, I think.
    Again, thanks.
    Happy sewing!

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    1. Yes! I actually tried using some of the apps that I knew about. This was only in the past year or so. I found that not being able to flip through pages easily and feel fabrics, even just a little swatch, wasn't particularly helpful. It still felt like things were lost in a quagmire. I still had to pull out fabrics because colors on a computer screen differ from seeing them with your own eyes. This "old-fashioned" binder system really does the trick. It is nice to flip through the pages like a catalogue (shopping my own stash) and it's wonderful if you are trying to match up something with something else.

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  7. My system is very similar to yours, I keep a notebook with swatches and length. I also note where I bought it from and if I bought it for a specific pattern. After I have used a fabric, I go in the book and cross out my notes. That way I know if I used that fabric I am thinking of, and then I have a record of the beautiful fabrics that I have used. It gives me a feeling of accomplishment.
    I am sure you know this, but no fabric can get put away until it is added to the book. I hate to have fabric piles on my table, so I usually get to it quickly.
    It is just prettier to look at when it is in its place. Good luck!

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  8. I like your Journal idea! I may do something similar. One thing I would probably add, though, is to include the thread that matches (so in the writing, include "Coats & Clark 2780" or "Sulky 0001") so that if I bought thread with the fabric and know I have thread that matches, it's already labeled...and then if I check my thread and am out, I would already know what color to buy more of. :-)

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  9. I've been trying to put my stash into the Cora app, but I'm with you. I'm very tactile, and I really need to be able to see and touch the fabric to truly get what I have on hand. I think this binder approach is brilliant.

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    1. hmmm... That Cora app looks fun. But I admit, it is just too hard to envision things for me when it's stuck in an app/phone/tablet. It is akin to flipping through a magazine. I love actually being able to flip through pages physically instead of virtually. It's just not the same virtually. I can't find things the same.

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    2. With you on that one – you're potentially going to wear it next to your skin, so how it feels is a really important factor. While my fabric stash isn't quite on the same scale as yours (and I'm trying to cut it down further), I like to have it all pretty accessible, otherwise I forget what's there and buy duplicates. If I ever kept fabric in opaque boxes, or in the loft I'd be completely sunk! And once I've decided what to use it for, I put the fabric in a clear bag with the pattern and notions, and make a kind of queue out of the bags on a shelf. That way it's harder for me to back out of projects I've invested time in planning... not that it always stops me, but it does help.

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  10. I have a book of swatches too. It is truly useful, not only to see what I have, but also because it allows me to touch (and stretch) the fabric without pulling the piece out of its bin (and probably creating a bigger mess). The book is really helpful for planning, even though I'm not always good at following through. It's also a kind of nice 'memory book' for fabrics I've already used and also for dreaming over those fancy fabrics that haven't found the right pattern yet.

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    1. I am so glad to hear this is working for someone! Gives me great hope that this will work for me too! Yay! I'm so excited to see progress!

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    2. It definitely keeps me from "losing" a fabric. At least for me, it works fairly well (even with my persistently growing collection!)

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  11. How thick is your binder? I feel like this task is so much more possible just knowing you've done it. I'm not even sure how many bins of fabric I have...considering the unboxed piles. I'd guess about 10 bins worth. I keep wanting to go through everything and donate or gift things I *know* I won't use. Then I get worried that I'll give something away that I'll later regret (ha, if I remember I ever had it in the first place, right?).

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    1. My binder ended up being 3 inches. I had an extra D ring that worked great. I could probably add a few more pages too, but you know that would mean more fabric and ha! I would like to sew more before buying anything new.

      There are fabrics that I've given away that I have regretted. But even now, I can't recall what exactly those pieces were. I remember the regret, but the exact fabric is actually missing from my memory. Ha ha! I know what you mean.

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  12. My stash is pretty small so it all fits in a dresser. I have every project in progress in its own bag with the pattern, instructions and notions. Most of my stash has a little note pinned on with what I plan on doing (shirt, dress, reupholster that chair, etc.) with it even if I don't have a pattern. I really need to start pinning on yardages and fiber types.

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    1. This is a great idea too. I like the idea of purchasing fabric specifically for specific projects. I know I did that at one point, but I've forgotten what those things were over the course of time that I've accrued all this fabric. Time to work my way toward getting back to that. Honestly with the increased amount of online shops that carry nice fabric, it is easier to get things so I don't need to stockpile like I am never going to see that fabric again. There will always be fabric that I want. Plain and simple.

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  13. If I had room I'd attach swatches to screens, like I saw in a recent Mcalls video. Then again, I have a thing about not wanting to cut out swatches, so I just store my fabric by colour in a glass doored china cabinet.

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    1. This type of approach can be very pretty and inspiring to look at. I do love seeing my fabric. Gives my ideas of what I could do with it.

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  14. Well done persevering to the end! It can be such a big job sorting things out, but so rewarding. I have a similar system to yours but not quite as sophisticated (just swatches and notes on copy paper), I browse through it each season and try to use up fabric that has finally come back in fashion! Happy New Year!

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  15. Brilliant! I keep a 5" swatch from every project I make but I don't have swatches from my stash. This would help me sew down my stash a lot. Thanks!

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  16. I started to catalogue my stash last year. It didn't stop me from buying more fabric though! I do find it really helpful having everything on index cards which I can flick through rather than pulling out heaps of fabric. I know instantly if I have the right fabric for a project.

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  17. You used to own a fabric store --- I'm not surprised you have a lot of fabric! No shame, just owning it :-).

    I have about 4 boxes of fabric with me, plus another box or 2 at my parent's place -_-;; ... it's generally small enough that I don't have too much trouble keeping track of stuff, so I've never invested in a system like this. Instead, every season I go through my boxes and pull out the 5-8 pieces I think I'll sew from that season and stick them into 1 cubby of my Ikea bookshelf. That way they're always visible and I'm not overwhelmed by the rest, and I try to only pull out fabrics I'm really excited about/have a plan that I'm excited about. Realistically, I probably stash-sew as much as I stash-accumulate, but as long as we're in steady-state mode I'm OK.

    I also tend to batch cut, as I have to be in a very specific mood to cut fabric, so I put all my pieces/thread/notions/etc. into Ziploc bags as I go. I probably accumulate 2-3 projects in baggies and then sew through them in an intensive period of time. This also works well for bras and panties, I find.

    Goal for this year? Work through 1 box of the stash. We'll see, though. Half of that might come from giving stuff away :-).

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    1. Yes, a lot of my fabric actually did come from owning a store. When we closed there was a lot leftover - I still have two whole bolts of fabric (some 15 yards each....). The crazy thing is, I was just talking to my mister last night about it all and admitting that yes, there is still fabric I want!! I just love fabric.

      I'm loving your method for sewing and keeping a handle on your stash. The batch cutting is SUCH a great idea. Cutting is actually one of my favorite parts. Cutting out a few things instead of just one thing would be a big time saver. I've done it only once before, but I do remember how efficient it was.

      I also have a similar goal - I want to have sewn at least one bin/tub of fabric. And then get rid of the bin and not replenish it. Who knows, maybe in 18 years I'll have sewn my stash. Ha!

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  18. phew that's a lot of work!! I've done something similar with my stash, and used a trello board to keep it available online too. However one thing I'd do differently next time would be to use smaller containers, because everytime I want to find a fabric, even though I know it's in a specific tub, it can take me a long time to drag it out from the tub ;)

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